Name: Twelve South BassJump
Anyone who owns a MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air knows the Achille's heel of each laptop is the audio performance. Those tiny speakers are just ill suited for anything except the simplest of preview tasks, lacking range, especially in the low end of the audio spectrum. Mac accessory specialists, Twelve South, aimed to tackle the issue with a subwoofer add-on specifically designed to add some of that missing bass. They sent us a BassJump to review to determine whether you could create a 2.1 experience with their audio solution.
Unboxing: Let's begin with Twelve South's packaging: very, very nice attention to detail, from a textured box that could be easily reused in a myriad of ways (in fact, the company includes a commendable list of recommendations) to the safely padded interior. The BassJump looks every bit the part of a perfect Apple computer complementary accessory from a design perspective, shipping with a USB mini jack cable (connects and powers) and a padded travel case.
Setup requires downloading a system preference software, which adds the ability to customize settings for specific types of music, controls the volume and the crossover frequency. Once this is installed and you restart your system, the BassJump is now ready to plug-in and use.
Performance: We recently purchased a pair of the 1st gen Neil Poulton speakers on discount for times when we want background tunes at moderate sound levels in our tiny home office, where loud audio isn't required. They're perfectly adept for normal listening and a huge jump from the MacBook Pro's internal speakers. But without a sub, the sound lacks the richness and deep end we'd prefer, especially for bass heavy tunes, so we were curious to see how the BassJump compared to our current USB speakers.
First we reacquainted ourselves with what audio sounds like sans any USB speakers on the MacBook Pro. It was as horrible as we remember it; listening to a couple tracks from ambient podcast site The Quiet Sounds and then delving into the more bass heavy beats from Pacific Division's Sealed for Freshness Blendtape reminded us quickly why we felt a dire need to accessorize with the Lacie speakers in the first place. Listening to the tracks again with the LaCie speakers, the sound was improved tenfold, but lacked a certain and obvious element of the audio spectrum for both ambient and beat driven tunes, especially at higher volume.
Finally, we used the BassJump preference to switch on the internal MacBook Pro tiny speakers again, but this time joined by the BassJump. Connected and powered by a single USB minijack cable, the 77mm subwoofer speaker cone of the BassJump immediately converts a shallow-tinny 2.0 sound into a richer 2.1 experience, arguably more satisfying than even the USB speakers. It's not an audiophile experience by any means, but it is indeed a noticeable and immediate improvement we were surprised to note with any track we threw at it. Midrange felt bolstered by the bass, while the MacBook Pro's speakers were converted into sufficient tweeters, the overall sound becoming much more balanced.
What we liked: the modern minimalist design, the simple setup and the inclusion of customizing software preference to tweak the unit to your listening habits. The BassJump looks fantastic and is well constructed, especially looking the part when situated underneath the Apple LED Cinema Display. The sound is very impressive across a genre of music, and at $79.95, we'd happily recommend this as a stocking stuffer idea for Apple laptop users (or just for yourself).
What needs improvement: our only slight against the BassJump is the inability for the unit to work with any audio output except the internal MacBook/MacBook Pro's speakers. It does not work in conjunction with the Apple LED Cinema Display's speakers nor our Lacie USB powered pair. Twelve South also notes that although the BassJump can be used with an iMac, the unit only produces only a "marginal improvement to the sound of an iMac", so this is really just an Apple laptops' solution. We hope in the future there's a software upgrade which allows the BassJump to also operate as a complementary subwoofer with any 2.0 speaker solution. Minus this issue, the BassJump would be a Strong Recommend.
77mm subwoofer speaker cone
-6dB at 50Hz-20kHz Frequency range
80dB Signal-to-noise ratio
Mac OS 10.5.8 or later. Fully 10.6 (Snow Leopard) compatible
$79.95 from Twelve South or the Apple Store