By K.B. Gould
on 2.13.14

Anyone who followed CES this year saw the amount of new wireless Bluetooth speakers — an avalanche eclipsed only by the utter horde of new fitness trackers. It’s a jungle in both fields, with competitors trying to attract consumers with similar features in different packages at different price points. Still, it’s clear when a winner emerges from the pack. While the fight for the best portable Bluetooth speaker continues, one high-end contender threatens to end the competition: the foxL DASH 7 ($219), produced by Soundmatters, the same company that originally provided components for the best-selling Jambox.

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At 7.1 ounces, the slim foxL DASH 7 (did they really have to name it that?) shames the heavier 19.2-ounce Carbon Audio Zooka, the 21.1-ounce Native Union Switch, the similarly priced 21.5-ounce Jabra Solemate and the 11.5 ounce Beats Pill. It’s thinner too, the thinnest in the world, with a height of just over two inches and a thickness of only 3/4 of an inch. It’s a little long to stick out of a back pocket, but wouldn’t look out of place in a Prada purse or Ghurka bag, a nod to both its handsome profile and its durability. While we try not to drop our expensive electronics — leaving us unable to comment on the foxL DASH 7’s drop height to bounce ratio — we can speak to the fact that it feels solid, unlike cheaper, chintzier options. The magnetic, ultra-thin wrap-around cover, which can be folded to double as stand, helped keep the speakers scuff-free, even when tossed in a backpack.

In addition the device itself, the box contains an 5Vdc 2A USB wall charger and four international power adapters — just in case you want to go, you know, really portable. It also comes with a micro-USB charging cable (for computer charging), a high-power charging cable (for wall charging) and a stereo 3.5mm audio cable (for connecting non-Bluetooth enabled devices). Our main gripe, the far-from-user-friendly instruction booklet, comes in four languages, though thankfully the device only contains three buttons; it’s not too hard to figure out.

For such a small speaker, the foxL DASH 7 produces great sound. Under the hood, Soundmatters installed twoofers — “tweeters that woof” — that deliver clear mids and high tones. The “BassBattery,” a lithium-ion battery encased in rubber, acts as a passive radiator to produce the lows. At the highest volumes, something with heavy bass like the Arctic Monkey’s “Do I Wanna Know?” sounds fuzzy, but that’s the sacrifice you make for portability. Everything else we tried — from Daft Punk’s “One More Time” to Strauss’s “Four Last Songs” — sounded full and vibrant. For those interested in more powerful bass, a line-level output lets you connect the speaker to the FoxLo external subwoofer ($149, sold separately).

Thanks to a noise-canceling microphone built into the device’s front, the foxL DASH 7 also handles speakerphone calls. Other high-end portable Bluetooth speakers — the Jambox, for instance — also offer this feature, and the foxL DASH 7 performs with the best of them. There are the occasional hisses and pops that so often accompany speakerphone talk, but otherwise the second party was loud and clear, and they heard us just fine. This is a nice alternative to the iPhone’s subpar speakerphone option — not worth the price alone, but certainly a perk.

The 12-hour battery life puts the foxL DASH 7 at the top of its class, as does the Bluetooth range — around 50 feet, whereas comparable devices only get 30. These perks, combined with sound quality, weight and ease of use, make the foxL DASH 7 the best — though one of the priciest — portable speakers on the market.

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