Amazon has made its Alexa personal assistant open to the public. No longer is her presence limited to Amazon devices; third-parties are now integrating Alexa into their devices. The Jam Voice takes on the Amazon Tap as a portable, lightweight Bluetooth speaker that doubles as your digital assistant.
Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi
Battery life: 4 hours
Dimensions: 3″ x 3″ x 3″
Where to buy: Jam Audio
With the Jam Voice, you have two modes to choose from: Bluetooth and WiFi. You can alternate between the two, but you can’t use both at the same time. You can either listen to music over Bluetooth or use the Alexa functionality and streaming over WiFi. Switching between the two requires hitting the button with a Bluetooth logo on the bottom.
An important thing to mention is also the awful sounds it makes. Starting it up causes a strange, distorted chime. Pressing volume up when at full volume causes a full one second chime to play, which interrupts music for what seems like an eternity.
A Bluetooth speaker’s merit lies not in its features, but in its sound. Why would one need a Bluetooth speaker if it does not sound good? Unfortunately, that’s the question I ask myself about the Jam Voice.
The sound quality is just no good. It’s not terrible, but it distorts badly even at more reasonable volumes. It definitely sounds okay when not turned up, but even then music doesn’t sound very good. At full volume, it’s plain bad.
When Alexa speaks, there’s significant distortion in her voice. The speaker has trouble with many frequencies, and Alexa seems to embody a few of them.
There’s a slot on the back that acts as a vent for the driver. It pumps out a surprising amount of air, though bass isn’t very strong.
The sound isn’t as bad as the $10 speakers you might pick up at Walgreens, but for $60 or more depending on where you look, the sound quality should be much better than it is.
Do note that if you buy a Jam Voice, the quality will improve in the first few hours. It sounds terrible out of the box, but it seems that the driver breaks in and improves a bit over a short period of time.
The build quality of this speaker is quite good. The body is made out of a very sturdy plastic with no flex or give. It also has a nice glossy, sparkly black finish. The whole speaker looks very nice.
The top grille is metal and the plastic button in the middle has a satisfying click. The bottom and the ring between the body and grille are made out of rubber. The three buttons on the front don’t feel great and are poorly designed, though. You have to push very deep to press them.
The Jam Voice’s battery life is rated at four hours, and it will last three-and-a-half to four hours at loud volumes. This includes being strictly in Bluetooth mode, with WiFi having no effect on battery life.
A mere four hours of battery life is very little compared to the competition. Most Bluetooth speakers at a fraction of the price offer eight hours and up while the Tap, serving similar functions, can do up to nine. At this price point, four hours is not acceptable.
The Alexa functionality found here is not quite what you get on the Amazon Echo. The biggest difference is that you cannot call Alexa by her name; rather, you have to press the top button to speak to her. The lack of hands-free operation makes this a pretty useless home control device unless you’re within arm’s reach.
There’s also an app called Jam WiFi to manage the other features of this speaker, and it’s awful. The setup is clunky, the app doesn’t understand the function of the back button (hitting the back button exits the app, you always have to hit an onscreen button or arrow that’s always in different places), and the functionality is lackluster. Honestly, needing the app to set up WiFi functionality and stream local music is a shame.
This app allows you to connect multiple Jam speakers together if you’ve bought into the rest of the Jam ecosystem. You can also record messages like an intercom and play them, as long as you’re on the same WiFi network.
Support for Alexa services was also something that was very iffy. Asking it to play a song on Spotify resulted in one of two scenarios: either it would play a sample of the song with Amazon Music, or it would tell me Spotify is not supported.
Otherwise, Alexa understands you pretty well and performs much like you’d expect with the Alexa app. The lack of Google integration is a shame (Google Play Music would be a great addition) but it is an Amazon-enabled device.
If it doesn’t sound very good, there’s really no reason to buy one. You can pick up far better Bluetooth speakers for a fraction of the price without Alexa support. If Alexa support is very important to you, pick up an Echo Dot for your home or an Amazon Tap for the road.
I don’t see the appeal of a personal assistant that has to be manually triggered, but having Amazon Alexa around is certainly useful. I just don’t think she’ll be useful when you’re always reaching for a button and hoping the speaker is charged.
For $60, I can’t recommend the Jam Voice for any reason.