Monster ClarityHD Micro Bluetooth speaker review: A good portable speaker -- when it's discounted

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The Good Compact wireless Bluetooth speaker; attractive design with swappable speaker grilles for easy color changes; includes carrying pouch; built-in speaker phone for cell phone calls; supports the AptX audio codec.

The Bad Not a good deal at its list price of $199.99; battery life isn't as good as the Jawbone Jambox's.

The Bottom Line The Monster ClarityHD Micro is a very good little Bluetooth speaker, but it's only worth buying if you can get it for less than $125.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 6

Let's get something out the way from the get-go. Monster's ClarityHD Micro Bluetooth speaker isn't a good buy at $200.

That caveat aside, it's a good little wireless speaker that rivals the sound quality of the Jawbone Jambox and offers the same features, including built-in speakerphone capabilities, as well as sound prompts that guide you through pairing the speaker with your smartphone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled audio device. However, it's just not worth $200, especially with the Jambox selling for around $150 along with plenty of other good Bluetooth speakers.

Ah, but like a lot of products that have been out for a while, the ClarityHD Micro is being sold for lower prices at certain online retailers, which makes it a more attractive proposition. In other words, if you can get it for less than $125, it's definitely worth considering.

Design and features
The ClarityHD Micro is a fairly cool-looking compact speaker. Weighing 13.8 ounces and measuring 3.125 by 7.125 by 1.5 (HWD) inches, it's a little taller than the Jambox but a little less deep. It has an internal battery that recharges via a Micro-USB connection and there's an audio input (marked "line-in") for connecting non-Bluetooth devices. The unit has a rubberized bottom, which helps keep it stable when you crank the volume.

An on/off switch on back allows you to connect and disconnect your devices and after you set up a pairing, the speaker should automatically connect with that device when you turn the speaker back on (so long as the Bluetooth is activated on the device).

The Monster ClarityHD Micro speaker weighs 13.7 ounces and fits nicely in a bag. David Carnoy/CNET

Once you fire up the speaker, a male voice tells you, "Attempting to connect...searching..." and helps guide you through the process of connecting. Jawbone popularized the whole voice-inside-the-speaker concept, and it's found here as well as in other wireless speakers such as the Jabra Solemate.

Like those competing models, this one has built-in speakerphone capabilities. It also supports the AptX codec, which is found in some smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. It's supposed to offer cleaner sound when transmitting audio wirelessly over Bluetooth, but it's pretty hard to notice the difference in sound quality with a small speaker such as this.

The back of the speaker is where you'll find the line input and Micro-USB charging port as well as the on/off switch. David Carnoy/CNET

The other little design extra here is the option to swap out the grilles on the speaker, which comes in black or white. The replacement grilles come in various colors, but they're a little pricey at $20 a pop.

I should also mention that the speaker comes with a drawstring cloth storage pouch and hand strap. I'm not exactly sure when you'd use the hand strap, because most people would set this down on a table or flat surface and leave it at that. But I suppose if you were carrying the speaker around and didn't want to risk dropping it, you could attach the hand strap.

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