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Micca MB42 review: Compact, stylish speakers on the cheap

The Micca MB42's classy, compact design makes it a top budget speaker when style counts, although Monoprice's MBS-650 sound better for even less.

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Matthew Moskovciak Steve Guttenberg
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Matthew Moskovciak

Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater

Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.

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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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4 min read

The Micca MB42 is one of the budget speaker darlings of Amazon, with more than 250 reviews that average 4.6 out of 5 stars. It's not hard to see why. With a manufacturer's price of $100 (though Amazon currently lists them for $60), the MB42s feel like more expensive speakers as soon you pull them out of the box, with a surprisingly high quality look and feel. (Pricing for the UK and Australia is not yet available.) They're also charmingly petite, especially next to other budget speaker faves, like the bulkier and boxier Dayton Audio B652 and Monoprice MBS-650.

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Micca MB42

The Good

The Micca MB42s have an unusually stylish and compact design for budget bookshelf speakers. Build quality feels better than average, including binding posts instead of spring clips for connecting speaker wire. And the sound quality is good for the price and size of the speakers.

The Bad

Larger budget speakers sound better for the same price.

The Bottom Line

The Micca MB42's classy, compact design makes it a top budget speaker when style counts, although Monoprice's MBS-650 sound better for even less.

Unfortunately, that compact size and style comes with a tradeoff: the MB42s don't sound as good as the larger Monoprice and Dayton Audio speakers. While none of these speakers can rock out a large room, the MB42 sound a little thinner and less detailed compared to its budget speaker competitors, especially on more demanding music like hard rock.

Still, if you love their look, the Micca MB42 speakers sound reasonably good and it's hard to argue with the price. But you want the absolute best sound quality at this price -- style be damned -- the Monoprice MBS-650 is a better pick.

Design: Classy on a budget

Of the three budget speakers we auditioned together, only the MB42s have a sense of style. That comes from a lot of little things: rounded edges on the cabinet, a faux wood grain finish, and superior build quality. Perhaps the biggest aesthetic benefit, however, is their small size, coming in at just 9.5 inches high, 5.8 wide, and 6.5 deep (24cm by 15cm by 16.5cm). Side-by-side, the MB42s look considerably more compact and classy than the Monoprice and Dayton Audio speakers, which have a distinctly generic appearance.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Remove the black cloth grille and you'll find a 0.75-inch (2cm) silk dome tweeter and a 4-inch (10cm) woven carbon fiber woofer. On the back, the MB42s feature sturdy binding posts that accept speaker wire terminated with banana plugs, spades, pins, or stripped bare wires. The binding posts are a nice step-up, especially at this price, as they provide a more secure connection than the spring-clips found on most budget priced speakers, including the B652 and MSB-650.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There's not much else to the MB42s. There's no built-in wireless technology, like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Airplay, nor is there any kind of integrated amplification. That means you'll need a separate amplifier or AV receiver to power the MB42s, along with an audio source like a CD player or Bluetooth audio receiver.

Sound quality: Good, but not great

We auditioned the MB42s on metal floor stands with about 4 feet (1.2 meters) from the wall behind them. Because of the speakers' rear port, they'll sound best with at least 6 inches (15cm) of clearance from the rear wall.

Impedance is rated at 4 to 8 ohms and power handling is specified at 75 watts, but the speaker will be a fine match with most AV receivers or integrated amplifiers when played at moderately loud volume levels. That's true for most small speakers, regardless of their power handling specs. We used two integrated stereo amplifiers, a Dayton Audio DTA-120 and a Peachtree Decco65 for our listening tests.

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The Micca MB42 needs to be paired with an amplifier and audio source -- both not included. Here it's paired with the Lepai LP-2020A and Logitech Bluetooth Audio Adapter.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Our first impressions of the MB42's sound were good; the little speaker makes a fair amount of bass, so it doesn't sound all that small. It didn't cry out for a subwoofer and in small rooms the MB42 will do fine on its own.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Judged next to our favorite, similarly priced speakers -- a fresh out-of-the-box Dayton Audio B652 and Monoprice MBS-650 -- the MB42 didn't fare as well. Those larger speakers' midrange sounded more evenly balanced, the MB42 was thinner and more recessed. There was less there on jazz recordings: pianos sounded smaller, drums were lightweight, and vocals had less body than with the MBS-650. The MB42 lacked the resolution of the larger speaker.

That said, the MBS-650's bass went no deeper than the MB42's; neither speaker has the power to really shake a room. The MBS-650 has a 6.5-inch (16.5cm) woofer and the MB42 just a 4-inch (10cm) woofer, but even so, their bass prowess was about the same.

The MBS-650s' size advantage was most obvious when we played Queens of the Stone Age's "Songs for the Deaf" album loud. With the volume pushed up, the MB42s sounded strained in the larger CNET listening room. If you're looking for speakers to rock out in medium and larger rooms, you can't get by with the petite MB42s.

Conclusion: Stylish, affordable, but not the best-sounding

It's not a total shock that the MB42s don't sound as good as the larger Monoprice and Dayton Audio speakers. With audio, bigger tends to sound better, so you're going to get superior sound quality for your dollar if you go with one of the larger systems -- especially the Monoprice MBS-650.

But that's doesn't mean you should dismiss the MB42s. If size and style are more important, the Miccas win easily over their boxy budget-speaker competitors. Its sonic faults became most noticeable when we were directly comparing it to other speakers, so they should sound fine unless you're a more demanding listener.

Ultimately, it may come down to where you plan on putting the budget speakers. Monoprice's MBS-650s look at home in a basement and garage, but the Micca MB42s are probably a better fit for an office or den.

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Micca MB42

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 7Value 9
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