Review: Jam Plus

Considering the humongous market for smartphones — half the U.S. population now owns one — and the fact that most people use their phones to listen to music, it’s no wonder choices among Bluetooth speakers just keep growing.

Indeed, they come in all shapes and sizes nowadays. There are boom boxes like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air. Slim table-standing models like the Sony BTX-500. And, of course, tiny portable speakers, like the HMDX Jam Plus.

At 3 x 3 inches and 8 ounces, this tiny little speaker comes in five bright, eye-catching colors, including blue, purple, and magenta. Unlike the ruggedized Jam XT, which has a large carabineer clip for carrying the speaker around, the Jam Plus is meant to sit on a table.

But the big idea here isn’t really tied to portability, it’s how you use them. You’re supposed to use these $60 speakers in pairs. While a single unit emits mono audio, you can link two together (up to 30 feet from each other) to create a stereo sound experience.

Pairing two Jam Plus speakers is easy enough. You press and hold the power button under the first speaker, then press and hold on the power button on the second speaker. After they sync up, you then pair to the first speaker from your phone or tablet. Each Jam Plus speaker charges in about three hours and lasts for about six.

Unfortunately, the sound quality — even with a stereo pair set up — is not very exciting. At roughly the same size, the Ecoxgear Ecorox ($130) sounds much better and has fuller bass. Regardless of the music I played with these speakers, bass was either muffled or distorted.

The speakers don’t support higher-quality AAC or aptX playback over Bluetooth (not that either would make that much of a difference). They also are not splash-proof or drop-proof like the Ecorox — although each speaker does have an auxiliary line-in port for a 3.5mm connection.

If you need a smallish Bluetooth speaker, you’d do much better going with something like the Mini Jambox. But I’m not even sure tiny Bluetooth speakers like these even make sense anymore, particularly when you consider the audio quality of the latest smartphones. The fact is the Jam Plus doesn’t sound that much better than the new Motorola Moto X smartphone’s speaker. In fact, the Moto X — which is also lacking in bass and volume — sounded a bit better than the Jam Plus in a few cases.

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