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Featured Review: FUGOO Tough XL Bluetooth Speaker

October 21, 2015 - Written By John Anon

When it comes to the Bluetooth speaker market, there is a massive selection currently on offer. That said, not all speakers are created equal and while some offer a more sleek design or added additional digital perks, there are some which are simply born tough. The Tough XL from FUGOO is a prime example of this type of speaker. While some claim to be durable, the Tough XL takes durability to the next level. This is a big speaker, with a big sound and designed to make its presence known.

Specs

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In terms of the specs, the FUGOO Tough XL is no lightweight. This one comes sporting an octa-design setup and makes use of four neodymium-magnet tweeters which are coupled with two neodymium-magnet aluminum-domed mid-woofers. Completing the setup is two passive radiators. Powering everything is four 12-watt channels, which collectively offer a total 38-watts of power. The frequency range on offer is 50Hz – 20KHz. In terms of connectivity, the main connection on offer is Bluetooth 4.0 which looks to offer a total connection distance of around 33 feet (10 meters). Although, the FUGOO Tough XL also comes equipped with a 3.5 mm stereo input for connecting devices directly as well. The Fugoo Tough XL measures 13.18-inches in length, 4.37-inches in width and 4.64-inches in height, while weighing just under 5lb (4 lb, 15 oz)

Design & Hardware

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There is no escaping that the FUGOO Tough XL is not designed to be pretty. At least, not in the conventional sense of the word, as this is still a very attractive speaker. Especially, if you like your speakers to be big, bulky and no nonsense. The speaker comes with a design which would not be out of place in the work yard (or a Terminator movie for that matter) and makes use of a metal and more industrial look and appeal. Therefore, the main bulk of the design of the Tough XL focuses on a sort of chrome and black look which according to FUGOO, is a mixture of “fiber-reinforced resin and solid aluminum“.

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Moving to the controls and this one does come with all the major Bluetooth speaker controls you would expect. Although, once again, the controls include a much greater degree of visual dominance. On the top of the speaker you have the volume up, down, track forward and back controls. Along with the play and a Google Now button (we will get to that later). However, they are rather spaced out and all come slightly recessed which was a nice addition. More often than not, the controls on Bluetooth speakers are far more congregated in a smaller space and often difficult to press or make use of. This was not the case with the Tough XL which offered extremely usable buttons. Although, this might sound like only a minor point worth noting (and it is), it does confirm that even the smallest design details have been thought about when designing the Tough XL.

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Moving to the one side (difficult to note whether it is the left or right side due to the rather symmetrical look of the speaker overall) resides the power on/off button, the Bluetooth pairing button and the 3.5 mm jack input.

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Moving to the other side and here is where you will find the microUSB and standard USB ports. Although, on first inspection, it is easy to miss them as they are hidden behind a panel which is designed to ensure the speaker’s overall waterproof nature.

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This is what FUGOO refer to as the speaker when it is in “Outdoor mode”. In contrast, when the flap is pulled, the USB ports are clearly visible and usable. At this juncture, it is worth pointing out that the Tough XL effectively has the capacity to act as a power bank and can therefore charge your devices while being used. The function was tested and does quite easily provide a stable enough charge when you need one, but charge times were not compared accurately to other charging measures as this is just a secondary feature on offer with the speaker. However, it is a feature included, which works and one which is worth taking note of

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Moving to the bottom of the speaker and the form factor continues with the more industrial and rugged look along with some molded feet for steadying the unit. There is also some sturdy handles positioned on both lower sides of the speaker which do help to make the speaker easier to carry and are sturdy enough to hold the weight of the speaker. Lastly, the front and back remain largely undisturbed and simply sporting a grilled effect. In fact, this grilled effect is evident on all four sides of the device and for good reason. FUGOO have cleverly implemented an omni-directional approach to this speaker and as a result, sound emits from all angles. Both the front and back each sport two of the four tweeters along with one of the two passive radiators. In contrast the two sides both sport one outwardly facing speaker.

Sound Quality & Performance

When it comes to the sound quality, it is a lot harder to fairly judge the Tough XL. There is no doubt that this is a bass heavy speaker. It really is. However, it kinda feels like it was supposed to be. A speaker built like this with clearly quite big passive radiators and outwardly facing drivers are designed to push the bass and they do. It just feels that the mids and tops are not as equally balanced. So depending on which side of the fence you sit on with bass heavy devices, will be the biggest indicator for whether the quality of the sound is right for you. There are no issues with the sound and it is round and full, just not as balanced as it could be.

In fact, this was most notably when bringing volume into the equation. For instance, at a low volume, this is very bass heavy. However, the higher the volume goes, the more the tops and mids start to come through and the balance adjusts to a more natural level. So at a higher volume, the balance is much better, while the lower you go, the more bass heavy it starts to become. Again depending on your tastes will likely determine whether this is a positive or a negative.

In terms of performance, this was generally pretty good. At some points, the connectivity between the smartphone and speaker was a little intermittent and occasionally would cut out out. But this was a random issue and not one which could be said to be happening frequently. Again, when it comes to the volume, this is where the connection issue is most prevalent. At louder volumes, the connection was more intermittent than when playing at a lesser volume.

Battery Life & Connectivity

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There were also no notable issues in regards to battery life. In fact, the battery life on the Tough XL is extremely good. As is the case with most of the bigger Bluetooth speakers on offer, these do come equipped with a large enough battery to easily get a user through the day. A battery which is more often than not, too hard to purposely drain out under ‘normal’ playback conditions. So while FUGOO do advise that the battery on offer will offer somewhere in the region of 35 hours of playback, this was not confirmed in any single sitting. However, what was clear is that the FUGOO Tough XL was able to easily play all day without battery life becoming an issue. This was consistently noted when the speaker was left playing in the background throughout the day. To go further, not only is the battery more than capable of handling your everyday needs, but the Tough XL also has a fairly good standby level of battery too. So if you do leave the speaker off the charge and not in use for a few days, when you do switch it back on, the battery remaining was significantly better than had been expected. This proved to be one of the real strong selling points for the Tough XL, as it is one which will offer a very good level of battery usage and longevity. Certainly enough for most consumer’s needs.

Once the battery does begin to deplete, the Tough XL will make this known to you by audibly sounding off that the battery is low. At the same time, the small light which displays on the connection side of the speaker will change color and begin to blink red (shown above), offering you a visual reminder that the battery is running low too. So one way or the other, the speaker does look to make sure the user is aware of when the battery is in a less than ideal state, so that it can be charged accordingly.

As already noted in the last section, there was a slight issue observed with the connection established between the speaker and a smartphone when tested. However, this was always an after-the-fact issue and most notable when the volume was increasing to what could be considered ‘too loud’ levels. In terms of the actual initial connecting of the Tough XL and a smartphone, there was no notable issues encountered at all. The Tough XL connects seamlessly when repeatedly tested. Simply fire up the speaker, hit the Bluetooth button and the speaker immediately appears in any Bluetooth enabled device’s connection list. Not to mention, you do receive audio confirmation that a connection has been established.

In fact, it is briefly worth pointing out that while booting up, most Bluetooth speakers adopt a very similar sort of connecting audio dialogue and sounds. On the Tough XL, FUGOO have taken the time to make the experience of turning on and connecting a little more individual. So during the boot up period, you will hear a little snippet of music being played (opposed to the standard and more commonly encountered start up sounds). This is not anything that offers any functional benefit to the system or experience, but is a nice touch as it does again highlight the level of detail that FUGOO has looked to include on their products.

One big selling point for the Tough XL which is definitely worth mentioning, is the use of the Google Now button (Siri also, if you are that way inclined). This is a button which is top located and when pressed will activate Google Now (or Siri) on your connected device. Meaning you can essentially completely control the audio content simply from the speaker and using voice commands. Although, it is worth pointing out that it is your smartphone that is picking up the voice commands and therefore, you still do need to be in close enough proximity to your device for it to be able to pick up your voice to begin with. Still, it is a nice feature and when you want to quickly jump to a song or album and are within reach of the speaker (and vocal reach of your Google Now enabled streaming device) it does prove useful.

Wrap Up

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Should you buy the FUGOO Tough XL?

The short answer is yes. This is a great speaker and one that genuinely feels like an actual speaker. The longer answer is that this is not for everyone. If you are turning to Bluetooth speakers for portability, then this is not the most portable speaker available. Besides, the fact that it is heavier than others, it is not the easiest to physically carry. But it’s not meant to be. If you are looking for the absolutely purest sound, then again, at this price point, this is not the best sounding speaker available. The lows are certainly there, but at times, it is unbalanced with the lows being far more prevalent than the mids and tops. Then there is the more fundamental issue of the cost. If you are looking for a more affordable Bluetooth speaker, then again, this is not the one for you. The FUGOO Tough XL does come with a $329 price tag and so it is right up there in the price spectrum and competing with many of the high quality audio companies.

That all said, this is an extremely rugged speaker and one which is designed to stand out. If you are looking for a speaker which can be used in a variety of environments, is water resistant, powerful, loud and one which comes with insane battery life, then you would be hard pressed to find a better alternative.