There's a place for small and cheap portable speakers, but when you really want to hear your tunes, you need to go big. The new Fugoo Style XL is the perfect example of this, retaining its predecessor's ruggedness and long battery life while making the sound bigger and better.
Fugoo's excellent original portable Bluetooth speakers — Style, Sport and Tough — have a lot going for them: ruggedness, long battery life and good sound. With the XL line, Fugoo kept all the best elements of its original speaker and made the sound bigger and better.
Fugoo isn't kidding about the XL part. The 11.33 x 4.52 x 3.81-inch Style XL visually resembles the original 6.5 x 2.6 x 2.1-inch Fugoo Style, but it's about twice as large. It's also a few inches bigger than UE's 8.9 x 3.3-inch Megaboom. At 3 pounds, 14 ounces, the XL requires quite a bit more muscle than the 1-pound, 15-ounce Megaboom. To help lug the XL around, you can buy accessories like a $30 hand strap or shoulder strap. Other accessories include a $50 wireless remote, which also acts as a bottle opener.
Fugoo made good use of the additional space, putting these units inside: four tweeters (two on each side), two midwoofers (one each side) and two passive radiators for bass. With the drivers placed on each side, the speaker spreads sound widely, making it perfect for parties and listening to music with friends.
On the top of the XL, in addition to the volume and speakerphone/voice control button, Fugoo added buttons to control track playback. With this set of controls combined with integrated Siri or Google Now voice commands, I rarely had to take my phone from my pocket while listening — I could use the speaker to change the song and playlist, answer the phone and skip tracks.
Like its smaller sibling, the XL offers few visual cues. On the right end between the power button and Bluetooth pairing button, a slim LED glows blue when the power is on and pulses green when the XL is charging. Instead of visual indicators, the speaker relies heavily on voice prompts: for example, press the power button to hear the battery level.
On the left side beneath a cover you'll find a DC power jack for charging the battery along with a USB port for charging mobile devices, and a micro USB port for connecting to a computer for firmware updates. The cover keeps the ports safe when the speaker is submerged in water.
The XL has an IP67 ruggedness rating, which means it's waterproof in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, and is dustproof. It's also designed to float — and it did when I placed it in a hot tub. The speaker was not negatively affected by its immersion in water. By comparison, the UE Megaboom is IPX7-rated, meaning it has the same level of water resistance, but isn't rated for dust.
The Fugoo XL produces big, wide sound with nicely balanced bass and treble tones. It produced much more bass than the original Fugoo Style. The UE Megaboom, on the other hand, delivers more bass and better vocals than the XL.
The wide soundscape was especially pronounced on Skrillex & Diplo's "Where Are Ü Now (with Justin Bieber)," as the song's layers were easier to distinguish than on the UE Megaboom. The speaker produced the kick drum and guitar on Florence + The Machine's "What Kind of Man" with a good punch, but while Florence Welch's vocals were clear, they weren't as prominent in the mix as on the Megaboom.
Lindsey Buckingham's fingerpicked guitar on Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again" sounded crisp, as did Miles Davis' muted trumpet on "‘Round Midnight." The speaker's size really helped separate the left and right channels on the swirling guitars of Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be."
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The XL gets impressively loud, too. In normal mode, I measured 93 decibels at max volume and the sound didn't distort — most Bluetooth speakers become unlistenable above 85 decibels. Along with its 360-degree sound, the XL easily fills a large room with music .
Like many portable Bluetooth speakers in this price range, the XL includes a speakerphone function. To answer a call, just press the circle between the volume buttons. I found that the people I spoke to sounded louder and more resonant than on my iPhone's speaker — as I expected. However, the people I spoke to said I sounded more muffled when I used the Fugoo versus my phone's built-in speakerphone.
Fugoo says you can get up to 35 hours of playback at 50 percent volume on a full charge, which is impressive compared to the Megaboom's 20 hours and JBL Xtreme's 15 hours. I found this to be a little overstated — after listening for about 20 hours at mostly moderate volume, I only had "about a quarter" of the battery left, according to the speaker.
Like many large speakers, the XL's battery charges through a DC adapter instead of a micro USB, which is more commonly used by smaller speakers.
You can use the XL's battery to charge your mobile device via USB. Naturally, charging other devices will limit the play time you'll get on the speaker.
Setup and Software
The XL paired quickly with iOS and Android devices. It has a stated range of 120 feet — a huge jump over the original Fugoo's 30 feet. The signal was strong at more than 100 feet, giving it the best range of any Bluetooth speaker I've tested.
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Fugoo doesn't offer an app for controlling or adjusting the speaker like UE and JBL do. Instead you use combinations of buttons on the device to make adjustments. If you hold the play button for three seconds, you can switch to "outdoor" mode, which boosts the power (and also drains the battery more quickly). You can lower the volume of voice prompts by holding + and - buttons when you turn the speaker on. But there's no EQ or ability to connect two Fugoo speakers together like you can with the latest UE and JBL speakers.
I tested the $280 Fugoo Style XL; the company also offers a $300 Sport XL and $330 Tough XL. The Style XL comes with a sand-colored jacket. The Sport XL is mostly an aesthetic difference, while the Tough XL is a little larger and doesn't float.
In getting bigger, the Fugoo Style XL adds better audio quality to the excellent ruggedness and battery life of the original models. It creates a wide field of sound and gets seriously loud — all great features in a speaker that you can use outside without any hesitation.
At $280, the Style XL is also less expensive than the $300 UE Megaboom. However, the Megaboom produces more bass and features an app that extends the functionality of the speaker. The Megaboom is also much lighter and a bit smaller, making it a better option if you plan to take it with you on a hike. Overall though, the Style XL's combination of ruggedness and big sound makes it one of the best large Bluetooth speakers available.