It's the usual story: you wait years for third-party Alexa speakers, then about a dozen arrive all at once.
A week or so ago I tested the mostly excellent Fabriq speaker, we'll have a review of the Vaux speaker soon and all over the place new ones are being announced, such as those made by Kitsound, Sandman and AC Worldwide.
This time round it's the turn of the Jam Voice, a clear Echo Dot alternative with added portability.
Design and build
Not heard of Jam before? It makes some really good, affordable Bluetooth speakers, such as the excellent Jam Heavy Metal, and has just announced some Airpod-aping wireless headphones. It also makes proper cheapo Bluetooth speakers with kerrazzy designs such as the ones that look like emoji characters and the ones with loads of flashing lights on.
The Jam Voice has none of those gimmicks, thankfully, and in fact looks pretty restrained in comparison to many other Bluetooth speakers. It's an all-black affair, mostly shiny plastic but with a rubber bit where the buttons are and a grille covering the top half.
The button in the middle with the big Jam logo on it is your means of summoning Alexa, and elsewhere there are controls for play/pause and volume. On the base you'll find the on/off and Bluetooth pairing buttons, and round the back there's a microUSB port for charging. For everything else, you'll need the Jam WiFi app.
It's nicely built, feels solid, and is pretty small - about twice the size of the Amazon Echo Dot. It's not waterproof - but then neither is the Dot - and unlike Amazon's own mini-speaker it most certainly is portable. Jam reckons its battery is good for about 4hrs of play time, and that's at the upper limit of what I managed to get from it.
Unfortunately, sound quality just isn't as impressive as that of the other Echo Dot alternative I recently tested, the currently US-only Fabriq, let alone more expensive budget speakers such as the RM449 UE Roll 2 or indeed Jam's own RM499 Heavy Metal.
The problem is mostly one of refinement. The Jam Voice's soundscape is all rather flat, with a real lack of contrast between the bass and treble. There is an onboard equalizer in the Jam WiFi app, but I could barely hear any difference even with the bass turned right up to max and treble right down. It struggles for bass in general, and the whole thing just sounds a bit muffled.
I don't want to be too hard on it, though, because that's all in comparison to the Fabriq, which isn't currently available here, or to other speakers which don't have the Jam Voice's Alexa skills. Compared to the Echo Dot it's still way better - that device isn't really intended to be a music player and sounds so tinny it should star in a Belgian cartoon with sidekicks Snowy the dog and Captain Haddock.
So the Jam Voice sits in the middle when it comes to sound: better than the Echo Dot, not as good as the Fabriq.