Jabra, like Jawbone, used to make Bluetooth headsets back when those were all the rage. Their popularity never extended beyond the ranks of particularly annoying real estate agents and I guess “rainmakers” in various fields, however, and so Jawbone, and later Jabra, turned their Bluetooth expertise to another task: making speakers. Jabra’s Solemate line now has an entry in the extra-large category, the Solemate Max, and it’s a sneaker-inspired audio accessory that’s looking to step all over the competition.
- Bluetooth 3.0
- NFC for easy pairing
- Remote control and battery display (iOS) on connected device
- Speakerphone with built-in mic
- 14 hours battery life, 400 hours standby
- MSRP: $399.99
- Product info page
- Big, room-filling sound
- Long-lasting battery with device charging
- Heavy, large
The Jabra Solemate Max looks like the Solemate and Solemate mini that came before, which means it looks kind of like a weird sneaker with a big rubber tread. This is the design language Jabra has chosen to embrace, and the rubber bottom offers up grip in addition to a unique and eye-catching look.
Jabra has opted for a blue-gray, silver and neon yellow color scheme with the Max model, which is decent looking and leans towards more modern design tastes. It also has the advantage of making the overall package at least give off the appearance of durability, thanks to the rubberized edges that seem like they can take a bump or drop or two.[gallery ids="985867,985868,985869,985870,985871"]
One great design feature: there’s a lace-like auxiliary cable stowed in the bottom of the ‘sole,’ meaning wired sound is always within reach. The bad: the Solemate Max is much larger than even the Big Jambox, likely its closest competitor in other regards.
For the money, the Solemate Max has to also produce max sound, and it does; it’s capable of filling a room, or of not getting drowned out by ambient noise when used outside at a BBQ for instance. The volume combined with the long-lasting battery (more on that below) makes for a great combo in a device like this.
That said, this isn’t the speaker to please any finicky audiophiles. It produces bass-rich sound, and good sound given the Bluetooth connection, but it doesn’t render fine audio detail as well as some competitors including Cambridge with its Minx Go portable Bluetooth speaker.
Features like NFC pairing with Android devices and a top-notch speakerphone built-in definitely make this an easier purchase, and if you need power, the Jabra is probably your best bet at the moment.
Speaking of power, the Solemate Max has a whole lot of the other kind. It boasts 14 hours of battery life on a full charge, and in my testing, that worked out to be about right, though cranking up the volume can shorten that quite a bit.
You’ll still hardly ever have to charge the Solemate Max, and it’s bound to be a great companion for taking to the lakehouse, camping or at the beach because of the long-lasting battery and 400 hour standby time. The charging feature is also nice, but as with most devices in this category, it’ll only work when plugged into a power source.
If you want a decently rugged, still portable but large Bluetooth speaker that offers bells and whistles like speakerphone functions, this is probably the top option out there right now. But it’s also $400, which is a big investment to make on something like this when a smaller, less expensive option will probably fit the needs of most. Still, the Jabra Solemate Max offers much more powerful sound than you’ll get anywhere else, so it’s worth it for those looking for more than just a background soundtrack at a wine and cheese night.