Q. I have seen your columns about portable Bluetooth speakers but you never say how big they actually are. I want something to take with me all the time. What is the smallest speaker you recommend?
-- D.K., Arlington, Va.
A. I have a new recommendation that is perfect for you.
Modern Portable started about 2 years ago with low priced portable chargers and earbuds, which were hit and miss at first. They hit their sweet spot when they moved upmarket a bit with the Super 66 headphones, a solid, successful product with a 4-star rating from more than 1,000 reviews on Amazon. Popular as the headphones are, I think the new $29.99 HIFI MC Micro Music System is going to be a much bigger hit when word gets around.
Modern Portable says the HIFI MC Micro Music System is designed as a tiny, modern mashup of a mid-century leather-wrapped transistor radio and a 1970s-vintage 8-track player, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It includes Bluetooth with speakerphone, a built-in media player, FM radio and a miniplug connection, hence the "Music System" moniker. The squat, square shape does not protrude in any dimension and was practically unnoticeable in my bag, leading me to take it along every time I left the house.
Most Bluetooth speakers use stepped up and down buttons to change the volume. With buttons I frequently find it impossible to get the exact volume l want, with one setting a little too soft, the next one up, a little too loud. The HIFI MC's volume knob allows you to precisely dial in the perfect volume level. As for maximum volume, it plays pretty darn loud and distortion-free for something so small.
The media player uses MicroSD cards. You can load thousands of MP3 songs on a card and play them from the speaker itself, changing tracks with the forward/back buttons. I loved being able to use the speaker independently of my phone, and used this feature frequently.
There is no FM tuning dial or station identification. To tune stations, select FM and hold in the play/pause button for a few seconds to start autoscanning, just like setting up a television with an antenna. After a few minutes the speaker will have several tunable stations stored in memory, selectable with the forward and back buttons. I was able to tune 7 stations clearly. Your results will vary based on your location.
As for the sound, two words come to mind: "great midrange," with sound quality ranking it among the very best $30 speakers. Small speakers usually have problems reproducing very deep bass and the highest treble, and when you try to do it all you often get a speaker that does not do anything particularly well. Modern Portable seems to have wisely chosen to concentrate on the midrange, and it pays big dividends in listening satisfaction. While it makes enough bass that it does not sound thin and hits some good high notes as well, the clean and even midrange reproduction is what makes it stand out.
With its retro-inspired style and tiny size, volume dial, good sound, multiple ways to listen, and easy and reliable operation, the HIFI MC Micro Music System is the most satisfying $30 product I have tried in a long, long time. It also has a quality feel and unmistakable charm that makes it cool, desirable and fun. It sells on Amazon for $29.95 and if you buy manufacturer direct you can get two for $49.99 + shipping, or four for $99.99 with free shipping. modernportable.com
(Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadvicenews.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.)
(c)2017 Don Lindich
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