- Excellent build
- Snazzy looks
- Good sound at low-mid volumes
- Mid-range distortion at top volume
- Max volume not that high
- Not rugged
- Review Price: £149.99
- 2 active neodymium drivers
- Passive radiator
- 10-hour battery life
- Bluetooth 4.0
What is the Jawbone Mini Jambox?
The Mini Jambox is the new baby brother of the original Jambox and Jambox Big. It’s a bit smaller, and a bit more expensive than the Jambox at £149.99. But this is a speaker you can fit in the pocket of your jeans – or at least that’s what Jawbone says.
It’s a little pocket marvel in some respects, but unless you must have a speaker this size you can get better sound for less money.
Jawbone Mini Jambox – Design
It purports to be all about fitting good sound into a small box, but the Jawbone Mini Jambox also cares a good deal about style.
It comes in a host of different colours, and with a variety of different speaker grilles. Each has a slightly different pattern, and the mix of colours and styles is intended to give a degree of personalisation missing from the rather uniform original Jambox.
What’s trickier to relay in pictures is the excellent build quality of the Mini Jambox. It’s a single piece of aluminium, aside from the soft-touch panels on each edge. Not only does this look and feel great, it should also help to avoid any rattling joins when the volume is maxed-out (although any of that sort of thing would raise serious construction-related eyebrows).
The Jawbone Mini Jambox is a Bluetooth wireless speaker, and it uses Bluetooth 4.0 – which uses barely any power when not transferring much data. Whether or not this has any huge impact on battery life (given that even with Bluetooth 4.0, transferring music is going to use a bit of power), stamina is decent. It lasts for up to 10 hours – less at maximum volume.
You charge the battery using a standard microUSB port on the side.
The Jambox trio, compared
It’s pretty convenient, but is it small enough to be truly portable? Jawbone is keen to reiterate that this speaker is much more portable than average – it fits in a pocket. However, we don’t think you’d want to keep it in your pocket on a regular basis. It’s just a bit too thick. It’s about 40 per cent thinner than the original Jambox, but can you really imagine keeping an inch-thick phone in your pocket? A jacket pocket or bag if much more likely to make a good home for the Mini Jambox.
There are a few buttons on the Mini Jambox, but none stand out too much as they’re all neatly colour-matched to the finish of the box. The main ones sit on the top – a play/pause button and volume controls. These take on the same functions as a 3-button hands-free remote, letting you switch tracks with multiple presses on the play/pause button.
Thanks to the pinhole mic on the right edge, the Mini Jambox can also function as a speakerphone. It uses a single omnidirectional mic – hence no traditional active noise cancellation, but there is pure software-based echo cancellation.
Jawbone Mini Jambox – Sound quality
The Jawbone Mini Jambox sounds great for its size. It’s sensibly less bass-obsessed than its predecessor, and offers good detail and an even tone with decent clarity.
It uses a speaker array that we’re pretty used to in portable speakers – two small active drivers and a passive radiator, which is there to supply the bass.
Bass radiators are little marvels in this field, able to provide some low-end presence and warmth without needing a port (like a traditional active bass driver) or making a speaker too big. In the past we’ve heard many passive radiators that have been less-than-perfectly implemented resulting in bass distortion as the radiator moves in and out a little too far. But here there’s no hint of that.
While you’re never going to get a speaker this size than can make the walls shake and make your feel bass drum beats in your chest, low-end bulk is impressive – and well judged too. The Mini Jambox also takes a very dynamic approach to equalisation too, making sure music sounds good at very low volumes as well as when blasting out tunes.
However, there is another issue. The radiator does not distort, but the small active drivers do at top volume. Mid-range distortion causes crackling at top volume with certain tracks – and it’s ugly enough to make you need to turn the volume down to the 80 per cent mark. The Mini Jambox sounds a little strained at max volume regardless.
This is a bit of an issue because top volume is not ear-shatteringly high. This is – as you might guess – not a room-filling speaker, which is actually something to consider most if you’ll be out of rooms altogether. The dissipation of sound outdoors is not something the Mini Jambox is well-equipped to handle.
And while very well-made indeed, and the grille is somewhat water-resistant, it’s not rugged. Sticks and stones will ruin its colouful finish, making us think you’d be better off with something like the UE Boom if you want a speaker for the park or beach.
Should I buy the Jawbone Mini Jambox?
Like so many wireless portable speakers, the Jawbone Mini Jambox runs into the same of thorny issue that it feels a little expensive for the scale of sound it supplies. Take money out of the equation and it offers a great experience for the size, but the high price and mid-range distortion at top volume sour things a bit.
And while it is smaller than many of its competitors, we don’t feel that there are necessarily significant-enough practical benefits to this slimming-down. We wouldn’t carry it in a pocket, and it doesn’t have the rugged features of some rivals.
It you don’t need the slimmer form, the Boombox is now available for £50 less. And the larger, cheaper Cambridge Audio Minx Go offers better (if still imperfect) sound. The Mini Jambox is lovely in many respects, but it is no bargain.
If you want a small portable speaker to play at relatively low volumes around the house, the Mini Jambox is a solid – if slightly expensive – choice. However, if you’re willing to go for a slightly larger box, you can get more powerful sound for less money.
Next, read our round-up of the best portable speakers