Out and About Audio Page 2

Soundmatters foxL v2 Bluetooth Platinum Edition

The foxL v2 was designed by a rocket scientist. No kidding: It’s the brainchild of Dr. Godehard Guenther (!), a physicist and former NASA engineer who envisioned a tiny amplifier/speaker with high audio quality.

You wouldn’t build a rocket out of plastic, and you shouldn’t build speakers out of it, either. The foxL v2 has a silver-colored metal case that lends an impressive amount of heft. Two 1-inch dual-voice-coil “Twoofers” that handle midrange and high-frequency chores fi re toward the front. Around back, the case hinges open (thus acting as a stand) to reveal a “Flatmagic” bass radiator measuring roughly 1.5 x 2.25 inches.

Other operational features include volume control, minijack audio input, power connector, mini-USB power input, and a minijack output for the company’s optional external subwoofer. An LED indicates battery condition. The foxL v2 plays louder (4 watts) when connected to wall or USB power but softer (2 watts) when unplugged to extend battery life, a claimed 8 hours. In our tests, we got an impressive 20 hours.

The foxL v2’s A2DP Bluetooth capability (with apt-X enhancement when an apt-X source is used) lets you stream music from your Bluetooth phone or other device. Pairing is easy: An LED flashes in various ways for a few seconds until the foxL finds its mate. A Bluetooth button lets you turn the feature on and off. To wirelessly connect to our iPod nano, we used a Jaybird iSport apt-X Bluetooth adapter, a nifty $50 device that adds Bluetooth capability to an iPod nano or classic.

The foxL v2 has a noise-canceling microphone; when paired with a phone, this lets you use it as a speakerphone. (Other foxL models omit both Bluetooth and the microphone). Accessories include a USB cable, a spiffy Audioquest Evergreen minijack cable, and three international AC plugs. We also used the optional foxL Bike Kit Bundle bicycle mount system to take the foxL v2 for a spin along the beach. Wheeeeee!

The foxL v2’s packaging advises that it “…defies conventional wisdom about sound.” After a thorough audition, we agree with that assessment. This really is a pocket-size speaker that even audio snobs will like. For example, Counting Crows’ latest, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation), contains an acoustic rendition of the Faces’ “Ooh La La.” The song opens with two acoustic guitars panned left and right. The foxL v2 can’t offer much stereo separation — the Twoofers are only about 4 inches apart — but the guitars sounded clean, with plenty of high-end clarity. The acoustic piano in the second chorus also had an open sound; even during the piano solo, the louder notes were clear. However, distortion did creep in at maximum playback levels. The foxL v2’s response only goes down to 80 Hz, but it nonetheless sounded clear and natural on tracks with acoustic bass.

We auditioned the foxL v2 using both regular A2DP and apt-X Bluetooth via the Jaybird adapter. We were impressed with apt-X: It provided a fuller, more open, and more natural sound that was darn close to wired quality. The foxL bike mount is bulky — fine for your beach cruiser, but an eyesore on our Colnagos bikes. While riding, we found the volume controls were accessible and easy to operate even with bike gloves on. The foxL v2’s playback was loud enough that two people riding together could enjoy the tunes, and its strong bass response proved pedal-inspiring.

Can a NASA engineer design a portable speaker? You bet he can. The foxL v2 Bluetooth Platinum Edition’s wonderful sound quality blows away other speakers of its diminutive stature. This pocket speaker is ready to rock.
• $279 (foxL v2 Bluetooth Platinum Edition), $49 (optional Bike Kit Bundle); soundmatters.com

• $50 (Jaybird iSport apt-X Bluetooth adapter); jaybirdgear.com