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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.

Audio performance and conclusion

The Core has an active 28mm tweeter mounted on each side, and an active 39mm mid-range driver on each end. Passive 43x54mm passive radiators on each side help with bass response. The Fugoo's much smaller interior space doesn't provide nearly as much room for bass to resonate, and so it can't begin to match the JBL Charge 2+ when it comes to bass reproduction. This unconventional speaker orientation is a little weird for producing stereo (Fugoo describes it as "360-degree sound"), but I found the Fugoo's sound much more pleasing to my ears than JBL's speaker was.

In the early part of Steely Dan's "What a Shame About Me," from the band's Two Against Nature album, the drummer drags his stick across a set of chimes. When I listened to it on JBL's speaker, that ethereal shimmering sound was barely present. The Fugoo's dedicated tweeter produced it almost perfectly, leaving its midrange to handle the guitar. In addition to having discrete tweeters and midranges, the Fugoo also supports the aptX codec, which I think delivers superior sound.

Despite being smaller than the JBL Charge2+, the Fugoo delivered just as much volume. It can't compete with the Charge 2+'s thumping bass response, but the smaller speaker sounded more musical to my ears. And if you're looking for something rugged speaker in a small package, the Fugoo is hard to beat. It's more expensive than the JBL, but you get more for the money. And that's why I've given both speakers four-star reviews.

JBL Charge 2+ review

The feature that sets the Charge 2+ is the pair of 2.0-inch passive radiators mounted at opposite ends of its cylindrical enclosure. These do exactly what you'd expect: Enable heaping helpings of bass to emerge from a speaker that's just 7.25 inches wide. Play a bass-heavy track, and the gray brushed-aluminum discs atop those radiators really start dancing. The active drivers are a pair 45mm transducers mounted on either side of the JBL logo in the front of the enclosure. These produce a surprisingly good stereo image given the speaker's overall dimensions. Some sound emerges from the back of the cylinder (there are grills on both sides), but I wouldn't describe this speaker as omnidirectional.

The Charge 2+ can operate either horizontally or vertically (three bumpers on the right-hand side prevent the rubberized enclosure from forming a seal against whatever surface it's on when it's sitting on end. A base on the bottom keeps the cylinder from rolling around when it's horizontal, but I found it useful to roll the speaker back just a bit to point the speakers up toward my ears while I was writing this review (I positioned it behind my keyboard and in front of my display). Buttons with LED backlights on the top of speaker control the power state (on/off), Bluetooth connectivity, and the status of two special features: Social mode and speakerphone.

 

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