GeekDad Review: JAM Xterior Max Rugged Bluetooth Speaker

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JAM Audio makes a wide variety of Bluetooth speakers; most are very inexpensive and super portable. I just wrapped up a few weeks with something a little different from the company, the JAM Xterior Max. This is a mid-sized speaker that packs more oomph than its usual offerings, plus longer battery life, and a ruggedized, waterproof case.

JAM Xterior Max review
JAM Xterior Max is at home outdoors (Photo by Brad Moon)

Rugged, Decent Battery Life, and Flexible

The design of the JAM Xterior Max is a little on the boring side. A round black box with grey trim. Lots of rubber (or silicon), black speaker mesh, and exposed screws holding it all together. Roughly 8-inches long and a bit over 3-inches tall. It looks rugged but nondescript. Pick it up and it feels surprisingly heavy for the size, at 1.9 pounds—that would be the sizeable battery and driver mix.

However, the design is functional, delivering an IP67 rating for surviving water, dust, and drops. I used it outdoors in the rain with no problem. It should be able to survive pool and beach duty or getting splashed by a drink at a party. You do need to have the speaker facing the right direction or the sound quality takes a serious dive. With front and back looking identical and the drivers hidden behind patterned mesh, the only visual cue of which way is the right way is to look at the orientation of the buttons and logo on top of the speaker.

Depending on whether you go by JAM Audio’s website or the included instructions, the battery is rated for either 10 hours or 12 hours between charges. That varies by volume, of course, but I like it loud (especially outdoors where the sound can quickly dissipate), so it was closer to 10 hours for me. That’s pretty good for a speaker of this size and price.

JAM Xterior Max review
Speaker includes not just the USB charge cable, but also a compact USB charger (Photo by Brad Moon)

A sealed flap hides the microUSB charge port, AUX input, and a full-sized USB out port. You can use the JAM Xterior Max to top up your smartphone if you’re willing to give up some speaker battery life. There’s also a screw mount in the bottom, so you can attach it to things like a bicycle. It can also be used as a speakerphone, with the integrated mic.

Better Than Expected Performance

The MSRP of the JAM Xterior Max is $119.99 and it typically sells for less (currently $82 on Amazon). So I wasn’t really expecting a lot in terms of audio quality. The speaker turned out to be a pleasant surprise in that respect.

JAM Audio doesn’t publish details on the components, but there are two front-facing drivers and a rear-facing passive radiator. They combine for respectable audio performance. It’s strongest in the mid-range (without sounding muffled), but there’s also a definite bass presence. Definitely not “tinny” as many small speakers can be. It also gets much louder than you might expect for a speaker of this size (much too loud for my office but perfect for outdoor use), and, more importantly, gets practically to the maximum volume without distortion. You’re not going to mistake it for an audiophile speaker system, but it more than holds its own against many speakers that are larger and/or more expensive.

JAM Xterior Max review
Rain is no problem, and it can survive 30 minutes in three feet of water (Photo by Brad Moon)

Should You Buy It?

The JAM Xterior Max is the type of Bluetooth speaker that has parents of teenagers in its sights. It’s solidly built, able to take punishment—including getting wet and dirty—offers the battery life for a day or long night of music, and it sounds pretty good. Even at *loud volumes. And with a going price under $85, the JAM Xterior Max is on the affordable end of the wireless speaker spectrum.

*NOTE: On the surface, loud may not be a good thing. However, as a parent of teenagers, I know they are going to play music loudly. I’d rather listen to bad music played loudly than bad music played slightly less loudly on a speaker that’s also distorting it to the point my ears bleed.

Disclosure: JAM Audio provided a speaker for review purposes.

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