JBL Charge

JBL Charge

You know where it'd be great to listen to music? In the yard, at the beach, deep in the woods – pretty much everywhere. Unfortunately, some locales present obstacles for standard speakers, like a lack of electricity or elements that make most woofers and tweeters quit before trying. JBL's Charge lets you share sound wherever you may be – and it performs an extra trick that you may find handy.

About the size of a tallboy or a Sigg water bottle, the Charge fits well in a pack or even pants with big pockets. It connects to your smartphone or MP3 player via Bluetooth (you can also plug in a standard 3.5 mm audio cable if your device lacks the wireless standard).

The Charge's rugged plastic construction can handle a good deal of jostling and the metal grill protects the two 1-5/8-inch speakers. A side port helps extend the bass range a bit. The audio quality can't compare to bookshelf speakers, but the range the Charge can produce will surprise you. It sounds much fuller than you'd expect from such a tiny package. And out in the wild, high fidelity isn't what you're listening for anyway. The speaker doesn't get painfully loud, but it shouldn't need to, since you can carry it everywhere you go.

The Charge gets its name from its other function: It can recharge your phone (or any other device) through its USB port. Think of it as a spare in case you run out of juice at a key moment. Capable of 12 hours of music playback, the Charge is also a good multitasker: In our tests, it easily played music for more than six hours, fully charged an iPhone, and still had some juice left in the tank.

The Charge comes in grey, blue, or green, and ships with a neoprene carrying case. [$150; jbl.com]