Ah yes, Jawbone strikes again with yet another sophisticated, beautifully designed product wanted by virtually anyone that takes a look at it. Jawbone's little portable Jambox speaker is all grown up now, make way for the Big Jambox. A wireless Bluetooth 'SmartSpeaker' that promises big hi-fi sound at $299. We love anything that Jawbone makes, who wouldn't? Jawbone's Big Jambox has a lot to give behind that massive metal grille, we go ears on with a full, in-depth review complete with droolworthy pics right after the big jump!
The Big Jambox doesn't replace Jawbone's original Jambox, but instead it offers more oomph with the same attractive brick design for $100 more. In other words, the Big Jambox was created to achieve a single task, filling up large spaces with jamming immersive sound that'll get the party started, and the cops banging on your door soon after.
Award winning designer Yves Behar is the man responsible for the attractive, industrial design of the Big Jambox. Like its smaller sibling, the Big Jambox is wrapped with a seamless distinct steel mesh grille boasting the unique hex pattern made popular by the immensely successful original Jambox, with the exception of it looking even better on this larger scale. The Big Jambox comes in three different colors, each with its own unique style including this gray Graphite Hex design we're reviewing, Red Dot and White Wave. As far as we see it Jawbone is leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else with its portable wireless speakers.
The Big Jambox is very much a powerful portable wireless speaker, yet not nearly as portable and compact as the original Jambox. The one that could easily fit in your cargo pocket. This bigger version on the other hand, is qualified to be referred to as a portable speaker with its on board rechargeable battery, but it will need much more space inside your gear bag putting it at an awkward form factor that may or may not be suitable to be carried with you everywhere you go. As a result, however, the Big Jambox is a superior wireless speaker to the original and will have no trouble at all playing your tunes out in the open.
The Big Jambox is, well, big - measuring at 10 x 3.1 x 3.6-inches and weighing 2.7 pounds of goodness. We always like our speakers well fed with heft as heft translates to better hardware thus better sounding performance.
Jawbone product packaging is purely exquisite. The Big Jambox's packaging is just as amazing as what's waiting for you on the inside. It's a bit unfortunate to see Jawbone relinquishing its iconic clear hard plastic case packaging recently used for the Up fitness band - that presents the actual product inside for a more standard approach with the product's graphic plastered on the outside packaging. Jawbone made sure the unboxing experience is just as sweet nonetheless.
Taking a look at what you get with the Big Jambox, it comes with a 60-inch (1.5m) long micro-USB to USB charge and sync cable, a 36-inch (0.9mm) long 3.5mm stereo audio cable for connecting audio sources without Bluetooth capability and a wall charger. What's missing is a protective carrying case, otherwise included with the smaller Jambox. Jawbone will sell you a carrying case for the Big Jambox at a whopping $50.
Because the Big Jambox is updatable thru Jawbone's website, you'll be using the USB cable to sync and install various voice apps and software updates while also being able to recharge the internal battery.
Big Jambox is still behind when it comes to wireless connectivity, missing out on Wi-Fi / AirPlay wireless connectivity and that's unfortunate given the large size of the speaker and its powerful sound. With that said, an AirPlay capable Big Jambox would cost even more than the already pricy tag. Instead we will have to settle for Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.
Taking a look at the right side of the Big Jambox, we see the the power on/off button, pairing button (used when wanting to pair a second device or re-pair a device), a 3.5mm audio port, a micro-USB port and a power port for the unit's wall charger. The power button will light up in a circle and will dim after a few seconds. The Big Jambox has no intrusive lights to disturb you with and that's to be appreciated.
Frustrating Bluetooth pairing is a thing of the past thanks to Jawbone. The pairing process is simply brilliant and couldn't be any more user friendly. Starting up the Big Jambox for the first time, and the automatic pairing mode initiates requiring you to simply fire up your Bluetooth settings on your smartphone, tablet or what ever it is you're going to be using, and choose 'Big Jambox' in the list to pair. Bluetooth reliability has been pretty solid in my testing only to have a few connection issues during music playback which was fixed by re-paring once more. It's also worth mentioning that there's no lag between audio playback when viewing movies and playing games over Bluetooth.
The successful paring will be audible by the Big Jambox's smartspeaker MyTalk voice system feature, currently present in all of Jawbone's Bluetooth headsets, which notifies you with the soothing voice off a human female voice. With Jawbone's online MyTalk platform you can also personalize the on board voice notification with other cool voice apps thru the MyTalk website. Each time you start, turn off, get an incoming call and check up on battery life, the Big Jambox will announce all of that to you with the unique voice you've chosen.
The Big Jambox features an impressive 360-degree echo-cancelling microphone so that you can use the Big Jambox as a loud and clear wireless speakerphone with any Bluetooth compatible device.
Along the top side of the speaker is where you will find ubiquitously shaped rubbery tactile volume, play/pause, next/previous and audio playback button controls along with a round button labeled with a "J" that represents a multi-function button for answering incoming calls, checking up on the status of battery life and even activating your smartphone's voice control feature. Beyond that, iOS users will see a little battery status icon show up near the Bluetooth icon when paired with the Big Jambox.
Battery life is outstanding. The Big Jambox's generous 2,600mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery kept on storming on well beyond the iPhone 4S's battery life, and lasted well over 10 hours with music streaming and a few movies that I've thoroughly enjoyed watching using the Big Jambox as my hi-fi speaker system. Jawbone claims up to 15 hours of battery life, we approve.
Not only is the Big Jambox bigger, more powerful and better looking than the original Jambox, it's built to impress. The Big Jambox feels better built and much more thought out than its smaller sibling, constructed with even more durable stainless steel, rubber sides and a clever bottom with 8 rubber feet that add plenty surface traction. By using less rubber on the bottom and the top, the Big Jambox looks cleaner and more refined than the original. Vibration is also a non-issue when playing music at very high volumes, a downside that the original Jambox presented with its rumbling bass that would easily shake it out of its place. The Big Jambox sits steady like a heavy, well designed brick no matter what. You're definitely getting your $300 worth when you take build quality into account.
Jawbone's Big Jambox is a beautiful piece of engineering, but can it drop the beats to back it all up? Yes, yes it can. Under that well designed perforated steel enclosure hidden are two, center positioned front and back firing passive bass radiators alongside two, precision-tuned 2.25-inch neodymium drivers responsible for pushing out the acoustics of it all. What notably improved with the Big Jambox over the original model is a much more powerful sound that doesn't distort, not even at the highest volume level that's dangerously close to defining. That's impressive.
The Big Jambox delivers big, rich sound that's pristine across the board. Mid tones could use some more detail, otherwise they play their part very well. Highs are superb, bright and as crystal clear. How clear? Swarovski clear. I'd have to say that the highs are most definitely the Big Jambox's forte. The bass although very prominent, didn't impress me right out of the box. While tight, clean and natural sounding, I would have wanted more of it. It isn't rumbling nor exaggerated as I thought it would be having used the original Jambox, and not much thumpier than the little Jambox that could. I should warn you though, my love for bass is strong. With that said, I think the Big Jambox does impress with the overall quality of sound it manages to push out without distorting or sounding muffled. That has some to do with the fact the Jawbone knew better not to overpower the lows. For most, the Big Jambox offers plenty of bass and considering that it's only a portable wireless speaker, it hands down does better than just about every competitor out there.
The Big Jambox features LiveAudio, a propriety technology exclusive to Jawbone that when turned on, enhances the sound coming out of the Big Jambox and basically turns the ordinary stereo audio into 3-dimensional sound which can be heard all around you rather than having the speakers fire from a single point. LiveAudio works really well to fill your surroundings with a more spacious sound that's full of treble. The downfall to turning on LiveAudio is that the bass takes a bit of a hit and sounds less full because of that. Instead of hearing sound from left to right,LiveAudio actually makes it that you can hear more detail from further away in a 360 degree, immersive listening experience that can be enjoyed by even more people no matter where they face the speaker.
With the help of Jawbone's exclusive LiveAudio technology, the Big Jambox is unstoppable. When watching a movie using LiveAudio, you can actually hear the background noises in the movie separated further away, well like in real life, actually in the background with you. It really is amazing. Voices come out crystal clear straight towards you this way instead of everything bunched up together. After much fiddling around with the Big Jambox, turning LiveAudio on and off, I came to a conclusion that it's best turned on when using a tablet like the iPad to watch a movie or play a game. Otherwise not every single song you play will suit LiveAudio in sounding better than having it turned off. Granted it's a matter of personal preference.
Jawbone's Big Jambox delivers big on features, sound, design and build quality. It's the complete wireless portable speaker you and me drool over.
Will you be unsatisfied purchasing the Big Jambox if you've already owned the original equivalent? We think not. Granted you'll need a lot more room to fit this bad boy when you're traveling. And if you're a first timer, the Big Jambox presents an enticing package that might be pricy, but we think it's well worth the extra $100 over the original Jambox. With the Big Jambox sounding fuller, louder, loaded with features and finished off with great build quality and a Guggenheim worthy design, it would be hard not to recommend it. But we've done more than just recommend the Big Jambox, we're going as far as awarding it with our Editors' Choice award for being an awesome wireless portable speaker.