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I recently found myself needing nice battery-powered wireless speakers for use with my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Airplay is great for stationary speaker systems when you are in one place and on a Wi-Fi network. However, when you want to go to the back yard, on a picnic, over night at a hotel, or anywhere else without a Wi-Fi network, Airplay becomes a pain (make a new network, add airplay peripherals, etc.). Remember that not all Mac or iOS applications support Airplay, and then it becomes a downright nuisance.

Therefore, I decided to go with an old standby: Bluetooth speakers. I needed a built-in rechargeable battery with over 5 hours of output and solid sound, and I was willing to spend around $150. Two of the most popular items in this category are the Jawbone Jambox and the Logitech Wireless Boombox.

I got my hands on both a few weeks ago and have used them since. Here is how it has gone…

I should probably start by mentioning this is not really an apples-to-apples comparison. The Logitech Wireless Boombox is much bigger and simpler device with relatively huge speakers while the Jambox is a smaller rectangular unit that has many microphone and calling applications. Both products have a 3.5-mm auxiliary input.

Packaging/unboxing.

Logitech’s box is plain with the speaker unit dominating the size of the box and generic AC adapter and Aux cable coming in small plastic and cardboard boxes in the corners. There is nothing unsatisfactory about this, but it is not an Apple-like experience. Here is a good unboxing video:

On the other hand, the Jawbone unboxing experience is very Apple-like (below). The first level is just the Jambox unit, and then the next level holds the rest of the accessories neatly arranged and labeled. You will be impressed.

Setup:

Both products are very easy to get running. You initiate Bluetooth synching on the Logitech by pushing one of the four buttons (Volume -+, Power and BT) on the front for a few seconds. My Mac and iOS devices found it almost instantly, and took the customary 5 seconds to pair.

The same goes for the Jambox, although getting it to pairing mode is not as intuitive. You have to keep the power button in up position for a few seconds (had to consult manual on this —a big peeve). You can connect the Jambox as either mono or stereo and it contains a microphone profile. Additionally, there are some cool online apps, software, and more features available through the MyApps portal.

I love that the Jambox charges through micro USB versus the proprietary mini-AC wall brick that the Logitech employs.

Sound:

While both of these products sound great at low volumes, the Logitech has much bigger speakers and simply blows past the Jambox at higher volumes. At its loudest, the Jambox hits about four to 10 levels of the Logitech—it is really no comparison.

The Jambox produces the kind of sound that can be the background music at a dinner party, run a conference call or office presentation in a small conference room, or just listen to your music in a hotel room. I would even recommend it for sitting on a porch or terrace and reading a book. However, you will want more on windy day at the beach or when using it in the kitchen while the dishwasher is running. At 30 feet away, the Bluetooth can tether and you will definitely feel lacking. I feel the following Jambox advertisement embellished a bit (the party scene especially):

On the other hand, the Logitech’s sound is incredible when plugged into an adapter. It almost compares to a Bose SoundDock in volume and clarity while plugged in (at around half of the price). However, to get 6 hours of battery life, Logitech takes the sound power down —specifically the base— a few notches when not plugged in. It is still much louder than the Jambox (and great for beach, etc.) but it does not have that same oomph as when plugged in. If I did not have some amazing Audessy Lower East Sides on my desk connected to my Mac through optical, I would consider the Logitech for such a task.

Portability

Again, there is a huge difference. The Jawbone is a small 12-oz., 6-inch-by-2-inch-by-2inch rectangle, while the Logitech is a small 15-inch long boombox that weighs almost 2.5-lbs. The Jambox fits in a purse and the Logitech fits in a backpack—apples to oranges here.

Wrap up:

I was happily surprised with both of these products and could easily recommend either of them to anyone looking for a wireless Bluetooth speaker. For my needs, the Logitech’s significantly louder sound and simplicity probably wins over the microphone/portability/features of the Jambox. As my wife (huge fan of the Jambox) would point out, however, charging the Jambox from a Mac’s USB, using it as a high quality speakerphone, and being “purse-able” are all positive aspects that could easily win someone else over.

You really cannot lose on either of these.

The Logitech Wireless Boombox is $138 at Amazon. Meanwhile, you can also find the Jawbone Jambox for close to $150.

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