Review: Jam Audio JAM Xterior Max Rugged Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Ruggedized portable Bluetooth speakers seem to be all the rage these days, which makes sense when you consider how much more versatile they are — a rugged, waterproof speaker can still be used on your desk to dining room table, but also provides the advantage of being able to come with you on a wide variety of outdoor activities. The JAM Xterior Max ($120) is the third rugged entry in Jam Audio's wide range of Bluetooth speakers, promising IP67 dustproof and waterproof ratings, along with a shockproof design, and an integrated screw mount designed for attaching to a bicycle. Jam Audio promises up to 12 hours of play time on a single charge, and the JAM Xterior Max can also double as a power-bank to recharge an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or other USB-powered device.
The physical design of JAM Exterior Max conveys its ruggedness; the speaker basically looks like a brick with a rubberized exterior, and has the heft to match — not so much heavy as solid. Six buttons on the top provide power, track navigation, call, and volume controls, along with two LEDs for Bluetooth and battery status. Under a rubber cover on the left side of the speaker are a 3.5mm auxiliary in port, micro-USB port for charging the speaker, and USB-A port for charging an iPhone or other USB device from the speaker’s battery. Grills on the front and back of the speaker are identical, although sound only emanates from the front. A USB charger and 3.5’ micro-USB cable are included in the package as well. About five hours is required for a full charge using the included adapter. The speaker also provides status via voice prompts in your choice of English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese for features such as Bluetooth pairing and low battery alerts.
Jam Audio doesn’t offer up much in the way of detailed specs, but it appears that the unit uses two front-facing drivers and a rear-firing passive radiator, and actually punches out pretty impressive sound for its size — while not the best we’ve heard, it’s about on par and maybe slightly better than most speakers we’ve looked at in this price range, depending on your listening tastes. Like a lot of speakers, it packs some pretty impressive bass in its small size, and a surprisingly good midrange. We’d call the sound quality good but unrefined, however that’s also about what we’d expect from a speaker of this size and in this price range. It’s maximum volume level is also about typical for its size, so we wouldn’t call it a great outdoor speaker for large parties, but it will do fine for smaller groups, and can definitely get as loud as you’d likely want it to indoors. While distortion wasn’t completely absent at maximum volume levels, there was surprisingly little of it on most of the tracks we tested the speaker with. We think most users will be quite pleased with the audio quality for the price, but as with most smaller speakers you’ll want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for audiophile quality. The integrated speakerphone also performed competently, but it should be viewed as an added contingency feature as we certainly wouldn’t recommend JAM Xterior Max for its speakerphone capabilities — our callers could hear us okay, but they didn’t describe the experience as particularly pleasant.
The power bank capabilities also work well and are a nice bonus in an outdoor speaker, although you’ll obviously sacrifice listening time to add power to your iPhone or other portable device instead. Pass-through charging is also supported, meaning you can charge both the speaker and your attached iPhone at the same time. Jam Audio doesn’t provide specifics on the battery and we didn’t do specific battery testing here as the power bank feature is really a secondary bonus which we expect more users will more likely use for quick power-ups rather than relying on the speaker to completely recharge their device. The threaded mount on the bottom of the speaker is a standard 1/4-20 UNC thread, so although Jam Audio targets it for bicycle mounting, it can really be used to mount the speaker on just about any camera tripod or other similar mount, which can provide even more versatility in outdoor environments, such as setting the speaker up at a camp site or by a pool.
JAM Xterior Max is a good speaker with a solid design, impressive battery life, and slightly above average sound. It stands out slightly in a market that’s crowded with a lot of rugged portable speakers, but we wouldn’t call it groundbreaking. What you’re getting here is a well-rounded package with sound quality that won’t disappoint, a rugged design that you can take anywhere, and the bonus of being able to use it as a power pack on the go or mount it on a bicycle or tripod. It’s a solid portable Bluetooth speaker in its class, and definitely performs well enough to be worth considering if you’re in the market for a new wireless rugged speaker.