Although it's got a fun and innovative form factor, the Carbon Audio Zooka simply didn't have the audio chops to compete with the other three devices in this roundup. The sound from its two speakers was adequate, but not nearly as clear or deep as the other three. However, if you want a gift for an enthusiastic tablet user, and don't want to spend more than $100, you could consider it.
The Jabra Solemate did a fine job, and especially excelled at offering volume without distortion. It also provided a fine bass line, and I liked its design; if you occasionally use non-Bluetooth devices, the embedded audio-in cable is handy.
However, I think the two winners here are the Native Union Switch and the Beats Pill. In fact, I had a great deal of trouble choosing between them. Both offered very clear, sharp sound with good ranges and fine bass. The Beats Pill did a bit better at this last, so songs with a heavy background beat, such as the Blood, Sweat & Tears number, did really well.
On the other hand, the Switch was slightly clearer, so choral numbers with intertwining melodies, such as Bernstein's Candide finale, came off extremely well. I also felt that the Pill occasionally sounded a bit flattened with less bass-dependent orchestral numbers; but both did fine with quieter numbers, such as a single voice and piano.
So as far as those two are concerned, I would choose depending on what your needs are. The Pill's design is more convenient for carrying around than the Switch (even though it's slightly heavier), and if you want something to throw into your backpack or suitcase, this is the one to look at.
However, if you're looking for a speaker to use in a home office, I'd go for the Switch. It doesn't only offer fine sound (and is priced $50 less than the Pill), but it was the only speaker of the four that worked as a speakerphone without any digital glitches to get in the way.
Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter ( @BarbaraKrasnoff).
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