Last year, Yamaha created a small portable speaker called the NX-A01 that delivered gutsy sound in a space no larger than a Rubik's cube. It had only two considerable drawbacks: it had to be plugged in; and the US model lacked the Bluetooth audio capability of the version selling in Japan. Well, someone at Yamaha must have heard us, because their NX-B02 ($199) is an impressive evolution of the NX-A01--adding Bluetooth and battery-powered portability, into a taller, more elegant design.
Unlike its squat, cubic ancestor, the Yamaha NX-B02 reminds us of a miniature, modern office tower. Available in black, white, and red, each side of the Yamaha NX-B02 measures 3.25 inches wide, giving it a perfectly square footprint that extends 6.75 inches high. Yamaha's biggest design achievement with the Yamaha NX-B02 isn't what was added; it's what was taken away. One need only to look at the legions of flat panel TV owners running AV cables through their walls, to get a sense of how much people hate the sight of cables. Jumping on this cable-free bandwagon, the Yamaha NX-B02 takes advantage of battery power (four AA) and Bluetooth wireless audio, in addition to its wired power and audio connections.
The NX-B02's features are as streamlined as its design. The four buttons at the top of the NX-B02 control power, volume, and Bluetooth activation. The left and right sides of the NX-B02 each conceal a single 1.75-inch titanium cone driver and a bass port design from the NX-A01. On the back of the NX-B02 you'll find discreet connections for the power supply and 3.5mm stereo input, both of which are unnecessary should you choose to run the NX-B02 using batteries and Bluetooth.
The NX-B02 may be twice the size of the NX-A01, but don't expect twice the sound. We're happy to see that the NX-B02 is less prone to distortion at full volume than its predecessor, but sonically, the NX-B02 is only incrementally better than the NX-A01.