When the Jabra Solemate first debuted in 2012, it was one of the first portable Bluetooth wireless speakers to be purpose built for the great outdoors. The Solemates were dust proof, splash proof, sweat resistant, and came with a durable sand and rain-resistant bag which kept the elements out without muffling the sound. This was followed by the pocket-sized Solemate Mini in late 2013, and the focus of our review - the Solemate Max that was just released in late February 2014.
Jabra presents the Solemate Max as a "boombox speaker that’s perfect for parties" and to this effect, the Max is built with twin 15W tweeters for the high notes, and twin 30W woofers for "deep lows". Cranking up the volume and filling a room with loud tunes is certainly not an issue with this speaker. Aside from the size though, the features pretty much stay the same across the series, with the exception that the Solemate Max offers the ability to charge your devices via its large internal battery.
As the name implies, the Solemate Max is the big brother of Jabra's wireless speaker series, and while it too is meant to be a 'portable', at 30.2 x 10.2 x 13.8cm (L x W x H) in size and 3.27kg in weight, we’d use that term fairly lightly. The Solemate Max is a beast, and no doubt the audio hardware it packs within add to its weight.
Sticking with the sneaker design shared by the Solemate and Solemate Mini, the Solemate Max comes in just one color scheme - blue-grey silicon contrasted by the all-steel front grill with slight accents of yellow. The shoe tread design on the base once again holds an audio cable with 3.5mm audio jack input and works to keep your Solemate Max from moving about on your table. While it doesn’t come with a protective bag this time, the Solemate Max remains dust, dirt and splash proof. The inclusion of a fairly large carrying handle is a nice touch though, because it makes for an easy way to pick up the Solemate Max, even if your hands are wet.
The base of the Solemate Max is actually angled slightly upwards, which is a nice touch as that means the speaker isn’t directing sound straight to the floor (or your knees if you place it on a low table) when you place it flat on the ground or a surface.
Charging the internal battery of the Solemate Max requires plugging it into a wall socket, though that’s probably due to the size of the internal battery, which is listed as giving up to 14 hours of listening time on a full charge. The internal three-cell battery is rated at 2200mAh, but Jabra says the Solemate Max runs at 11.1V and so produces 24.97Wh,enough to recharge most modern smartphones three times as they only run at an output of about 3V.
All the controls for the Solemate Max are on the right side. Regular playback (pause/play, forward, back) and volume controls are grouped together on the top, while the power/pairing switch is on the side. You’ll also find the NFC pairing point, the aforementioned USB port for charging other devices, as well as your regular 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB port for direct audio input from your mobile device, laptop or computer. This last aspect is useful to side-step the weak audio subsystem you generally get from notebooks and computers and output your tunes using the large Solemate Max instead. For wireless audio connectivity with your mobile devices, fortunately the pairing process is a simple affair through Bluetooth or NFC, with the Solemate Max guiding you through the process with audio cues.
Also found on the top panel of the speaker is a talk button, which allows you to take calls using the built-in microphone. This same button also doubles up to report on the unit's battery life - just hold the button down and the Solemate Max will tell you the amount of battery life remaining out loud.