The Real First Portable Bluetooth Speaker to Sound Good?


by Eliot Van Buskirk

Hard-won advances in battery technology, Bluetooth audio, Class-D amplifiers, and tough, rubberized design conspired to transform portable music by allowing people to carry around decent sound without relying on headphones or wired-up, still-battery-deficient speakers.

The Jambox became the first breakout hit in this new category, design-wise, spawning many copycats, some of which are quite excellent devices as well. But we’d like to set the record straight, because these are matters of historical importance: The Jambox was not the first good-sounding portable rechargeable Bluetooth speaker, although the design of the 2010 Jambox may have been more influential in terms of its design, battery life, and other factors (Engadget seems to concur).

First was the 2008 SoundMatters foxL, which was widely celebrated – specifically, the $250 Bluetooth version, even if my old employer, CNET, claimed, “the wireless audio quality tended to suffer from aural degradation” (in which case our claim that the Jambox was the first to sound good over Bluetooth still stands). The second version, the SoundMatters foxL v2, which is still on sale, fixed the Bluetooth audio issues, appearing around the time of the Jambox.

To be clear, plenty of other Bluetooth speakers predated even the first SoundMatters foxL, but most of them, in my experience, didn’t sound very good. Early Bluetooth couldn’t carry as much information, and the speakers themselves tended to be cheap-o speakerphones rather than a true portable speaker for music people.

Still, the Gear 4 Blackbox Mini looked like it might have sounded pretty good, and there was also the Sony Ericsson MBS-100. Both of those were released in 2007, before the SoundMatters foxL, and there may have been more, although we doubt it, for the reasons above.

SoundMatters itself says its was the first portable rechargeable Bluetooth speaker with good sound: “Soundmatters didn’t invent the Bluetooth speaker, just the ones that sound good.”

A reader agreed, emailing, “Jawbone announced it as a new product in November of 2010, but the Jambox is essentially a louder but not-as-good-sounding clone (with less connectivity and accessibility) of the Soundmatters foxL, which appeared a couple years earlier.”


Audiogoners – What are your thoughts on portable Bluetooth speakers? Having an early Jambox myself (swag – the hubs worked at a big box years ago), the most favorable thing I can say is that they’re handy when I want to jam out while I’m cooking.  How about you?

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