Tiny portable speakers aren’t generally something I’d associate with outdoor adventure, but the more I’ve used the JBL Micro 2 the more reasons I’ve found to carry it. It’s a small, rechargeable, battery operated speaker with a single 3.5 mm headphone jack for connecting to phones or MP3 players, and it’s uses are endless. I’ve been using this thing for a while now, and this is what I think.
Simplicity is the center of the design, having only a single button and a rolling volume control wheel for adjustment. A single center mounted 40 mm driver produces the sound, and the 3.5 mm jack can be wound around the speaker itself and tucked into the base for safe keeping. A single multi-color LED light shows how much battery is remaining, and an included USB cable is provided to recharge the built in battery. Also included is a light weight travel sack that protects the speaker while stored and keeps accessories close and tidy. The speaker can also be daisy-chained with more Micro 2s for more volume and better sound (although it will still be a mono output). The body has a built in loop for connecting the speaker to a backpack or hanging it out of the way. It’s available in three colors and retails for $39.99.
What I liked
My primary use for the Micro 2 is mountain biking. Often, I’ll choose to bike during the work week so that I can have entire trail systems to myself, eliminating the need to dodge other bikers on the trail. The only downfall to this is bikes are quiet and fast, and I’ve often found myself sneaking up on wildlife with abrupt changes need to avoid collision. I’ve nearly taken out a deer or two on multiple occasions (out the way slow pokes!). The Micro 2 makes for a great alerting system when I’m riding solo. I connect my phone to the speaker and play Pandora at a modest volume while riding, which still allows me to hear my surroundings (headphones don’t) but also allerts wildlife that I’m tearing their way. This has reduced my random and surpring up close encounters with wildlife dramatically, which is appreciated (curse the day that I drill a bear in the ribs with my 29er). The music is also nice as it keeps me amped up when my energy reserves are running low, and often provides a nice boost of morale when I need it the most; especially helpful at the peak of that long climb after thumbing the gear shift and realizing I’m already in my lowest gear. It fits nicely in most pockets of my pack and can even be stashed out of the way when not in used
Audio quality is pretty good, especially for the size and cost of the unit. The sound profile produces clear mids, crisps highs, and a generous reproduction of lows, without sounding like the unit is being strained to produce them. Mids are front and center, which emphasizes vocals and melody. Too many small speakers try to exaggerate their bass in an attempt to sound bigger or to fill in the entire audio spectrum, and they fail miserably. Luckily, the JBL knows it’s limitations and keeps the bass within it’s realistic limits which produces a distortion free, quite pleasant listening experience. It’s loud enough to fill most small rooms, and certainly provides more volume than is needed for most activities. Even at full volume, the sound stays clear and appreciable, lending itself to a wide range of genres.
I’ve tried many other offerings from both JBL and their competition, and the Micro 2 is near impossible to beat when it comes to clarity. Even more expensive JBL offerings cannot compete, as they tend to overcompensate for their small size with exaggerated bass that feels forced, unnatural and muddies up the mids and highs.
Battery life is very good, pumping out tunes for roughly 6-7 hours on lower volumes, which is plenty enough for a long bike ride or a nice evening picnic by the river. Charging is as simple as plugging the unit into a powered USB slot (computers work great). I’ve left the unit sitting for months on end without the battery draining on the shelf, which is nice for those spur of the moment activities.
Durability has been quite good, taking miles of abuse on the trail and around town with no signs of wear. I was initially skeptical of the long term viability of the thin audio cable, but a year later and it’s still going strong with no frays or signs of detachment.
It’s very small at around 2″ across, and is light enough that I don’t notice in my pack.
What I didn’t like
The only connection option is the relatively short 3.5 mm cable, which can be limiting. Picking up an extension is helpful, as otherwise your audio device will have to stay near the speaker which is a pain when trying to check your phone while it’s connected and tucked inside a pack. Luckily, the 3.5 mm cable provides a much better sounding and more reliable connection than Bluetooth can, so it’s not all bad. They do offer the original Micro and the Micro Clip which both offer Bluetooth for those who prefer an easy connection over audio quality.
Note of courtesy
I do not recommend using speakers in the backcountry where people are trying to enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature. Audio can carry surprisingly well (I’ve heard small speakers over lakes and through trees in the mountains before). Do be courteous and considerate when using speakers. Just because you’re not aware of the presence of others, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. I use mine in an urban environment, and only at levels that are audible just a few feet away.
The JBL Micro 2 is a fantastic little device. It provides solid audio at an impressively low price, and provides all day listening power on a single charge. The build quality is exceptional, and it’s so simple to use that a manual isn’t even required. If you don’t mind sticking with a traditional 3.5 jack for a connection ( I prefer this myself) It’s a wonderful option that actually outperforms many more expensive alternatives.
The highest of recommendations
for more information check out www.jbl.com
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