REVIEW: Jabra Solemate Max

Bluetooth speakers are becoming increasingly popular with the mobile generation and there’s a whole range of devices ranging from £50 to over £500. The Jabra Solemate Max (£275) sits in the middle, so you can expect a certain level of audio performance for that price. Its biggest selling point, however, is that it’s also ruggedised and portable.

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE JABRA SOLEMATE MAX

  1. Jabra recently expanded its Solemate speaker family at CES 2014 with the Solemate Max wireless sneaker speaker. It’s a larger version of the small and medium boom box-style Solemate speakers with complete wireless capabilities. What sets this speaker apart from the rest of the family is the Jabra Sound app that’s released with it. Unfortunately, it currently doesn’t come in the fun colours like the smaller speakers do.
  2. The Solemate Max is a great looking piece of kit that not only looks superb in your house, but is rugged enough to go outdoors too. Finished in a highly durable rubber chassis with a flexible carrying handle, the two-tone grey and yellow Solemate Max (302 x 102 x 138mm, 2.9kg) is an impressive portable audio device that’s guaranteed to get the party started with its 90-watt output.
  3. Being truly portable means power outlet autonomy. The Solemate Max’s built-in rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery can go for around 14 hours (which takes roughly 2.5 hours to charge), plus it can charge a smartphone in the meantime thanks to a mini USB port on the side of the unit. When indoors, simply connect the Solemate Max to the bundled AC adapter for non-stop playback.
  4. Indoors or outdoors, cables are a pain. Not only can the Solemate Max operate independently from a power source, but it can connect to a music player wirelessly thanks to built-in Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC (Near Field Communications). Once paired, it can stream music from a source such as a smartphone, Bluetooth-enabled laptop, tablet or MP3 player. If the music player isn’t up to scratch, there’s a bright yellow 3.5mm braided cable tucked neatly on the underside that extends for a traditional connection.
  5. Support for AVRCP means you can control volume, play/pause and previous/next using the membrane control on the top of the Solemate Max. Paired with a smartphone, it can also be used as a hands-free speaker system, although it probably wouldn’t give off the right impression in a business meeting. Purists will appreciate the Solemate Max’s ability to pull audio from a computer’s USB port, which provides better sound quality than the auxiliary cable.
  6. The Solemate Max supports Jabra’s Sound app (for iOS and Android), a music player that adds full Dolby sound to playlists as well as streams YouTube audio wirelessly. You can create and share playlists on social media with friends, and adjust the equaliser to control certain aspects of the audio quality like bass levels.
  7. Subtle design touches that really make a difference in everyday use include a lip around the top, which helps to secure a smartphone or media player, and the slightly angled base that angles the speakers up towards your ears. The rugged, chunky design with metallic speaker grille cover on both the front and rear panels will divide opinions, but it means the Solemate Max is resistant to splashes, dust and knocks. Sadly it’s not waterproof, so take care pool side.
  8. There are very few controls on the Solemate Max, as playback is mainly managed from the audio source. The top panel holds a set of controls for playback, volume (adjusts your phone’s volume rather than working independently of it), track navigation, and a dedicated button for answering phone calls that doubles as a battery status indicator. Pressing both volume buttons simultaneously mutes and un-mutes the built-in microphone during phone calls.
  9. Sound quality is what’s it’s all about at the end of the day, and the Jabra Solemate Max delivers the kind of sound quality you’d expect from a much larger speaker. Packing two tweeters, two woofers and a custom-designed bass slave, audio quality is very good with good bass levels for such a portable device.
  10. The Solemate Max is a unique and well-specced Bluetooth speaker. It’s not good enough to recommend as a primary speaker for audiophiles, but it’s a lot of fun when moved around the house or taken to the park. The speaker’s performance wavers a bit at top volumes on tracks with deep bass, but at slightly lower listening levels, the Solemate Max puts out well-defined, full-bodied audio.
SUMMARY
  • Distinctive two-tone design
  • Rugged/robust build
  • Wireless & USB connectivity
  • Excellent battery life
  • Good sound quality
  • No choice of colours
  • No Windows Phone app
  • Unnecessary Dolby processing
  • Sound wavers when loud
  • No carrying case