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Jawbone Jambox with LiveAudio review

Can such a tiny speaker really offer "immersive" three-dimensional binaural audio?

We’ve been fans of the Jawbone Jambox ever since its late 2010 launch. Although its $200 price tag is sure to cause a double-take, living with a Jambox for the last six months made me a believer in the portable Bluetooth 2.1 speaker powerhouse with 10-hour battery (depending upon use). Today, the little 57 x 40 x 151mm speaker gets even better thanks to a free 2.0 software update that adds LiveAudio to the mix - Jawbone speak for playback of three-dimensional binaural recordings. I was skeptical that any tweak to the unit's DSP would be worth my attention, let alone yours. But all doubt was cast aside once I found suitable tracks to exploit the feature.

Quick take

Quick take


The 2.0 update was fairly painless, requiring a visit to the MyTalk section of the Jawbone website and then tethering the Jambox to my Mac. From there the update took about a minute. The first few tracks I listened to -- "Myxomatosis" by Radiohead, and "I Would For You" by Janes's Addiction -- sounded worse (quieter and flat across the lows, mids, and highs) with LiveAudio enabled. Fortunately, the company pointed me to a few Spotify tracks that could exploit the three-dimensional audio feature including "Moving in Stereo" by The Cars and "07 Ghosts 1" from Nine Inch Nails. These tracks, in particular, were significantly enhanced with LiveAudio enabled -- something you can quickly toggle by pressing and holding the "+" and "-" keys simultaneously. The effect does require the listener to be at ear-level with the speaker at a range of about three to five feet, and it won't work over the Jambox's tethered 3.5-mm audio cable -- it's a Bluetooth-only feature. The result, however, was undeniable.

Jambox LiveAudio update is like Moving in Stereo

Listening to the swirling introduction of the The Cars, "Moving in Stereo" was like standing in a new wave Osterizer with Paulina Porizkova running her fingers through my hair... and that's a good thing. Unfortunately, the effect only works on tracks recorded with three-dimensional binaural listening in mind. Thus, I found myself constantly toggling the feature for each new track in order to test the benefits. Behavior that'll get old, quick.The 2.0 update is available now.


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