Jabra Solemate (white)
Typical Price: $149.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: The Jabra Solemate is a compact, well-constructed Bluetooth speaker with an eye-catching design, decent sound and battery life, and speakerphone capabilities. It comes with a water-resistant "sound bag" and has a hideaway line-in cable for connecting non-Bluetooth devices.
The bad: The Solemate could cost a little less and it doesn't sound great at high volumes.
The bottom line: The Jabra Solemate has a few small shortcomings, but overall it's a very solid compact Bluetooth speaker with a unique design.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Following, so to speak, in the footsteps of Jawbone's popular Jambox, Jabra's Solemate is one of several compact Bluetooth speakers to hit the market this year and it's arguably one of the better ones, with a distinct, footwear-inspired design and decent sound for its size.
As its name implies, the Solemate has been cleverly designed to resemble a sneaker, complete with a carrying strap that looks like the loop on the back of some athletic shoes. The speaker is pretty small, but it's got a little bit of heft to it, weighing in at 1.34 pounds, and is larger than the popular 12-ounce Jawbone Jambox, which now costs slightly less (around $179).
I liked Solemate's design and the treaded rubber base helps keep it from moving around when you play it at higher volumes. On top of the Solemate are three large buttons, two of which raise and lower volume. The third gives battery status and serves as an Answer and End key when the Solemate is in Speakerphone mode.
A switch on the right side turns the speaker on and off or places it in pairing mode. This is where you'll also find a 3.5mm audio input for connecting devices that don't support Bluetooth. And below the line-in there's a Micro-USB port for charging the device and administering any firmware upgrades.
The Jawbone Jambox (like the Jawbone Big Jambox) has similar connectivity and button options, but Jabra's added a little extra flair to its design by stowing a line-in cable on the bottom of the device, in the tread on the bottom. You have to take it out of its groove to use it, but it's great to have easy access to in case you need it.
CNET colleague Brian Bennett and I agree that one of the slicker features of the Solemate is the included "sound bag" accessory, which doubles as a splash-resistant cover and protective carrying case. The bag's textured surface is designed to keep moisture, dirt, and sand out, but allows sound to escape virtually unimpeded. That's right, the Solemate sounds essentially the same in or out of its sound bag, which makes it great for backyard and beach parties.
I used the Solemate in a couple of different ways and played around with its positioning, placing it on a table, then closer to a wall to get better bass response. As with a lot of smaller portable speakers, sound will vary on depending on your environment (inside or outside) and placement in a room.
I connected an iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S3 to the unit using Bluetooth as well as a wired connection. I got slightly better sound from the wired connection than the wireless one, but it wasn't a major difference.
The Solemate can play pretty loud and delivers a decent amount of bass. Like virtually all these small speakers, it has little to no stereo separation and it really performs best in the midrange and sounds quite good with well-recorded acoustical tracks (for instance, I'm listening to Coldplay's "U.F.O." as I write this). If it has a weakness, the sound just isn't incredibly detailed and things can start to sound a little harsh at higher volumes; the sound holds together OK but I tended to listen to the speaker at lower to midlevel volumes rather than crank it.
If you do raise the volume, the speaker can fill a small to medium-sized room with sound and like the Jawbone Jambox plays much larger than its size. I think most people will be impressed by its sound -- and be quite happy with it -- so long as you don't expect the world. I also thought speakerphone performance was quite good. Jabra does have plenty of experience making speakerphones, so that's not surprising.
As for battery life, it's rated at 8 hours of music playback, which is good.
It's worth noting that while the Bluetooth worked fine in our tests with iOS and Android devices, we did get some dropouts when connecting a Mac laptop via Bluetooth. We're not sure what the issue was, but Mac OS X has been known to be a little finicky when it comes to connecting with Bluetooth speakers, so it's more than likely a software issue (and it could very well be isolated to certain systems).
I liked the Solemate and, as I said in the intro, I think it's one of the better Jambox-esque speakers to hit in 2012 (it even has similar voice prompts to the Jambox when you turn it on and pair the speaker). While it delivers a bit bigger and slightly better sound than the Jambox, it's also physically a bit larger and heavier and you lose some sound quality at higher volumes. In other words, there's a bit of a trade-off. You get the smaller size with speakers such as the Jambox and the tiny Soundmatters FoxLv2, but the Solemate has a little more oomph to it.
All that adds up to a solid compact Bluetooth speaker that I don't think you'll regret buying (and most people will be quite happy with it). But if Jabra had priced it lower than the Jambox (closer to $149), I'd have an easier time recommending it even more strongly.
|Product Description||Jabra SOLEMATE|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||6.8 in x 2.5 in x 2.8 in|
|Connectivity Technology||Bluetooth 3.0, Wireless, Wired|
|Speaker System Details||Portable Bluetooth speaker|
|Battery||Speaker battery - Rechargeable|
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 2
4 Star: 1
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
A competent Bluetooth music player
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on November 11, 2013
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Solid build quality, AC adapter for charging, water/sand bag for protection, reasonable sound quality (keeping expectations within reason)
Cons: Not as good a deal in my opinion at full price, but on sale at $99: a great bargain.
Summary: I picked this up from Amazon as a $99 lightning deal recently. I had been looking for a small & portable, Bluetooth-enabled music player mostly to have something to toss into the bathroom as I enjoy listening to music then, but playing the full-fledged stereo simply wasn't practical.
I didn't find too many reviews of this particular device, but it's specs and those reviews I did find treated it well enough that I elected to make the purchase at this price point. I confess I had been looking at other players with very similar features (and at the same basic size), but that were priced between $150 and $200, so this seemed a good deal to at least audition the product.
Every review I have read about similarly sized products have covered the "not much bass" meme as well as "don't expect larger room filling volume," which was fine with me. I wasn't expecting a device of this size to produce floor shaking bass or to fill my bedroom with sound... that's what the A/V receiver and such is for. However, I have found this particular portable speaker to at least meet my expectations and in some ways exceed them (keeping in mind I went into this purchase knowing full well what to expect anyway).
So let's get the cons out of the way: I have non to report. As I previously said it has met all my expectations and with my expectations tempered by reason given the diminutive nature of the product I don't have any real complaints. Are the highs really crisp and the bass punchy? Of course not, but I would have no reason to expect such from this, or any other similar, device.
How about pros? Regarding the build quality and appearance I'm quite pleased. More so than I had originally anticipated. It feels solid when I pick it up. No creaky plastic or gaps in the construction. The 'sole' does look a bit cheesy, but in terms of keeping the device from moving about when played loudly or making in vibration-induced rattling the sole works perfectly well. In addition it houses a handy male/male 3.5mm cable so you can plug in your device directly if you don't have Bluetooth. (jumping ahead I tried playing both via Bluetooth and with the cable and didn't find any noticeable change in sound quality from the player). The little strap on the side feels firmly attached, but the Solemate is so small anyway I find it's simply easier to pick it up and not fiddle with the strap.
Regarding set-up it was quick and simple. My cell phone paired immediately and we were up and running in no time. It took more work to get it out of the packaging than it did to set up (very much reminded me of my last computer purchase...). Regarding the packaging it comes with everything I think one of these sorts of players should have, including an AC power cord for charging purposes. Personally I do not like manufacturers who only include a USB cable and expect you to charge their device from a computer. I'd rather plug it in directly to a wall outlet during the day when I'm not using it than have to leave my computer on, etc.
Finally, regarding sound quality... I find the unit gets suitably loud and distortion free at volume. Again, I'm only filling a small space (bathroom or bedroom), but it does handle what I expected it to be able to do. Again, reasonable expectations of these devices is very important. The highs are reasonably crisp, but I confess to being more impressed with the bass than I had anticipated. My expectations of the bass were really pretty low, but this Solemate does a better job than for which I was prepared. Granted, the bass isn't punchy and solid like it is from my stereo, but it shouldn't be either. This device is too small for such. Regardless, I'm more impressed than I think I had a right to be.
I've been using the device for over a week and have only noticed a few sonic weaknesses scattered across my musical taste. Specifically, and oddly in my opinion, I don't find it particularly good at classical music or Latin sounds (salsa in particular). I actually expected the Solemate to sound better with classical music, but fortunately that isn't the foundation of my musical taste.
I can say I've made notes during this past week and can say I was generally quite pleased with the overall sonic performance on a fairly wide-ranging set of artists: Front Line Assembly, Fleetwood Mac, The Cure, King Krimson, Joy Division, Morrissey, Graham Coxon, and Koop (Swedish outfit - check them out if you like a kinda lounge music sound). I will say that in instances where I had the choice of playing an original recording versus a more recently remastered version (as was the case with about half of the above-named bands/artists) the remastered option always sounded much better, especially the highs, which were more articulate.
Unfortunately there isn't any way for me to compare this Jabra Solemate to any of the handful of other similar devices I had been considering, but taking into account my expectations and the great price I have to say I'm very, very pleased with this selection. Maybe there are better sounding players (heck... I'm sure there are) out there, but I feel like I got a fair bit of bang for my buck in this instance. Had I paid the more typical $150 price I think I would have been slightly disappointed and the device would have received 3 instead of 4 stars, but at the price point I paid I'm quite happy.
Greatest mini Bluetooth Speaker in the market..!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on December 19, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: -Great sound with and excellent bass
-Includes a waterproof and sandproof pouch
-nice simple design
-sound better than the jawbone and companyq
Cons: The only thing bad that I can say is that when you get a call or make one, the person on the other side seems to hear everything with a little echo.
The Bluetooth sometimes gets a little to annoying while paring.
Summary: Great product, I was at Best Buy trying out all the little speakers and found this BIG sounding speaker, I just tried it out and could hear it all over the store with perfect sound and clarity even over the jambox and the others. if you are thinking that it is pricy, it is worth it every penny. You even get a great pouch that doesn't change the performace and is splash, sand and dirt proof! great product!
Absolutely fantastic sound and feel; STUNNING.
Rating: 5 / 5
on September 27, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: I was worried about the bass reproduction; this thing NEEDS that sneaker-sole, because even when the voice-activated guide for setting the bluetooth pairing comes on, the whole thing vibrates like a Led Zeppelin drum solo.
Cons: The only thing I can say even vaguely negative is that it IS a bit pricey, but you definitely get your money's worth.
Summary: If you're looking for WOW sound to take anywhere without cords, or "lugging", this is finally it. This is so cool it'll fit in your cargo pants' pocket, or carry it with the little loop on the back. The form-factor is to this generation what the transistor was in the '60s (with a paired mp3 player or smartphone, etc) or the boombox was to the '80s. The only foreseeable problem might be that soon everyone will have a bluetooth speaker like this and they'll be competing at parties, but if that's the case, this baby should beat the rest hands-down. And while I thought the 'style' a bit ungainly at first, it's actually perfect....to fit the hand carrying it, to dangle from the loop, to sit on a table or a tree stump, to fit a pocket, or to just sit there looking cool.
|Dell Small Business||Yes||$149.99|