When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, there’s one company’s product against which all others are measured: Jawbone’s iconic Jambox.
There’s a reason for that. Jawbone entered a pretty much empty market segment with a new product that they polished to hell. The Jambox doesn’t sound like sonic nirvana, but it sounds pretty good, and the rest of the details — from the way it feels in the hand, to the way it’s boxed, to the Nintendo-like bleeps and bloops it makes when you pair it or skip a track — are just polished to hell.
Just like with Apple products, though, that polish comes at a premium: the MSRP of the Jambox is $199.99, which is a lot of money for most people. Enter the CUBEDGE EDGE.sound, a new Bluetooth speaker that attempts to do everything that the Jambox does for an MSRP of $50 less.
In the eyes of most consumers, the EDGE.sound is going to be measured up against the Jambox, and besides price, it has a couple of notable advantages over the Jambox: Bluetooth 3.0 and louder sound.
I’ve always loved my Jambox, but I don’t have the best of hearing, and one of my biggest issues with it is that the sound isn’t quite loud enough for me to hear across the room when I’m, say, doing dishes. No such complaint about the EDGE.sound: it’s maximimum volume is a twelve to the Jambox’s ten. A pedigree of being a louder Jambox isn’t the worst identity for a Bluetooth speaker can have, and with the new firmware update, the audio quality seems about on par overall.
There’s also Bluetooth 3.0 support, compared to Bluetooth 2.1. Honestly, you’re not likely to notice a big difference, but it should mean for speedier pairing and slightly better battery drain on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It’s also lighter than the Jambox, which is both a positive — more portable! — and a negative, which we’ll get to below.
Otherwise, the EDGE.sound has a sleek rectangular design with a silver metallic grille which evokes the design of a stealth fighter, big friendly buttons, a light weight and simple controls, all in a clean package at $50 less than a Jambox.
Unfortunately, while the EDGE.sound is more affordable than the Jambox, there’s a considerable lack of polish that comes with the price.
For one thing, the EDGE.sound feels cheap in construction compared to the Jambox. Hold a Jambox in your hand and it feels solid and pleasant; while the EDGE.sound comparatively feels light and chintzy. The Jambox is a Bluetooth speaker that feels like it can take some hits, while the EDGE.sound feels like something that would probably break if it dropped off a counter.
This chintziesh, lightweight quality pervades the entire device: the buttons feel squishy and the entire top panel slightly depresses when they are pushed. Part of what makes a gadget satisfying to use comes from how solid it feels, and while a lighter gadget is nice (look at the iPhone 5 versus the iPhone 4S), it’s not a viable design trade-off if the device feels worse to use. To use, the EDGE.sound doesn’t sound worse than the Jambox — and manages higher volumes — but it does feel worse. And while the Jambox may weigh more, it’s actually physically smaller by about an eight of an inch in height and a half an inch in depth, so the EDGE.sound is a physically bigger device.
The EDGE.sound — like the Jambox — has speakerphone capabilities, but there’s no improvement over the Jambox’s (admittedly terrible) speakerphone performance. It’ll do in a tight pinch, but you’re not going to like it.
The EDGE.sound isn’t a bad device on its own merits, but when compared to the Jambox, it’s a slightly inferior product. There are small advantages when it comes to volume, weight and Bluetooth technology, but these come with trade-offs in polish, and build quality.
Still, the EDGE.sound has a suggested retail price of $149.99, which is $50 less than the Jambox, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Even so, though, Jamboxes can be found on Amazon as of writing for just $163. That’s a lot of tradeoffs for thirteen bucks.
So what’s the takeaway? The EDGE.sound is a good Bluetooth speaker, but not good enough for us to recommend over the device it’s trying (and failing) to outshine, and in the real world, we don’t feel the money saved just is quite worth the trade-off. The EDGE.sound is a decent analog to the Jambox for the budget-minded, but in our mind, if you’re going to spend $150 to get a Bluetooth speaker, you might as well spend a few bucks more for something with a few less compromises and a proven support history.
Verdict? If you can’t find a Jambox for less than MSRP, get the EDGE.sound. Otherwise, the Jambox is still the Bluetooth speaker we recommend over all others. If the EDGE.sound drops in price below $150, though, we’d have a much easier time recommending it to the budget conscious.
[xrr rating = 70%]
BUY: CUBEDGE EDGE.sound.