GadgetsLab: Jabra Solemate

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Specifications:

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, 3.5mm Aux in
  • Microphone: Omni Directional/noise filter
  • Battery: Music streaming time: 10-hours (rated), Talk Time: 10-hours (rated), ~8-hours real-world
  • Dimensions: 172x64x70mm
  • Weight: 610-grams

What’s Hot:

  • Handy voice prompts
  • Great volume and sound fidelity
  • Has a wired option plus the necessary cable

What’s Not:

  • Might be a bit heavy for everyday  carry

Bottomline:

  • It looks cool and sounds great. You don’t need much more than that.

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I have said it may times in the past: wires are a hindrance to fun. They will snag, catch and break just as you are headed back to your table with a fine cup of tea in your grandmother’s finest china. Fortunately, we are advanced enough as a civilization to have come up with a way to listen to music without the hindrance of cables. One of the greatest achievements of the human race is Bluetooth. It lets you share your music through more powerful speakers than your smartphone has on board, and all without the burden of cables. While you can get one at just about every corner store these days, why would you waste your money with an unproven brand? Jabra, one of the leading manufacturers of Bluetooth headsets, has just released the Solemate. Yes, I spelt this right. It is a Bluetooth speaker that gives you loads of bass, wireless connectivity, an interesting design and trusted Jabra performance in a very usable package.

The Jabra Solemate is so named because of its very distinctive underside. If you flip the pleasantly hefty unit over, you will see what looks like the bottom of a shoe. This is partly to help with grip on various surfaces, and also to give it a very distinctive profile. I have to say it works on both counts. This is a very cool device to look at and use. It’s about one and a half times the size of a can of soda, with a power switch/pairing slider on the side, and volume controls, as well as a special function button on the top. Pairing the Solemate is dead simple. Simply switch the device on and slide the switch further along. The device tells you out loud to go ahead and connect it via the Bluetooth setting on your phone. It was a little weird at first to be told by my device what to do, but it’s a lot better than a vexing combination of button flashes and beeps. Once found, another voice prompt lets you know that pairing is successful, and you can start playing your audio without the encumbrance of wires.

The heft of the Solemate allows it to have some beefy drivers—three in fact—that give it amazing bass response and clarity. Jazz tunes and the more soulful (soleful?) tracks seemed a little on the heavy side, and needed a little tweaking from my device’s equalizer, but the kind of music you would want to share at a party, heavy on the bass, would do great. The bass doesn’t drown out the rest of the tones, mind you, it’s just a little heavier than the mids that I love so much. To be honest, most users wouldn’t really complain, and since this is a pair meant for sharing and not appreciating the fine nuances of audio clarity, I am not deducting points here either.

Power is provided via an internal battery that takes a charge through a micro USB port on the side of the device. Charge time from a dead battery to a full charge was somewhere along the lines of two hours, with the included charger, and while charging via a USB post is possible, it really isn’t recommended. The Solemate is able to keep pumping out tracks for about 8 hours by my most rigorous of unscientific tests. This was via Bluetooth, at about half volume, playing and pausing to change venue about every hour or so. Range on the device was about standard for Bluetooth devices. I was able to stream music with no problem from within a roughly 40-something square meter condo. I’m pretty confident that any device within listening range of the Solemate should have no problem streaming.

A nice little bonus is that when paired with your smartphone, an internal microphone on the Solemate lets you use it as a speakerphone as well. This allows the Solemate to be used a very capable device to handle conference calls when not being used for playtime. It is an obvious application and one I am glad Jabra did not leave out.

If you are an old-schooler or have a device that you want to share, the Solemate comes with an Aux input off to one side, as well as a handy little 3.5mm male-male cable stowed in the rubbery sole of the device. This gives it broad compatibility across any consumer listening device, and should also increase battery life while off the Bluetooth radio. Sound quality does not suffer through either method, and it’s just as clear and lovely through cable or wireless playback.

Overall, the Solemate gets a lot of things right. Excellent sound tried and tested Bluetooth connectivity and a very cool, informative set of pairing and use prompts all allow you to just enjoy the music without having to worry about setting up or being tied down. If you like your music and want a rugged device with which to share it, give the Jabra Solemate a look. You might just like what you hear.

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First Published in Gadgets Magazine, April 2013

Words by Ren Alcantara