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JBL Micro Wireless review: Tiny Bluetooth speaker plays bigger than its size

This hockey-puck-size portable Bluetooth speaker performs pretty well and has a good feature set.

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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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3 min read

With literally dozens of tiny portable Bluetooth speakers hitting the market, it's hard to tell, which, if any, you should consider buying. JBL's Micro Wireless is one such model, and while it doesn't offer a major sound or price advantage over its competitors, its attractive design and built-in line-out cord for connecting non-Bluetooth devices gives it a leg up.

JBL Micro Wireless
7.7

JBL Micro Wireless

The Good

The <b>JBL Micro Wireless</b> Bluetooth speaker is a compact, hockey-puck-size speaker that has a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery and offers good sound for its size. It also has an integrated line-in cable that stows away in the bottom of the device.

The Bad

Doesn't handle big bass well and distorts at higher volumes.

The Bottom Line

An attractive form factor and a good feature set give the JBL Micro Wireless a leg up in the tiny wireless speaker competition.

To be clear, this is a slightly different class of speaker from the Jawbone Jambox. The Micro is truly tiny, a mono speaker not much bigger than a Christmas ornament (yes, there's a hook for clipping it onto your backpack or a tree, for that matter) that weighs in at a mere 4.48 ounces. While it doesn't deliver incredible sound, it does offer impressive sound for its size, particularly if you're sitting just a few feet away from it (I have it on my desk next to my keyboard as I'm writing this).

The $59 JBL Micro Wireless has a built-in rechargeable battery that delivers 5 hours of listening time. Sarah Tew/CNET

While you can certainly plug it into a laptop and use it in wired mode (or pair it wirelessly with a Bluetooth-enabled PC), the other big application for it is to pair it with a smartphone or tablet. It's definitely a significant step up over the internal speakers of an iPhone or an iPad and plays considerably louder and offers some bass, though not a lot.

A line-in cord stows in the bottom of the device. Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, if you do feed it bass-heavy material, it can start to sound crunchy (read: distorted), especially if you crank the volume. To me it sounded best at midlevel volumes and like a lot of these smaller speakers, it performs best in the midrange, so it sounds better with acoustic material and lighter listening tracks. It's also makes a decent little speaker for movie watching on your notebook or tablet device.

The cord extended. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Micro has a built-in rechargeable battery (you charge with an included Micro-USB cable) that's gives you about 5 hours of listening time. That's not great, but it's not bad either, and par for the course for these smaller speakers.

Conclusion
I've reviewed a handful of this tiny wireless speakers and while I can't say the JBL Micro Wireless is a steal at $59 list, it's pretty fairly priced. You can step up to slightly more expensive Bluetooth speakers such as the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox, the AT&T Loudspeak'r, or even Logitech's older Mini Boombox, and get slightly better sound. iHome, Panasonic (SC-MC07) and others also make small Bluetooth speakers and plenty of ball-shaped wireless speakers are available. But I liked the Micro's hockey-puck form factor -- it rests nicely on a desk or can be propped up vertically (or hung somewhere). It also slips easily into a bag (or a jacket pocket) without taking up much room. And the integrated line input cable is an added bonus (there's also a second line-in port if you opt to use an optional extended cable).

In all, the JBL Micro Wireless is a well designed tiny portable speaker that's reasonably priced ($40-50 would be better, of course). While it doesn't deliver great sound, it plays louder and sounds better than its size would indicate, and should make for a good traveling companion for those who want to augment the sound of their laptop, tablet, or smartphone speakers. Recommended.

JBL Micro Wireless
7.7

JBL Micro Wireless

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7
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