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JBL Go 2 review: A mini Bluetooth speaker that offers maximum portability

The second-generation of JBL's tiny, entry-level Bluetooth speaker, gets full waterproofing along with a better design and sound.

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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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JBL sells a wide range of wireless Bluetooth speakers and its Go line, now on the second generation Go 2, is the smallest and least expensive of the bunch.

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JBL Go 2

The Good

The JBL Go 2 is a very small wireless speaker that fits in a pocket and sounds decent enough for its tiny size. Its design and sound have improved from the original and it's now fully waterproof. Plus, it has speakerphone capabilities.

The Bad

It doesn't have all that much bass and its battery life isn't great at 5 hours.

The Bottom Line

While it won't rock the house, the JBL Go 2 is an appealing little Bluetooth speaker.

Truth be told, the original JBL Go speaker looked and felt a little like a toy speaker, weighing in at a mere 130 grams. This new version, which comes in many color options and costs $40, has been bulked up a bit -- it weighs 184g -- and has its corners rounded off. It's also fully waterproof, with an IPX7 rating. That means it can be fully submersed in 3 feet of water (1 meter) for up to 30 minutes).

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The original Go (left) compared to the new Go2 (right). 

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the speaker is a little heavier, it's very similar in size to the original and is designed for maximum portability. It takes up little room in a backpack, laptop bag or purse, and will even fit in a lot of pockets. Overall, it feels more substantial and more like a real speaker than child's plaything. 

Battery life, like the original, is rated at 5 hours at moderate volume levels (that's not great) and the power rating on this speaker, for what it's worth, is 3 watts. It also performs reasonably well as a speakerphone (there's a built-in microphone).

On top of the speaker you'll find volume controls, a pause/play button and a dedicated Bluetooth button for pairing the speaker to your phone or another Bluetooth-enabled device. A 3.5mm audio input and the Micro-USB charging port (it takes 2.5 hours to charge the speaker) are tucked underneath a gasket on the right side.

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An audio input and USB port are covered by a gasket.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As far tiny speakers go, sound quality is relatively good. I compared it to the original Go and the Go 2 plays a little louder with more bass. Even so, as you might expect, this speaker overall is short on bass and won't exactly rock a room, even a small one. Bose's more expensive SoundLink Micro plays bigger and sounds substantially better, but it costs 2.5 times as much.

While this might not be a great speaker for music listening, I though it did pretty well as a companion speaker for watching movies or streaming other video content. Because the speaker is called the Go, I streamed the 1999 movie Go (remember that one?) and didn't encounter any audio/video syncing problems. Since these tiny speakers tend to be strongest in the midrange, dialog plays particularly well through the speaker.

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The speaker can be fully submersed.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're trying to decide between this and JBL's Clip 2 or Clip 3, you're going to get similar audio quality but in a different form factor. I haven't tested the Clip 3 yet, but it's supposed to offer slightly improved sound over the Clip 2, so it may sound slightly better than the Go 2, with slightly better bass response. The big difference is that you'll get twice the battery life (10 hours) from the Clip 3. However, it does cost $20 more. (We'll update this review once we get the Clip 3 in.)

Despite its sound limitations, the JBL Go 2 is an appealing little Bluetooth speaker. It should cost closer to $30 or about £22 or AU$40 converted (you can find the original Go for close to $25), but I'm not going to knock it too hard for that. It should drift down in price with time and become better value.

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JBL Go 2

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 6Value 7
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