There are three things I look for when buying portable speakers:
Will it take the abuse? Did I need the instruction book? And does it go to 11? (a.k.a. the Spinal Tap rule).
The Jabra Solemate Max gets good mark to all of these, and there is still room for improvement, I wasn’t disappointed.
The Max is certainly durable, and it looks like it. It has a think rubber sole, which gives it traction on almost any imaginable surface, a metal screen covers the two tweeters and two woofers, and it has a rigid rubber top. It’s by no means indestructible, but it would take more than just casual use to put a dent into it.
However, the Max loses some style points in its quest for durability. While it’s great for the beach or out camping, inside the house, it looks like a big grey box. A wider range of colours wouldn’t hurt either. Grey is what you get.
There are a few other things to keep in mind. Why the speaker comes with a big hand strap becomes obvious when you pick it up. The Max is heavy, weighing in at 3 kilos. It will easily fit in a backpack, but you’ll be looking at a soar shoulder if you keep it in your man bag or purse.
You should have to open an instruction book to get sound. Speakers should be simple. I give the Max high points for being simple to use without being stupid. It has a simple slide-up botton to start its BlueTooth connection manually, but I preferred its NFC (near field communication) feature. A simple tap on the side with my smartphone and the two were paired.
The Max also does his without a power-sucking screen. When you’ve connected to another device, the speaker will, literally, speak to you. It’s a little gimmicky at first, but you get used to it.
The Max also has an iPod-esque controller on top for track and volume control, but this just duplicates the controls on your smartphone.
The only down side is the 3.5mm cables. While this simple addition allows you to use the Max even with non-BlueTooth enabled items, the cable aren’t retractable and simple sit in a groove in the bottom on the speaker. However, they don’t sit there particular well, and I had to turn the machine over more than once because it ended up sitting unevenly on its own cables.
I define going to 11 as a speaker’s ability to bring an angry neighbour pounding on your door. The Max has some power, but at most it’s likely to bring an irritated call.
But most of us don’t buy portable speakers for just inside use, so I took the speakers outside to my balcony at rush hour. I then turn on a ballgame. With most portable speakers, I have a very difficult time hearing what is being said.
The Max was loud enough to drown out almost all the background noise. I didn’t even have to turn the volume to full, and when I did, the Max was still able to give me clear sound without distortion. I give it 10 out of 11.
The Max may not be the perfect, but it terms of wireless, portable speakers is probably some of the best I’ve come across for these price range (Dh1,400 MSRP).
ProsCan be used with anything (tablets, smartphones or even your old tapedeck)PowerfulDurableConsWeight (3 kg)Workmen looks, not a lot of stylePoor storage of cables in the “sole”