Review: Fugoo Style XL Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Fugoo's oversized Style XL ($280) is one of the follow-ups to last year's smaller Fugoo speakers. We say "one of the follow-ups" because Fugoo does things a bit differently — though the company's website lists six different speakers, these actually represent different functional cases ("Jackets") that fit over two different sizes of "Core" speakers (last year's Core and the new Core XL). Each Core speaker can be purchased with either a Style Jacket (plastic and fabric construction, available in colors), Sport Jacket (like the Style, but with shock-absorbing rubber edges), or Tough Jacket (aluminum construction, thick rubber edges). Each Jacket is attractive and functional, and allows the user to change the body of the speaker to fit its intended use. The Style XL weighs in at 3.8 pounds; we assume the tougher bodies will make it even heavier. Interestingly, the price also differs by jacket. Style XL is the least expensive; Sport XL ($300) adds glow in the dark control buttons; and the rugged Tough XL ($330) has aluminum plating and stainless steel grills. Other available accessories include a variety of mounts to suit almost any activity.
The Core XL speaker touts an impressive list of features, all of which worked without a hitch. Bluetooth pairing was quick and easy, range was never a problem, and volume controls were linked to those of our test devices. Battery life is advertised at 35 hours, and this seemed accurate in our testing. Controls worked well for music, calls, and Siri. USB charging and audio ports are hidden behind a waterproof seal. While we were not able to fully test the Style XL’s “mudproof, snowproof, shockproof, waterproof” construction, we did dunk the speaker in a pot filled with water. We are happy to report that the Style XL kept playing, with bass notes rippling the water like a scene out of Jurassic Park.
The Style XL is one of the few speakers we have tested that actually “fills a room with sound.” Its eight drivers (two tweeters and two passive bass radiators on each side and two mid-bass drivers on each end) are not only firing in all directions, they’re also tilted upwards. We felt like this contributed to the non-directional sound of the speaker, allowing us to enjoy music from anywhere in the room. Still, imaging was somewhat narrow; even with speakers pointing in every direction, the Style XL sounded like the musicians were “in” the speaker.
With a feature set focused on durability, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Style XL sounds great. Highs were crisp and clear, and a great deal of air was moved by the relatively small midbass drivers and passive radiators. Detail was excellent, sometimes revelatory. We would have preferred a little more control over bass frequencies, however, as vocals were somewhat overpowered by the lows at medium volume. We are confident that this sound quality will continue to be appreciable even during outdoor activities — the Style XL has no problem getting very loud, and we didn’t notice any clipping as we turned the volume up.
There are a few things about this speaker that keep us from making an unqualified recommendation. As with the prior Fugoo, during startup and shutdown, the Style XL announces “Speaker is now on” and “Speaker is powering off”; volume cannot be controlled during these loud, annoying interludes. (Editor’s note: Fugoo pointed out that these can be turned off by using the volume buttons on the speaker.) Also related to loudness, we found that the Style XL’s volume steps are too large for some settings — in a quiet office, volume one was too low, and the second level was too loud. Similarly, the Style XL’s “360-degree sound” makes a personal listening experience nearly impossible. It’s best at home or outside. Also worth noting: speakerphone performance was subpar.
Speaking of the first Fugoo speaker — we received it later than normal and never got around to doing a full review. Although it obviously doesn’t compare to the XL in terms of overall volume or fullness of sound, it’s a fine choice as a smaller, more portable, less expensive speaker.
Style XL is probably best compared to UE’s Megaboom. Both have very good to excellent sound. Megaboom gets a bit louder, with more of a bass thump, but the sound profiles are different — in some songs, the bass is a bit more prominent in the Fugoo. And of course, the Fugoo also offers better battery life, though the Megaboom is lighter and smaller, and thus, more portable. (Fugoo’s speaker is 11.33” x 3.81” x 4.52”.) It’s a judgment call, but both are worth considering in the same price range.
Fugoo markets this speaker very clearly as one that excels in outdoor, active, social settings, and the Style XL delivers on that promise. Between its strong sound, ruggedness, and long battery life, Style XL shines. If you’re looking for a durable Bluetooth speaker that you can bring directly from the living room to the ski slopes — and you don’t mind spending $280 — the Style XL should be high on your list.