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Great big sound from rugged little speakers: JBL Charge 2+ vs. Fugoo Sport

Michael Brown | June 9, 2015
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.

The Fugoo is available in three configurations: Style, Sport, and Tough. All three models consist of the same speaker — or Core, in Fugoo speak — which you can remove and insert into either of the other two types of enclosures (Jackets), which are sold separately. Fugoo sent the speaker inside the Style jacket, but they also sent the Sport jacket so I could switch it out. Going by the speaker's tight fit and finish, you'd never guess that you could pull out its guts and stuff them into a completely different shell. Getting the core in and out of its jackets can be an ordeal until you get the hang of it. I had trouble even after repeatedly watching the video on Fugoo's website. Once I got the technique down pat, swapping jackets was easy.

The core itself is not just weather resistant but waterproof: Fugoo rates it at IP67. The 6 means it can withstand a powerful jet of water and the 7 indicates that it can survive being submerged in water. Fugoo defines submerged as being in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The JBL Charge 2+ is rated to withstand only splashes of water (although you can clean both by running them under a faucet).

The $30 Style jacket is the simplest and least rugged of the three, being fabricated of fiber-reinforced resin with a water-resistant cloth grill. The two-piece Sport jacket ($40) is made from much thicker resin and is wrapped with rubber trim to reinforce its corners and give it more impact resistance. Fugoo describes the Sport's cloth grill as waterproof, and the shell has a mounting bracket to accommodate a variety of accessories. The $80 Tough jacket adds elements of aluminum to its construction and can be used with the same accessories (Fugoo sent a handlebar mount, but I didn't test it).

Each of the three cases has three buttons on top: Volume up, volume down, and a multi-function button between those two that can pause playback and perform other functions, such as activating voice recognition. There's a 1/8-inch aux input and a micro USB port for charging the Fugoo's battery on one side (a cable and AC adapter are provided), and buttons for power and Bluetooth pairing are on the other. A blue LED glows to inform you when the speaker is powered on. JBL says the much larger battery in its Charge 2+ should last about 12 hours. Fugoo claims an astounding 40 hours of battery life (at 50-percent volume) for its speaker. I didn't drain either device's battery to verify the manufacturer's claims, but the difference could be that Fugoo uses Bluetooth 4.0 where JBL is relying on the older Bluetooth 3.0 protocol.


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