It's a speaker that looks like a shoe, that's the immediate take-away from the Jabra Solemate, but does the funky looking device actually work, sound good, and be something you'll want to put in your bag? We got listening to find out.
The shoe cue comes from the rubber base that has treads just like a pair of trainers. Like your running shoes, this gives it incredible grip qualities, as well as meaning you can dump it anywhere without the fear of scratching the surface or it slipping to the floor - unless you put it on the floor, in which case it will stay there.
Small and compact, the speaker is still fairly heavy, given its size, but that's because it includes an integrated subwoofer and dual tweeters to keep you banging even in the most mobile-minded of places.
Completing the shoe design ethos there's a fabric loop, with which you can attach it to a belt. It's mainly superfluous, but it does add to the overall look and feel of the speaker. Think of it as a nice embellishment rather than a necessity.
Controlling the speakers is done via three easy to use buttons for volume and accepting calls on the top and a further array of smaller buttons and connection slots on the side.
Finally on the bottom - where the tread is - you'll see a 3.5mm stereo jack cable, for connecting to your phone if you are reluctant to use Bluetooth. This is nice and out of the way, and fits well with the amount you're likely to use it - not all that much, in our view.
Connecting a device
The Bluetooth means no wires and connecting your phone to the speaker is incredibly easy. Rather than having to find a secret button combination to get the speaker to pair with your phone all you do is flick the power switch one step further than "on", and in to pairing mode.
Instead of alerting you that you are ready to pair via a glowing light - as is normally the case - the Jabra Soulmate talks to you. "Go ahead and connect me, use the Bluetooth setting on your phone," the voice says, as if it trying to chat you up in a bar.
It's slightly off-putting, as you can imagine. Thankfully if you are preparing to connect only one device to the speaker you'll only have to go through it once. You can of course pair multiple devices, but only one device can be connected at any time.
The Jabra Solemate can be used for handsfree calling too, so it can double up as a speakerphone. Our advice is that you should ignore this feature, because it's rubbish.
While we could perfectly hear those whom we phoned, everybody who talked to us reported that the call quality was awful and insisted we talk to them direct from our phone before the conversation continued.
Voice might be awful, but music isn't. We are really impressed with the sound quality of the Jabra Soulmate, considering its size, and the fact that it is battery-powered (around eight hours on a single charge).
The Jabra Solemate coped with most tracks we played however does struggle with very heavy bass.
We tried it on a number of different types of tracks from Timerbland's If We Ever Meet Again to Tracy Chapman's Fast Car. It even managed to cope with a number of specially recorded bass tracks we use at Pocket-lint to test low-level frequency performance, although it started to struggle when the going got really tough.
The bottom line is that you will be pleased with the performance, especially if you are planning on using the Solemate for hotel rooms, picnics or holidays on the beach.
The Solemate is small, compact, idea for travelling, and comes with a handy carry case that doesn't affect performance so you can chuck it around on the beach and not worry too much about getting it dirty.
Where the Solemate falls short is in the voice calling capabilities. It is really bad. It might punch above its size when it comes to listening to music, but we don't recommend it for voice calls.
Good tunes equal good times, and this little speaker will certainly deliver that as long as you're not looking to speak to anyone.