I was an immediate fan of the Jabra Solemate Bluetooth speaker and said so. I was impressed by the Jabra Solemate mini I reviewed last month, and I said so. And I am also a fan of the big brother of the aforementioned speakers. The Jabra Solemate Max is big … and impressive. Here’s our look at this larger Bluetooth speaker.
I saw the Jabra Solemate Max at CES 2014. The venue was too loud for me to get any real sense of the audio volume or quality it offers, but one thing was for sure –I was impressed by the sheer size of the speaker. It keeps the same lines as the Solemate and Solemate mini, but it is significantly larger. And yet, despite that experience, when the box containing the review sample arrived, I was taken by surprise. When I think Jabra speaker I think in terms of small, portable devices. The Jabra Solemate Max is portable but this thing sure ain’t small. No way. No how.
The side of the box is large enough to run down some of the key features. It doubles as a speakerphone. It has NFC built in. It gets up to 14 hours of streamed audio play. And audio playback can be enhanced thanks to digital signal processing and the use of the included Jabra Sound app. In other words, this is a big Bluetooth speaker designed for use in 2014.
I know I am spending a good deal of time on the a packaging, but it is only because my surprise at what Jabra has created here began before I even took the speaker out of the box. In addition, as you can see from the image on the righthand side, the company kept the signature athletic shoe base with a 3.5 to 3.5mm cable stowed in the tread that has become central to the Solemate line. The other image shows the location of the four speakers packed into the Jabra Solemate Max. The company describes the product stating:
- JAW-DROPPING SOUND EXPERIENCE: Jabra Solemate Max delivers sound you’d expect from a much larger speaker, packing two tweeters, two woofers and a custom-designed bass slave into a lightweight design. Indoors or outdoors – it’ll deliver instant, awe-inspiring atmosphere.
- TAKING WIRELESS SOUND TO A NEW LEVEL: Forget the dock and get rid of all those cumbersome wires. Connect your device with Bluetooth or NFC and control your playlists from across the room – wirelessly.
- STAY IN OR GO OUT: Perfect in the home but portable and durable so you can venture outside, the Max is dust and splash resistant and built to take the bumps and knocks of any journey. Simply take it by the handle and go.
- KEEP YOUR PARTY GOING FOR LONGER: Solemate Max’s rechargeable battery can easily go for 14 hours, plus it charges your phone. So whether you’re using Solemate Max for music, movies, games or as a personal speakerphone for calls and video chats – it will be ready.
- POWERFUL DOLBY SOUND: Listen to your music and streamed YouTube content in superb Dolby stereo sound through Jabra’s exclusive Sound App. Dolby’s Sound Expander technology is designed to expand the soundscape so you hear every instrument clearly.
- THE ULTIMATE PARTY JUKEBOX: Transform your Solemate Max into a portable jukebox. The Jabra Sound App’s must-have Social Jukebox feature lets you and your friends easily create a music playlist, vote for your favorites and get the party grooving in amazing sound.
Here’s a look at it on camera.
The clean lines of the speaker won me over immediately. I love the fact that the Jabra name is present, but it’s rather small when looking at the speaker straight on.
And I really love the use of the Jabra name right behind the rear grill. At first glance all you see is grill and power port but when the light hits the speaker just right the Jabra name shines through. It is pretty neat, and it’s one of those small details that shows just how much attention to detail the company paid when designing this product.
It is difficult to see in this picture, but the base of the speaker is actually a bit angled and pointed the speakers up just enough to increase the sound stage.
This lets the speaker, which puts out big sound to begin with, sound even better.
Any speaker worth its salt in 2014 comes packed with NFC for easy pairing. Now I have to admit, Apple’s refusal to include NFC in their mobile devices is really starting to tick me off but not because of speakers like this. After all, the process of pairing a speaker or headset with a mobile device running Bluetooth 3.0 or later is pretty simple and takes just a few seconds. So having NFC here is a nice convenience but not a huge deal. The inability to do all of the other neat things NFC can do once you start using NFC Tags etc is a mistake on Apple’s part and is something I hope they change in the next round of hardware updates. As for the Solemate Max, having NFC is fine but to my mind is more relevant since not having it would draw some criticism. I’ll stick with the old-fashioned “Go to the Bluetooth settings on your device…” mode. Thankfully, the speaker offers clear voice prompts that walk you through the process in seconds.
Below the NFC zone are two indicator lights, one to show that Bluetooth is on and the other to reflect the current battery level. This speaker gets 14 hours of runtime so I can’t imagine running out of juice unless you neglect to charge it prior to heading out for the day.
The physical on/off switch (I LOVE that!) also functions as the buttons to turn on pairing. Simply lift the button to the top and hold for a few seconds. The mellifluous voice on the speaker walks you through from there.
Below the on/off switch is the 3.5mm Aux In port and a nice addition of a microUSB port. This is useful when you want to connect the speaker to a computer and use it as the audio system in place of the anemic speakers that ship on laptops. It is a nice addition that can be quite useful if you have the Solemate Max on a desk near your workstation!
At the bottom of this column of ports and controls is a full-size USB port that allows you to siphon off some of the Jabra Solemate Max’s charge and give it to a phone that is on its last legs with regard to its charge. Next to it is a small hole for the microphone.
The top controls are similarly simple and easy to understand. The small button sitting on its own is the call buttons. Yes, the Jabra Solemate Max can act as a speakerphone. It is definitely a nice touch and will come in handy if you are using your phone as the audio source!
The large circle includes controls for Play/Pause, Track forward or back and volume up and down. It is simple to and, if you are controlling your tunes from a Bluetooth connected device, a bit redundant. It does, however, mean you won’t have to go searching for your phone when you quickly need to pause the music or take a call.
What is striking to me is the fact that while the Jabra Solemate mini was smaller but not THAT much smaller than the original Solemate; the Solemate Max is a HUGE step up with regard to both size and sound. Here’s a look at the entire family.
The Jabra Solemate Max is a big speaker that puts out big sound. I was impressed before I even took it out of the box and was even more impressed once I turned it on. It sounds excellent, and it is a great option for someone who is looking to get a speaker that can be moved from one location to another with ease. If you are looking for a take-everywhere speaker, I’m not sure I would recommend this product, since the Solemate sounds quite good, it is just $130 through our Amazon Store, and it is truly mobile. It is also far less expensive. And if you are in the market for a home audio system, I’m not sure I would recommend the Solemate Max as there are stationary systems that sound great for less. For the same price, some may have the edge in terms of sound. If, however, you want a speaker that will serve you well at home while ALSO giving you the option to move it from one location to another; if you want a home speaker that can also go outdoors, and if you want a speaker that can fill a large space when you have a party and is tough enough that you won’t have to baby it, then this is an excellent option. The Jabra Solemate Max puts out big Dolby sound, runs forever (okay not forever but for a day), charges the phone that will likely run out before it does, and it is tough enough to use pretty much anywhere. You can learn more here, and you can order from our Amazon Affiliate Store here.
What I Like: A big speaker that puts out big sound; Maintains the Solemate design that I love; Has a 3.5mm cable in the bottom; Easy to set up and use; Runs for over 14 hours; Charges devices when they are low; Can be used as the audio for a computer
What Needs Improvement: Priced to compete in a tough market with some great options already available; No protective bag included
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample