I wanted to lead my last column of 2013 with something exceptional, and this new miniature version of the groundbreaking Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth speaker is it. It is scintillating. Brilliant. Close to magical. Easily in my top five new products of the year.
The original, rubber-shrouded Jambox from three years ago, which was 5.69cm in thickness and 15.1cm in length, was an amazing product. Readers of that review may recall my being asked by the front desk at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to turn mine down when I had it blasting away in my bathroom. In August 2011, when imitators were starting to appear (some of which were superb), Jawbone played a flanker by upgrading the Jambox’s firmware to include a feature called Live Audio. This added a 3D stereo sound effect that I found fascinating and almost spooky – the one drawback being that it cut the speaker’s audio output quite drastically.
I have often been tempted to take other ultra-portable stereo Bluetooth speakers on trips since, but it’s always the Jambox (now well-battered) that finds its way into my travel bag as in-room entertainment – as well as a decent speakerphone. I’ve now officially retired the Jambox, however, because of its insanely clever baby brother – the Mini Jambox. The Mini is 0.3cm longer than the original, but, at 2.44cm, is less than half the thickness, making it practically pocketable. And as satisfying an object as the Jambox was, the Mini’s design makes it look quite antiquated. It is hewn somehow from a single lump of aluminium, with strips of rubber at the sides, and you will find yourself playing with the device just for the pleasure of handling it.
And the sound? Well, it’s louder than the original, even with LiveAudio on, which, given its svelte profile, I promise you will find almost shocking – and not just the first time you try it. It’s also, I think, a cleaner sound. To get the bass up, you need to play around with the Mini’s position (it’s most impressive on a table with a wall behind it). Jawbone is making a hoo-ha about the Mini’s companion Jawbone app because it aggregates all the music on your phone, but personally I find this an uninteresting detail. For me the Mini’s astonishing hardware and built-in software are the main attractions.