BY LAURIE BRAND
The FUGOO line of Bluetooth speakers measure themselves to such a completely different standard that it’s near impossible to compare them equitably to other portable speakers — sound, battery life, and durability are just that extraordinary.
FUGOO’s portable Bluetooth speaker (especially our favorite model, the TOUGH) has got to be one of the most undeniable products we’ve ever come across. Not only can we can recommend it without any reservations, we think you’d be hard pressed to find any other speaker in its class that can match it (except maybe in one very specific area — but more on that later).
Granted, we here at WOTTCH are not a product testing laboratory. So feel free to take our proclamations in that light. Whatever science we have behind our assertions are borrowed from others.
But what we lack in scientific rigor, we make up for with a profound (nearly compulsive) fear of buyer’s remorse. A great deal of research and lip-biting goes into making sure that the thing we recommend is the thing we’d bring home ourselves.
Recommending a cool product is not something we do lightly. We understand the stakes. If the blush of that sweet new doodad sours into some post-purchase walk of shame, that’s nothing to be flip about. That’s a road of regret you’ll be tramping for as long as you have to live with the ill-favored gizmo.
We will not be a party to that if it can be helped.
That said, picking the exact best thing is often about making a compromise between conflicting needs, and landing on a choice that gets closest to the ideal.
Not so with the FUGOO. Its only real flaw turns out to be one of its greatest selling points.
The soundstage of the FUGOO is above reproach. Boasting six drivers, two to cover each range (treble, mids and bass), the FUGOO produces the truest, flattest audio replication of any speaker in its class. Music simply sounds like it was meant to be heard, without distortion or the arbitrary boosting of frequencies. The 360-degree placement of the drivers also ensures that the diminutive little speaker can very effectively fill a medium-sized space, while maintaining a clarity of sound that compliments everything from chamber music to dubstep.
Where some listeners might find fault with the FUGOO is in its lack of emphasis on bass. Necessarily, flat sound reproduction means not pushing any range unnaturally above the others. And because many companies over-emphasize bass reproduction in their speakers, people have come to expect that effect, even though it arguably muddies the artists’ intensions. The engineers behind the FUGOO would rather you hear what was actually recorded. In other words, they’ve chosen fidelity over fat bass. You’ll have to decide if you think that’s a pro or a con. It should be pretty obvious what side of the argument we fall on.
FUGOO’s fidelity to fidelity is also reflected in how the speaker handles volume management. When you take a speaker of its size and turn the gain up to “11,” it can’t handle the volume of air it has to push without distorting. On the other hand, sometimes you’re going to be okay with a little distortion if it lets you blast ‘Hey Ya!’ at the pool party.
The engineering wonks at FUGOO want you to have a “raise the roof” option. They also want you to know when you’re stepping over that line. The FUGOO’s default Normal Mode, limits volume to a level that eliminates the possibility of distortion. Loud Mode is for when the mood demands decibels above decipherability. A quick combo-press of the onboard buttons and the FUGOO is switched to a specially calibrated signal processing algorithm that delivers the best possible boosted audio, with the least amount of discernible stress to sound quality.
Other speakers will go louder and sound boomier (the JBL CHARGE 3 would be our alternate pick here) but wind up sacrificing some trueness of sound and a degree of portability in the exchange. It’s worth mentioning that no Bluetooth speaker in this size range is truly going to bring down the house. For that, you ‘ll want to move up a size class or two and look at the superlative FUGOO XL or the JBL XTREME.
For a speaker you can easily toss in a bag and cart back and forth to the office — or to the ends of the earth — the FUGOO is still the best choice. In addition to the standard features, like a speakerphone and paired audio assist, the FUGOO boasts IP67 certification, which will let it be submerged in water for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter. Handy if you want to strap it to your surfboard and enjoy some searing tunes as you bomb the line, or just to feel confident leaving it at the edge of the pool.
The FUGOO is made to weather most harsh climes, being engineered to withstand dust, sand, mud and snow, with little more than a splash of water to clean it up. The speaker is available in three exchangeable jacket styles — the STYLE, SPORT and TOUGH — the latter of which houses the speaker core in a rugged aluminum case that is additionally capable of being safely run over by a car. Though we’d still advise against testing it to those extremes, it’s about as indestructible a piece of electronics as you’re likely to find.
The final standout benefit of the FUGOO is one that we’re genuinely surprised hasn’t been more exalted in other reviews. With portable electronics, battery life is always a paramount concern. No one wants the party to end just as the sun is setting. When the FUGOO debuted in 2014, most of the top speakers in this class — like the now outmoded UE BOOM and JBL CHARGE 2+ — were boasting around 8–12 hours of real world battery life. Things have improved somewhat since, with the updated UE BOOM2 and JBL CHARGE 3 achieving around 13 and 20 hours respectively. But compare that to the FUGOO’s still unmatched 40-hour battery life and you can judge for yourself just how worthy of praise this diminutive wonder really is. You’ll probably be plugging it in out of convenience long before you need to out of necessity.
There you have it.
If you want a beefier sort of sound (and an equivalent amount of added girth), we recommend checking out the FUGOO XL, with its 35-hour battery life and a charging port you can use to juice your other devices. The JBL XTREME is also a worthy contender in the larger form factor. Its shoutier sound profile may appeal to some but the 14-hour battery will make it less appealing.
For a truly portable, great sounding, near-indestructible, wireless speaker, the FUGOO TOUGH is our unequivocal pick for 2017 and beyond.
- Stellar sound reproduction
- 100% water, dust, sand, mud, and snow proof
- Shock-proof construction
- Swappable jackets
- Small form factor
- Speakerphone and paired audio assist
- Industry-dominating 40-hour battery life
- Volume and bass can seem muted, having been
sacrificed to avoid sound distortion.