Bluetooth headset connoisseur, Jawbone, is the company behind one of the most influential portable speakers ever made. It's also the company that's behind some of the best looking wireless speakers to ever hit the mainstream audio market. We must not forget that Jawbone single handedly sparked what is today a deeply saturated and overcrowded market filled with portable wireless speakers of every shape and size. It is of course responsible for creating the now iconic Jambox speaker which since its inception back in 2010, has garnered the world's attention along with countless recognition.
Jawbone's new Mini Jambox is the company's latest offering that is slimmer, lighter and more portable than the original Jambox. Needless to say it's as good-looking and as stylish as any Jawbone product. The Mini Jambox is the first Jawbone product to feature a striking all-new aluminum enclosure which is available in multiple patterns and colors designed by renowned designer, Yves Behar. Jawbone made some claims about it being better than the original model, so we decided to give the Mini Jambox a true real world review while also comparing it up against a few other notable portable speakers. Catch our in-depth review down below!
Other than a fantastic Big Jambox-like wrap job you'd expect from Jawbone, the Mini Jambox comes with the standards like a 24" long USB to micro-USB cable and a 36" long flat audio cable that are both color matched to the particular style of the Mini Jambox which is a nice little touch we appreciate seeing. Jawbone has down sized the accessories it once included with its original Jambox which included a USB wall charger and a carrying case and it's a bit of a shame. On the bright side however, the Mini Jambox is now $20 cheaper than its predecessor coming in at $180.
The Mini Jambox is Jawbone's greatest speaker design yet - a lovely brick
Jawbone is leaving behind what has made the original Jambox an iconic portable speaker figure, a rubber sandwich, and instead opted to make a speaker that takes a few design cues from its Big Jambox speaker instead. But Jawbone did even better than that, because instead of putting together parts, the Mini Jambox is made from a single unibody aluminum construction that is so astonishingly precise it makes other portable speakers crawl back from where they came from.
Slimmest, unadulterated portable speaker you can pocket or put behind a glass display
At first glance, the Mini Jambox is still rocking the same Jambox styling we've come to know and love, albeit it's now a lot more streamlined and arguably prettier in a unique way than the rest of Jawbone's speaker offerings. With a galvanizing pattern machined into the front of the speaker designed by none other than Yves Behar, the Mini Jambox gloats in a very attractive industrial design worthy of being called a modern art piece. Like before, the Mini Jambox is even harder to resist than its predecessor when it's being offered in various different grille pattern styles and in 9 colors from retro-chic looking dotted patterns to bold yellow and orange anodized colors. There's a color and style for just about any individual taste.
As pretty as it is, the Mini Jambox is impressively slender too. It looks like a Jambox that went on a diet and is now considerably sexier and slimmer than before. It's still feels like and has a brick-like shape to it, only that it fits in your hand more naturally than the original model. The Mini Jambox is unbelievably slim, and you could in fact fit it into your pocket if you really wanted to. I have and it is indeed highly portable as the "Mini" moniker suggests. Although it's as long as the original Jambox at 6 inches, the Mini Jambox is lighter and more than twice as thin as its predecessor coming in at just 0.96" making it one of the slimmest dual-driver wireless portable speaker we have ever tested and reviewed.
On the back, you'll find an exact virgin mirrored machined pattern unpenetrated with a perforated detailing which leaved behind this beautiful facade of solid aluminum.
This thing is made out of a single piece of extruded aluminum, and you bet it's well made. The Mini Jambox has an excellent build quality that's even more fluid in its construction than Bose's powerful SoundLink Mini portable speaker we reviewed, which is equally as impressive in its high build quality that's also made from a unibody aluminum construction.
You can try to find a something that's faulty with the Mini Jambox all day long, you just won't find a single thing and there is no room to argue about it either. There's absolutely no creaking to be heard or sensed. It's got what looks like a fine sand-blasted aluminum finish that's looks as good as it feels. Everything about the Mini Jambox equals to a stupendous high quality fulfillment of joy and happiness knowing for a fact that you've spent good hard earned money on a little portable speaker, and it has paid off quite well as it turns out. We appreciate that amount of quality.
The only remnants of rubber are located on the sides of the unit and sit flush with the aluminum and extend to form the unit's control buttons. The bottom has two rubber feet for traction and vibration reduction. Unlike the original Jambox, this one doesn't move a single millimeter when playing bass heavy tracks at full volume nor does it rattle on any surface.
At the top of the speaker are ubiquitously shaped rubbery tactile volume up and down buttons and a multi-function control button to play/pause, skip audio tracks, answer/end calls as well as to bring up Siri. The Mini Jambox features the same impressive 360-degree omnidirectional microphone with echo-cancellation found on the Big Jambox allowing it to be used as a loud and crystal clear wireless speakerphone with any Bluetooth compatible device. When you receive a call, the speaker will actually read out the incoming number and your ringtone will also be heard through the speaker even if your iPhone is set to silent.
Frustrating Bluetooth pairing is a thing of the past thanks to Jawbone. The Mini Jambox features Bluetooth 4.0, and the pairing process is simply brilliant and couldn't be any more user friendly. Starting up the Mini Jambox for the first time will initiate an 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 superb with near-instant connection between the two devices. 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 Mini Jambox's highly polished smart-speaker MyTalk voice system feature, currently present in all of Jawbone's Bluetooth headsets and speakers; which notifies you with the soothing voice off a human female voice by default. Jawbone's outstanding voice prompts can be changed and configured from a large selection of different fun voices and accents both male and female using 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 Mini Jambox will announce all of that to you with the unique voice you've chosen which is just really awesome and unlike any other portable speaker we have come across.
Unfortunately you can't pair two Mini Jamboxes to play wireless music simultaneously in a stereo speaker configuration like you can with Ultimate Ears' UE Mini Boom and UE Boom speakers. Jawbone does have an app for the Mini Jambox, but it literally does nothing proprietary or offer any helpful features other than serving as a quick guide and another form of pairing which can be done through your device's Bluetooth settings instead. You can, however, slightly customize your multi-function button using the app
Taking a look at the right side of the Mini 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 microphone, micro-USB port and 3.5mm audio port for use in wired mode with non-Bluetooth devices. Like the Big Jambox, the the Mini Jambox's power button will light up in a circle and will dim after a few seconds and will alternate between white and red colors denoting different statuses. Pressing the power button will announce the battery life status of the speaker. Beyond that, iOS users will also see a little battery status icon show up near the Bluetooth icon when paired with the Mini Jambox.
With a built-in rechargeable battery capable of providing up to 10 hours of continuous wireless music streaming which is an impressive number consider the compact form factor, the Mini Jambox has held up to Jawbone's claim fairly well we found. Of course battery performance will vary depending on the volume level, and so it seems because our unit was set to maximum volume all along and the battery has lasted for about 9 hours when wireless paired over Bluetooth.
We bet you really want to know whether or not the Mini Jambox improved upon its predecessor when it comes down to sound quality. While it may be true that nearly every portable speaker that has since been released after Jawbone's Jambox introduction has been able to offer a better audio experience for less, this time Jawbone has in fact improved the sound performance with the Mini Jambox. But the difference is very small I'm afraid. Inside, the Mini Jambox has the same hardware found in the original Jambox - two front-facing audio drivers and a single bass radiator that sits in-between to help pump out a dynamic sounding signature which Jawbone has made sure to digitally optimize to sound less bassy in order to produce more accurate sound. It results in a much clearer, lighter sounding audio that compared to the original Jambox sounds much nicer and could be classified as an improvement.
But it also means that there's even less bass now despite that fact that every time time you turn on the Mini Jambox it impresses you with its thumping low-end as it activates its signature Jawbone-powering-on chime which is just a really loud bass kick. Of course it's limited once you actually play music because Jawbone didn't want to make the same mistake it has before. And that's to make a bass-heavy sounding speaker that sounds muddy, so they've tones down the bass and the Mini Jambox simply sounds better than the original.
The Mini Jambox's audio drivers have been tweaked and re-tuned using Jawbone's digital signaling processing to deliver the best performing rich sound quality at any volume level. The Mini Jambox's sound signature is fairly balanced and significantly better than the original Jambox, but still requires a lot of work to truly live up to the $180 price tag and compete against some of the fierce portable speakers out there. The second biggest issue we have with the Mini Jambox after its price, is that it is sorely underpowered. We found ourselves listening at the maximum volume level and that wasn't during some party, but instead in a small and quiet living space! At even then, we could pick up a bit of distortion. Not good enough at all.
Much like Jawbone's original and Big Jambox speakers, the Mini Jambox also features LiveAudio. It's a propriety technology exclusive to Jawbone that when turned on, enhances the sound coming out of the Mini 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. Bewilderingly LiveAudio still doesn't come pre-loaded as a standard feature so you will need to download it from the Jawbone site and install it like an app on the Mini Jambox. Part of what makes it a "smart" speaker. Fortunately the process is super easy and all you really need to do is connect the Mini Jambox to your computer and install Jawbone's app.
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. Only that it isn't all too noticeable on the Mini Jambox like it is when using the Big Jambox, but you'll find yourself using it more often than not because it does make the Mini Jambox sound a little nicer when it's on. 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. You'll also notice that the volume will reduce slightly as a result.
When watching a movie using LiveAudio, you can actually hear the background noises in the movie separated farther 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 Mini 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.
Here's the thing, we couldn't sit back and not truly test how the Mini Jambox stacks up against its friendly rivals. So to get a real world prospective on how good the Mini Jambox sounds, we took Ultimate Ears' latest portable compact wireless speaker as well as a few other notable speakers we've recommend in the past, and compared it directly against the Mini Jambox. That's right, we put it up against the UE Mini Boom which is another compact portable speakers that costs way less. Believe it or not, the UE Mini Boom almost literally blows away the Mini Jambox with much louder, richer sounding audio with no distortion at high volume levels. What's more is that the UE Mini Boom has the edge over the Mini Jambox when it comes to clarity and even bass.
We don't even need to put the Mini Jambox up against other price worthy speakers like the $200 Bose SoundLink Mini and Ultimate Ears UE Boom, because performance wise the Mini Jambox ranks below those heavy hitters and should be considered more along the lines of a $100 speaker.
On that bitter note, if you want a Mini Jambox, get yourself the UE Mini Boom instead. To sweeten the deal, use that extra money you've saved on a second one if you want to take advantage of Ultimate Ears' double mode speaker pairing technology feature.
As tiny and slender is it may be, you've got to understand that the Mini Jambox has a limited audio performance which results in small, thin sound when compared to the UE Boom, SoundLink Mini, UE Mini Boom and JBL Charge speakers. We won't hide the fact that Jawbone's Mini Jambox has one of the most impressive form-factors, highly polished user experience and features, build and design qualities you'd find on a portable wireless speakers on the market, alas we were not impressed by its audio performance considering the $180 asking price and that's a shame. While not as visually thrilling, Ultimate Ears' $100 UE Mini Boom is twice as good as the Mini Jambox and is a fantastic alternative if sound matters to you more than fancy industrial design and premium materials.