It’s not hard to find a Bluetooth speaker these days. It seems like almost every manufacturer is taking a stab at making one, or two, or three of them. With the greater level of choice comes a greater need to qualify which one is best for you. The Fugoo Tough XL is denoted by the suffix at the end that makes it seem like it’s huge. It is big compared to its predecessor, but its rugged design and booming sound are worth a listen.
If you’re not familiar with Fugoo, you’re not the only one. The company hasn’t been around very long, yet is made up of people who have earned their stripes in the audio business for years with other known brands like JBL, Harmon Kardon and Toshiba.
The original Fugoo Bluetooth speakers came in three different versions: Style, Sport and Tough. Small, but boisterous, they packed some impressive audio quality. The bonus, particularly with the Sport and Tough, was waterproofing and long battery life.
The Fugoo Tough XL is considerably bigger at 4x the size of the original, and still features the same design principles. The outer shell is called a “jacket” that covers the inner piece housing all the speaker components, which Fugoo calls the “core.” This two-piece setup means it’s possible to remove the Tough jacket and replace it with either a Sport or Style one later on. Doing it is pretty easy, too. All it takes it removing the two thumbscrews at the bottom and lifting the release latch to slide the core out.
The core itself houses four tweeters (two on each side), with two woofers and two passive radiators. These make up the highs, mids and bass, respectively. The extra space in the XL afforded Fugoo the chance to add some useful features, like playback controls on the top, making it easy to not only control music, but also voice calls and Siri and Google Now.
On one side, you have the power and Bluetooth buttons flanking the Aux-In 3.5mm jack. On the other, you have a flap you can pull down to reveal the regular USB, microUSB and power adapter ports. To keep the speaker waterproof, that flap has to be closed to maintain the watertight seal. The polyester flap that sticks out is there for an optional strap (separately sold) that you can attach to make it easier to carry the speaker around.
The microUSB port can be used to upgrade the speaker’s firmware. The regular USB port can be used to plug in a smartphone directly, which also charges the phone as well.
At the top are volume controls (+ and –) with an action button (O), alongside a play/pause button and track-skipping arrows.
The Tough XL has an IP67 rating, translating to being waterproof down to 3 ft. of water for up to 30 minutes, and is resistant to dust accumulation, too. Interestingly, it can also float.
I had the Fugoo Sport XL with me, as you can see from the photo below to demonstrate what kind of a size difference there was here.
Setting it up
Being a Bluetooth speaker, the main setup is to pair the Tough XL with a smartphone or tablet. Upon first turning it on, it goes into pairing mode automatically. To add more devices, I only had to hold down the Bluetooth button to put it in pairing mode again. The speaker can handle two devices at once, allowing for some flexibility in having two users stream music to it at once.
When I didn’t need to with Bluetooth, I simply plugged in my phone or tablet using a line-in cable to the Aux-In jack or a USB cable. A built-in voice prompt would tell me that the speaker was on and connected, and eventually what the battery level was at (high, medium or low). When turning it off, it would note that it’s powering off.
Fugoo’s 360-degree design means that audio spreads out radially, instead of focusing in one direction. This is great when entertaining guests at home or listening as a group outdoors. Despite its rugged fit and finish, the Tough XL isn’t really something that will withstand the rigours of winter. You can bring it with you to a skiing getaway, but I wouldn’t leave it outside in the cold for too long.
Being so much bigger than its predecessor, this speaker packs a serious boom for its size. The bass never truly overpowers the mids and highs, ensuring that vocals aren’t drowned out and individual instruments stand out. It also maintains this balance at higher volumes, which is impressive for a Bluetooth speaker. Usually, distortion creeps in when you pump up the volume higher and higher, but in this case, the Tough XL has a tipping point where it becomes fairly obvious.
And this applies to just about every genre of music. There was enough bass for me when listening to hip hop and electronica tracks, though I recognize that’s a subjective opinion. I played rock, smooth jazz, pop, R&B and 80s songs in a mixed playlist at the same volume to gauge how they sounded. The consistency between them was easy to appreciate, though I did adjust the volume for some of them.
Using the line-in cable that came with it, I plugged the Tough XL directly to my TV, especially for sports, movies and shows I wanted to watch. The speakers on my five-year-old TV aren’t great, so this quick setup turned out to be a nice improvement that I could appreciate when sitting directly in front of the screen. I also used it via Bluetooth when streaming content on a tablet in bed. Even with the speaker off to the side on a night table, I never felt like it was strange.
As a speakerphone, the Tough XL is naturally a major volume boost over any built-in speaker on a mobile device. The weak link was the microphone. Callers I spoke with either couldn’t hear me too well because I sounded distant or my voice lacked clarity.
Fugoo rates the Tough XL at 35 hours on one charge if volume stays at 50%. Since I usually had it higher than that, I found that it was closer to 25 hours. That’s still an impressive number for a speaker this size. If you plan to take this away with you for a weekend getaway or trip somewhere, bringing the charger is a must, as it’s the only way to top up the battery. Of course, charging a smartphone will reduce the speaker’s battery life as well.
Fugoo has done a good job in expanding on what was already a good product. The Tough XL is the most ruggedized of the three jackets, but since they are interchangeable, you do have the option to outfit it with one of the others when you want to later. With great sound quality, as far as Bluetooth speakers are concerned, this is worth a look if you want something that is reasonably portable and packs a big audio punch.
The Fugoo Tough XL is available now, though Best Buy currently doesn’t have the other jackets available.