Gadgets foxlv2_in_hand

Published on March 18th, 2011 | by Greg


Soundmatters FoxL v2: Best Small Speaker Yet

We’re of­ten skep­ti­cal of mar­ket­ing talk, es­pe­cial­ly when it comes to tech­nolo­gies and de­vices that are ma­ture. Speak­ers, for ex­am­ple, are con­strained by the laws of physics- size and weight mat­ter a great deal. We may want big, boom­ing bass from a small box, but we shouldn’t ex­pect it. There is a good rea­son why great speak­ers weight a great deal, cost a great deal, and are so large- and it is not be­cause peo­ple like them that way. As with pre­vi­ous speak­er re­views, we try to com­pare ap­ples to ap­ples- our Ed­i­fi­er Au­ro­ra sys­tem wasn’t matched against the Au­dio­engine P4s for ex­am­ple. But we were forced to ex­pand the class for to­day’s re­view- most oth­er bat­tery-pow­ered Blue­tooth speak­er sys­tems aren’t as good as the FoxL v2 from Sound­mat­ters.

The page on their tech­nol­o­gy cer­tain­ly made us a lit­tle wor­ried. When com­pa­nies talk about pro­pri­etary “Lin­ear Mag­net­ic Drives” with ” field-fo­cused, back-to-back, du­al Ex­treme-En­er­gy™ neodymi­um mag­nets”, and boost of their “ul­tra-rigid to­tal­ly sealed acous­tic en­clo­sure”, we can’t help but won­der. The more in­ter­est­ing specs to us: 9 ounces to­tal weight, a bat­tery life of al­most 8 hours, 8 watts of sound. You can sit it next to a hot­dog in a bun and it will com­pare fa­vor­ably in size- and look quite a bit sleek­er.

When we first opened the sur­pris­ing­ly small but dense pack­age, we weren’t quite sure what to make of it all, in­clud­ing the odd name (bor­rowed from the founder’s grand­son). The first tests in­volved sim­ply plug­ging di­rect­ly in­to the foxL via mi­ni-jack us­ing our iPhones and play­ing some mu­sic sam­ples- low­er bit-rate stuff via Pan­do­ra, high­er qual­i­ty acous­tic files ripped from vinyl. We then test­ed via Blue­tooth, us­ing the same mu­sic when pos­si­ble, and no­ticed some stat­ic and noise but 90% or so of the qual­i­ty. Not on­ly were we im­pressed by the out­put, we were sur­prised by the broad spa­tial reach as well. Many speak­ers are high­ly di­rec­tion­al, and small­er ones work best in a very small zone. These were pow­er­ful enough to play to a small room, and were en­joy­able even to peo­ple who were not di­rect­ly in front of the sys­tem. We upped the ante to videos, where di­a­logue and ex­plo­sions and such of­ten make a mess of small speak­er sys­tems. Most of the time, booms are lost, di­a­logue gets crunchy, and sound bal­ance sounds way off. Here, it won’t be beat­ing a home the­ater set­up, but was quite good enough to make us pre­fer it over head­phones, with crisp, clear sound through TV episodes and ac­tion flicks alike.

Stereo sep­a­ra­tion wasn’t great, though, and con­trols on the unit it­self are awk­ward­ly placed on the rear. Vol­ume was im­pres­sive, and we liked the bass- you can re­al­ly feel it roar and shake. Ap­par­ent­ly, they use the built-in bat­tery to pro­vide the weight and heft for the woofer, a smart idea that we hope catch­es on. Blue­tooth still wasn’t as good as wired, but when plugged in it beat out most lap­top speak­ers we com­pared against. We would’ve liked a bit more pro­tec­tive of a case- the grill sticks out a bit- but they do make a sep­a­rate (and cute) trav­el trunk. We weren’t quite as con­vinced by the speak­er­phone propo­si­tion- the foxL didn’t work that well in a car, where we use a speak­er­phone most, though we do ad­mit the built-in mi­cro­phone was pret­ty good in qui­et con­di­tions (less so against wind or back­ground noise). Bat­ter­ies recharge via USB or the con­ve­nient­ly in­clud­ed wall adapter.

Over­all, there is much to rec­om­mend the foxL. Built to last, per­fect for trav­el, it is now our de­fault sound sys­tem when trav­el­ing light and look­ing for sound be­yond our head­phones. Set­up is as sim­ple as you might ex­pect from Blue­tooth, and there are even au­dio-out jacks for ex­ter­nal sub­woofers, along with trav­el pow­er adapters in­clud­ed. The on­ly catch is the price- at $199 and avail­able wide­ly, it might be a bit too ex­pen­sive for your av­er­age lis­ten­er, but a rel­a­tive bar­gain for the au­dio­phile. If you like to lis­ten to speak­ers in­stead of head­phones on the go, this is the top of the line in tru­ly portable bat­tery-pow­ered au­dio.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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