The JLab Audio Crasher is a portable battery powered Bluetooth 2.1 speaker with features exceeding original expectations. When JLab Audio sent me the Crasher review unit, I thought I was just reviewing a portable speaker. But after some testing, I soon realized this is much more than a speaker. To their credit, JLab Audio added a mic to the speaker turning it into a very useful speaker phone system when paired with any mobile phone. Additionally, they added a USB output port enabling the Crasher to be used as an emergency backup power source for any usb powered devices. So this is really a 3-in-1 device consisting of a speaker, a conference call system, and a battery backup.
The sound quality is surprisingly good for a package of this size and price. Obviously, there’s not going to be a lot of stereo separation since the speakers are so close to each other. The bass unit is located in the back so putting the speaker against a wall or solid object helps to enhance the bass response a bit. But JLab’s claim that “the rear passive subwoofer pumps enough bass to wake the neighbors.” is pure marketing hype which should be ignored, if not mocked. In terms of sound quality, it’s better than anything you’ll get from a phone or tablet but don’t expect high fidelity sound from such a small package. I would equate the sound quality to something you might hear from a small stereo radio but not quite as good as a boom box for those old enough to know what a boom box is. Some users have complained about a persistent hissing sound when connected via Bluetooth. Since so many variables affect Bluetooth connectivity, it’s hard to isolate the source of the problem. In general, stay as close as possible when using Bluetooth connections. The speaker is rated at 90 dB maximum.
Excellent build quality
The build quality is excellent consisting of a metal chassis. All the buttons feel solid and the construction inspires confidence that this speaker can take some wear and abuse. I would have preferred to see a better case but it only comes with a microfiber pouch. Dimensions are 8.5 x 4.5 x 3.2 inches weighing in at under 1 pound and is available in a variety of colors.
Ease of use and utility
Pairing with Bluetooth was easy and painless. Just press and hold a button to put the speaker in pairing mode and any nearby Bluetooth enabled phone can see and pair with it without the need to put in a passcode. The operating distance is about 10 feet, typical for Bluetooth devices. In terms of ports and buttons, the Crasher includes an on/off button, a Bluetooth pairing button, phone disconnect bottom, volume buttons, a mini USB port for charging the device, and a standard USB power output port for charging devices. There is also a standard 3 mm audio-in jack for a direct connection to any audio devices. The 1,500 mAh lithium ion battery can operate the speaker for up to 18 hours. As with any battery operating hours claim, your mileage will vary.
No AptX support
Unfortunately, the speaker does not support AptX. The AptX codec delivers CD quality music over Bluetooth by eliminating the compressed music artifacts that Bluetooth’s SBC audio codec makes more noticeable when an MP3 file or other compressed music file is transmitted wirelessly, CSR said. AptX converts compressed music to PCM, then re-encodes it into compressed AptX for over-air transmission via Bluetooth. Once received, the file is restored back to PCM. Mobile devices are increasingly adding support for AptX. Smart phones such as the best selling Samsung Galaxy S4 supports AptX. Sadly for iPhone users, iPhones have yet to embrace AptX. For devices without AptX support, using the included audio cable will yield better sound quality at the expense of portability.
The JLab Audio Crasher is an above average portable Bluetooth speaker. The additional functionality makes the $79 price a decent value. AptX support and a better case would be a plus but overall a very good product at this price point.