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Go + Play boom box leaves less room for boom

CNET's Donald Bell reviews the Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro, a portable speaker designed for the Apple iPhone and iPod.

When Harman Kardon told me it was launching a smaller version of the excellent Go + Play iPod boom box, I was expecting something, well...small. Even the name sounds cute: the Go + Play Micro.

Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro
The Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro Josh P. Miller/CNET

But when the product arrived on my desk, I thought the company sent the wrong product. I reviewed the original Go + Play only a year ago, and this thing looked nearly identical--a futuristic bowling bag of sound rendered in brushed aluminum and black plastic. Sure, it lost about an inch on the back and sides, but it was in no way micro.

Only after turning it on and turning it up did I realize what Harman Kardon had managed to shrink on this boom box: the sound. The original Go + Play could get loud enough to wick the moisture from your eyeballs. The new version will barely wake your roommates. The sound quality has taken a hit as well, struggling to deliver midrange out of a clever combination of tweeters and a dedicated woofer.

Don't get me wrong, the Go + Play Micro is actually one of the better-sounding portable systems out there--especially held up to the fold-flat "throw it in your backpack" speakers from companies like Logitech and Altec Lansing. Ultimately, the problem is the price. The suggested retail is $399, with a street price closer to $300.

But what hurts me more than the price tag is the fact that Harman Kardon actually got it right the first time around with the original Go + Play. The new version adds important compatibility with the iPhone and newer models of iPods, but the rest of the product is just a series of compromises on the original design. The remote control went from an RF beauty to an IR biscuit, the wattage has been cut in half, and the midrange has been amputated. It's still a good (overpriced) portable speaker, but it pales in comparison to its former glory.

Such is life.

Read the full review of the Harman Kardon Go + Play Micro.