Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jawbone Jambox

Ever since my first Jawbone, the Jawbone Prime, I've been a big fan of Jawbone's work. The Jawbone Jambox is Jawbone's first dive into the speaker world. The performance of other Jawbone products that are out right now (like the Era and the Icon) is amazing to say the least. But how does the first speaker made by Jawbone compare to others out there? What would you use something like this for? Does it even work well enough to justify the money? See the full review for the answer to these questions and more.
Big noise from a small, portable speaker
Battery life is amazing
Wireless pairing for bluetooth enabled devices as well as wired connection through headphone jacks with included cable
Can receive updates through Jawbone.com

Not the greatest for conference calls where there is more than a couple of people
Speaker is fuzzy while wirelessly connected to certain devices (not Jambox's fault, but still a con)
The audio or the speaker playing music through it actually makes the speaker move enough that I had to make sure to not set it close to the edge of anything it may fall off of.
Expensive ($199.99)

I have had the Jawbone Jambox for a few months now. I've used it in many different situations and I'll be telling you about how that turned out later on in the review. But first, what exactly is the Jambox? The Jambox is primarily a wireless bluetooth speaker. That means that it can connect to pretty much any device that has bluetooth. The Jambox connects to the device in a unique way. In the case of a smartphone, it can play music, phone calls, game audio, audio from a video, etc... through the Jambox. In the case of a bluetooth enabled computer, it is able to connect to the audio and relay it through the speakers.

The setup of the Jambox is simple. It has three buttons and a switch on it. On the top, there's a large "+" button that turns the volume up and a "-" button that turns it down. Next to those is a large circle button that works as the "talk" button. When this is pressed, it tells you how much battery the Jambox has left. When it is pressed and held for two seconds, it activates voice-dialing (if it's connected to a phone) and you can voice-dial someone through the speaker. On the side there's the on/off switch which has a backlight. This backlight flashes red and white when in pairing mode, is red when the battery is charging and the battery is not full yet, and is white when the Jambox is charging and the battery is full, or when the Jambox is on a fully paired. Next to that is the micro-USB charging port and a 3.5mm audio-in headphone port (covered more in-depth later in the review).

Starting from top: on/off switch, 3.5mm audio jack, micro-
USB charging port
One thing that the Jambox has been advertised for is the speakerphone and how it can be used in conference calls during meetings. This was the first thing I tried out. First, I called my wife while in the car and set the speaker next to me on the seat. I quickly found out that the Jambox is not built for noise cancellation and immediately shut-off the speaker and resumed my call through the usual way. So, background noise while making phone calls is not a good combination with the Jambox.

The next thing I tried was making a phone call at my house. My wife could hear me clearly when the speaker was between 1-3 feet away from my mouth, but any further away became distorted or too quiet and she had to ask me what I was saying. I could hear her from clear across the house, however, so no problems on that end. One to three feet away is a decent distance to be away from the speaker while talking, but that begs the question, "How will it work in a large conference meeting?"

The conference meeting test was, of course, my next test for the Jambox. At a meeting where there were six people, everyone could easily hear what was being said on the call. The problem came when talking. No one on our end could be heard unless our mouths were within that three-foot radius of the Jambox. When hyou get a group of six people huddled around a speaker and all of them need to be three feet away in order to make a comment, that is not a good thing. Fortunately, this still worked pretty well because our meetings are more of the, "Listen but don't talk," type of meetings and only one person in our meeting typically talks. I figured that this isn't a huge setback for most conference meetings because usually you are just listening in on a call and if anyone needs to make a comment they can pass the Jambox along to that person. However, there are definitely better systems out there for conference calls, even if those other options are more expensive.

So those were the talk scenarios that I use it in most frequently. Next, we'll talk about the music side of the Jambox.

The Jambox comes with an awesome carrying case to protect
it while in-transit
The first thing I did with the Jambox after I made my first phone call was play music on it. This was an awesome experience. While playing music from my iPhone 4, it played flawlessly. Treble was definitive and strikingly clear. Bass was low and rich. It didn't thump the pictures off the walls, but it did it's job. It was nice having the speaker in a central place in my house while carrying around the phone in my pocket. This made it easy to change the song from another room. I never ran into a problem of getting too far away from the speaker until I accidentally went into my basement and left the Jambox on the second floor. For some reason, it disconnected at that point (it probably had something to do with the entire floor of a house being in between the phone and the Jambox). But as soon as I got back upstairs it reconnected and I started up the music again. For those of you that are worried you wouldn't hear a phone call over the music, worry no more. The music cuts out when you get a phone call and it announces the number that is calling and rings. You can decline it by pressing the "-" button on top or you can simply answer it and start a phone call by pressing the circle button. Once you hang up (again, just press the circle button) it resumes the music again, right where you left off.

It's pretty darn skinny
I did run into a few problems while using the Jambox to play music. The first was when I connected it to my HTC Inspire. When I turned the music up on full volume, it started to get distorted and there was static in the background. I could turn it down a few notches and it would get better, but who wants to do that? It also did this while connected to my Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Samsung Infuse, and the Motorola Atrix. However, I never had this problem while it was connected to my iPhone 4. I also never experienced this problem when I was connected to my computer or the HTC Status. So, it seems like certain phones may not work the best while connected wirelessly through bluetooth.

Even old iPods work with the Jambox. I couldn't find my
old portable tape player or that may have been in this
Speaking of connections, the Jambox also has an audio-in in the form of a typical headphone jack adapter. The cord comes with it, so you can easily directly plug in anything that has a headphone jack into the Jambox and play music through it that way. With the devices I was having problems with, I hooked them up using the headphone cord and all the distortion problems went away. Although this isn't ideal, it works. It is also nice because it will then work with any of the devices you have lying around that aren't bluetooth enabled, like mP3 players, older computers, etc... (Finally, I can crank up my old walkman!)....?  Anyway, it's a nice option for people that want to use this on everything they own that has the ability to play music on it.

Jambox plugged into computer with the updater on the
Have you ever been watching a TV show on Hulu.com or watching a movie on your laptop computer and the audio absolutely sucks? If you answered yes, you're not the only one. Even if you crank those internal speakers up all the way, they don't exactly pump out the sound. My wife and I wirelessly connected the Jambox to the computer and played movie or TV show audio through it and this took care of our problem without having to lug out the plug-in

The battery life on this bad boy is rated at about 10 hours on continuous play. This, of course, depends on volume and the audio you're playing through it. I could easily make it through a day of playing music in my house without charging it, so using it to play the audio from an entire movie barely puts a dent in the battery. At no point was the battery life an issue for me. This was amazing because it eliminated the need of cords or a even a docking station. It is very simple and truly wireless.

"I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend...
I will understand."
Last thing, and this is small. When playing music through it on a high volume, the Jambox would slowly crawl across the surface it was on because of the vibrations. I had it perched up on the refrigerator and when I looked up after a half-an-hour of playing music, it was threatening to jump. I rescued it and decided that high places near an edge were a bad idea from then on (unless I taped it down).

Over-all, I love my Jambox. It's easy to use and it is wireless. I hate tons of cords everywhere so this solution works great for me. It is spendy, but the quality and the simplicity as well as the upgrade and personalization options through Jawbone.com are worth it for me. There are a few hurdles to get past (that attempted swan dive off the refrigerator was a little scary) but for me, they were minor hurdles and were easy to jump over and still be able to enjoy the speaker. I'd recommend it for anyone who loves music!


  1. Try putting it on something that will absorb the vibration and keep it from 'walking' around so much. They make non-skid stuff to put in drawers and even under rugs that might work, or you could try a piece of cloth like a wash cloth.

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  3. Ever since my first Jawbone, the Jawbone Prime, I've been a big fan of Jawbone's work. The Jawbone Jambox is Jawbone's first dive into the ... ijawbonejambox.blogspot.de