Frivolous Internet Purchases, Part I

TwelveSouth BassJump

There’s usually two kinds of online purchases. There are those that you do a ton of research on, looking up reviews, spec sheets, comparisons with other similar products, and whether anything else even comes close to offering better value for money.

Then, there are the ones where you just pull the trigger on something without looking into it beforehand, thinking it will satisfy a particular need or want. Others call these “impulse purchases”, I believe, but I prefer the term “frivolous internet purchases”.

The TwelveSouth BassJump 2 I recently purchased falls squarely into the latter category.

Strangely enough, I couldn’t find it from any of my usual Australian retailers of TwelveSouth gear, so I jumped onto Amazon and ordered it from there. Ordering from Amazon meant it took a little longer to arrive, but I wasn’t in a massive rush to get it anyway.

Before we talk about the BassJump 2, I suppose I better explain why I wanted one in the first place.

I use a set of Audioengine 2 speakers at my desk. They’re a 2.0 set which I bought back in 2009, and I love them to death. They rank among the best speakers I’ve ever used, and are definitely the best 2.0 set I’ve ever come across. I had nothing but praise for them back in 2009 — and in 2014, they continue to impress me with their consistently balanced sound, great mid-range, and capable, punchy, bass.

But as good as they are, I get kind of jealous when I hear the chest-thumping, wall-shaking bass from other, albeit pricier, 2.1 systems. We have a set of Bose CineMate GS Series II speakers at work, and any time we crank up the bass on those bad boys you can feel it. Even the more humbly-priced Companion 5 have much more epic bass by comparison. While I’m generally OK with the bass produced by the Audioengine 2s, it doesn’t scale well — at higher volumes there just isn’t the same amount of bass as there should be. Obviously, units with a dedicated subwoofer will pump out the low-end more than my lowly 2.0 set ever will, but I wondered if there was a way around that didn’t involve adding a bulky bass unit to my compact setup.

Hence, the TwelveSouth BassJump. Technically, the BassJump is marketed as a bass-extension to the inbuilt speakers of any portable Mac, but I thought it’d be able to serve as a compact subwoofer for my Audioengines, too.

It could, and kind of couldn’t, at the same time.

After installing the BassJump driver, I had to plug my Audioengines into the headphone jack1 on my MacBook Pro. Combining the Audioengines and the BassJump was pretty underwhelming — the BassJump just didn’t have the amount of bass that I was expecting, and honestly, the Audioengines produced better bass by themselves, without using the BassJump as a separate subwoofer.

In hindsight, it was probably a little much to expect the same amount of bass as the CineMate’s gargantuan, almost PC tower-sized subwoofer, from a USB-powered subwoofer the size of a desktop external hard drive. I guess that’s why they call them frivolous internet purchases, right?

In any case, the BassJump is great for what they’re marketed as, i.e. a companion to your built-in speakers on your portable Mac. It actually does a great job of providing some much-needed low-end when paired with your inbuilt speakers, which handle mids and highs OK by themselves. But if you already have a great set of 2.0 speakers and are looking to add a little wall-shaking thump, my recommendation is to look elsewhere — there’s probably a reason all dedicated subwoofers are big, bulky things.

  1. I knew beforehand that the BassJump was powered by USB, but didn’t know they wouldn’t be compatible with my Thunderbolt dock (the Belkin Thunderbolt Express dock, for those interested). Normally I plug everything into my Thunderbolt dock, including my display, Ethernet, Audioengines, external USB hard drive, iPhone dock, and another USB hub, and that works fine — getting all those peripherals connected to my MacBook Pro via one Thunderbolt cable is great.

    But the headphone jack on the Thunderbolt dock shows up as a UPnP audio device on the Mac, which the BassJump driver somehow overrides in order for it to do its own thing over USB, which is why I had to plug in my Audioengines directly to my computer via the headphone jack — the usual UPnP sound device of the Thunderbolt dock had simply disappeared after I installed the BassJump driver. It may also be worth noting that it did not reappear even after uninstalling the BassJump driver. I ended up removing a file called “BassJumpOverrideDriver.kext” from /System/Library/Extensions, reboot, and then my Thunderbolt/UPnP audio device magically re-appeared again. 

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