So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Soundmatters foxL portable speaker
This portable Bluetooth speaker has more oomph than its small size suggests
- Well-rounded sound with noticeable bass extension -- from 1in speakers!
- Poor stereo sound-stage, distorted Bluetooth sound quality, expensive
The Soundmatters foxL portable speaker packs quite a punch given its small size. It's a good companion for an iPod or mobile phone if you're travelling, with warm and expansive sound.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
The Soundmatters foxL is a portable Bluetooth speaker with a rechargeable battery. It's easy to slip into a pocket or backpack, and its expansive sound makes it a good choice for travellers. It is expensive but its audio quality is also head and shoulders above other portable speaker systems we've tested.
The Soundmatters foxL was smaller than we expected — it's like a chocolate bar on steroids, measuring 143x5x35mm. Two 1in "twoofer" stereo speakers are crammed in (a twoofer can reproduce the high frequencies of a tweeter and the low frequencies of a woofer driver).
The internal, rechargeable battery lasts for five hours of music playback at moderate volume levels — though its life takes a hit if you're using Bluetooth. Apart from the internal battery, the Soundmatters foxL can be powered via USB or the included DC adapter. The internal speakers are rated at 4W each when connected to the power adapter, but using USB power halves their output.
We had no problems connecting the Soundmatters foxL to our Apple iPhone 3G S mobile phone, so any A2DP-compatible Bluetooth device should work without issues. The device's usable range when using the battery was around 5m during testing. Separating the source and the speaker past this point introduced significant stuttering and loss of audio. There are also 3.5mm audio input for hooking up an MP3 player and a 3.5mm output for connecting the system to a subwoofer (although we can't see this system being frequently hooked up to a bulky, not-so-portable external subwoofer).
The sound quality of a portable speaker is obviously its main selling point. The $249 foxL has a lot of selling to do to justify its price, but we can see why it's been lauded as brilliant piece of audio engineering. The stereo 1in twoofer speakers create a sound that's very well rounded — there's a significant amount of detail in treble, and mid-range is warm and equally full of nuance. Most surprising is the foxL's bass response, which relies on the internal rubber-cased battery vibrating to act as a passive subwoofer radiator. With the volume turned up, the Soundmatters foxL was able to shake the table it was sitting on, sending the portable speaker skittering around. The bass response adds the expansive dimension to the foxL's sound, and at moderate to high volumes the speaker system delivers very pleasing audio.
There are two things we think hold the Soundmatters foxL back from being a truly exceptional product. It doesn't have particularly good sound quality when connected via Bluetooth, with a distracting bed of interference and distortion. The sound-stage of the speakers also isn't exceptional. It fills a room with sound at higher volumes, but we were always aware that the sound was coming from two speakers spaced very closely together — if you enjoy some stereo separation in your music tracks this might annoy you.
The Soundmatters foxL is a fascinating product; there aren't many other small speaker systems on the market that can match its good all-round sound quality and surprising bass.
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