Let’s face it: Portable speakers don’t usually make great substitutes for home stereos. That goes double for ultra-compact peripherals like the Anker SoundCore and UE Megaboom, which fall short of the range and depth full-sized systems can deliver. But thanks to a collaboration among Swedish engineering firm Dirac, Motorola, and JBL parent company Harman, JBL’s new SoundBoost 2 come close.
The JBL SoundBoost 2, a modular accessory that fits to the Lenovo Moto Z2 and Moto Z’s Moto Mods mount, looks like an ordinary, off-the-shelf Bluetooth speakers from a distance. But the magic lies in the JBL MySoundboost2 app, which taps Dirac’s patented Panorama Sound technology. When audio plays from the phone to the speaker, it is filtered through a cross-talk cancellation algorithm that isolates the left and right stereo channels and optimizes their frequencies. When the two channels reach your ears, they are separated — the right channel hasn’t been affected or compromised by the left channel, and the left channel hasn’t been muddied by the right.
The net effect is stereo feedback that mimics a muli-channel, surround-sound home theater setup.
“Through this collaboration, we are changing what the world thinks is possible from their mobile devices,” Erik Rudolphi, Dirac’s general manager of mobile, said in a statement. “This isn’t just more volume or a fake surround sound gimmick. […] Your brain hears far more than it expects or is used to hearing from a such a small device.”
As good as Dirac’s algorithmic filter sounds, though, it won’t work miracles. The laws of physics dictate that all else being equal, larger speakers produce crisper, clearer low frequencies than scaled-down counterparts like the JBL SoundBoost 2. And until we have a chance to put the Soundboost 2 through its paces, the jury is out on its raw performance.
But we were impressed by Dirac Audio’s Panorama Sound when we listened to it on a modified Nexus 6P smartphone at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. It sounded just like wearing a pair of headphones, but without the headphones — during a scene from space disaster movie Gravity, dialogue from the speakers sounded as though it was coming from earbuds.
“As the smartphone increasingly becomes a primary device for entertainment consumption — both while on-the-go and at home — consumers are demanding audio that’s equally as hi-res as its visual counterpart,” Rudolphi said. “By teaming up with these two market-leading pioneers to develop the Soundboost 2, we’re providing Motorola Moto Z smartphone users across the globe with a complete entertainment experience that’s both portable and immersive.”