Preview: Jabra Solemate Bluetooth speaker

In recent months, Hardware.Info tested a number of portable speakers including quite a few wireless Bluetooth speakers. These manage to raise eyebrows around the office from time to time, but they're so expensive that we can't really recommend them without any reservations.

Enter the Jabra's Solemate which isn't cheap, but apparently does get everything right. Note that it costs a mere £115.09 at Amazon UK.

With the increasing popularity of digital media, portable music players, smartphones and tablets, it's no surprise that manufacturers are investing heavily in personal audio accessories.

There are tons of Apple-compatible devices with docks for iPods and iPhones, but even if you don't own one of those iDevices, there is an increasing amount of choice out there.

Apple’s impact on the accessories market cannot be downplayed. The move from the 30-pin dock connector to the new 9-pin Lightning connector for example created a window of opportunity for manufacturers looking to capitalize on consumers’ dilemma as to whether they should buy adapters or new docks.

A number of players have chosen to shift their focus to speakers that don't need a dock. Bluetooth makes it possible to link any audio device that supports the A2DP profile regardless of its make. While it doesn't offer the same level of sound quality as a wired connection, Bluetooth is universal, maintains backward compatibility and won't change overnight.

Furthermore, an increasing number of devices support better audio codecs that can be used within the A2DP profile. The standard one is SBC (small band codec) which produces a clearly inferior audio quality especially compared to a wired connection although using MP3 or AAC codec is becoming increasingly commonplace.

The challenging part is to figure out which devices support which codecs, as manufacturers rarely specify this. That's unfortunate, and hopefully, it's something that will change in the future. We would particularly like clearer information about Apt-X, arguably the best Bluetooth audio codec.

Unfortunately, the Jabra Solemate does not support Apt-X, but supports qualitatively better codecs. We used an Apple iPhone 4, a Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray, and a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet to test this wireless speaker and found the sound quality was clearly better than just relying on SBC.

What’s more, even though this certainly isn't a very affordable Bluetooth speaker, it's way cheaper than the smaller Jawbone Jambox or the larger Logitech UE Boombox. Out of these three, the Jabra Solemate is our favourite, for a number of other reasons. To find out why, read the full review on Hardware.Info.