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JBL Clip+ review: Top micro wireless speaker adds water resistance

This tiny speaker produces decent sound, given its diminutive size -- and now it's splashproof.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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The JBL Clip+ looks almost identical to the company's earlier Clip micro Bluetooth speaker -- and sounds the same -- but has one small feature addition, as the plus sign in its name indicates.

jbl-clip-plus-25.jpg
7.9

JBL Clip+

The Good

The JBL Clip+ Bluetooth speaker is a compact, hockey-puck size speaker that has a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery, offers decent enough sound for its size, and is water-resistant. It also has an integrated line-in cable that stows away in the bottom of the device, as well as speakerphone capabilities.

The Bad

It doesn't handle big bass well and distorts at higher volumes. It isn't fully waterproof.

The Bottom Line

JBL's Clip+ takes an already well-designed, travel-friendly and affordable Bluetooth speaker and adds water resistance.

It's splashproof.

That means you can take it out the rain or even rinse it off if it gets dirty. But you can't fully submerge it.

Like the original Clip, the 0.34-pound (154 gram) Clip+ delivers good sound for its small size and is available in multiple color options for $50, £45 or AU$80. This is a mono speaker and is designed to be laid flat or worn -- its signature design feature is a carabiner-style clip at the top that allows you to attach the speaker to a strap on your backpack, a belt loop or whatever else you want to clip it to.

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What you get in the box. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's unclear how much people are using these small speakers as speakerphones, but this model does offer that functionality, with a built-in microphone and a call answer/end button on the side of the speaker. There are volume controls too, and a dedicated Bluetooth button for easy pairing. Speakerphone quality was decent enough but not exactly business-grade.

Also on board is an audio input as well an integrated cord that allows you to connect the speaker to non-Bluetooth-enabled devices or the audio output on a laptop computer. It's pretty nifty how the cord stows in the bottom of the speaker.

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An auxiliary cord for connecting to non-Bluetooth devices is integrated into the bottom of the speaker. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

For what this speaker is -- tiny -- it sounds pretty good and plays with enough volume to fill a bedroom or small dorm room (it's a 3.2-watt speaker). There's some bass, just not a lot, and it will distort with certain tracks at higher volumes. For example, it didn't sound the greatest with the Alabama Shakes' "The Greatest" and Ishi's bass-laden "Push It" pushed it out of its comfort zone.

Like the original Clip, it's strongest in the midrange and it does well with speech and acoustic material, handling Queensryche's classic ballad "Silent Lucidity" with relative aplomb. It makes a good lightweight companion for a tablet or smartphone for watching movies, TV shows and sporting events.

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The carabiner-style clip. Sarah Tew/CNET

There are several other speakers in this category, including the Logitech X100 , which I think delivers slightly better sound for $40, £40 or AU$60. It isn't quite as compact as the Clip+ though, and doesn't have that integrated carabiner (instead, it has a shoelace-like loop at the top).

The Sol Republic Punk also sounds a little better, but it leaves off the speakerphone and costs around $60 or £60 (it's not available in Australia).

The Clip+ has a battery life rating of 5 hours, which isn't so great, but about average for this size speaker.

Conclusion

The new Clip+ lists for $50, but we're hoping that price gets trimmed to around $40 once it gains wider distribution and spends some time on the market. Depending on the color option, that's what you can pick up the original Clip for today. (In the UK and Australia, it's around £40 or AU$50.)

Like its predecessor, it's recommended if you're looking for a very compact speaker that can produce decent enough sound for its tiny size. It's arguably one of the best tiny wireless speakers out there -- and now it's splashproof.

jbl-clip-plus-25.jpg
7.9

JBL Clip+

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Sound 7Value 7
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