By CHONG JINN XIUNGintech@thestar.com.my
If you are looking for a wireless portable speaker that packs a punch, Aliph may have something for you.
WE HAVE tested our share of portable speakers in the past and frankly the vast majority are poorly built and exhibit horrible sound quality.
Enter Aliph's latest wireless Bluetooth speaker, the Jawbone Jambox, which is a portable speaker in every sense of the term - it's both very compact and lightweight.
Designed to work as a companion speaker for your portable devices, you can easily fit it in your bag and bring it around wherever you go.
Despite the Jambox being lightweight, it doesn't feel cheap or flimsy. Instead, it is a solid speaker with good build quality.
Aliph had the right idea to line both the top and bottom of the device with a rubber coating, which not only provides excellent grip for butterfingered users but provides some protection against knocks and drops.
We did however find that the Jambox vibrates a lot, especially when playing songs with heavy bass notes and it will constantly move around the table as the music plays. This proved to be a little inconvenient as the speakers almost slid off the table several times.
Much of the middle is covered by a wraparound metal grille that sports different geometric patterns that give each colour choice (red, black, blue or gray) a unique look.
The Jambox sports a very minimalistic yet attractive design. Buttons are kept to a minimum with just three buttons located on the top.
As you may have guessed, the plus and minus buttons control the volume while the round "talk" button can be used to answer and make calls, via voice dialling, when paired with a mobile phone.
The button can also be used to check on the speaker's battery status.
On the side, you'll find the Jambox's power button that is also used to start the Bluetooth pairing mode when you hold it upwards for a few seconds.
Apart from Bluetooth, you can hook devices up to the Jambox via a 3.5mm headphone jack using the included three foot long stereo auxillary cable.
The speaker is charged via a mini-USB port that also acts as a way to connect the speaker to a PC or Mac.
Connecting the Jambox to a computer allows you to customise the speaker with a variety of different Jawbone specific applications like Voice-to-SMS. Of course, like your Jawbone Bluetooth headsets, you can also choose the system voice to be either male or female.
Pairing devices via Bluetooth was quick and easy and we encountered no problems pairing the speaker with an iPhone 4 and a Macbook Pro notebook.
During testing, we found that the speaker's Bluetooth working range was quite far and could easily connect across two rooms. However the sound quality will obviously deteriorate due to obstructions like walls the further you go.
Still, it does feel liberating to be able to make changes to your song selections without having your device be physically connected to the speaker.
Though the Jambox has a lot of nifty features, it all boils down to just how good it sounds.
We tried playing several tracks on it and from the sound of things, the Jambox is a spunky little speaker that can surely pump up the volume.
Instrumental music such as Married Life from Pixar's Up soundtrack sounded really good on the Jambox as it shows how it is able to cope with different instruments. For something more funky, Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger sounded crystal clear on the speaker.
However, songs with vocals tend to struggle a little as the speaker's range struggles to carry the voice over the instruments that are being played.
This was evident as we played It Ends Tonight by The All American Rejects and Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz.
We're not saying that the sound quality is bad in these instances but it isn't fantastic either - it just very much depends on the kind of music that you play.
The bass isn't as deep or strong as a regular speaker but it does a decent job giving some extra kick to the music.
We found that the speaker worked best when it's turned flat on its back as this allowed the lower notes to bounce off the surface to deliver a much richer and deeper bass sound.
Apart from playing music, the Jambox can be used as an external speaker for playing games or watching videos on your smartphone or Tablet device. As we mentioned earlier, it is perfect for carrying around and setting it up with another Bluetooth device is very easy.
We played a round of Death Rally on the iPhone using the Jambox as a speaker and the experience was explosive to say the least with the sound of tyres screeching and cars exploding.
Videos and movies also sounded good on the little speakers.
We were also quite satisfied with the Jambox's battery life, which gave us about eight hours of usage.
The built-in lithium-ion battery has a quick-charge feature that's useful if you're in a hurry.
Apart from playing music and other audio, the Jambox also works great as a mobile conference device for taking calls.
Call quality was very clear when we tested it and thanks to the speaker's noise cancelling features with the built-in microphone, callers on the other end did not hear themselves during calls or any other distracting background noise.
For a lightweight and compact speaker, the Jambox is a solidly-built product that exhibits great design qualities while maintaining decent audio quality.
It is a great way to complement your music listening experience on any device that doesn't have a pair of decent speakers of its own.
While it definitely won't replace your regular pair of speakers or iPod dock, it does a commendable job with most genres of music.
If you have the Jambox paired with your mobile phone, it works great if you need to set up an impromptu conference call or make a regular phone call.
All this, however, comes at a price as the Jambox costs a princely sum of RM748.
For that price you could easily afford a pair of good full size speakers and there are cheaper wired alternatives in the market.
Still, you'll be hard pressed to find a portable Bluetooth speaker like the Jambox, so if you're on the move constantly, these speakers just might fit the bill.
Pros: Compact and portable design; decent audio quality; long battery life; great for making conference calls.
Cons: Expensive; sound quality varies depending on music; vibrates and moves a lot.
Speaker: Proprietary acoustic drivers (stereo pair) and bass radiator
Frequency response: 60Hz - 20Hz
Signal-to-noise ratio: 85db
Connectivity: Analogue stereo 3.5mm jack, mini-USB (charging only), Bluetooth
Other features: Built-in microphone, customisable applications
Dimensions (W x H x D): 57mm x 40mm x 151mm
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Brightstar Distribution Malaysia, (03) 7960-4877