17 June 2013

REVIEW: Jawbone Jambox Hex

Jaw jaw, not war war.

We were going to begin this review by asking how your summer was going and if you were looking for a mobile speaker to add tuneful exuberance to outdoor evening shindigs. But what's the point? If like us at The Test Pit you call the British Isles your home, we might just as well ask how you're enjoying the rain.

And so this review - of a portable bluetooth speaker - will pay no heed to the outside world of sun and grass and barbecues and bikinis. We are realists. And very pale.

So here we are opening the stylish packaging of the Jawbone Jambox, and even before we have a chance to test the speaker itself we get blown away by the box itself. Seriously, its lovely. We do love attention to detail in packaging (especially if we've just forked out £150+) as well as a host of bundled accessories to sweeten the deal. With the Jambox you get a phono lead, two USB to micro USB cables (one 0.3 metres, the other 1.5 metres), a charger adaptor and a swish case for the speaker itself. All this is wrapped up in neat little drawers complete with pull-tags. Its like being served your tech by a P.G. Wodehouse character.

The Jambox itself is a delight to behold. A combination of rubberised plastic and gold coloured metal grill, it looks great, is to not to heavy (whilst remaining reassuring weighted) and seems perfectly designed. On top you get three simple physical push buttons; a plus (for volume up) a minus (for volume down) and a round button which when pressed will speak – yes, speak – the current level of the battery. The other indicators of human intervention are on the side set into the grill; the power switch (which doubles as charging indicator), a phono port and a micro USB port – both of which can be used to connect your audio device.

But you don't want to do that – you want to establish musical connection via the built-in bluetooth. Pairing the speaker to your phone/mp3 player is by far the easiest we've ever encountered, as when the Jambox is first switched on that disembodied female voice will announce that “the speaker is in pairing mode”. Simply scan for the Jambox on your phone and select. Its that simple – all thanks to the lovely American lady that lives inside.

Speaking of the Yanks, one thing that immediately disappointed us (albeit on a small scale) was the lack of UK charging adaptor. Tucked away in that pleasing packaging you'll find a US plug only. Not a problem if you have a US to UK adaptor, but still it did jar with us a little. In the end we simply plugged the Jambox in with a standard 5V phone charger with micro USB head, so no real bother.

Before we mention sound quality lets linger on that battery. At a full charge we managed to get over 5 hours of continuous playback at pretty high volume. That impressed us quite a bit, so if you are planning on having a garden part... (NO WE'RE NOT GOING OUTSIDE, REMEMBER?) So if you are planning on washing all the dishes in yours and your neighbour's houses and you need something to distract you, then you can rely on the Jambox.

Right, sound. We tested a number of different kinds of music and file types, at several different volume levels and environments. Overall we were pleased – not amazed – but certainly impressed that the quality of music it was producing via bluetooth. We found that the speaker worked best on tracks with heavy bass to show off the Jambox's great booming depth, but only when keeping the volume at mid level. Anything to loud and fuzzing interference began to register. Basically, the higher rate the music file, the better the sound quality and tolerances at high volumes.

The Jambox doesn't necessarily fill a room with deep sound, but localised in small groups of people with not too much background sound to complete with, the speaker worked well. It also doubles as a speaker phone (as you might expect) with the quality of voice being acceptable but not brilliant. Also the person on the other end of both mobile calls and Skype chats said they found it hard to hear us clearly, even with the Jambox directly in front of us. So don't use this for that all important interview.

Overall we really like the Jawbone Jambox Hex. It performed a heck of a lot better than the similarly sized - but far less expensive - I Luv Mobi Tour. However, we're not convinced the price is worth it – not right now anyway. If it was cheaper, which hopefully soon it will be, then the Jambox could your next mobile companion should you be hanging out in the park (NOT OUTSIDE). Erm, in the library.

By the way, the subhead at the top is a Churchill quote. We're high class.

Around £150

Available from www.eu.fab.com

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