Earbuds make great travel companions when you're traveling solo, but you need speakers to party with friends and family. Bluetooth has become the de facto standard for streaming music from smartphones and media players such as the iPod touch, and it can actually deliver relatively high-quality sound these days — provided the speaker you're streaming to is up to the task.
A portable speaker needs to be able to withstand getting knocked around, and it should also be able to resist damage from both liquids (from rain, poolside splashes, or being dropped in the snow) and solids (dirt and sand, for instance). The best way of knowing just how much exposure an electronic device can withstand is to determine its IP code (the acronym stands for International Protection Marking). IP codes are not mandatory, however, so if the manufacturer doesn't provide that information (Fugoo does for its speaker; JBL does not for its Charge 2+) you'll need to rely on the company's description.
Designing a speaker to withstand exposure to the elements is a tricky job that inevitably leads to some compromises in its ability to reproduce music. When it's not done well, you end up with something like the sub-optimal TDK Trek Flex. When it's done right, you get something like the JBL Charge 2+ and the Fugoo Sport reviewed here.
If you like lots of bass, are working with a smaller budget, and don't think you'll deliver too much punishment to your portable speaker, JBL's Charge 2+ is a really great product at $150. If you want a more balanced musical experience or want something that can withstand the elements — including being submerged in water for a short time — the more expensive Fugoo ($180, $200, or $230, depending on which enclosure you start with) is the device you'll want. Read my hands-on reviews for more detailed analysis.
Fugoo Sport review
In some respects, the Fugoo Bluetooth speaker is a much more ambitious product than the JBL Charge 2+ I'm comparing it to. When you perform certain actions, such as powering the speaker on, a male voice informs you that the speaker is on and whether or not it's connected to a Bluetooth device. Like the JBL Charge 2+, you can use the Fugoo as a speakerphone, but the Fugoo can also harness your phone's voice-recognition capabilities (Siri or Google Now). That gives you the ability to initiate calls with the speaker, not just receive them. You can use voice commands to perform other functions, too, although I didn't delve deeply into this feature. Lastly, Fugoo offers a line of accessories — mounts, straps, and even a waterproof remote control — that can extend the speaker's functionality.
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