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Review: Fugoo blasts other Bluetooth speakers out of the water

The $179 Fugoo speaker and I were first introduced back in January, when, during a tradeshow, I heard the boom of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off, a splash, then an exclamation: "It's playing underwater!"

When I turned to look, I found a member of Fugoo's staff smiling and chatting with the aforementioned exclaimer. Both stood around a large fish tank, where several other staff members were dunking active Fugoo speakers, then tossing them on the floor with abandon. On an otherwise sleepy day, the booth was a beacon of sound and life.

Swimming with the fishes

On its face, the Fugoo is not unlike your average bar-shaped portable Bluetooth speaker: a couple of buttons, black speaker core, and connected via Bluetooth Low-Energy. But it sports a few extra perks that make it stand out from the crowd.

For one, the Fugoo — named and logotyped after the Japanese word for pufferfish — is waterproof. Those initial water tests at the tradeshow booth were impressive enough, but having dunked, played, and otherwise tortured the speaker in an Irish infinity pool and lakes across the country, it holds up.

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Officially, the Fugoo has an IP67 rating: It's fully dustproof, and waterproof up to 1 meter/3 feet for 30 minutes. One Fugoo representative told me that they'd tested the speaker up to 10 feet, but they had trouble getting Bluetooth to reliably connect below 3.

To be straight, here: You're not really going to want to play your music routinely underwater. Sound waves and water don't really get along, and though getting to watch water droplets bouncing around the Fugoo speakers is a pretty cool science experiment, it's not something you're going to do on a regular basis.

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But that level of waterproofing means not worrying about where you drag the Fugoo. Outside. On a boat. Strapped to your bike, or on a hiking trip. By the pool. Wherever you want to bring this petite little speaker, you can.

Battery life for days

On top of that, the battery life is incredible. The Fugoo's stated battery life is a whopping 40 hours at 50 percent volume, and it more than met those expectations.

As a longtime Jambox fan, I was often burned by its 10 hour battery — I'd forget to charge it, pack it for a trip, and wind up with a paperweight. Contrast that with the Fugoo: In my first two weeks testing the speaker, I only had to charge it once. This period included trips to my roller derby practice space, San Francisco, and Ireland, and a fair number of pools. 14 days is pretty stellar battery life for just about any connected device, but for a Bluetooth speaker? I was in heaven.

Big sound, itty bitty speaker

The sound quality is excellent, too, both indoors and outdoors. The Fugoo sports six speakers and drivers all around its body, which makes for a rich, booming experience. You can stick the Fugoo on its side, wrap it on a pole or bike with optional attachment, or shove it into the snow, and it still sounds great.

Like any portable speaker, it does sacrifice its bass/treble balance somewhat, steering away from the heavy deep bassification you'll find in other small options. And because the Fugoo has no custom equalizer app, you don't really have the option to adjust to your preferences. The company's sound choices work just fine for the mix of music I listen to — classic rock, classical music, indie pop, hip-hop, and podcasts — but everyone's musical preferences are different.

If you want to go old-school and avoid the Bluetooth connection (or just don't have a device that supports it), you can still hook up a 3.5mm cable to the Fugoo for some wired music.

Control the room

The Fugoo offers three buttons on its surface — volume up, play/pause, and volume down — along with a Bluetooth pairing button and power on/off on its side.

You can use that center button to play or pause music, as well as activating Siri or Google Now, if you're paired with an iPhone or Android device. Siri works, but not as well as it does on the iPhone or Apple Watch; the microphone isn't quite as fabulous as the Fugoo's set of speakers.

You can also use the volume up button paired with the play/pause button to skip to the next song, or volume down with play/pause to return to the previous song.

Fancy jacket required

The Fugoo isn't just a great speaker: It looks fantastic, too, thanks to a series of removable jackets you can slide on and off. Those three options — Style, Sport, and Tough — each cater to a different type of speaker use.

The $179.99 Style almost looks like a fashion clutch: The jacket is covered in a fine silver, black, red, or tan waterproof cloth covering with a fiber-enforced resin shell, and almost sparkles in direct lights or sunshine. It's the least durable of the three, and the one pictured in this review.

The $199.99 Sport is probably the best all-around option for most people, offering a shock-absorbing rubber trim around the fiber-enforced resin shell, and deals with dust and dirt much better than the Style. I used the Fugoo with this jacket for several outside encounters, and it still looks brand-new.

The $229.99 Tough is the lone jacket/Fugoo pairing I didn't get to try, but it promises even tougher comprehensive coverage, keeping your Fugoo safe from drops, spills, and... getting run over by a car?!

Yeah.

If you want to collect a few different jackets, they're all available separately from the core Fugoo speaker for $29.99 (Style) (opens in new tab), $39.99 (Sport) (opens in new tab), and $79.99 (Tough) (opens in new tab), respectively.

Bottom line

After several months of testing, I don't feel hyperbolic in declaring the Fugoo my favorite portable Bluetooth speaker, hands down. The battery life alone gives it a huge edge over every other speaker I've tried; pair that with great sound, waterproofing, and easy controls, and you've got a solid device. My only wish is software-side: I'd love to see options for configuring an equalizer, or hooking up the Fugoo with other Bluetooth speakers for chained audio.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

1 Comment
  • The Fugoo is awesome, but for $200 (or more if you want the rugged case), it's a little steep for me. ECOXGEAR is a interesting company to watch. They specialize in outdoor speakers that are super waterproof and rugged. Although the battery is not quite as big, I really like their ECOstone model. It's only $89 at Costco or $95 on Amazon, and you get a lot for that. It's a powerful 24w speaker (2 speakers, 12w each) with a passive subwoofer, which comes in handy outdoors where portable speakers never seem to be loud enough. It's also fully waterproof. In fact, they rate it as being fully submersible to 6 feet deep for 30 minutes with no ill effects. And it floats! So you can have it next to you in the pool, or hiking through streams, etc without worrying about it. Plus, it's also massively impact and dust proof. So dropping it on rocks or taking it to the beach is no problem. It also includes a power bank to charge your devices and a built in flashlight (both handy when camping, etc), simple and seperate buttons for each function, led indicators for battery levels, connection status, etc. Battery life is the biggest difference here with Fugoo. ECOstone lasts a respectable 12 hours, but not close to Fugoos 40. However, ECOXGEAR has already announced a new model called the ECOcarbon that is supposed to have much higher battery life at a similar price point. And they are also coming out with a very small model called the Pebble Power Bank that will offer 50+ hours of music, along with the power bank feature and full waterproofing as well. For outdoor rugged speakers, keep your eye on ECOXGEAR.