Jawbone Big Jambox Review: Bigger, Louder Wireless Speakers

PHOTO: The Big Jambox compact wireless speakers are seen here in this undated file photo.

It's simple physics: A bigger vibrating body creates louder and larger sound.

And it's that simple principle that sums up the new Jawbone Big Jambox. The company's popular small Bluetooth Jambox speaker has powerful and impressive sound for its size, but according to Jawbone, there's been one complaint about that little speaker: it isn't always loud enough.

The Big Jambox is, as you might have guessed, bigger than the original Jambox. But at $299 it's quite a bit more than most iPhone or iPod speaker docks. The new device hits stores later this month (May 15th) — is it worth your hard-earned cash? And is it really that much louder?

The Big Jambox might have "big" in its name, but it's not really all that big, at least in comparison to other speaker docks, like the iHome iP4. Sure, it is bigger than the original Jambox, which is about the size of a box of animal crackers, but the 10 x 3.1 x 3.6-inch / 2.7-pound speaker can easily be picked up in one hand and ported to the backyard while your other hand grabs the six-pack or fold-up chair.

The minimalist, clean design of the original Jambox has thankfully been left untouched. In fact, it looks as if the original was stuck on Wayne Szalinski's "Honey I Blew Up the Kids" contraption and enlarged. And like the original, it's available in several colors, including red, white, and black. There are a few more controls on the speaker now; the top of the speaker has "Previous," "Next," "Volume Up," and "Volume Down" buttons so you can control everything on the speaker if your phone is across the room. It also has a button with a "J" on it, which when pressed starts the voice of a friendly, yet robotic, woman, who announces the battery level.

The right edge of the speaker houses a power button, a pairing button, which makes it very easy to pair via Bluetooth with your phone, a line-in jack, a Micro USB port, and a charging port. Speaking of charging, the Big Jambox, like the original, has a built-in battery -- no wires hanging all over the place and no need to go buy those big D batteries.

Jawbone promises 15 hours of continuous music playback before you have to recharge; I've been testing the speaker for the last three days and have listened to at least five hours of music and the nice robotic lady tells me, "Battery is about three quarters full."

Pairing the Jambox with any Bluetooth device -- phone, tablet, or laptop -- is incredibly simple. Turn on the Bluetooth pairing mode on the speaker (yes, that lovely lady will tell you it's ready to pair aloud) and your device and the two will sync up. Start playing music on your phone and you'll hear it coming out of the box.

And it's then that the Big Jambox really shines. Like the little box, the sound that comes out of it is beyond impressive. Audiophiles will be impressed with the two proprietary active drivers and the two opposing passive bass radiators, and people who aren't impressed by audio jargon will just love listening to good sounding music. And they might just take note of the balanced audio, the crisp sounds, and the strong bass, especially when listening to a bassier and fresher tune, like Flo Rida's "Wild Ones."

As for the volume, the speaker lives up to its promise of loud sound. At full blast I worried that I was going to be kicked out of my apartment building. When I tested it at a park, I could hear the music from quite a distance -- I'd say well over 20 feet -- but I didn't get to test it at a party or outdoor BBQ. My guess, is that it would suffice for those situations, though if you have a big outdoor space you might require a wireless speaker system. The Jambox cannot sync with other Jamboxes, so this isn't going to be that sort of solution. I also did notice that the music can distort or sound overblown at those high volumes.

Big Jambox: Big Wireless Sound

Even more impressive are LiveAudio optimized songs. LiveAudio is a Jawbone technology that enables 3-D sound; you can turn it on by pressing the volume buttons at the same time and then listening to LiveAudio-optimized songs. Jawbone provides some LiveAudio playlists on streaming music services, like Spotify and Rdio, and the end result is amazing. When I listen to the LiveAudio-enhanced version of U2's "Vertigo" on Spotify, it sounded as if there was a drummer behind me and a guitarist to my left. Of course, the major drawback right now is that the music has to be LiveAudio enhanced. Jambox says it is working with more artists and labels to provide the feature.

You might be wondering what happens if you get a call in the middle of listening to the music on your phone. The Big Jambox has a built-in microphone, so you can turn the box into a speakerphone. Standing two to three feet away from the box, my sister could still hear me on the phone and I could hear her loud and clear through the speakers.

The Big Jambox is certainly one of the best mobile speakers on the market. While there are more affordable options, including the $199 regular Jambox, and others with built-in iPhone charging docks, the Jambox lets you wirelessly connect multiple devices and provides loud and full sound. It might be physics, but it's still impressive.

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