Laptops don’t have to be the only source of sound for small speakers. And when a speaker is this compact, this pocketable, it demands to be picked up and hooked up to phones and iPads too. Just don’t confuse the Soundmatters foxL v2 with the usual cheap tat billed as portable wireless speakers – this solid-feeling black bar just 140mm long reproduces music beautifully. See also Group test: What's the best portable Bluetooth speaker?
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Most little plastic PC speakers are light in weight and even lighter in sound quality, yet the Soundmatters foxL exudes class, in both its feel and its sound reproduction.
At 269g, it’s strangely heavy, a glass-filled-plastic case stuffed with a 4W stereo Class D amplifier, two innovative woofer-cum-tweeter drivers that Soundmatters calls a twoofer. And a lithium battery that doubles as a bass speaker, trademarked the BassBattery.
A little grille-shaped kickstand hinges off the back to let the Soundmatters foxL sit at a good angle on the table. Behind this stand you can make out the rectangular battery pack, suspended on a rubber diaphragm and acting as a passive bass radiator.
The actual sound drivers are the unusual twoofers, facing forward and standing proud of the main chassis as two spherical domes. These patented units use 1in voice coils, which seems exceptionally large given the moving domes are no larger. Across the entire front face is a perforated panel which prevents you from touching and damaging these drivers.
As well as a sound speaker to augment laptops and other mobile devices, the Soundmatters foxL v2 can be used as a hands-free speaker when paired with a phone. We found it just usable as such, with the usual distant-sound issue that made conversation a little harder than usual.
Soundmatters foxL v2: Performance
You can connect the Soundmatters foxL v2 through a regular 3.5mm minijack socket, or via Bluetooth A2DP. The latest version is said to support aptX, a near-lossless audio codec, although our older sample was only able to use the default SBC codec, which compresses the bitstream too heavily for our taste.
But over a wired link the foxL v2 gave an uncannily fulsome and rich sound. Held in the hand, you can feel the device’s palpable vibration as its battery gets excited.
Set down and playing music, upright bass had real texture, heard in the prelude and riff of Miles Davis’ ‘So What?’ before moving on to the ambling walking pattern. Trumpet and modal piano sat neatly over, projecting cleanly into the room.
Vocals were also flattered by the speaker, maintaining great diction and highly intelligible without standing forward enough to imbalance the mix.
With speaker drivers only around 100mm apart we can’t expect super stereo but the Soundmatters foxL nevertheless has a way of conjuring up a large soundfield.
Feed it some ping-pong stereo material like ‘Any Colour You Like’ from The Dark Side of the Moon and you can just pick out the left/right edges; but it still satisfies with that punchy yet expansive soundscape.
As you move your listening position around a Soundmatters foxL sat on a table, tonal quality remains strangely constant, rather than fall apart with the huge tonal shift that many speakers – large or small – suffer.
The spooky thing is just how much the Soundmatters foxL v2 can be appreciated... from outside the room. There's something quite wholesome and phase-coherent about its sound that makes it just as realistic when heard from afar.
Maximum volume level can be exceptional given the size. Powered from the internal battery, Soundmatters specifies the amp at 2W per channel. With the help of the Mini-USB charger connected, it stretches to 4W, and you can actually hear the extra few dB of sound pressure available.
Played flat out, we never heard clipping or driver bottoming, suggesting some crafty limiting to prevent damage to your sensibilities or the device itself.
The Soundmatters foxL v2 is distributed in the UK by Musical Fidelity.