Bluetooth Speakers Back-Country Tested - FoxL V2 APTX


SoundMatters FoxL V2 APTX ($199)
By far the smallest speaker of the bunch at a mere 5.6" x 2.2" x 1.4", the Soundmatters FoxL had a tough time keeping up with the larger speakers for outdoor use. Its diminutive size just doesn't allow it to fill Montana's big sky like the other speakers with larger drivers. So, it didn't find much duty around the campfire.

On the other hand, once we were inside for the evening playing Farkle (a dice game) by the light of our headlamps, the FoxL performed well beyond its size. The unit is fairly directional and doesn't fill a room very well, but when you're in the near-field and on-axis, the FoxL did seem to have a sense of coherence and accuracy—within its frequency response range—that actually exceeded that of the other players. The FoxL V2 does have a passive radiator, and does deliver substantially more low frequency response than I had expected, but the small size makes it very had to get much bass. Once accustom to the lack of low frequency response though, the FoxL V2 delivered a very pleasing listening experience.

Soundmatters does make a sub-woofer companion for the FoxL, the FoxLO ($129) that I have at home but did not take on the trip as it's A.C. powered only. Adjustment of the FoxLO is a bit touchy as the volume control is quite sensitive, but once adjusted it did a fairly good job of filling in the lows. The FoxL V2 does remain fairly directional however, and while the paired with the sub I still find I needed to be on-axis for best listening. For filling a room with sound the other speakers in the test would be preferable.

The FoxL is available in three flavors: FoxL V2 Purist ($149) is analog input only; FoxL V2 APTX ($199, the unit tested here) for Bluetooth operation; and the FoxL V2 Platinum ($229) that includes AudioQuest premium cables and longer battery life. Bluetooth versions of the FoxL do act as a speaker phone when attached to smartphones. All three units accept analog line inputs via a 3.5mm jack.

Testing the FoxL V2 APTX against these other units in the wild is a bit unfair to this fine little gadget. While it really doesn't do well as an outdoor speaker filling space, and its very small size makes low bass response poor, it does a really fine job in intimate settings. When listening on-axis it produces a coherent and competent listening experience for its very diminutive size. I think the FoxL V2 is an excellent choice for business travelers and folks who want to pack along tunes when space is hard to come by.

Vacation Photo Interlude

Travelling back country dirt roads in Montana may seem like the perfect way to get away from all the hustle-bustle of the work-a-day world. But no, even here rush hour traffic can hold things up a bit.

Seth195208's picture

..for a couple of Montana boys. I got one for you. Try Gustavo Santaolalla. Just kidding!

veggieboy2001's picture

Thanks for sharing your motorcycle getaway (again).

As far as those paddle boards,it's supposed to be easier on your back than a kayak, and good for promoting balance. My wife & I will probably give it a try soon.

Impulse's picture

I remember reading the previous article but I don't remember if you ever shared what kinda headphone you take on a trip like that... Are you just enjoying the company too much for anything besides IEM (for riding?) or do you pack a rugged pair of small on ears or something like that?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Didn't take any headphones. Generally I don't listen to music while riding...just like to enjoy the scenery and moving through it. I do sometimes listen when road riding long distances on my FJR. In that case I'm currently using the HiFiMAN RE-400
Claritas's picture

Looks like you had a blast. "Selfie with bovines" -- love that title. Thanks for sharing.

zobel's picture

Looks the same as it did 32 years ago today when my wife and I had our wedding reception there. Yep its our anniversary today, so it was nice to see the place today. Thanks for the pics.

bronson's picture

your photos of the great outdoors, looks like you had a heap of fun :)

bronson's picture

your photos of the great outdoors, looks like you had a heap of fun :)

cel4145's picture

"In other words, really great sound is probably not in the cards for portable Bluetooth speakers; but reliably good performance with a variety of sources and in differing use environments is certainly within reach."

I did my own little test of <$150 range bluetooth speakers last fall, listening to half a dozen at home, and another dozen in stores in the where I could either pair the device with my phone or use the line in.

About half the way through the process, I realized was going about it wrong, trying to evaluate each speaker critically by standing right inf front of them. As you point out, they are meant to be used in a variety of environments, and in poor placement locations. Portable bluetooth speakers are meant for background music when the listener(s) are doing something else, not critical listening. We have headphones for that :)

oluv's picture

Interesting allegations about sound improvement of the Fugoo after the firmware update.

I also got a review unit recently with an older firmware. I did audio recordings as well as measurements with both the old firmware and then repeated everything with the recent firmware again.

Apart from a slight increase of overall loudness and also less distortion on top volume, I have not noticed any difference in sound. Neither from my audio recordings nor from the measurements. The Fugoo sounds still like it did before. It also measures quite well, with a bit of an upwards tilt towards treble, thus making the bass sound a bit conservatite although it reaches quite deep for a unit this size (down to 70Hz with still usable 60Hz).
Neither I noticed any loudness compensation, just bass reduction at higher levels. I did measurements at 45, 55, 65dB etc, and the curves are all parallel with bass reduction just starting to become visible in the 75dB measurement.

a comparison video which demonstrates the difference in loudness between old and new firmware:

ibiza's picture

I work as a skipper at a boat charter business in Ibiza and I keep dropping expensive phones in the water. This year I've tried a couple of bluetooth devices (they also fall in the water) and they're awesome. I can even walk around the boat without fearing to drop the phone.

Downforce's picture

I purchased an open box FoxL Purist directly from Soundmatters for $119 (price is currently down to $99) based on a Stereophile review. Look for the outlet section under the "Shop" heading on their homepage, it is rather well hidden. Loved it and it sounded great for about 2 years, when it developed static and noise, even with no source plugged in via the 3.5mm input. The warranty for open box items is a brief 90 days. The battery life is claimed to be up to 12 hours, but mine never lasted that long. Also, while the power/charger and 3.5mm audio inputs are labeled, they look quite similar and are easy to confuse. Ensure you turn on the speaker (it lacks an Auto Off feature) and reduce the volume before connecting it, otherwise it will be very loud and could suffer damage.

kadege46's picture

the information is very unique and useful for many visitors, thank you very much for all that you say it.
obat tradisional, manfaat alami buah, sukamanfaat.