The Jabra Solemate is a Bluetooth speaker with the Jawbone Jambox in its sights, but does it have the sound to match its cool trainer looks?
Before the Jambox, portable Bluetooth speakers were generally unsightly things to stream music and amplify phone calls and had the kind of sound quality that weren't deemed worthy of your money.
Then the Jawbone speaker arrived on the scene with its Lego brick looks and room-filling sound, and now the Jabra Solemate is the latest portable Bluetooth speaker that hopes to emulate the success of the colourful speaker with similarly big sound from a small body, and a more affordable price tag. As well as the Jambox, it goes head to head with the likes of the Beats Pill.
Jabra Solemate: Size and build
If you've played with the original Jambox, then you will see there are very similar design traits when compared to the Jawbone speaker from the plastic rubbery body, to the positioning of key connections and buttons.
More rounded than the Jambox, the Solemate design is shoe-inspired with a fabric handle at the heel and a grooved bottom, which helps to stop the speaker from moving when you've got it at high volume, and is also is where the 3.5mm audio cable to connect to non-Bluetooth devices is held.
There are three large buttons on the top to control volume and answer calls when in speaker mode and on the side of the Solemate you'll find the on/off/Bluetooth sync switch, 3.5mm input, micro USB port and battery and Bluetooth indicators.
Measuring in at 172 x 64 x 70 mm and weighing in at 610g, it's bigger on all fronts than the first Jambox, but it's still portable and compact enough to carry around in a rucksack or overnight bag.
Inside the box along with speaker, AC charger, USB charging cable and 3.5mm audio cable is the splash resistant 'Sound Bag' which is essentially a mesh like carry case to keep your Solemate dirt-free at the beach or the park but also amplifies the sound when inside and does a very good job of it.
Jabra Solemate: Features
Delivering the cable-free sound is the Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, which can stream music from a wireless range of 33ft which is the same as the Jawbone Jambox, but the cable hidden in the grooved bottom means non-Bluetooth devices can be hooked up as well.
Doubling as a speakerphone, the Solemate features an omnidirectional microphone for eliminating background noise with Digital Signal Processing and HD voice frequency response. Call quality was clear but is by no means ground-breaking in terms of quality, which is surprising when Jabra have expertise in this field.
Jabra Solemate: Performance
Testing it out with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, Bluetooth connection was relatively straightforward as the voice prompt indicated that the 'Solemate is now connected' in a very Jambox kind of way.
Three front-facing speakers along with a subwoofer and dual tweeters deliver the 120 decibels of sound which varies in sound quality depending on the source, having also tested it connected to a laptop via the 3.5mm cable as well.
It delivers decent levels of bass for such a small device and it doesn't overpower the overall clarity until you turn it up to full volume. Sound quality appeared to vary depending on what surfaces it was placed on, and despite lacking the 360 degree directional sound of the Jambox, it could comfortably fill a medium sized room.
Jabra Solemate: Battery life
The Solemate more than lived up to its 8-10 hours of power before the voice prompt kicked in to life and ordered that it was time to recharge. All of this depends on the volume level you listen at, but along with the wall adaptor, you can also charge via a standard micro USB which means if it goes missing, it's easily replaceable.
Jabra Solemate: Verdict
The Jabra Solemate is a portable Bluetooth speaker that like the Jawbone Jambox delivers in the sound and the looks department. It's perhaps no surprise as many of its features share more than a passing resemblance to the Jawbone speaker, but it does add its own unique design with the trainer-style look and a pretty impressive sound performance.
The £149 price does still feel a bit steep, and it could benefit from the ability to customise performance via apps as is possible with both Jamboxes, but if you are after a Bluetooth speaker that is compact enough to carry around in your bag and can fill a hotel room with enough sound to throw a party fuelled by drinks from the mini bar, the Jabra Solemate is definitely a good fit.
Jabra Solemate release date: Out now
Jabra Solemate price: £149