Does it all work for the Jawbone Big Jambox? Not really. What is beyond doubt it that the Big Jambox has far superior audio performance to the original Jambox. This really shouldn’t be in question of course, but in a reasonably large space the Big Jambox delivers room filling audio with a reasonably clean sound signature without overly boosted lows or shrill highs. The trouble is this pleasant experience occurs in a narrow volume band. Listen quietly and the bass is overpowering drowning out the midrange, listen at high volumes and the bass cannot keep up – particularly with bass heavy tracks where it cuts out in an act of self preservation.
As for LiveAudio, it is a mixed bag. Enabled its algorithms do indeed give a greater sense of stereo separation with a wide, almost swirling feel to various instruments in each track’s make-up. This is particularly welcome as without it the Big Jambox can’t escape a mono feeling, something almost unavoidable in portable speakers and even some larger docks. The trouble is LiveAudio’s attempts come at the expense of reduced volume and dynamic range which make it sound like it has been smothered by a pillow. Given the Big Jambox isn’t particularly loud for its increased size (Aliph doesn’t reveal specifications) this only compounds problems.
Before we get too harsh though it is worth pointing out not all of this is the speaker’s fault, it is Aliph’s. The company has bizarrely decided to leave out aptX, the hugely impressive Bluetooth protocol is a near compulsory addition to speakers and docks these days and greatly improves streaming audio quality over standard A2DP Bluetooth.
Consequently, connect a device to the Big Jambox with a 3.5mm cable and playback immediately improves. It isn’t a seismic change, but it is just enough to suggest the Big Jambox could’ve been better with a little more thought.
It isn’t all bad in the audio department though, Aliph has called on its headset nous to equip the Big Jambox with a 360-degree omnidirectional microphone with excellent echo-cancellation and it results in extremely impressive conferencing calls. Calls via phone, Skype, Google Talk or any number of other VoIP services are clear and voices are distinct. It also works very well in loud environments successfully cancelling out unwanted background noise.
In addition Aliph has done a good job with the battery life. The company quotes up to 15 hours of continuous playback and while this drops substantially at high volumes we’d suggest the Jambox isn’t at its best in this zone in any case. You can take the Big Jambox away for the weekend and not worry about bringing a charger. Note the Big Jambox charges in just 2.5 hours over microUSB from a wall socket, but takes several times longer if charged via a laptop or desktop PC.