The Big Jambox will blow you away by the depth of the sound. It wasn’t just loud, but also crisp and clear.
To describe the sound and product in a single word: fantastic.
Full Disclosure, this review comes from a purchaser, not a review unit — so keep that in mind while reading… The Big Jambox is a bluetooth capable portable speaker. It claims 15 hours of battery life and is the size of a small loaf of bread. It weighs 2.7 lbs. If you’re familiar with the Jambox that we reviewed last August, then picture that, then quadruple its size. Now you’re approaching the Big Jambox.
The speaker features a programmable “app button” for calling up Pandora, Skype or other compatible apps, and has volume and track selection buttons on the top of the stainless steel device. The design is Apple-esque with a more masculine feel. It comes in three colors: Graphite Hex, White Wave and Red Dot. It also has many other features including updatable voices, meeting reminders, and note taking software. I primarily tested its performance and sound quality.
Similar to the smaller Jambox, the Big comes with Jawbone’s LiveAudio. I didn’t find it to enhance much in real-world experience, but in a small room during my own testing it added and expanded the audio experience. That being said, at higher volumes or in louder environments it wasn’t as useful — also LiveAudio limits the maximum volume.
The Big Jambox is a highly portable, battery-powered, bluetooth speaker. Unlike its diminutive brother, the Big Jambox brings room-filling party-pushing sound to a relatively small package. Putting it through the paces with a variety of different types of music, the Big Jambox performed fantastically well. Real-world tests were performed while on battery power, while in-house was performed while plugged in.
Overall, the sound was much better than other portable speakers I’ve tested. Whereas lighter, more plastic speakers tend to vibrate or distort at higher volumes, the Big Jambox maintained great sound until near-max volume and even then distortion was less than with some (mainly cheaper) speakers.
It’s important to note, if the speaker is outside or in the middle of a room, the bass rings a bit empty. I found placing the Big Jambox 8-12 inches from a solid surface (a wall or a large rock) would mitigate the problem and allow the bass to bounce off the object into the listening area.
To break it down: while playing rock/pop music the sound is crisp and clean, with listeners recognizing encoding issues with the sound files before they find issue with the physical device. Listening to hip-hop/rap is a similar experience with smooth creamy bass and great lyrical separation. Classical music came through full and bright, with a rich full sound. As a fan of warm mid-tones and strings in orchestral pieces, I wasn’t disappointed. Apart from just music, movies are nuanced and full as well.
The speaker’s volume is impressive. When it was as loud as I needed to fill a one bedroom apartment, I was still able to turn it up another 20%.
To be nit-picky, the bass could have been stronger at times, and the distortion at max-volume was distracting. Unlike some reviewers I prefer my sound to be well-rounded as opposed to excessively bassy, and I don’t often listen at max volume because it really is loud!
Setting the speaker in the middle of a table of beverages and foods, the Big Jambox was loud enough to drown out the Muzak pumped into the outdoor lounge area. That being said, most who walked by began looking around for the source of the competing sound. The form factor is about the size of a small loaf of bread, so it’s easily hidden amongst the bric-a-brac of a poolside grilling party.
Moving to the pool area, we were able to enjoy our classic rock outdoor pool mix while keeping the device 20 feet from the water.
The problems started when the source would cut out mid-song, crackling as the A2DP Bluetooth v2.1 bluetooth connection started to lose fidelity. The claimed distance was 33 feet, and I had not yet hit that distance. Bluetooth can be blocked by other competing walls and bodies (literally bodies in this case) and I ended up setting my phone closer to the speaker to keep the sound clear.
Sitting on a rooftop with the speaker in the center of the table (it’s so vain) filled the roof with sound. As mentioned, the bass gets a bit lost without a surface from which to reflect, but the sound was highly-listenable, and if placed near a wall it was even better.
A budding DJ friend had an iPad and a splitter to run our small rooftop party. The splitter took the stereo from the tablet and split it into two mono signals. One went to the Big Jambox and the other to his headphones for cueing. He loved the sound from the Big Jambox, proclaiming he wanted one for smaller shows.
Despite his exaltation, I was disappointed. The Big Jambox had performed so well at the pool, but here there was a tinny sound, with very little bass. I can’t be certain if it was the DJ app on his iPad or his mono signal coming out of the splitter, but the Big Jambox’s sound felt lame rather than the full, mature sound I’d been used to.
The third and final test was the most rigorous. The Big Jambox ran a small reception party for a friend’s wedding as the only music source in a one bedroom apartment packed with 70-90 people.
It performed amazingly well, and for an amazingly long time. Jawbone claims 15 hours of battery life (depending on volume and sound content) but fully charged the Big Jambox ran the party from 4 p.m. until well after 1 a.m. at near-max volume connected through the whole time Bluetooth.
Again, there were issues with the Bluetooth connection. Occasionally the iPhone playing the tunes would get too far away causing crackles and sparks in the music — and occasionally even a complete stop to the party’s soundtrack altogether.
Luckily, Simultaneous Multipoint allows two Bluetooth clients to use the speaker. I simply flipped on my Bluetooth, and it took over.
The party guests (again) couldn’t locate the source of the room-filling sound, and were not only shocked to find such a small device, but also at the quality of their listening experience.
Overall Impressions & Complaints
The Big Jambox is beyond worth the $300 price tag if you find yourself at a party, campsite, pool, backyard or other away-from-indoor-space with a need for music.
If you’re looking for a premium portable speaker, the sound quality and battery life make this one of the best units I’ve ever tested.
I would’ve liked to see Wi-Fi and AirPlay as it’s becoming an essential feature for many Apple users who don’t want to have to go through the bluetooth pairing process. That being said, it would require a Wi-Fi connection, so I’m glad between the choice of bluetooth or AirPlay Jawbone went with their old standard.
The speaker’s penchant for being near a wall isn’t a complaint so much, just a note. If you didn’t know how sound worked it might cause some disappointment for listeners.
The Bluetooth switching (between multiple clients) was also occasionally problematic. Sometimes flipping open my MacBook would cause the Bluetooth to activate, and all my computer sounds to be instantly amplified though the Big Jambox unexpectedly.
Weight: 2.7 pounds (1.23 kg)
Length: 10″ (256mm)
Width: 3.1″ (80mm)
Height: 3.6″ (93mm)
As with the Jambox, the Big Jambox will remember the last two Bluetooth clients, and to get a third party-pumper, the wired connection preempts incoming bluetooth.
As a premium product, the larger size and weight is attributed to its sound quality. It feels solid in the hand, and the numerous little rubber feet keep it from vibrating distortions.
As with other Jawbone products, it can be updated on the Jawbone website and “customized” with various apps and “voices” for the on-board information.
In the box is the USB cable, a thin audio cable, and a wall charger.
The Jawbone Big Jambox is available at Amazon and other retailers for about $300.