Jam Voice Speaker Review: An Average Alexa Alternative

As more speakers come with Alexa inside, you can be more selective about the features you want to go along with the skills offered by Amazon's virtual assistant. Amazon's own Alexa speakers have their limits: no battery on the Echo and poor sound on the Dot, for example. The Jam Voice is one of several new portable Bluetooth speakers to fill those voids left by Amazon. Unfortunately, the Jam Voice doesn't offer much improvement over Amazon's models, and you can find better alternatives, especially if sound quality is important to you.

Design

The Jam Voice is an aesthetically attractive portable speaker. It comes in pearl white or all black, and its materials have a solid feel. At 3 x 3 x 3 inches, it's slightly smaller than the 3.15 x 3.15 x 3.15-inch Fabriq speaker, but larger than the Echo Dot.

Credit: Jam AudioCredit: Jam AudioThe Voice has minimal controls. You press the Jam button on top to engage Alexa; on the front, you'll find the play/pause button and volume controls. The volume-up button doubles as a way to skip tracks if you hold it for 3 seconds, and the volume-down button plays the previous track. The micro-USB port for charging the battery is located on the back, as are indicator LEDs for the battery and connection status. The power and Bluetooth pairing buttons are on the bottom.

Like the Fabriq, the Jam Voice lacks any weatherproofing features, so the portable speaker is best for indoor use, away from water.

Performance

The Jam Voice's sound quality leaves much to be desired. It offers only slightly better sound than the Echo Dot, and it can't compete with the voice or bass from the Fabriq.

Ed Sheeran's vocals on "Shape of You" sounded thin and muddled, as did Rihanna's singing on Future's "Selfish"; the drums on the latter song lacked detail and power. The speaker also has weak treble; the acoustic guitars on Big Star's "Thirteen" weren't crisp or clear. The Fabriq, while not a stellar-sounding speaker, at least generates impressive bass for a small speaker.

MORE: Best Bluetooth Speakers for Home or On-the-Go

Using Alexa

If you're interested solely in a portable way to access Alexa, the Jam Voice could be a good choice.

I used it to turn on my Wemo switch, check the weather and find out the latest baseball scores. The Jam Voice was quick to respond — faster than the Fabriq and equal to the Echo Dot. Like the Fabriq, the Jam Voice can't use Alexa to play Spotify or Pandora, but the Jam WiFi app can access your accounts on those music services.

You have to push the button on the top of the speaker to launch Alexa; like the Fabriq, the Jam Voice lacks voice activation, which makes it less convenient to use Alexa. The Tap is currently the only portable Alexa speaker that lets you go hands-free.

Wireless and Setup

The free Jam WiFi app for iOS or Android walks you through the setup process. I had no problem connecting to my Wi-Fi network and logging in to my Amazon account to enable Alexa. Any tweaks to Alexa happen through the Alexa app from Amazon.

The unit had a strong Bluetooth signal, maintaining a connection from more than 50 feet away indoors. The Jam Voice favors Wi-Fi over Bluetooth when you turn it on, and I had to go into my Bluetooth settings to get it to connect. You can also press the Jam button on the top of the speaker to force it to switch to Bluetooth mode.

The app also lets you adjust the bass and treble, though those didn't improve sound much. When I turned up the bass, the sound became more distorted. You can also use the app to pair multiple speakers for multiroom listening.

MORE: Amazon Alexa Guide: Tips, Tricks, and How-Tos

Battery

The Jam Voice is supposed to get 4 hours of use on a full charge. My unit turned itself off after about 3 and a half hours of listening to music at low volume. The Fabriq has a better battery, lasting 5 hours; the larger Echo Tap offers twice the power, at 8 hours (but also costs twice as much as the Jam Voice).

Bottom Line

Alexa-enabled speakers not made by Amazon should overcome the flaws in the Echo and its offspring, whether by sounding better, costing less or adding portability. The Jam Voice offers portability at a reasonable price, but with below-average sound and battery life. Although Alexa worked well, that's not enough to overcome the disadvantages. There are alternatives available, such as the $50 Fabriq, whether you're seeking better sound or better battery life.

Credit: Jam Audio

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