The Digital Sock Review: Jabra SOLEMATE

REVIEW: Jabra Solemate – hands-on with this portable Bluetooth speaker

My first impressions of the Jabra SOLEMATE were very positive. The first thing I noticed was the weight and build quality of the speaker. Don’t get me wrong, I have a personal preference to things that have a bit of weight about them and a good build quality – this certainly delivers well on both counts. Please don’t take these comments the wrong way, the speaker is certainly no heavy-weight it just feels well constructed and solid.

The packaging itself was again something which surprised me. Apple, since becoming the consumer electronics behemoth that they now are always package up their products ‘beautifully’ and I often feel that other companies miss a trick with this as it can give the user the ‘wow factor’ with they first receive the device. Packaging for me is an important part of the customer experience – just search for ‘unboxing’ on YouTube and you will see what I mean! The speaker arrived in a clear plastic case which is clipped together, through the transparent section you can see the speaker whilst the cables, plug and manuals are hidden away in the base.

Black Jabra Solemate and White Jabra Solemate

For this review I actually decided to take the Jabra Solemate into the real world – so, in the suitcase it went in preparation of my holiday to Spain.

When you first attempt to connect your Bluetooth device (in this instance it was an Apple iPod Touch) the Jabra Solemate talks you through it. Yes, that’s right as there isn’t any display on the speaker it tells you to turn on your Bluetooth and go through the necessary steps to connect. Once connected it tells you that you are ready to go! So with Speaker setup we headed for the beach.

Jabra Solemate cover off

At the beach we used the speaker for a combination of Podcasts and music both of which came across very well (via the standard equalizer settings on the iPod). I was impressed with the volume which pack a surprising amount of punch when turned right up but with the background noise of the beach you could still hear it clearly, all without annoying the neighbours.

Included with the Solemate is a storage bag that is designed to house the speaker whilst being used. Obviously using electronics at the beach is never ideal due to the sand and sea – but this little bag worked wonders as there was plenty of room to house both the speaker and iPod all without muffling the sound.

With the age of my iPod starting to show the battery didn’t last quite as long as it used to, so after only a couple of hours the iPod gave up for the day. At this stage the speaker still seemed to have plenty of life left in it. On the second day I decided to connect via the more traditional 3.5mm audio jack – the speaker cleverly stores this cable (about 30cms) in the ‘Sole’ of the speaker so it is always readily available. The Jabra Solemate has a very solid battery after a good charge via the supplied USB cable it easily lasted us a good few days (on and off) before it needed recharging  Estimated battery life whilst using Bluetooth is ten hours which I would say is about right however, if you connect with either the USB or Audio Cable it will probably last longer.

In addition to the beach I also used it in the car – Spanish radio doesn’t do anything for me so we decided to once again use the Speaker to supply us with some music whilst travelling along the Spanish coastline. Again I was impressed with the volume and clarity offered, the only slight (and I do mean slight) downside to this speaker is deep-bass. However, it is worth noting that it is no worse than any other speaker of this size such as the Jawbone Jambox.

Jabra SOLEMATE white

Finally the SOLEMATE can also be used as a microphone/ speaker for taking telephone calls, I only used this a couple of times and whilst it did the job that was required I felt this was much more of a ‘nice-to-have’ feature as opposed to being its primary use – so yes it works okay but I always find with any speaker that there are many factors that can have an effect on how clear the conversation will be.

Overall I enjoyed using the Jabra SOLEMATE and must admit it got a lot more use than I was expecting – it even got used in the kitchen allowing me to watch Family Guy on my Nexus 7 whilst I cooked dinner.

As with any of the speakers at this level you are paying a premium price but I do believe you are getting a premium product. The unit is well-built and has a unique look about it compared to other similar products in the marketplace  The base of the unit it textured like the sole of a trainer and grips to most surfaces very well, in addition the top of the unit is impact resistant rubber so will give you some protection should you drop it. The top of the unit also houses the + / – volume buttons and the button which answers and ends call. At the side of the unit is the power button which is also used to set up the bluetooth, in addition you will also find the USB and audio socket here. On the opposite end is a canvas handle.

The speaker itself does everything you would expect from a portable Bluetooth speaker costing £150 (RRP), however for me it was the finishing touches which really made it stand-out from the crowd, these included:

  • Turning the speaker on / off emits a nice, solid ‘bassy’ sound indicating its active / inactive state
  • Vocal instructions including guidance on connecting via bluetooth and a battery indicator (which caught me by surprise one night when I forgot to turn it off and I could hear a voice telling me ‘low battery’ which caught me by surprise!)
  • Voice commands advising you when you reconnect to a previously ‘paired’ device
  • Solid build quality with a completely sealed unit
  • ‘SOLE’ works very well and grips to most surfaces
  • Storage of the audio cable in the base of the unit is simple but very clever
  • Storage bag
  • And of course the sound quality of the unit

My final thought is if you are looking for a high quality portable Bluetooth speaker I very much doubt you would be disappointed if you opted for the Jabra SOLEMATE.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wufBeXpAbwA?rel=0&w=620&h=349]

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  1. [...] for better quality and more features. Back  in October (2012) The Digital Sock reviewed the Jabra SOLEMATE - this  impressed us immensely however with a price point of circa £150 it doesn’t come [...]



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