There are, admittedly, only so many ways to design a compact, portable Bluetooth speaker, but there’s no denying the Jam Heavy Metal has ‘a hint of Bose about it’.
Specifically the Bose SoundLink Mini. But, hey, both are fine-looking units so we’ll leave the ‘sincerest form of flattery’ discussions to another day…
…and for now we’ll concentrate on the terrific build quality your £69 bags. From the moment we unboxed the Jam, we imagined its maker demanding more of our shillings.
Although, before the design team at Jam starts the high-fives, can we request (significantly) more eco-friendly packaging – when it comes to plastic, less is definitely more.
Fortunately, when it comes to the actual contents, Jam eschews plastic-fantastic in favour of (highly recyclable) aluminium. The result is one handsome-looking portable.
The wrap is smooth, the metal feels cool to the touch, and the weight is just right – sufficient to feel reassuring, not enough to weigh you down on your travels.
Look at the top of the chassis and you spot the six-button control panel. These put you in charge of a short list of standard requests – powering up, track skipping, volume up and down, that sort of fare.
Up against the likes of the Lava Brightsounds 2 – aka the Swiss Army knife of sub-£100 portable Bluetooth speakers – the Jam is short on ‘non-audio’ skills. Sure, it’ll operate as a speakerphone and it gives out voice prompts, but that’s your lot.
The Heavy Metal, you see, concentrates almost exclusively on the job of being ‘a speaker’.
And what a speaker it is. Hook up your Bluetooth device, or use the 3.5mm aux-in, and sound delivery immediately belies the unit’s modest dimensions. This is a great big sound. From a very little box.
Select the title track from Leonard Cohen’s final album – a demanding tester for any self-respecting Bluetooth speaker – and the JAM does an admirable job with the Canadian’s vocals, conveying the solidity and emotion of his gravelly, and gravely, delivered words.
Bass impresses. Big and bold it helps make for a room-filling sound. Being hyper-critical, we’d like a little more tautness and a dash of extra pace to some of these lower frequencies, but at this price we happy.
The ‘largeness’ of the JAM’s sound is rare at this sub-£100 level and an occasionally relaxed bass delivery is a price most of us won’t mind paying.
Switch from Cohen to something more up-tempo – as in, almost any other music – and the little metal speaker continues to make you smile.
Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself To Dance gleefully bounces along; the handclaps are snappy and the rhythm guitar is undeniably groovy.
Crank the volume and you’ll eventually get a touch of hardness out of the Jam – those handclaps get a little too snappy – but the reach of the overall sound means you’re less inclined to (metaphorically at least) twist that dial.
A further beauty here is the Heavy Metal’s non-discriminatory approach to music genres. Whether playing classical or indie or rock, performances are consistently highly listenable.
That big bass helps here and the little speaker’s weighty sonic character is a great foil for the sometimes sonically lean world of MP3 files and Bluetooth transmission.
One sign of a mediocre Bluetooth speaker is that its owners leave it unconnected when they want to just quickly play a track.
You know the scene; you stumble across a song on YouTube and settle for replay from your laptop’s awful-sounding speaker system. That won’t happen with the Jam Heavy Metal – hooking it up is always worth the effort.
A higher spend buys a more refined performance – the Ultimate Ears Roll 2 delivers more detail and sweeter treble – but if your budget is £69, max, the Jam Heavy Metal is a shoo-in.