Jawbone Jambox vs. Soundmatters foxL v2... fight!
foxL v2 with Bluetooth
- Powerful sound belies tiny size
- Superb audio quality at lower volumes
- Decent speakerphone
- Mild distortion at high volume
- Middling battery life
Staring at the outside of both speaker shells, it's a little hard to believe that they're practically the same -- the Jambox appears to be a solid pastel brick of colored rubber and metal, while the foxL, covered in glossy black , is obviously a speaker. Peel back the Jambox's stainless steel grille, however, and take a close look at the drivers inside, and you can see both they and the "BassBattery" not only look like those in the foxL, they're the exact same size and placed in precisely the same spots too. In fact, putting the units side by side, it's not hard to imagine a foxL completely fitting inside a Jambox case, although Jawbone claims to have stiffened the internals somewhat with a glass-infused polycarbonate frame.
Whereas Jawbone makes the controls as minimalist as possible, foxL's are kind of all over the place -- the power switch and volume buttons are on the back, there are charging and 3.5mm jacks on either side, and we actually had to consult the manual to find the context-sensitive Bluetooth button -- it's actually buried underneath that tiny LED in the front. Still, the extra jacks add flexibility to the foxL, as you can charge it from either a mini-USB cable or the included wall wart, and the second 3.5mm mini-jack can drive an external subwoofer if you happen to have one lying around. The foxL's even got a pair of slots for camera straps on either side, so you could theoretically hang it from your neck like a jam pumpin' gangsta chain. (No, we didn't test that out.) It's also nice to see that the foxL's screws are readily accessible -- if or when the Jambox's lithium-ion battery ever dies, you'll have to send it back to Jawbone for replacement, but it looks like you might be able to swap the foxL's battery out.
If the foxL generally sounds better, than what did Jawbone actually add to the equation? Three things: Bluetooth know-how, updatable firmware... and a bit more battery life, too. The latter is the clearest win for the Jambox, as it lasted roughly 40 percent longer in our maximum drain test -- running at full blast, streaming Pandora over Bluetooth, the Jambox lasted five hours, while the foxL v2 managed only three and a half. The Jambox also has about five extra feet of Bluetooth range, as we could walk that much farther from our connected phone before audio became distorted. If you're looking for a portable speakerphone, though, the foxL's definitely a better one, as though Jawbone's NoiseAssassin noise-canceling algorithms were indeed far better at squelching unwanted sounds (completely muting a running faucet such that our caller couldn't tell it was there) it also had trouble picking up our voice unless it was directly in front of our face, while the foxL had no such trouble. With Soundmatters' unit, we were able to move about the room unhindered without raising our volume once, even as those listening to us through the Jambox continually begged us to speak up. Sound quality on our end was slightly improved with the foxL as well.