When it comes to speakers, size does matter. As a general rule, the smaller they are, the smaller they sound.
The Soundmatters FoxL v2 Bluetooth is a rare exception. This amazingly compact speaker bar delivers unusually “big” sound, with enough power to fill even a large room. And because it supports wireless audio streaming via Bluetooth, it’s an ideal companion for smartphones and tablets.
It’s also a great gift item for moms, dads, and grads.
The FoxL pairs nicely with any device that supports A2DP (the Bluetooth spec for stereo audio), including iPhones, iPods, iPads and most Android-powered phones and tablets. Sure, most of these gadgets have built-in speakers, but they pale in comparison with what you get from the FoxL. Audio-wise, it’s like trading a tricycle for a Testarossa.
The unit measures just 5.6 inches wide by 2.2 inches high by 1.4 inches deep, and weighs just under 10 ounces. It won’t quite fit in a pocket, but it slips easily into any bag–and sits unobtrusively on any desk, tablet, nightstand, etc.
I tested the FoxL v2 with my iPhone 4. After a quick and easy one-time pairing process, all audio was piped (wirelessly, magically) to the speaker: music, videos, games, and so on. Bluetooth has an effective range of about 30 feet, and I could easily get that far away from the speaker without interrupting the audio.
Overall, the speaker sounded terrific, especially with games, Netflix movies, and phone conversations (the FoxL includes a noise-canceling microphone, so it can double as a Bluetooth speakerphone). I found I could crank the volume to maximum without a hint of distortion. And I was both surprised and impressed by the level of bass response.
That said, while listening to music, I noticed a certain flatness. I’m no audiophile, but I’d say the bass overwhelmed the upper ranges. To put it another way, I found myself wanting a treble dial I could turn up.
Make no mistake: the FoxL sounds a million times better than any built-in speaker, and better than a lot of external speakers that are twice the size. It’s just that music in particular doesn’t sound quite as “full” as I’d have liked, and I’m sure that’s due to the FoxL’s diminutive design.
I have a couple other minor gripes. First, the speaker’s surprisingly flimsy plastic grille, which can fold out from the rear for added stability, breaks loose from its hinge far too easily. (Fortunately, the FoxL stands up just fine without it.) Second, there’s no auto-off capability, so you have to remember to turn the unit off when you’re done with it–otherwise you’ll likely return to a dead battery. (Soundmatters promises up to eight hours of operation.)
The real issue with the FoxL, at least for some users, is price: it lists for $199, and I’ve yet to find a better deal anywhere. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a seriously sweet gift for your favorite gadget-lover, the FoxL is a (sorry) sound choice.
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.