Living in Britain means you have to take advantage of every ray of sunshine that comes your way. When the clouds break, you need to fire up the barbecue, whip up some mojitos and get a party going. You're going to need music in your garden to get things going and the Jawbone Big Jambox might be just the ticket.
It's a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that allows you to stream music to it from most phones, tablets or laptops, it has a strong rechargeable battery and it provides a serious wallop of good quality sound from its small body.
It's available now from the Apple store for £260.
Design and build quality
If you're asked to spend £260 on a speaker for your room then you might assume you'll be given an enormous set-up to permanently install on your bookcase. That's not what you get with the Big Jambox.
It measures 254mm long, 80mm deep and 93mm high, making it slightly bigger than a pipe of Pringles. Like Pringles, it's completely free of wires, meaning you don't need to hook it up to external devices, satellite speakers a power plug or sub-woofers using extra cables. That not only keeps it free of nasty clutter, it also makes it totally portable.
It runs on a built-in rechargeable battery, rather than solely through the power input, which is great news for any of you wanting to whisk it off to a sunny patch of parkland to play tunes while you hurl a frisbee around. I found it to be particularly handy to carry from my living room into my kitchen to listen to podcasts while washing the dishes.
With a weight of 1.2kg, it's not so heavy that you couldn't easily carry it around in a backpack for a while, but it's still weighty enough to sit firmly on a solid surface -- thanks in part to its secure rubber feet. Any lighter and it would run the risk of rattling around due to its own bass output.
The entire chassis is made from a metal mesh that's been given an undulating diamond pattern that I found to be very attractive. I paraded it around CNET UK Towers and the general consensus was positive. Nobody here would have any qualms about having it on show in their home. I had the white model in for review but it's also available in bright red or black colour schemes.
The metal feels very sturdy and doesn't offer much flex when you squeeze it -- although I have no doubt it would quickly succumb to dents if you were to bang it around in your bag a lot. Coupled with the rubberised ends and big rubber buttons on top, it feels extremely well put together overall and certainly seems built to last.
The buttons on top allow you to pause the music, skip tracks, adjust the volume or have a delightful lady tell you how much battery you have left -- you can also hook the Jambox up to your computer and alter what voices speak to you. They're very easy to press, even when you've had a few summery cocktails and make ham-fisted attempts at turning the volume up.
On the edge is a power button, a Bluetooth pairing button, a micro-USB jack -- this is for connecting to a computer, not for charging -- an auxillary port for hooking up a device from its headphone jack, rather than Bluetooth and a power socket for charging.
One of the most important features of the Big Jambox is its ability to pair to your phone, tablet or computer to let you stream your music to it over Bluetooth, letting you carry your mobile around in your pocket while still keeping your 'phat beats' playing.
Setting up the Bluetooth connection is very simple, requiring you to press the pairing button on the speaker to make it 'discoverable', finding the speaker in the list of available Bluetooth devices on your handset and simply clicking on it. Then you can go ahead and play music from the media player on your phone or via apps like Spotify. It'll also pair with a laptop if you want to use it to make your movies more cinematic.
I found the Bluetooth connection to be very strong. Jawbone reckons the speaker will remain paired up to around 33 feet, which I'd say is pretty accurate. I was able to walk a surprising distance from the speaker without any drop in sound and it was able to keep connected when in other rooms. If your phone's playing the music and you get up to make a quick brew, you won't need to worry about the sound cutting out.
The speaker also has a microphone in it so it can be used as a Bluetooth speakerphone. This is handy if -- like me -- you often get calls from your parents right in the middle of cooking or washing up when you really can't hold a phone to your head. I found the sound was clear and easy to listen to and the microphone did a good job of picking up my voice.
Rather than make you spend a small fortune on D cell batteries, the Big Jambox is rechargeable. Jawbone reckons you can get 15 hours of play through its speakers and based on my own use, I'd say that's reliable. I had it power a long evening's party and provide numerous hours of background music in my living room and I struggled to drain it. If you plan on taking it to the park, give it a good charge in the morning and you won't have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
The most important factor of any speaker -- especially one you've paid £260 for -- is its sound quality. After all, what's the point in having an attractive speaker that tells you about its battery if it's not good enough to play back your tunes? Thankfully, the Big Jambox does not present any problems here. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The most surprising aspect is the sheer amount of volume it's able to pump out. Although it might only be the size of a standard kitchen radio, the Big Jambox is able to deliver serious noise. To give it a real test, I used it as the main speaker to power a CNET UK party in our large, open cafeteria space. I was extremely impressed at its ability to fill the room with noise -- in fact, several people came over and were amazed that such a small box was able to create such a din.
Not only was it extremely loud but it was also able to stay mostly free of distortion. Even when I cranked it to the max, it was only with the most powerful bass hits that the speakers showed signs of stress. For the most part, it was noise-free.
The sound was bright and clear, with well-defined high levels, which made cymbals and acoustic guitars in tracks like Ingrid Michaelson's Locked Up sound delicious. The same was evident on the delightful L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N by Noah and the Whale. If you're a fan of folk and acoustic rock, you'll be very pleased with the tones achieved by the Big Jambox.
It's also not bad with the lower end of the sound spectrum, offering a punchy bass sound. Kick drums were loud and clear, although without an enormous separate sub-woofer handling the ultra-low frequencies, bass wasn't particularly warm -- the low synth bassline on Skrillex's track Breakin' a Sweat, for example, was mostly indistinguishable.
Still, even the bigger, more expensive speakers can struggle with really low bass rumbles so I can't ask too much of such a diminutive device. It's perfectly capable of playing back most music without you feeling it's lacking in any area. If anyone complains, just turn it up loud enough to drown them out.
The Jawbone Big Jambox might be pretty pricey, but it packs a clear, full and extremely big sound from a deceptively small body. If you're on the lookout for a rechargeable speaker to power your barbecue garden parties, this might just do the trick.