Jam Audio Xterior Max: Bluetooth Speaker for the Great Outdoors
The Xterior Max (MSRP: $120) is the newest Bluetooth speaker from Jam Audio. It’s a rugged device, dustproof, waterproof, and drop resistant with a rating of IP67. Its exterior is a blend of metal and rubber, and all of the top-mounted controls are rubberized as well. Even the charging and input ports are kept dry behind a sealed gasket on one side of the speaker, as is the speaker-phone microphone on the top. The speakers are on one side, behind a steel grate reminiscent of a rugged truck bed. On the other side is a passive bass radiator. On the bottom of the unit is a screw mount for using an optional bike mount. The Xterior weighs well over a pound, so use caution putting this on the handlebars of anything except a beefy cruiser bike - it may adversely affect the bike’s handling. The included screw must be removed and stored to allow the speaker to sit on a flat surface.
Part of what adds heft to the Xterior Max is the large built-in battery. Depending on playback volumes, it can provide up to 12 hours of playback on a single charge. It also has a power jack so it can be used to recharge other devices.
The Max features voice prompts - a pleasant female voice announces when the device is powering up and down, pairing, and other prompts such as maximum volume. Pairing the device is simple - it powers up in pairing mode, indicated by a flashing blue LED on the top of the unit. There is an AUX input for a wired connection.
On my review sample, I had a slight issue. For better sound quality, I always prefer to use the wired connection. When I had the Lightning jack of an iPod Touch plugged into the charging port of the Xterior and the headphone output connected to the wired AUX input there was a significant ground loop hum. It went away when switching to a Bluetooth connection, or by simply unplugging the charging port. Another small complaint is that in certain lighting situations, the indications on the controls are hard to see - contrast coloring would have been nice.
Using either the wired or Bluetooth connections, the sound of the Xterior Max was good. There are two drivers, but there is very little stereo separation on songs such as Adele’s “Send Your Love.” The upper impact of the kick drum was present on that song, but it lacks the deeper bass that makes this track so interesting. The bass that was there was quite balanced - it never overpowered, even with the volume cranked up. At loud levels, the rubberized housing does its job of keeping the speaker from bouncing across the surface of whatever you’ve set it on. The upper mid-range doesn’t have quite the clarity of some of the other speakers we’ve reviewed (the JBL Charge, for example) but it isn’t muffled or in any way dull. In fact, it handles louder volumes quite well. What I found most interesting is that the playback sounds best outdoors. I have to wonder if it was tuned to sound better outdoors.
With Spring underway and summer just around the corner, the Xterior Max speaker can handle anything outdoors - wind, rain, pool parties and beach blasts. Let the other fragile speakers stay inside - the Xterior Max seems to have been made to go outside and play.