An edited version of this article was first published as Product Review: Soundmatters foxLv2 Hi-Fi Bluetooth Speaker on Blogcritics.
Soundmatters foxLv2 Bluetooth
You may well be shopping this week, attempting to get a head start on your holidaze. A popular item are iPod docks which, while being a great idea, have a major problem; They’re either tethered to your car or a wall outlet for their oh so necessary power feed. Portable speakers also have their downside, namely fidelity. They sound about as good as that oatmeal box+string telephone you made when you were a child. What, you didn’t make telephones? Anyway, if you have an Android or iOS phone, it’s also nice to have a wireless speakerphone so you can share tunes, streams and podcasts, while being able to take calls without having deal with the tinny speaker in your phone…
Some bright geek folk have contemplated this very problem and have come up with a rather tidy and very high fidelity solution. Soundmatter’s foxLv2 Bluetooth is a small but hefty powered stereo speaker with a Bluetooth radio. foxL manages to jam two dual voice coil, full range speakers with a passive radiator, and four channels of amplification into a space only 5.5″ in length and 9.5 ounces in weight. All this tech resides in a light weight composite case that I thought was metal until I read the spec sheet.
Spigots and controls are few and easy to use. The front has only one control, a Call Answer/End/Reject button with an LED that indicates what Bluetooth is up to. On one side, there’s a standard 3.5 mm stereo mini–jack, like you’d find on an iPod. That side also has the power jack, which mates with the included wall wart. A thoughtful feature of the power adapter is that it includes a set of international wall outlet prongs that can be swapped out depending on local standards. So, no need of AC adapters for the hard core road warrior.
foxL’s opposite end cap has Mini–USB jack, for charging only, and a second 3.5 mm jack, this time for an external subwoofer. Because of the device’s diminutive size, it’s incapable of creating any meaningful bottom. For those who want their booty shaken, not stirred, I tested the foxL Bluetooth with a Maxx Home MiniWoofer, a 7″ cube that reproduces frequencies below 100 Hz. Sure enough, it added a heft that the foxL alone couldn’t manage on its own.
For the wireless kids, foxLv2 Bluetooth supports the latest, higher fidelity v.2.0 A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) flavor of Bluetooth. I paired the foxL to both my iMac and my phone and, in both cases, it was easy as pie. The foxL appears as two different Bluetooth devices, a stereo receiver for hi–fi playback, and a mono in/mono out device for hands–free phone use. When used as a hands–free speakerphone, calls were crystal clear, and the other parties had no problem with fidelity from my end.
One of the unique techie features of the foxL family is the BassBattery, the power source and passive radiator for the acoustic suspension speakers. A passive radiator can be thought of as a speaker without a voice coil, hence the name. The speaker’s diaphragm is part of the entire system, and is driven by the pressure difference between the the inside and outside of the speaker cabinet. In this case, the cabinet is the tiny foxL case, and the diaphragm happens to be the battery itself. This clever design saves on space and improves the foxL’s low frequency response.
So, you’re probably wondering how does this mighty mite sound? In a word, astounding. Of all the ultracompact speaker systems out there, this is the best I’ve heard. Between my slogs through the CES, visits to Apple Stores, Best Buys and Fry’s, I’ve listened to quite a few pocketable speaker systems and none comes close. Frankly, the foxL is petite perfection, sounding similar to much larger, powered speaker/iPod docks out there. It offers an uncolored midrange, smooth highs, and a refreshing lack of low frequency hype.
Deploying the “kickstand” on the back, the foxL sat on my desk at a nice angle, projecting a clear midrange and extended if not sparkling highs. When placed in an intersection between my desk and filing cabinet, the added bass boost provided a welcome warmth. With a touch of EQ in iTunes, the foxL was da bomb.
I ran some tests to see if what I was hearing corresponded to measured results. I found that, from about 200 to about 6800 Hertz (Hz) or cycles per second, the foxL was reasonably flat. Above and below those frequencies, it gradually rolled off, being only 3 decibels (dB) down at 16,000 Hz and 220 Hz referenced to 400 Hz. If those numbers don’t make any sense, consider that somewhere around 250 Hz is the lowest that a human voice typically can go, while 16 kHz is above what most folks can perceive as sound. Prior to the advent of digital soundtracks in theaters, movie and TV audio fell short of that at the high end. As a rule of thumb, 2 dB is a noticeable difference in loudness.
To sum up, the foxLv2 Bluetooth is a lilliputian yet high performance set of wired and wireless speakers that fit in the palm of your hand. Yup, it cost twice as much as a larger portable powered speaker but, it can slip into your purse or pocket and, it doubles as a hands–free speakerphone. Oh, and did I mention that it’s built like a tank and the battery gave me over 3 days of play time? The foxL should be called the roxL cuz it will rock you!
Soundmatters International, Inc.
No, I’m not talking Kent Dorfman here, I’m referring to the great granddad of the foxL, the a/d/s L200. The Model 200, and its big brother the 300, were two way, acoustic suspension loudspeakers. The L200 drivers, a 1″ soft dome tweeter, and a 3.5″ paper cone mid/woofer, were made in–house, as was the passive crossover. The cabinet was a solid aluminum extrusion, 7″ tall by 4.25″ wide by 4.25″ deep, with a removable aluminum grill. The front panel was also aluminum and the rear was a glass/polymer composite. The manufacturer, Analog & Digitals Systems, Inc. of Wilmington MA, originally was based in Cambridge near MIT, where they imported and assembled loudspeakers under a license from BRAUN in Germany.
Dr. Godehard Guenther, inventor of the foxL, was president of the audio division of BRAUN, and was instrumental in creating the L200. Guenther decided to improve on the BRAUN products, launching a new company and bringing design and production in–house to maintain strict quality control. The result, the Model 200 was the first of what today we would call a “satellite” or high performance miniature loudspeaker. In addition to the passive version that started it all, the Model 2002 had a 12 Volt–powered pancake amp integrated onto the back. It was designed to kick car audio up a notch at a time when whizzer cones and floppy, ill defined bottom was all you could expect in mobile music.
a/d/s went on to create an innovative reverberation synthesizer, the first of its kind for consumers, as well as an entire line of acoustic suspension loudspeakers. These included a novel reference monitor used by, among others, the BBC. The three way BC-8 had dual tweeters, switchable so that the speaker could be used upright or “lying down” while allowing the tweeter and mid to always be aligned in a vertical array to maintain proper imaging, regardless of cabinet orientation.
foxL hails from a long line of quality and innovation. Comparing the gloss black look and perforated grill of the foxL with the tellingly similar black brushed aluminum and perforated grill of the Model 200, there’s no doubt the fruit of Dr. Guenther’s labors haven’t fallen far from the tree.