Sound & Image, www.foxl.com.au
Expansive sound; fills in the audio gaps left by the foxL’s small size
No battery; cheap and crowded controls
Mini Bluetooth speakers, which make it easy to get decent audio on the go, are all the rage – particularly since many iPhone and iPad users’ docking speaker systems became obsolete with the introduction of Apple’s Lightning connector.
We’ve reviewed many, from OK to excellent, but our favourite when it comes to audio quality is the foxL from Soundmatters. The V2.2 received 4.5 mice and an Editor’s Choice award in 2011, and the Platinum Edition gained a top score and another Ed’s Choice award last year. In those reviews we said that the amount of bass is amazing for the small size of the foxL, enhanced as it is by an acoustic bass radiator which resonates at a frequency lower than the active, or wired, woofers, enhancing and extending the bass. But, as good as the bass is, it will always be constrained by the size of the unit.
It was with this in mind that soundmatters’ founder, the physicist Dr Godehard Guenther, always planned to produce an external subwoofer. A Sub Out port has been part of the foxL’s design since the beginning. Well, after a lot of testing and refining, that subwoofer is finally here. And it turns out it can be used with other mini-speaker systems as well as the foxL (more on that later). The black metal foxLO (great name) measures 10.2 x 6.3 x 16cm, which is pretty small. Soundmatters says it’s palm-sized, but they’d have to be talking about the palm of a mountain gorilla or basketballer Yao Ming.
The bottom line is that it’s made to be as portable as the foxL itself. It’s a mains-powered unit, however, which means you don’t get quite as much freedom as you would from a battery. The sub contains what soundmatters calls a ‘Linear Magnetic Drive’ woofer driven by 30W of built-in amplification and boosted by a dual passive radiator system.
It’s designed to be used either upright or flat, and you need to experiment both with placement and with the sound-level slider. We put the foxLO to the test with a range of music styles from jazz and baroque to pop and dance, and it impressed from start to finish.
The bass is full and responsive, and has the immediate effect of making the audio more expansive … instead of emanating from the foxL itself, it seems to fill the room. You start with the Level slider in the middle position, and experiment up and down from there. We found our optimum position slightly above, and found that it overloaded and distorted quite badly beyond that.
Next to the Level slider is a Limiter button which helps reduce overload, but we never really found it to be much help. (A Power button completes the range of controls, which, it has to be said, feel a little cheap and crowded.) To use the foxLO with a speaker unit other than the foxL (such as the Jawbone Jambox, which soundmatters also designed), you simply connect the audio source (such as an iPhone) to the Audio In jack on the foxLO, then use its Audio Out connector to wire it up to the speakers.
The foxLO really completes the foxL, making an already great product even better. Together they make a brilliant sound system for the desktop or for taking on the road – to use in hotel rooms or when making presentations, for example.