Jlab Audio Crasher XL – Massive Sound in a Small Package
It certainly isn’t the price – you can find one for under US $100 (at time of writing) and for the cost, offers maybe too much power for the size. In fact, it’s got so much bass that at high volumes, it’ll dance right off your table (even though it’s got rubber matted bottom for grip!) Maybe this is a good problem to have.
I don’t understand how something at this price level can be built like the tank that it is. The metal housing gives it a feeling of indestructibility, as well as being liquid repellent with rubber material around the controls and feet where you need grip. It’s war against the mostly-plastic competition that doesn’t stand a chance.
But because of such high quality material, you do need to be careful about where you place it. While the metal housing isn’t sharp enough to cut anything, it has enough of an edge to scratch paint off metal and wood, say off a piano, a car or a table. And not that it’ll happen, but you really don’t want to think about dropping this on hardwood floors or any surface that can crack or dent (including your foot) so be careful.
WET CONDITIONS? NO PROBLEM!
These days, many bluetooth speakers come with some kind of splash proof protection and the Crasher XL doesn’t disappoint with the IPX6 rating. In practical terms, you can be playing music at uncle Bob’s bbq without worrying if it’ll start to rain. Or if the kids start playing cops and robbers with waterguns – or even if your friend decides he dislikes the current song and jumps out of the pool to press the “next” button with his totally wet fingers that are dripping with pool water.
It seems to work great in the bathroom as I shower in the morning (not IN the shower, but in a room full of steam), so I wonder if it can hold out just as well in a sauna or a steam room? (which is certainly not recommended!)
CONTROLS / INTERFACE
Basic controls lie on top of the unit, etched out in rubber so you can feel each function including power, volume control, play/pause and next/previous. In the back, there’s a micro USB port input for power and 3.5mm plug for connecting to an audio player in place of using a Bluetooth wireless connection (which you don’t want to do for an important reason I outline later.) When you’re not using these, it’s always a good idea to plug it with the rubber seal meant to keep out liquids.
There is exactly one LED indicator light that blinks blue or red, with different tones for on/off and pairing. While this works fine for most things, it leaves a question mark about battery levels as there’s no way to know how much power is left. Perhaps in future iterations, a couple of more LED’s can be added to show a rough estimate?
When it comes to volume, there are 15 levels from minimum to maximum, which is independent of the volume levels of the playing device it’s connected to. There’s a little quirk in this department as you’ll discover when you turn on your unit – it’ll forget the last volume setting you had it on and reset itself to the default level of 10 every time. So you should be aware that you could potentially be waking your neighbors to Metallica’s Whiplash if you haven’t lowered the volume before pressing play.
With the built-in 5200mHh battery, you can play back a solid 13 hours at medium volume (presumably on the default volume when turned on, which is level 10). It’s enough for day-long gatherings and is commendable when you think that it’s driving a total of five woofers and tweeters.
Unless you use a 3.5mm cable, your primary method of connecting to this speaker will be BlueTooth 4.0, which offers a 30ft range (which is probably longer than any 3.5mm cable you’ve got lying around). Any music player will connect, including your phone, tablet, computer or a stand-alone music player like the Astell & Kern AK-100II.
To top it all off, the built-in mic and spearkphone allows for hands-free calling – a useful feature for when you’re pressed for time and need to shower for work, but are waiting for an important call. With this, you can jump in the shower, sing along to your favorite songs until the call comes in. No need to get anxious, and certainly no worries about gettiing your your phone wet. Remember, these speakers are splash repellent!
My experience was a bit strange when it came to testing audio quality. For the best possible audio, I normally use a 3.5mm cable -if possible- before going near a wireless connection. But after several weeks of music playback (with a cable) for the burn in period, the music still sounded flat – no dynamic range, no excitement – just a dull, flat, uninspired sound. I’d nearly given up hope on this unit and was actually reluctant to write up the bad news, when I pulled off the cable and tried my luck with BlueTooth.
And my whole world flipped 180 degrees!
The awful karaoke singing amateur on the creaky old radio suddenly turned into a trained opera singer at a theater – an amazing turn-around to which I wondered “What the hell is going on here?” This was extremely baffling considering BT has limited throughput (compared to cables), but strangely enough, this speaker does the exact opposite of what was expected in sound quality. I can’t explain it – maybe there’s some kind of surround sound equalization that kicks in when BT is connected, because I can’t hear this level of dynamic range when I use a cable.
But the lesson here is clear – use a BlueTooth connection for best quality sound and only use a cable if there’s no alternative. I mean, would you rather suffer through a blind date who’s boring you to tears with their monotone, or share in someone’s excitement in folding origami rabbits with 20 dollar bills or chatting on the benefits of using JLab’s Epic2 earbuds?
Aside from dynamic range, the emphasis in the design is maximized for loudness and bass. The tweeter and two midrange drivers face front for all the high and mid sounds while two subwoofers face the back for the lows. Strategic placement at about a foot away from a wall will increase the level and quality of the bass while bringing this unit to ear level or higher will help with the mid and high accuracy. You can hang it on the carry rope that comes with the unit, but setting it down on something solid helps improve the audio quality.
My advice is to experiment and move it around, because even a few inches can make a huge difference depending on the materials surrounding the speaker (i.e. is it placed in front of a bare sheetrock wall? A glass window? Clothing or books? It all makes a difference!)
The Jlab Audio Crasher XL is a quality product that offers 13 hours of good audio playback when connected via BlueTooth wireless. Being a loudmouth (30 watts worth!) and splash-proof IPX6 are great benefits for a package this small, though it will weigh a bit more than the cheapie plastic-made competition because of its metal housing. It looks good, sounds good – what more do you need?