Product Type: Moto Mod | Manufacturer: JBL| Price: From £68.00 | Where to buy: Motorola | [et_social_share]
The JBL SoundBoost 2 is more of the same and still won’t replace a dedicated Bluetooth speaker, with identical specifications and sound to the original.
Modular smartphones are a difficult thing to get right. Google gave up on project Ara in 2016 after investing a bunch of time and effort, while LG reverted back to a traditional design for the G6 after it’s modular predecessor was poorly received. Motorola (now owned by Lenovo) seem to be the only company who’s managed to get it right, even attracting the attention of big names such as JBL and Hasselblad.
The JBL SoundBoost was an interesting little speaker as it demonstrated the simplicity of the Motorola Mod interface; a modular way of connecting accessories to select handsets. Alongside the launch of the Moto Z2 Play this week, the company also introduced several mods which would be coming to the market. This included an updated version of the SoundBoost with a slightly improved design. We were lucky enough to get one and test out the sound quality to see what’s changed.
Taking it out of the box, it’s clear that the design has changed for the better. The original SoundBoost was a well manufactured, durable unit which suffered from bulky aesthetics. While the newer version is slightly thicker, the smoother edge curves help to make it feel less substantial. The metal kickstand makes a return and feels sturdy as ever, allowing you to prop up the Moto device for watching films on the go. Inside you’ll find a pair of drivers which are roughly 1-inch in size, allowing for stereo playback. The unit is still splashproof, meaning it should take a bit of rainwater before crapping out.
Connecting the JBL SoundBoost 2 to the handset remains as easy as ever, with a magnetic connection snapping them both together. You’ll then get an on-screen notification letting you know what’s connected, along with any prompts to download apps which open up additional features. Our Moto Z2 Play detected the SoundBoost straight away and told us to get the accompanying app. The charging connector is still on the inside of the speaker, meaning that it’s impossible to juice it while the smartphone is connected. The SoundBoost will automatically start charging once the handset hits 100% anyway, but it’s still an annoyance. Battery life remains the same at about 10 hours and during our testing, we found this claim to be true. After using the speaker for about 5 hours, the capacity was around 40-50%.
Heading to the Google Play Store, we installed the My JBLSoundBoost2 application. It’s fairly basic, offering equalizer and immersive sound modes. The latter has various presets but won’t let you create your own, meaning it’s better to just use a built-in equalizer in another audio application. Dirac’s ‘Panorama Sound’ optimisation seems like some cool software tech for improving the immersion of music played back on the JBL SoundBoost 2 but at the time wasn’t available to use. A test clip of ‘Requiem for a dream’ is provided and there’s some definite enhancement going on, but it would be unfair to comment until we can test the final product.
This brings us nicely to sound quality… and this is arguably where the JBL SoundBoost 2 falls short. There’s little to no difference between this and the original, meaning low-end is still disappointingly light. With a 200Hz cutoff, you won’t even be getting mid-bass. Kick drums sound empty and instruments lack the authority of dedicated Bluetooth speakers. To put this into perspective, you can buy the excellent Urbanista Melbourne for roughly the same price. It’s dimensions are very similar yet it manages to hit 100Hz and give a little bit of bass to recordings. Granted, you won’t be able to clip it your phone… but we don’t think that convenience justifies mediocre sound quality. It’s a shame because the mid-range and treble are actually quite clear, with distortion-free listening possible even at high volume levels.
Considering the original JBL SoundBooth only sold for £69.99, you can’t really ask for loads. That said, we would’ve liked to see an upgrade with regards to sound quality. If you’re somebody who demands portability as a paramount feature when buying a Bluetooth speaker, we can see how this would appeal to you. The problem is, we can’t see why you would buy this version over its predecessor… as they are essentially the same product.