Android-based Wi-Fi music standards have the same problem as the Android platform itself: Every company that makes a speaker has its own different idea on how it should work. There’s no real AirPlay for Android to function as a universal way to stream media from your Android smartphone or tablet to a wireless speaker. Each speaker brand has its own app and its own limitations. Pure’s wireless speakers is no different, including the Jongo S3. This $199 (list) rounded cube needs the Pure Connect app to stream audio over Wi-Fi, and that app seriously constrains what you can listen to. Fortunately, it features Bluetooth as an alternative wireless choice, and its price and portability make it appealing even without any Wi-Fi function.
Wi-Fi has a few strong points against Bluetooth, which is why AirPlay has become such a major speaker platform. A Wi-Fi-based audio stream can send more data through with less risk of interference. A Bluetooth speaker works fine on its own, but its bandwidth is limited compared to Wi-Fi and it can suffer from pops and gaps if you also use a Bluetooth mouse, Bluetooth keyboard, or Bluetooth headphones in the same room. Wi-Fi also has a greater range than Bluetooth, though it requires a wireless network to function while Bluetooth is point-to-point. In addition, Wi-Fi lets you use multiple speakers and devices at once without juggling device pairing; if a speaker is on the network, it can be used by any device that’s on the network. All of these things make Wi-Fi very appealing for multi-room and multi-speaker setups because they let users seamlessly switch between different speakers and rooms without going into a configuration menu.
That’s how Pure bills its Jongo series: as wireless speakers that can be kept in any and every room in the house while still making them as portable as a Bluetooth speaker. At this, the Jongo S3 succeeds. As a rounded near-cube of approximately 5.2 inches with a heft of 2.8 pounds, the Jongo S3 is chunkier and heavier than portable Bluetooth speakers like the Editors’ Choice Bose SoundLink Mini, UE Boom, or Jawbone Jambox (and a hair heavier than the 10-inch-long Big Jambox). It’s small enough to easily take out to a party, but you’ll want to think twice before just tossing it in a bag for casually listening to music in the park.
The speaker itself comes in white, black, and “Piano” (white body with black grilles) versions, but you can also get lime, burnt orange, and mango grilles to make the friendly cube more colorful. The grilles are clipped on very securely, and require an included plastic prying tool to remove them. The Jongo S3 is surrounded on four sides and two side corners with the rounded cloth grilles, white or black plastic covering the other side corners and base, and a black or white metal grille on top. It’s designed to sit with a corner facing the user instead of a side, and the front corner holds the Standby/Power button with colored indicator light, Volume Up/Down controls, and Mute buttons. The back corner holds Wi-Fi and Audio buttons for configuring the speaker and switching between modes, a small monochrome LCD to show the speaker’s status, and power, 3.5mm audio, and USB ports. The USB port is for use with the included Bluetooth adapter; the speaker on its own can only use Pure’s Wi-Fi streaming system.
To use the Wi-Fi streaming, you need to install Pure Connect on your smartphone or tablet. This app can play music on your device, tune in to streaming radio stations, or access a selection of free on-demand performances, readings, and nature sounds without any login needed. You can create an account on Pure Connect to access the Pure Connect music subscription service, which offers music streaming similar to Spotify or Google Play All-Access. Unfortunately, if you prefer Spotify, Google Play All-Access, or virtually any other service to listen to music online, you can’t play it through a Wi-Fi connection to the Jongo S3; the Pure Connect app handles all Wi-Fi music streaming, so you’ll have to use a Bluetooth connection for any media not available on the app.
The Jongo S3 gets satisfyingly loud, easily filling a room with music. It doesn’t sound all that great, though. The Bose SoundLink Mini and UE Boom both offer more clarity in the midrange and high end, and the SoundLink Mini has vastly superior bass. In our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Jongo S3 distorted quickly as I turned the volume up, and both the deep synth notes and kick drum sounded ragged.
Less bass-intensive sounds sounded better, but not great. The Protomen’s “The Hounds’” rockabilly beat sounded peppy and full of pop, but the vocals and guitar were a bit muddled and lacked the sharpness heard in the UE Boom and SoundLink Mini. Ninja Sex Party’s “Unicorn Wizard” features a piano intro that sounded warm and clean before the synth-heavy metal ballad kicked in, and the vocals sounded much more crisp since the guitar isn’t nearly as prominent or sharp as in “The Hounds.”
The Pure Jongo S3 is a solid performer of a wireless speaker with some interesting flexibility thanks to its Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functions. However, it’s chunkier and doesn’t sound quite as good as the UE Boom or the Bose SoundLink Mini, both of which are priced the same and Bluetooth-only, but sound much cleaner (and in the Bose’s case, has more bass) than the Jongo S3. If you want a simple multi-room setup that doesn’t rely on Bluetooth, the Jongo S3 is affordable, but there are better Bluetooth speakers in the same price range.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc