A MadeByMark reader asks via email: “The Sonos system you recommended sounds cool, but is pretty expensive. Any alternatives you’d recommend for lower budgets?”
Why, yes: the Jawbone Jambox wireless portable speaker.
Especially if all you want to do is pipe some music from your iPad or iPhone (or some other Bluetooth-enabled* device), the Jawbone is a good choice. Right out of the box, it connected to my iPhone in just a few seconds. And as “Peter” in Seattle notes in his Amazon.com review, for a device about the size of two Wii controllers stacked on top of each other, the volume and depth of sound the Jambox puts out is remarkable.
And because the Jambox is from Jawbone — the folks who make those tiny, blinking earpieces everyone seems to be wearing these days — this little boombox is also a serviceable speakerphone. At The Company, we’ve taken to putting ours in the middle of the office during all-hands conference calls. While you do need to be standing or sitting reasonably close to the Jambox to be heard clearly by callers, the box does an excellent job of broadcasting the callers’ voices to the rest of the room.
The Jambox has one of those tiny (3.5 mm) stereo input ports, and, using the included cable, you can connect the speaker to pretty much any sound source with a headphone jack, from your Microsoft Zune (ha ha ha!) to your dad’s old pocket-sized FM radio.
The Jawbone Jambox comes in silver, blue, red, and — my personal favorite — black diamond. At $185 or so, the Jambox compares very well the $299 Bose SoundLink, which is larger, heavier, and more expensive. Neither is a good choice if your goal is to appreciate the finer details of your music, as both sound a little mushy or tinny to my ear.
But if all you want to do is stream a few tunes to a wireless box at a party (or make your movies or video games sound bigger than they do on the iPad), the Jambox will do just fine. It’s small, light, stylish … and because the internal battery lasts eight hours on a single charge, you can carry it out to the patio and annoy the neighbors all night long. (If the battery gives out before you do, you can always plug the Jambox into a wall socket using the included power adapter.)
*While “Bluetooth” sounds like something you’d get from eating too many grape popsicles, it’s actually a way to move information (music, files, whatever) from one box to another without using wires. When you see someone using one of those earpieces with a blinky blue light to make calls on the phone in their pocket, that earpiece is connecting to the phone using Bluetooth technology.
Bluetooth works well, and setting up a Bluetooth connection is usually very easy. Keep in mind, though, it’s a short-range technology, and the two devices talking to each other — like your iPhone and the Jambox, for example — have to remain pretty close to each other (within about 30 feet) to maintain a stable connection.