review: Twelve South BassJump Portable Subwoofer for MacBook
December 3, 2010 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
The built-in speakers on MacBook laptops are better than what you find on a lot of other laptops, but they’re still too tweeter-ish to enjoy music on for any extended period of time. Any set of generic computer speakers can be plugged into the audio-out port on the MacBook for the sake of providing a real audio experience, but Twelve South takes a different approach with the BassJump. Whereas most computer speakers cut off the built-in speakers entirely in favor of their own three (or more) speaker units, the BassJump attempts to simply add a subwoofer to your MacBook’s built-in speakers. After all, when reduced to tweeter status, they’re pretty decent in that role. As such, the BassJump is one of the most intriguing Mac accessories I’ve encountered in some time.
And I made that conclusion before I even plugged it in. Out of the box, the BassJump looks something like a Mac Mini, albeit smaller, with the familiar brushed metal sides but a black top instead. In other words, it matches the styling of my MacBook Pro perfectly. It connects via USB, and for good reason. Connecting through the audio-out port would kill the built-in tweeters, so it’s necessary to begin with. But the USB connection is also for another reason, as a piece of accompanying Mac software (sorry PC users, this is where the train stops for you) allows you to control the volume of the BassJump relative to your computer’s overall volume, along with the audio mix between the BassJump and the built-in tweeters. It’s clearly a well thought out product, from its hardware design to its integration, and the whole thing feels, dare I say it, Apple-esque.
At the end of the day, audio is what matters when it comes to speakers of course. And to that end, the BassJump predictably doesn’t measure up to the best of the all-purpose three piece speaker systems you could get for the same $69. But that’s not a fair comparison at all, as the kind of systems I’m talking about have a subwoofer that’s a foot tall and tweeters which are each larger than the BassJump. As such, the BassJump is about saving space. And in that regard, I was pleasantly surprised that its audio output was at least sorta kinda in the same area code as the giant three-piece systems. In other words, while I’ve always found music coming out of my MacBook’s speakers to be annoying thin, the BassJump rounds out the sound enough such that it’s enjoyable.
The bottom line: if you’ve got a nice three-piece computer speaker system, the BassJump isn’t going to be an adequate replacement from an audio standpoint. But if you’ve declined to add external speakers to your MacBook due to space considerations, the BassJump is definitely a legitimate option. And for travelers, while the 1.4 pound BassJump isn’t something you’re likely to toss into your laptop bag, it would be easy enough to toss into your suitcase for use in the hotel once you get where you’re going. It’s certainly easy enough to move around the house if you use your MacBook in more than one room. And because it’s powered by your MacBook, there’s no power cable to drag along
One thing to keep in mind is that this will tie up one of your USB hubs, possibly forcing you to invest in a USB hub if you haven’t already. And my one gripe is that the BassJump software, which operates through System Preferences, placed menubar item in my Mac’s top menubar, which I wish it hadn’t done without asking. But if that’s my biggest gripe about the BassJump, then it says something positive about the product overall.
- I tested the BassJump with a MacBook Pro. I did not test the overall audio experience on a standard white MacBook (which I would expect to be about similar) or on a MacBook Air (which I can’t vouch for).
- Because the BassJump is so symmetrical, it would be very easy to place it upside down on your desk without realizing it, which would result in a significantly different audio output. Just something to be careful of.
rating: 4.5 stars out of five • price: $69 • TwelveSouth.com