capsule review

Aliph Jawbone Jambox: Stylish, Stereo Bluetooth Speaker Doubles as Speakerphone

At a Glance
  • Aliph Jawbone Jambox

    PCWorld Rating

    Compact, rectangular speaker is highly portable, and produces mostly impressive, good-quality sound.

Aliph Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth speaker
A Bluetooth speaker isn't the first thing you might associate with Aliph--after all, the company is better known for its Bluetooth Jawbone headsets with superb noise reduction. Think of the Jawbone Jambox ($199 as of November 9, 2010) as an extension of what the company's core products provide: This Bluetooth speaker system can connect to a PC or phone, and it delivers pleasing sound and functional speakerphone capabilities that together are a far cry above what most portable devices can achieve.

The classy Jambox measures 5.9 by 2.2 by 1.6 inches (length by height by depth) and weighs just 1.5 pounds. Available in four colors (staid black, bright blue, equally vivid red, and silver gray), the Jambox has a stylish wraparound grille whose design varies with the color, plus rubberized tops and bottom plates. At the top of the unit are three rubberized buttons: a circular Talk button and minus and plus buttons for volume control. On the right side are the power switch, a line-in port (for use with non-Bluetooth devices), and a micro-USB port. All necessary cables and then some, as well as a protective case, come with the Jambox--a nice touch.

The Jambox pairs smoothly with Bluetooth. Just slide the power switch to its farthest point off-center, and you'll hear the device announce that it's in pairing mode; when the two are successfully paired, the Jambox announces that, as well. I tested it with an Apple iPhone 4 and a T-Mobile Vibrant (Samsung Galaxy S Android phone), and I didn't have to enter a passcode on either handset--the device paired with a single touch. On the iPhone 4, the Jambox displayed a battery meter on the top of my screen, a nice convenience. The Jambox supports A2DP and will support Multipoint for pairing with multiple devices.

With music, the Jambox produced pleasing, full-bodied audio. Some tracks sounded a tad bright in spots, but overall I encountered better midtones and bass from the device than I did from the phones' built-in speakers. The Jambox fared less well as a speakerphone: On my conference calls, the other parties heard some light interference hiss in the background (though they could still hear me clearly). On my end, the other parties sounded crystal clear, and dramatically better than they did on either phone's built-in speakerphone.

My biggest issue with the unit lay with its integrated vocal alerts, which not only announce pairing status but can tell you battery status, too. The alerts start out noticeably loud, and were quite a distraction and annoyance to people around me--I had no way to start up the Jambox discreetly. And after I lowered the volume, the volume reset itself when I powered the device off and back on again, so that wasn't a solution. Along the same lines, I had to keep the volume up for speakerphone calls--you can imagine how jarring it was when I went back to playing music without having remembered to tone down the volume.

That alone shouldn't keep you from considering this portable speaker, though. One can hope that Aliph will update the internal voice system via the company's MyTalk service, as on its Icon headsets. MyTalk lets you get software updates and applets online, a convenience that is bound to keep the Jambox growing in functionality over time.

The small, stylish size and extra audio oomph of the Aliph Jawbone Jambox make it a solid addition to any gear bag. Its dual functionality is a winning combination--you can use it to amplify media playback in your downtime, and to serve as a speakerphone when you're on the clock.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Compact, rectangular speaker is highly portable, and produces mostly impressive, good-quality sound.

    Pros

    • Svelte, classy design
    • Full-bodied audio for music and speech

    Cons

    • Some mild hiss is audible to call recipients
    • Vocal alerts are overly loud by default
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