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Tuesday December 21, 2010 5:36 pm
Aliph Jawbone Jambox review
Aliph has made top-quality mono Bluetooth headsets for years, but the company has generally stayed away from the murky world of Bluetooth stereo. That changes with the Jawbone Jambox speaker set ($199.99 direct), the company's first foray into stereo. It's a small, battery-powered speaker that can play music from a wired or Bluetooth connection from your cell phone and also function as a speakerphone. It packs a surprising amount of punch for such a tiny device, and while it doesn't sound perfect, it's surprisingly good.
The Jambox looks like a cross between an Aliph Jawbone Icon ($69, 4 stars) headset and a brick. It's perfectly rectangular, with stark, straight lines. The top and bottom of the speaker are capped with hard rubber, and the metal grill between them wraps all the way around the body. The grill has a diamond pattern, evoking the look of Aliph's headsets. At 6 by 2.2 by 1.6 inches (HWD), the Jambox is a compact, if blocky, device. It's also surprisingly heavy, weighing 12 ounces.
Both connectivity and controls are extremely simple. Besides Bluetooth, all the Jambox offers is a 3.5-mm stereo audio port for wired devices and a mini-USB port for charging its built-in battery. The only physical controls on the speaker are a tiny on-off toggle switch on the side and three rubber buttons on top for adjusting volume and receiving calls or getting a spoken battery status update.
The Jambox comes in four different colors: black, red, blue, and gray. The black version of the Jambox, which we reviewed, is completely black, with only a hint of color coming from the lighted power switch when it's charging or in use.
The Jambox includes 12- and 60-inch USB-to-micro-USB cables, a 36-inch stereo cable, a USB-to-AC wall adapter, and a carrying case. The carrying case is a strange, folded sleeve made of stiff panels. Flaps on either end keep the case closed with magnets. Like the Jawbone Icon headset, the Jambox supports Jawbone's MyTalk personalized features and apps. By syncing the speaker with your computer over USB, you can add apps for voice dialing and access services like Jott, Voice on the Go, and Dial2Do, and change the voice that notifies you of incoming calls and battery life.
Aliph's strength has been voice headsets with advanced noise-cancellation technology. Those are a far different kind of beast than speakers designed to fill an area with sound, but for a first outing the Jambox is a valiant effort. The sound isn't incredible, but it's clear and satisfying enough for most uses. A device its size can only go so far, though, and you won't use the Jambox to really blast your tunes out to a crowd.
I tested the Jambox with some Rolling Stones and Rush, piped over Bluetooth from my Motorola Droid X. Geddy Lee's signature soprano in "The Spirit of Radio" and Keith Richards' classic opening guitar licks in "Gimme Shelter" both came through clearly, despite a very slight flattening out at the high end. I cranked up the volume on both the Jambox and the Droid X, and both songs blasted out with solid force, suffering surprisingly little distortion. The audio quality doesn't quite reach the volume and fidelity levels of similarly-priced iPod docks, but considering the device's size it still puts out impressive sound.
Speakerphone call quality is good, but not great. In my test calls, both the Jambox user and handset user could hear each other clearly, with only slight muffling from the Jambox's speakers. It wasn't perfect, but for a speakerphone it sounded more than adequate.
Battery life on the Jambox is very good. The built-in, rechargeable battery lasted over a weekend in standby mode and still registered a full charge when I got back to the device. According to Jawbone, the Jambox can last up to 8.5 hours playing music or serving as a speakerphone. That's more talk time than most cell phones and many Bluetooth headsets.
The Aliph Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth speaker offers some great features, long battery life, and solid sound. However, its $199 price tag simply isn't justified, compared to similarly priced iPod docks and less-expensive Bluetooth headsets. If you really need a wireless speakerphone/music speaker in one product, it's a good choice, but there are better dedicated alternatives for each purpose.
This article, written by Will Greenwald, originally appeared on PCMag.com, and has been syndicated on Gear Live with permission from Ziff Davis, Inc..
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