On a side note for Android users, Jawbone will soon release the Jawbone Companion for Android app, which announces calendar events and enables one-touch dial-in for calls.
How much better does it sound?
As you can expect from a speaker that's three times the volume of its little brother, the Big Jambox sounds significantly better, plays much louder, and delivers a good deal more bass.
In all, it sounds very good for a small speaker and easily beats out value products like the Soundfreaq Sound Kick. It's also a notch up from Logitech's Wireless Boombox for iPad, but that product, a good bargain choice, costs around half as much.
The Big Jambox speaker offers good detail and fairly tight bass and can fill a medium-size room with sound. I played a wide variety of music through it, including lossless tracks we use for our headphone tests, as well as an eclectic mix from Spotify. I also played some games and movies from my iPad. For its small size, the Big Jambox did pretty well with all of it (it's particularly great for iPad movies and gaming), managing not to distort at higher volumes. But it does have its limitations. While the music holds together fairly well at higher volumes, it does feel a bit restrained and canned at times. The speaker is also a little on the bright side with a slightly edgy treble. By comparison, Bose's $299 SoundLink Wireless is a warmer-sounding speaker.
With the Big Jambox, you'll get the best sound sitting somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 to 8 feet away from it, and Jawbone has a feature called LiveAudio that's designed to open up the soundstage and make it seem wider and more three-dimensional. You engage it by pressing the volume-up and volume-down buttons simultaneously and turn it off the same way. I think it works better and is more noticeable with the Big Jambox than the small Jambox, and I left it on the whole time.
The original Jambox is an impressive combination of design and performance; the little guy can play loud and is great accessory for frequent travelers. That said, it's expensive for a portable Bluetooth speaker and you can find tiny speakers like the Logitech Mini Boombox that cost half as much and sound almost as good. But the smaller Jambox remains one of those products that's hard to resist once you see and hear it. And that's why people don't mind paying a premium price for it, though it's certainly facing stiffer competition these days.
The same is true of the Big Jambox. It, too, is a great-looking speaker that feels well-built and is thoughtfully designed. Of course, the drawback to going bigger is that you can't carry this one around so easily and tuck it into a laptop bag or purse. But it is portable and the upside to its larger dimensions is it sounds a lot better and plays significantly louder. It really can be a mini party box when called upon, whereas the original Jambox plays fairly loud but it won't play over a lot of people chattering away in your living room.
The big question, of course, is whether the Jambox is as good as Bose's SoundLink Wireless, which costs $299 for the model with the nylon cover (the model with the leather version retails for $349). The sound quality is pretty close, but overall I preferred the sound slightly more on the Bose. Both CNET editor Justin Yu and I felt the Jambox was a brighter speaker with edgier treble. I also preferred the Bose's design and found it slightly more easily portable.
That said, the Bose doesn't have built-in speakerphone capabilities, so if you're interested in that feature, the Big Jambox is a better choice. As for choosing between the Big Jambox and the little Jambox, it really comes down to portability over sound quality and how you think you'll end up using the speaker. If you plan on having it travel with you a lot, go small. If you think it's a speaker you'll move from room to room in your house (or the conference room in your office) or take outdoors, go big. But just know you are paying a premium for the design and the Jambox brand and try not to mind it too much.