Compatible: All Bluetooth-capable iPads, iPhones + iPods
G-Project G-Grip Portable Wireless Speaker
Yet another Bluetooth speaker that's sorta like Jawbone's Jambox -- but more affordable? Yes. As the latest venture from Boombang, a team that has developed Soundfreaq and Memorex speakers, G-Project has arrived on the scene with a track record of creating budget-priced but sonically solid audio systems with nice features. G-Grip ($70) is effectively the company's way of demonstrating just how aggressively it can undercut the Jambox on price without compromising on sound: this little speaker is effectively on par with its older rival on raw audio quality, a bit different in features, and only slightly larger, while selling for around $100 less.
Measuring roughly 6.7” wide by 2.2” tall by 1.9” deep, G-Grip is around 3/4” of an inch wider than Jambox, 1/3” deeper, and 1/4” shorter—modest differences that place the two systems in the same general “highly portable but not quite pocketable” size category, with G-Grip looking just a little bigger overall. Unlike Jawbone, which opted for the straightest, cleanest lines it could achieve, G-Project’s design looks like a small but fully extended accordion, with zig-zagging ridges across all sides, interrupted only by pill-shaped vents on the front and back, black rubberized boxes on the ends, plus silver and black plates in the center. By budget speaker standards, it’s an attractive design, but Jambox has it beat in the class department; if looks alone determined an audio system’s success, Jawbone would come out on top.
G-Grip’s advantage is its ruggedization: G-Project designed and tested it to be drop safe from eight-foot heights, and crushproof up to over 1,300 pounds of pressure. Substantially plastic it may be, but there’s nothing flimsy or flexible about the speaker, which doesn’t give even by a millimeter when pressed inwards. One of the end caps contains a small metal bar for an included detachable wrist strap, plus a flip-open rubber cap for micro-USB and aux-in ports; the other side has five buttons designed as an array of four large circles: + and - volume controls, a play/pause button, and a fourth circle split between power and pairing buttons. White and blue lights hide behind a glossy black plastic compartment on the front, signaling power and Bluetooth pairing status. That’s pretty much it; Bluetooth 2.1 pairing is as simple and reliable as one would expect.
While G-Project hasn’t skimped on frills given the price, it doesn’t include as many extra bonus items as some rivals. You do get a wall adapter, USB charging cable, flat 3.5mm audio cable, and the aforementioned wrist strap, which is unusually large, made from nylon, and built with a plastic buckle that can be opened for attachment to a bag or article of clothing. There’s no carrying case, however, and unlike Braven’s nearly $200 Jambox rivals, you don’t get a USB port for device charging, or a plug-in flashlight, for whatever they’re worth. Similarly, G-Grip omits microphone and thus speakerphone functionality, a modest selling point for Jambox that’s been better executed in subsequent alternatives. This is just a speaker with an eight-hour battery, nothing more.
That said, G-Grip is a very good speaker, particularly for the price. In the post-Jambox era, we’ve tended to classify nearly pocketable audio systems as being below, equivalent to, or better than Jawbone’s speaker, any of which might be appealing to a user at a lower price point—the lower the price, the greater the sonic differences can be before the cheaper unit’s appeal falls off. But G-Grip doesn’t really force you to compromise on sound. It’s actually roughly equivalent to the Jambox at identical volume levels, while capable of reaching a somewhat higher peak volume level at the cost of some distortion. To be clear, G-Grip’s sound isn’t identical; it’s actually a little better in treble, which makes its renditions of songs sound more dynamic and detailed, and the added high-end emphasis tends to take a little focus off of the bass. Some people might perceive the Jambox to be better on the low end, but we’d chalk this up to psychoacoustics; you just notice the bass a little more because the highs are weaker. However, if you turn G-Grip up to a louder volume than Jambox’s peak, you’ll notice that the less expensive unit’s bass starts to clip and distort, which isn’t fantastic. On the other hand, users who need the extra amplitude on occasion will find it in G-Grip, at the cost of clarity.
There’s such a profound difference in price between G-Grip and the Jambox that there’s no reason that the systems should be even close to one another in performance, let alone equivalent, or skewed in G-Grip’s favor. At $70, G-Grip sells for $130 less than Jambox’s MSRP and $60 less than the lowest price the Jambox has ever sold for on discount, and yet you give up very little by choosing G-Project’s design—basically cosmetic differences, speakerphone functionality, and an included carrying case. Given its overall look, feel, and sonic quality, G-Grip would be on the fine edge of B+ and A- ratings, but the fact that the price is so aggressive really pushes it up into the higher category. If you’re looking for a low-cost portable speaker, particularly one where ruggedization is a critical factor, this should be in your top five or six options; it’s great for the price, and unique in design.