Hands On with Jawbone’s Next-Gen ‘Big Jambox’ Wireless Speaker
If Jawbone's original Jambox Bluetooth wireless speaker didn't pack enough punch, you'll want to check out the brand new Big Jambox, a much larger--and louder--version of the company's portable speaker. CIO.com blogger Paul Mah spotlights all of the Big Jambox's best new features and most notable flaws.
By Paul Mah, CIO
Jawbone’s original Jambox wireless speaker for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices was ahead of its time when it was released in 2010. The Big Jambox is the company’s next-generation portable speaker. The 2.7-lb Big Jambox is significantly larger and heavier than its little brother, and Jawbone says it’s designed to fill larger spaces with high-quality audio. Its battery should also last roughly 15 hours or 50 percent longer than the original Jambox.
The Big Jambox has the same signature-patterned metal mesh as the smaller version, and it’s clear that both products are made by the same company. Some may think the Big Jambox loses some of the smaller Jambox’s chic sophistication and “wow” factor, but I think Jawbone did a great job with the new version.
A few cosmetic differences are immediately obvious. The original Jambox is surrounded by two slabs of rigid, rubbery material that span the entire top and bottom. In contrast, the speaker mesh of the Big Jambox covers its top and bottom, and it has a thinner slice of the same rubbery material on its sides.
Another photo of the original Jambox stacked on top of the Big Jambox.
Controls are located on top and on the right side of the Big Jambox.
To move the Big Jambox you need to grab the metal mesh, which flexes slightly when gripped, but you don’t have to worry about damaging it; the sturdy stainless steel shifts back into shape when released.
Another obvious difference is the presence of six buttons along the top of the Big Jambox compared to the three found on its predecessor. The new keys are dedicated buttons for Previous, Next and Play/Pause controls. A Bluetooth button on the side makes for more intuitive pairing, and next to the Bluetooth button is a new DC port for charging.
My Favorite Things About the Big Jambox
The original Jambox had a single bass output, but the Big Jambox has a pair of them that point in opposite directions to help reduce excessive vibration. Eight rubber feet on its base also further reduce vibrations and unwanted movement. These design enhancements work very well: I’ve seen the older Jambox literally move across a table due to vibrations when used at high volumes, but the Big Jambox is rock solid even when blasting music at the maximum volume.
Make no mistake, the Big Jambox is really loud. The original Jambox really doesn’t work well in rooms packed with people or in rooms with noticeable amounts of ambient noise, but the Big Jambox packs sufficient volume to power the loudest parties. The Big Jambox produces vocals and high frequency notes very well, and its much larger size means bass output is also significantly better than the original version. The Big Jambox’s size does impose a limitation in the amount of air it can move, however, so you shouldn’t expect anything near the power of dedicated subwoofers.
Jawbone says it used equalization and multiband compression technologies to increase both the perceived volume and the quality of music playback produced by the Big Jawbone. That means that you probably won’t get audiophile-grade sound. Regardless, I enjoyed listening to the jazz and pop tunes I played on the Big Jambox during my tests. Like the original Jambox, the Big Jambox can also be used as a speakphone for conference calls.
A close-up shot of the controls on the right of the Big Jambox. From top to bottom: Power button, Bluetooth pairing button, 3.5mm input jack, micro-USB port for upgrades and DC port for charging.
Buttons from left to right: Talk, Play/Pause, Previous, Next, Volume down and Volume up.
Big Jambox: Room for Improvement
Unlike the original Jambox, the Big Jambox uses an AC adapter to charge. I appreciate the portability of the original Jambox and its ability to recharge via micro USB port, so the need to lug around an AC adapter for the larger Jambox is somewhat disappointing. And though you can fully recharge the Big Jambox in two and a half hours, that seems like a long time to me; I wish it took an hour or less to charge the device.
With the Big Jambox, Jawbone has decided to sell a carrying case as a separate product for $49.99 from the Jawbone Store. And since the Big Jambox costs $400, you will definitely want to get a case to protect it from dings and scratches, which pushes the overall cost even higher. The not-insignificant price tag would be more palatable if Jawbone offered to sell its carrying case at a lower price, say $20, if purchased along with the Big Jambox.
The rubber feet on the bottom are designed to further isolate vibrations and reduce movement.
Big Jambox: Conclusion
Jawbone crafted the Big Jambox to satisfy users who want an even louder portable speaker. The company succeeded in this regard, and the Big Jambox is a piece of art that’s capable of raising a ruckus in just about every enclosed area and even in open spaces such as a parks or by the beach.
Fans of the original Jambox who are already pleased with its volume levels may have no reason to upgrade, but I recommend new users who may not care about the ultra-portability of the original Jambox consider the Big Jambox as a first choice.
However,Big Jambox costs $299.99, and that’s a hefty price for a portable speaker. Factor in the need to fork out another $50 for the carrying case, and the total cost of ownership inches uncomfortably close to the $400 price of other, AirPlay-capable speakers such as the Audyssey Audio Dock Air and Logitech UE Air Speaker.
Still, for users bent on getting the loudest, coolest-looking portable speaker available, the Big Jambox really stands out. The Big Jambox comes in the same Red Dot, White Wave and Graphite Hex styles as the original version.