Mini Jambox Review: Small Speaker, Big Sound

PHOTO: Mini JamboxJawbone
The Mini Jambox weighs just 255 grams.

They say the best speaker is the one you have with you. Okay, no, that's not what they say, but that's what Jawbone is hoping people will start to say about its brand new Mini Jambox speaker.

Earlier this week the company released an update to its popular Jambox speaker, except this version is almost half the size of the original yet packs almost twice the volume. However, the $179 Mini doesn't have the luxury of entering a nascent market like the first Jambox did in 2010.

The volume on the Bluetooth speaker market has pumped up with competitors, including Beat's heavily-advertised small Pill speaker. But despite the competition, the Jambox is still one of the best mobile accessories you can buy. Here's why.

PHOTO: Mini JamboxJawbone
Mini Jambox

A Shrunken, Stylish Design
Working again with leading designer Yves Behar, Jawbone has once again proved that it can design beautiful yet extremely functional products. The speaker is made of a piece of anodized aluminum and comes in nine of colors. Embedded into the speaker grill are different patterns, which vary depending on which color you pick.

Deciding on the color isn't actually a simple decision though. I was given the "purple snowflake" color to test, and while the bright color made it easy to find in my bag, I didn't really like how it looked sitting on my wooden bookshelf. I guess that could be considered as a con of the very versatile and good-looking product.

However, it is the size of the rectangular speaker that really gets people to take notice. Measuring 6.06 x 2.28 x 0.96 inches, the Mini Jambox is comparable in length and height to a box of Junior Mints and easily fits in one hand or even jacket pocket. At 0.6 pounds, it is slightly heavier than you'd expect for the diminutive size, but that's the sacrifice you make for the use of the metal material.

A Big Sound
And it's that metal that Jawbone actually says enhances the sound of the speaker. If you have ever used the original Jambox you know that the little speaker can blast some pretty serious sound. It's deceiving and a fun trick: look at how small this thing is, now look at how loud it can get! Well, with the Mini that trick only gets better.

According to Jawbone, the aluminum provides greater amplification aiding the speaker's two drivers and passive bass. When paired with an iPhone, the speaker was plenty loud enough for a small dinner party in a New York City apartment and a small gathering in a park. However, as you would expect, the $299 Big Jambox is still much louder and is what I'd keep around for louder parties or for listening at farther distances. But it's not all about volume. While Beat's Pill can also get incredibly loud for its size, the Jambox excels in the quality and fullness of sound.

It's not just about volume, it's also about sound quality

Using its LiveAudio software and features, the little speaker offers a nice range of sounds with an even balance. I'm no audiophile, but whether I was listening to something slow like Dire Straits "Why Worry" or Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," the acoustics were detailed and crisp. There's no tinniness or distortion, but also no real bass.

Beyond that it is easy to pair with two Bluetooth devices at the same time and it was only after listening to about 7.5 hours of music that the battery fell to 10 percent. And because it uses a micro-USB port, it's easy to find a charger nearby. Jawbone has also released a new companion app that lets you create playlists and control some of the speaker's settings.

Bottom Line
The Mini Jambox is a really good speaker, that much is clear. But it isn't the only really good shrunken Bluetooth speaker in its price range. Bose's $200 SoundLink Mini isn't as stylish or portable, but according to CNET, which gave it four out of five stars, it also provides a great range of sound. And then there is the $200 Logitech UE Boom, which is loud and more durable.

However, those products nor the Beat's Pill are as compact or pretty as the Mini Jambox. And that's why, despite the heavy competition, if you're seeking an incredibly portable speaker with a great blend of sound and unmatched style, the Mini Jambox is the best speaker to have with you.