PERSONAL AUDIOPHILE LOUDSPEAKER
Reviewed by Ronald Epstein
When the folks at Soundmatters contacted me about reviewing their foxL personal loudspeaker, the offer couldn't have come at a better time. You see, I was preparing to go on a cruise vacation, and as is the norm, I always bring a powered audio system so that we can listen to music out on our balcony as we enjoy good wine and a view of the ocean.
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You can just imagine the optimism I had in receiving this product. The mere thought of not having to pack large, heavy speakers in my suitcase and have to deal with extension cords out to my balcony seemed almost impossible to believe. Would a miniature portable music system deliver satisfying room or balcony-filling sound? That was the thing I needed to find out on my own, and I promised the folks at Soundmatters that I would put their unit to the test on my upcoming vacation. They were happy to oblige, and shortly thereafter a package arrived at my door.
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The first clue that I was in for something radically different was the small sized box the product arrived in. Upon opening it, I found the tiny bluetooth speaker neatly packaged with a wealth of accessories that included a Universal Wall Charger (with travel adapters for multiple countries), 3.5 mm stereo cable, Mini USB -> USB charging cable, acoustic mat, travel pouch, wrist strap and manual. Basically, every accessory you could possibly want with this speaker system has been included here. In fact, I found it to be relieving that there was nothing additional I had to purchase for this device prior to leaving on my trip.
The speaker is amazingly tiny and lightweight and has a solid build. It's dimensions are 5.6" wide 2.2" high x1.4" deep. It weighs a startling 9.5 ounces. Across the front of the unit are dual 1-inch Linear Magnetic Drive "Twoofers." The Lithium-ion BassBattery technology is used to turn the battery into a woofer, allowing deep, smooth bass. The foxL boasts a frequency response of 80HZ-20kHZ with an output levels of 97dB @ 0.5m, 5V/95db @ 0.5m, 3.6v. On the front of the unit is a noise-cancelling microphone for "business quality" wireless speaker phone/conference call quality. When a call comes in, it automatically overrides the streaming music.
The first thing I did prior to my vacation was charge the unit. As noted above, the foxL speaker system comes with a wall charger and a USB charging cable, either one of which you can use to charge the device. The company recommends that the initial charge be done with the AC adapter and upon plugging the speaker to the plug a red light indicates the unit is charging. Initial charge time is 4 hours. Subsequent recharging only requires 1 hour. Once the charging is complete the red light on the unit turns to green and you are ready to listen to your music either powered or battery.
The foxL system comes in two flavors. There is the bluetooth wireless unit priced at $199 and its twin wired unit priced at $169. Pairing the speaker with my iPhone was completely effortless. All one needs to do is to put their bluetooth device (be it iPhone, iPod touch or any compatible bluetooth capable phone or music device) into "discovery" mode and then enter 4 numbers to pair the two devices together. An flashing green light on the front of the speaker indicates that it is searching for the device. Pairing took mere seconds.
Before leaving home I decided to do a quick audition of the foxL speaker on video, which you can find within this review. If you watch the video, you can see my initial reaction to hearing audio being pumped through this tiny system for the first time. Holding the unit in my hand, I could feel the speaker's pounding "boom boom boom" bass as clean, full-sounding audio emanated from the front drivers. It took a few moments for me to really believe I was getting immensely rich audio from such a tiny speaker. Never, have I heard quality like this from a portable device, that from all past experiences with other speakers this size, should sound hollow and tinny. The tiny foxL claims to use highly advanced speaker technologies found nowhere else regardless of size or price. The manual states that on-board amplification is supplied by four ultra high-efficiency digital amplifiers delivering total power up to 8W.
My initial listen was in a large bedroom, not much smaller than a standard hotel room where most people would listen to speakers while traveling. Though the foxL audiophile speaker system is not designed to be a "boombox," it easily accomplished the task of suitably filling the room with sound. And here is the best part.....I was able to turn the amplified speaker all the way up without the introduction of any distortion to my music. For me, this was absolutely astonishing. With just a brief audition, I was already anticipating that this miniature speaker would be perfect for travel. The icing on the cake was placing the speaker in its carry pouch and dropping it into my carry-on where it disappeared into the bottom of the luggage, almost invisibly.
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Next day I found myself aboard the Crown Princess cruise ship in a balcony that was shared with my friends in the next cabin. Our first day at sea we decided to set up our balcony table with wine and conversation highlighted by musical choices we were selecting from our iPod. The foxL speaker, operated on battery power, was placed upright on a small round table. With the ocean loudly roaring beneath us, there was very little effort to raise the volume of the speaker to the point of drowning out the noise around us. I have to mention that the speaker became the "star" of our outdoor activities. My friends and I took extreme pleasure selecting music and pumping it through this speaker. Because of the extreme amount of bass this speaker pushes, we finally found use for the included anti-slip "yoga" matt which we placed beneath it to stop it from moving around the table.
With each musical selection we made, ranging from Sinatra to Pink, we reveled in the enriching fidelity from the front drivers and the booming bass coming from the back of the unit. At one point, one of my friends asked about the many inputs on the side of the speaker and we laughed when we discovered that one of them was included for the addition of an external subwoofer. Why would anyone want to add an additional subwoofer to this speaker when it already produces incredibly deep bass?
According to the manufacturer's specs, the foxL will play on a fully charged battery for 5 hours, pending on volume levels. During the last 10% of the charge, output level will be reduced. We really did not push our sample device to its limits, only listening on battery power for 3 hours straight, but I would imagine the specs to be accurate.
If you watch the included video in this review, you are going to see sincere reactions from my friends who could not believe that such pristine quality audio could be coming from a tiny device like this. In fact, before the end of the cruise, my friends went online and placed an order from Amazon because they wanted one of these speakers for themselves.
I was simply amazed by this tiny little device and I was very curious as to who developed it. Looking inside the product manual is a picture of the company's founder, Dr. Godehard Guenther -- a physicist and former NASA engineer with three PhDs. Dr. Guenther expresses that music and travel is a big part of his life (as it is mine) and that he found there weren't any really small hifi-quality portable loudspeakers, so he developed one on his own.
Those of you who know of the reviews I write should also know by now that I don't recommend a product that I don't personally believe in -- especially when there's a high purchase cost factor involved. I realize that paying $199 or $169 for either the wireless or wired versions of the foxL speaker is quite an investment. However, I feel that you get what you pay for, and in this case, a product that offers unsurpassed audio quality from an immensely miniature system. As I mentioned earlier in this review, my friends were so taken back by the quality of music they enjoyed on our trip that they ordered a foxL bluetooth speaker for themselves. This speaker not only sells itself, but fits neatly in one's pocket.