Fugoo is perhaps the most impressive and intriguing portable wireless speaker system brands to be introduced into the consumer audio market. Not only does the Fugoo Wireless Speaker boast the best battery life ever to grace such a compact and hardware-rich portable speaker with an incredible 40-hours of wireless music streaming, but it also stands out with its ingenious and very much effective interchangeable "Jacket" styling concept, and impressive speaker driver "Core" design that is extremely durable in its waterproof construction, yet packs a massive punch of audio awesomeness which we did not see coming. Did we mention the shockingly good battery life and unbridled hexa (meaning six) speaker driver engineering? How about the fact that the Fugoo speaker can be mounted onto practically anything thanks to modular GoPro-esque accessories and a just do it attitude?
From unsullied chic to all-terrain extreme toughness, Fugoo's swappable exterior Jacket enclosures let you choose which way and how hard to rock out without ever losing sight of audio quality nor inner speaker core durability. Let's find out how it stacks up against the competition, if there's any to begin with. Hit that imaginary button for the full, in-depth review.
Chances are pretty high that you haven't known about Fugoo's existence right up until just now. But don't let that deter you from experiencing something new. Fugoo is one of the most exciting portable Bluetooth speakers to come out in 2014, along with quite a bit of anticipation as far as we're concerned. The company certainly delivered a very compelling finished product having launched earlier this year at CES.
The Fugoo Wireless Speaker is being offered in three different models: the Style Jacket will run you $190 and is a slim and contemporary stylish design that is the lightest of out of the three, a sportier and more durable Sport Jacket model priced at $200 - as well as a ultra-ruggedized Tough Jacket model that'll set you back $230, which made out of strong aluminum reinforced composite resin and rubberized construction in case you were thinking about brining your music out on the battlefield. The latter Fugoo claims will protect the inner Fugoo Wireless Speaker Core with a virtually indestructible casing. Granted it is very bulky. The good thing is that no matter what Jacket is wrapping the speaker Core, the audio quality will remain the same.
Available in three different style types, we were lucky enough to finally get our hands on the Fugoo Style speaker seen here all packed into an attractive package. The attention to detail of the contents, the included accessories as well as the speaker itself is as impressive as any other highly respected brand name out there from the liked of Beats and Ultimate Ears. Inside the box you'll find a Jawbone Jambox-inspired arrangement of included accessories from tangle-free flat micro-USB to USB and 3.5mm to 3.5mm auxiliary audio cables - to a compact USB wall charging adapter. The included drawstring pouch is actually not meant for protecting the speaker itself, but rather a pouch to hold all of the included items which makes a lot more sense given the durability of the Fugoo speaker all in itself.
In addition to the Fugoo Style, the company sent us the Fugoo Sport and Fugoo Tough jackets to test out. It's worth noting that all three Jackets are also being sold separately in case you want to change the look and ruggedness of your Fugoo Wireless Speaker starting at $40. Fugoo is also offering various mounting accessories such as bike, strap and tripod attachment mounts that are compatible with both the Sport and Tough Jackets which have bottom mounting brackets.
Fugoo is a technologically advanced portable wireless speaker
We're beginning to see companies putting their own unique spin on portable Bluetooth speakers. This year at CES 2014, new companies like Fugoo are making a serious name for themselves. Fugoo's speaker features a cleverly designed modular Jacket system that let's users switch between three types of slide-on Jacket enclosures that provide a unique style or nearly indestructible protection with ease.
Fugoo is a technologically advanced portable wireless speaker. In fact, it's one of the most impressive and inventive portable Bluetooth speakers that have made it into our hands. It's extraordinarily interesting, well designed and insanely well put together for a speaker that is made out of plastic. Well, a plastic composite that is, which is a stronger form of a combination of plastic materials formulation that is then reinforced to withstand more bruising in order to protect fragile speaker components.
It weighs a little over one pound and it's extremely small. Smaller than many competitors, yet it packs twice as much speaker drivers and a relatively huge built-in rechargeable battery. It's lighter than the Bose SoundLink Mini and shorter than the Ultimate Ears UE Boom we looked at last year so it's highly compact and can easily be carried with you to the beach, yoga class, when you're out camping or be mounted on your bike. So yes, it's convenient to travel with because of its small form factor, but also because it doesn't need to be recharged as often as most other portable Bluetooth speakers. Having said that, it still doesn't beat Jawbone's Mini Jambox when it comes to pocketability.
The best battery life we've ever experience in a portable Bluetooth speaker
The Fugoo speaker itself is a self-contained angular Core unit that is completely IP67-certified waterproof down to 3 feet (1m) and designed to be dust, sand, snow dirt and impact-resistant regardless of its modular exterior Jacket casing. As for hardware specs, the Fugoo Core boasts an impressive 40-hour battery life, and six symmetrically placed speaker drivers positioned at an 8-degree upward tilt – two front and back-facing neodymium 28mm tweeters, two side-firing neodymium 39mm midrange woofers at opposite sides and two front and back-facing 43mm x 54mm passive bass radiators that harmoniously produce a rich and immersive 360 degree sound experience that is comparable to the UE Boom by Ultimate Ears. This is the first time that we're seeing such a complex set of driver hardware in a portable speaker that's only about 6-inches long, and just 2.3-inches wide.
When we test the battery performance of portable speakers we review, we tend to always go through at least two battery cycles before writing down our thoughts on paper about it. But for the first time we have yet to go through a full battery with the Fugoo. It is that impressive. 40 hours of wireless audio streaming beats every single portable speaker we know of including the UE Boom's 15-hour battery life.
I'm not so sure where Fugoo was going with the design of its speaker, but it definitely strikes a high-end fashion accessory type look. It looks like a stylish women's purse. And again, the Sport Jacket has that yoga-esque Lululemon type of a fitness look to it that's a bit too feminine for my taste. The only jacket accessory that is undeniably manly is but of course the Fugoo Tough Jacket casing. Right now, you can buy the Fugoo Style above for $200, and that will get you this lovely silver looking fabric-covered Style Jacket style that features a polished trim which really looks convincingly like metal in person but it is in fact all plastic. Conversely, $200 will also get you the Fugoo Style, which is a sportier looking equivalent that features a slightly wider casing with a turquoise colored rubberized trim and a more durable black mesh fabric.
One look at Fugoo's website and it becomes clear that the company is trying to heavily market its Fugoo Style and Fugoo Sport speaker offerings to women with a developed sense for sophisticated and fun fashion. And it's about time that a portable speaker brand also caters to the female crowd with attractive offerings that women will actually love using. But not just women, the Fugoo speaker isn't trying hard to alienate us guys from using it. It's actually a very versatile speaker. Fugoo can easily make a less shiny Jacket design that would appeal a lot more to men than it most likely does to women with its clutch-like styling.
The Fugoo Style is quite similar to the UE Boom in that it also has a very similar type of woven nylon mesh fabric covering the speaker drivers which we really think is excellent. It's a durable material that feels tougher and thicker than the more delicate and softer fabric material that is found on the Fugoo Style. So it isn't just a different style and a different name, Fugoo's Jackets each offer something different to the user.
As for the Fugoo Tough Jacket, well, it's tough indeed. First, it'll cost you $30 more than the Fugoo Style and Fugoo Sport speakers at $230 - or $50 if you already own a Fugoo speaker and want to purchase the Tough Jacket all on its own. You're paying a bit more because of it's considerably better built. It has an aluminum and rubberized fiber-reinforced resin plastic construction jointed together with 10 screws at each side. It's also noticeably hefty compared to the Style and Sport Jackets and has a more airy steel mesh speaker grille cover on either side to protect the Fugoo's speaker drivers from rock impact. The Fugoo Tough offers maximum heavy duty protection making it a more appropriate choice for hiking and other rigorous activities. Even so, Fugoo did an amazing job with its modular design in that every one of its Jackets offers the same level of tactile feedback response from the built-in control buttons at the top of each Jacket casing.
Because the Tough Jacket was designed to be a lot tougher and sturdier than the sleeker Style and Sport Jackets, it features a reinforced installation rather than the quick and easy slide to swap a Jacket casing. Fortunately you'll only need to remove four screws on one side to open up the Tough Jacket.
Aside from its modular design features, the Fugoo speaker has got all bells and whistles, thrill and frills of an advance and high-end portable wireless speaker would have including an outstanding Bluetooth 4.0 stereo audio streaming and connectivity, a highly appealing and high-quality human voice prompts and sound effects that guide you during the pairing process and each time you turn the speaker on/off or check up on the battery status. It's all done remarkably well, and just as good if not more impressively detailed than the Ultimate Ears UE Boom.
You're getting the full, unadulterated and expectation-pleasing user experience having spent $200 from the moment you unbox the Fugoo speaker right up to when you power it up for the very first time. The Bluetooth pairing and connectivity performance of the Fugoo is the best we have ever experienced. It will in a matter of milliseconds connect to a previously paired devices as soon as it is powered on. It's incredibly snappy in the way that it functions be it controlling the volume, switching tracks or calling up Siri or Google Now over Bluetooth. Naturally you'll find other features you've come to expect like a built-in omni-directional microphone for full-duplex speakerphone functionality. But of course what sets it apart from the rest is the fact that unlike other portable speakers, the Fugoo wireless speaker can change its appearance and external build quality using different types of swappable durable enclosures, or "Jackets" as Fugoo calls them.
On one side of the speaker are the power and Bluetooth pairing buttons which are separated by a single LED status light. Although you can use the Fugoo's power button to check the battery status, you can also see the remaining battery life displayed on your iOS device when connected over Bluetooth. Fugoo left no small detail to waste, and we find that to be helpful and considerate especially when other popular speakers are already offering similar standards.
Flipping the speaker over to the other side reveals a micro-USB charging port which you can also use to update the speaker as well as load different types of voice personalities. Next to it is a 3.5mm audio input for an optional wired connection to an audio source.
At the top we have the usual volume controls and a center multi-function button. I really like how these buttons are designed to float on top of the fabric material. It just looks so unique and it makes using these buttons have a greater tactile feel to them when used as oppose to the US Boom's seamless control button interface which is embossed into the rubber compound that makes part of the speaker's enclosure. So two very different speaker designs, each has its own flair going for it. The UE Boom is a little more for everyone while the Fugoo Style and Fugoo Sport are somewhat more feminine in their stylish designs. And of course, the Fugoo Tough is purely an outlandish and over the top chunk of rugged goodness that will appeal to those with an acquired taste or the need for an insanely tough piece of kit.
With these on-board controls you can mute/pause, adjust volume, skip tracks, answer/end/mute calls as well as initiate voice controls such as Siri on iOS devices and Google Now on certain Android devices.
Changing these Jackets or at least removing them is as easy as lifting up a metal tension latch that secures the Jacket securely in position underneath the speaker.
Engineered to be tough from the inside out
Fugoo set out to build the toughest portable speaker it possibly could. It made sure to build the core of it out of durable materials that would protect it from harsh elements. And that claim to fame is very well founded. From its high quality exterior and interchangeable Jackets that offer multiple levels of enhanced durability, to the inner air-tight speaker Core which in itself is a rock solid device reinforced with resilient materials that protect it from drops, and everything else. You're not going to find any impressive metal construction of the speaker itself, but you won't be disappointed by its carefully-judged quality design.
But what really bothers me rather than concerns me is the fact that the Style and Sport Jackets do have a plasticky creak when pressure is applies in certain areas. And this isn't necessarily because of their plastic construction as they are quite rigid all on their own. It's when the Fugoo Core speaker is inserted into either the Style or the Sport Jacket when parts of the plastics have room to flex. Having said that, I'm not concerned about the Fugoo speaker being vulnerable to damage or that it feels plasticky and poorly made, because it's none of these things. It's simply a small nuisance that is the result of this interchangeable sleeved casing design. It is by no means a deal breaker. Though to be perfectly honest, I do feel like the Fugoo Style Jacket is by far the least rugged casing out of the three available. It'll do a great job protecting the Fugoo Core's exposed passive bass radiators from normal every day usage, but should you drop it from a considerable height chances are high that you'll crack and most certainly disfigure some of the Style Jacket's beautifully chic plastic construction and aesthetics. So in that case, we do think the Fugoo Sport is the way to go if you want a bit more contentment out of your $200 speaker because of its more resilient rubberized trim and that rougher nylon fabric.
You'll notice these long black rubber pill-shaped nibs which are designed to create friction and a snug fit when encased inside a Jacket casing. These make removing the speaker slightly more difficult, but in a positive way, while also ensuring that there is enough vibration dampening between the casing and the Fugoo speaker Core itself. Clever attention to small detail by Fugoo here.
In order for it to sound bigger than it looks, Fugoo covers all its basis using a digital signal processor and six proprietary drivers: two passive radiators, two woofers, and two tweeters that take care of the lows, mids and highs accordingly. Making an impression in such a crowded space is no easy feat, however, the Fugoo speaker outshines many of its $100 to $200 competitors with its pristine audio clarity. Its only noteworthy adversary is but of course the $200 Ultimate Ears UE Boom.
The Fugoo has a noticeably better representation of instrument separation thanks to its brighter sound signature with the help of its two dedicated tweeters, but it also sounds less dynamic and not as full compared to the UE Boom. Because the UE Boom has no tweeters to handle vocals and high frequencies separately, it sounds more smooth and thick at higher volumes. At the end of the day, you can sit and spend hours comparing the two against each other only to come to a final conclusion - which is that they both sound really good. Highs sound extremely bright and clear, but could have used less treble. The midrange needs more richness, but it overall decently present.
When it comes to bass performance, the two share the same set of passive bass radiator drivers so we didn’t hear much of a difference between the two with the exception of the UE Boom having a tad bit more deepness to its bass. They both lack the thump Bose’s SoundLink Mini affords, which is not surprising given the fact that they each have radiators that are half the size of the dual radiators found inside the SoundLink Mini. If you must know, the UE Boom does perform at a more in-depth level compared to the Fugoo speaker.
Personally, I like the UE Boom’s sound signature better because it’s richer and warmer. Vocals have a thicker, studio quality to them as well as the midrange which makes the UE Boom sound larger than its rival, whereas the Fugoo lacks that bold warmness in my taste. As a result, the UE Boom does perform at a more in-depth level compared to the Fugoo speaker. Another downside to the Fugoo is that its low-end bass distorts in certain bass heavy tracks when listening to it at maximum volume. This isn’t an issue for the UE Boom as it never distorts no matter what you throw at it and no matter how loud it plays it.
Fugoo’s so called dynamic equalization should automatically work behind the scenes to adjust the speaker’s DSP (digital signal processor) when you adjust the volume. In theory this should help produce less unwanted distortion when listening to bass-heavy music at high volume. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work quite well from our experience. The DSP will choose when to increase the bass response and when to reduce it depending on the type of music played while also taking the volume level into consideration. We played a bassy track like Rude by Magic! and the Fugoo played that outstandingly well. Bass was thumpier than it was on the UE Boom without distorting, but when we played a different bassy track the DSP incorrectly reduced the bass interference and the audio still distorted at high volume which is very odd. Hopefully this could be fixed or at least improved to be more intelligent with a firmware update soon.
Another noteworthy detail we noticed during our tests and comparison of these two speakers it's that the UE Boom can deliver a louder punch, which makes it the better choice out of the two if you want to fill a large space like your living room. Though to be fair, the Fugoo can fill up a room but simply isn't powerful enough to stand out at an outdoors gathering. But if you're looking to use it as a personal past time speaker, it'll do very well in that regard.
At $200, we think that the Fugoo Style speaker fits comfortably in between the Bose SoundLink Mini and the Ultimate Ears UE Boom. It's a distinct amalgamation of the two in a way as far as audio performance and durability is concerned. Of course it does blow them both out of the water with its impressively long battery life and the ability to swap out different types of Jacket casings that either enhances its durability even more or simply add a different kind of style into your experience. All in all, the Fugoo Style strikes a good balance of great audio quality, outstandingly long battery life encased into a very portable and highly durable good looking form factor. It literally is a "go anywhere" speaker.
We like it enough to include it into our top 5 ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker list (which currently is nothing but an imaginary list). Having said that, the UE Boom would still be our pick it it meant spending our own hard earned cash simply for its warmer tonal sound signature which we prefer a little more. Fugoo's nifty portable wireless speaker is a solid buy-worthy gadget nonetheless. And that is why it deserves our recommendation.