JBL’s OnBeat Micro, NZ$120, is a black pint-size iPhone or iPod speaker dock with a Lightning connector.
It measures 50 by 190 by 150 mm and about 360g. That makes it small enough to sit on a bookshelf, kitchen bench or a window sill.
You might consider using the OnBeat Micro on a bedside cabinet. It will charge your phone overnight and you can route the phone’s alarm function through the speaker.
Wake the dead
Take care with this. The OnBeat Micro may look small, but when it comes to sound it packs a real punch. Forget to crank down the volume before setting the alarm and the entire neighbourhood will be familiar with your choice of alarm tone.
The first time I tried the device I set my phone volume to the halfway point. It more than filled the room with music. I had to move fast to lower the volume. There’s more than enough grunt to keep a small party going although not enough to fill a big room or to cut through a dozen simultaneous conversations.
You wouldn’t expect hefty bass sounds at this price. And anyway there isn’t room to shove a powerful woofer under the main speakers. Even so, the overall sound is clear enough.
At most volumes rock or classical music will play fine without hitting serious distortion. Things can get a little shaky when operating at full blast, but few people will be listening for nuanced sounds when that’s happening.
While you don’t get the feeling this is a feeble speaker, you might want to spend a little more and move upmarket if you’re looking for more of a hi-fi experience. This is strictly for fun, not for serious music listening.
I’ve seen speakers in this price range bounce across a surface as the good vibrations get things moving. The OnBeat Micro has a rubber cushion on its base to damp things down, it doesn’t move even at full blast with heavy staccato sounds.
The base opens to show space for four AAA batteries. This would allow you to use the speaker dock as a portable music player. I didn’t test this feature, but would prefer to see a built-in rechargeable battery and not buy disposable batteries for the job.
JBL’s Lightning connector works fine with any iPhone 5 or 6. The Outsize 6 Plus doesn’t present a problem and doesn’t look silly. Its extra weight doesn’t appear a problem despite the Lightning connector getting to take all the strain. It also works with newer iPods.
There’s not enough room to get iPads to connect. At least one Apple iPhone 6 Plus external case got in the way of the connector and had to be removed before docking the phone.
There’s a USB connector on the back of the speaker dock which can charge other devices. The downside of this is that you can’t play music through the speakers when something is plugged in.
Given the NZ$120 asking price, the JBL OnBeat Micro is a good value docking speaker. It punches out more volume than you might expect and you’ll get a reasonable audio experience.
If you want more sound or prefer a wireless speaker connection then go elsewhere. On the other hand if you’re looking for an affordable, versatile speaker dock to sit on your bedside table this would be a good choice. It gets my vote.