JBL Portable Bluetooth Speaker

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A couple of months ago I finally decided it might be convenient to have a portable Bluetooth speaker that I could use to play music from my phone or other device. The idea was that it would be something I could use when we’re playing a card game or outside grilling. After scrolling through numerous reviews on Amazon I encountered this little device, which I eventually received as a gift from my wish list.

The JBL Micro Wireless Ultra-Portable Speaker provides amazing sound considering its size. According to the documentation it will run on battery for about five hours, though some reviewers have experienced longer usage times. It’s also possible to use the device while recharging it.

Considering its size and relatively low cost (about $50), I am very impressed by this piece of tech. So was my wife. The first time I tried it out she immediately stated that she wants one. Friends have made similar comments when showing it to them.

There are other very similar JBL models. This particular one has a built-in bass port.

It’s been useful in cases when I didn’t expect it. For example, the turn-by-turn navigation instructions from Google Maps sounded excellent.

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Philips Sound Bar (CSS2123)

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In additional to a new Blu-ray player, last weekend I also purchased a Philips Sound Bar (CSS2123) for our living room HDTV. The speakers included with the 32″ HDTV are OK. They’re not the worst. The ones in my smaller HDTVs are so bad they must be connected to external speakers to be tolerable.

Still, we like to watch movies in the living room. I didn’t want to deal with full-surround sound. That would require a heavier investment of money and space. Instead, I decided to add a relatively inexpensive sound bar.

Audiophiles may not care for this set but we both have enjoyed it. Music, movies, and television sound really good though movies that I have ripped from DVD to an Apple TV format do not (This was done using Handbrake. I’m not sure why – the quality may have not been good before but it’s only become apparent with the use of better speakers – my next test is to rip to a slightly different format or to try movies purchased through iTunes).

The set cost $99 at Wal-Mart. It includes the sound bar itself, a wired sub-woofer, and a remote. During the first movie that we watched I had to turn the sub-woofer down. It was actually much deeper than I was expecting and I didn’t want to annoy any of our neighbors.

I haven’t experienced any major problems though when I tried to use a coaxial digital connection only the sound effects from the Apple TV came through. None of the audio for Netflix, or from our Tivo, worked. I suspect this has more to do with the different audio formats (stereo versus true surround) and for now I only have it connected to the TV via the headphone jack, which is split out to RCA adapters that go into the sound bar inputs (stereo only).

Updated 05/22/2013: So far so good. We haven’t had any problems with the sound bar.

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