JBL's Clip Bluetooth Speaker

JBL's Clip Bluetooth Speaker

The appeal of a portable Bluetooth speaker is in the potential to bring sound with you everywhere. There's a catch, though: the smaller the speakers get, the more sound quality gets sacrificed. JBL's hockey-puck size Clip overcomes physics, pumping out jams that sound better than many speakers twice its size.

The 4.2 by 3.4 by 1.6-inch Clip is tiny and tough, with a hard shell covering the 1.5-inch driver. While not waterproof, the speaker handled some hard knocks and plenty of jostling during testing. JBL integrated a carabineer clip into the top, giving the speaker its name but also providing a handy way to attach the speaker to your backpack or belt loop. At a third of a pound, the speaker doesn't add much weight to our load, either.

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Many ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers just drop high and low frequencies altogether in an effort to be as small as possible. But the Clip reproduces a full range of sound, from 160 Hz to 20 kHz. It had no problem with the deep bass groove of St. Vincent's "Digital Witness" and the crisp acoustic picking on Beck's "Heart Is a Drum." Though it won't replace any speakers at home, the Clip produces balanced sound that's perfect for bringing music wherever you may be, whether that's hiking or a hotel room.
[$50; jbl.com]

Field Notes
Days tested: 10
Where tested: In the yard, office, and various hotel rooms
Nitpick: Only five hours of battery life