Jawbone Jambox

Big Sound, Little Box

How many activities are exponentially more enjoyable with music playing in the background? Pretty much all of them. And sometimes, headphones just aren’t the right fit for the kind of freedom or atmosphere some activities require. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, this means you have a pretty difficult choice to make: AirPlay or Bluetooth.

I faced this choice a little over a year ago and after going back and forth between Bluetooth and AirPlay, I ultimately landed on Bluetooth. AirPlay, I hear, offers superior sound quality, but at a fairly significant cost and with one primary limitation – most, if not all, options require a shared network. That isn’t exactly the most versatile of options.

With the choice of wireless standard out of the way, there was really only one option on my mind – I went with the original Jambox by Jawbone1. Obviously, I took the easy route, choosing the mainstream, probably overpriced option. That said, I haven’t been disappointed and I use this super portable, great sounding little speaker way more than I ever expected I would.

Headphones are a great option when you need to keep your music to yourself, or when you’re moving from room to room taking care of the household chores and you don’t have whole-house audio throughout. The second best option when library-like silence isn’t required is a wireless portable speaker. I never realized how much I prefer open-air listening until I bought the Jambox, and moving from room to room isn’t terribly inconvenient when the speaker is so small.

But portability doesn’t matter if the little speaker doesn’t have great sound. The Jambox is relatively expensive compared to other available Bluetooth speakers, but while the sound quality isn’t perfect, it packs a big punch.

When I first powered up the Jambox and played some tunes, I remember being impressed the same way I was impressed the first time I heard a Bose Wave radio. I’m not suggesting the sound quality of the Jambox is on par with some of Bose’s hallmark products – I’m no audiophile – but the power and depth of the sound that such a small package could produce astounded me. I have direct experience with one other relatively inexpensive Bluetooth speaker and, side-by-side, the Jambox is well worth the price difference to me.

A few weeks after I first bought the Jambox, I was hanging out with a friend who has a Big Jambox. The Big version is better in almost every way without really sacrificing portability. But I wasn’t quite ready to part with the extra benjamin to get it, especially for my expected uses. My buddy uses it for group gatherings and tailgates – if that’s you, I suggest going Big. If you just need something to throw in the beach bag or move around the house with you as you dance your way through the chores, stick to the little guy2.

If you’re new to the Bluetooth speaker crowd and you were considering a Jambox, I do recommend it. If the price makes you flinch, there are some other options out there that are cheaper and, by some accounts, even better than the Jambox. My only experience is with the Jambox, so I can only speak for it – I haven’t been disappointed one bit – I consume way more music and podcasts, resulting in more fun when taking care of mundane tasks than I ever had before I joined the Bluetooth speaker toting party. That alone is worth the price of admission.

  1. I made this choice before reading – perhaps even before it was written – The Wirecutter’s recommendation.
  2. A few months ago, Jawbone released the Mini Jambox; by all accounts bringing all of the power of the original Jambox, in a slightly smaller package and the added ability to combine two Mini Jambox units for stereo sound.