Palm-sized speakers are gaining more and more popularity for their ultra-portable convenience and the affordable price. Everyone wants a little piece of the portable flavored cake, and companies know it. In between the well established players such as the Jambox, comes a mono-speaker so portable you can almost fit it inside your wallet. JBL's On Tour Micro is the kind of portable speaker that takes the word compact and throws it under a roller compactor. How well does it perform? Our full review is down below!
Inside the boxy packaging you will find a carrying pouch and a rather cheap and flimsy mini-USB to USB charging cable with a split 3.5mm audio plug in case you couldn't stop the music whilst rejuvenating your On Tour Micro with juice. The cable may have that awful cheapness to it, but it does get the job done nevertheless.
JBL's On Tour Micro will run you $50 and comes in matte black, white, matte red and in this glossy black with a faux carbon fiber weave pattern. Design wise, the On Tour Micro isn't very impressive as some of the more expensive portable speakers in its class. With that said however, the On Tour Micro surprisingly does come with attention to detail. The side firing speaker is somewhat awkward to look at and placed at an odd position. While it does have the positive effect of having a slight angle so to better throw music towards your face, I'd would rather see second speaker take a place at the opposite side for stereo sound. But the best thing of all is the On Tour Micro's small footprint. Its microsized, 3-inch wide sleek form factor allows you to easily slip it into your pocket for transport. Talk about portability!
When you look at most portable speakers, the speaker drivers are hidden underneath a protective plastic, fabric or metal curtain. The On Tour Micro has no shame displaying its tiny, barely one-inch wide speaker and silvery brushed aluminum cone. A curved plastic defender is placed across the speaker in order to protect it from getting punctured. While I do like the design, I think that a little piece of plastic going across the middle of the speaker isn't enough to keep it protected. It looks better exposed rather than blocking it with a full on grille, but this is a terrible idea for a portable speaker. Any small pointy object can easily damage and ruin the speaker if you're not careful.
As for the actual build quality of the unit itself, the On Tour Micro is actually very solid and well put together speaker for its size. Having a tough exterior is crucial for portability, and this definitely has an impressive build quality despite looking like an insignificant little speaker. When you pick it up, the On Tour Micro feels sort of like a hockey puck with its grippy rubberised band the laps around the middle followed by the clam-like curved top and bottom plastic shell. The bottom rubber ring not only provides traction but also houses the integrated audio cable.
We've already talked about the On Tour Micro's clever integrated audio cable, but we left out the fact that it is very short meaning that if you want to pick up and hold your tablet or smartphone instead of chillaxing with a drink, it'll be uncomfortable to do. You can plug in your own extended audio cable though. Along the side of the On Tour Micro is where you will find a volume adjust wheel, power switch, mini-USB port for charging as well as a 3.5mm audio input. You can use that audio input for two reasons, one is that you can connect your own extended cable to any audio source which kind of takes care of that difficultly of having to use the short built-in cable. Secondly you can use it to daisy-chain multiple speakers whether it be another On Tour Micro or a completely different speaker for bigger sound.
Turning on the speaker will be noted by a blue LED light that is cleverly placed at the bottom. And because the On Tour Micro has a curved shape, the light emits a subtle shine on the surface you place it on instead of displaying a bright power-on light where it's visibly annoying. That's a nice little detail that you wouldn't necessarily take for granted.
Powering the On Tour Micro is a built-in rechargeable battery that provides The obvious downside to the On Tour Micro as a portable speaker is that it isn't wireless. Wired speakers aren't all bad, but when all you got is an extremely short cable to work with, it becomes a hassle. JBL should have at least included a longer audio cable to make is easier to use a device when wanting to grab a hold of it.
For such a small mono speaker, the On Tour Micro delivers decent sound that will undoubtedly improve your tablet and smartphone's ridiculous stock speakers. Watching a movie is much more enjoyable using an iPad with the On Tour Micro. But if we must tell you about how it sounds, you can ask much in terms of audio quality at this price. The highs are the On Tour Micro's best performing tone. They're clear and have good sounding treble. Unfortunately, the mids are the worst performing and add some muddiness to the sound. The mids aren't detailed at all and literally contribute nothing to the sound other than distort at the highest volume.
As for the lows, the bass passes with a sufficient clean presents for such a small speaker. It isn't thumpy, but instead sounds thin though does not distort. This also causes the sound signature of the On Tour Micro to sound on the tinny side. The On Tour Micro can easily fill a small room with loud sound, but if you do so it'll sound slightly distorted when turned all the way up.
At this prince range you'll be hard pressed to find a better performing speaker unless you can raise your budget up to the $100 range where you'll find the $120 NuForce Cube speaker and the $100 Logitech UE Mobile Boombox speaker. Although the UE Mobile Boombox speaker isn't exactly at a pocketable size, it isn't much larger than an iPhone and has the upper advantage of being wireless with better battery life, speakerphone functionality and best of all - stereo sound.
JBL's On Tour Micro compared to an equally sized mono speaker such as the Cube isn't such a fair comparison because of it costing twice as much. It is worth noting however that the Cube does sound much better than the On Tour Micro and has a more powerful sound with deeper bass and better performing mids and highs. Again, the On Tour Micro takes the cake in being a lot more pocket-friendly with its slick, clamshell design and integrated audio cable.
JBL's On Tour Micro might not be the best sounding portable speaker nor does it come close, but what it lacks in it definitely makes up for with its ultra-compact form factor and great battery life. The question is whether or not you can cough up an extra $50 and go slightly bigger and a worlds apart better. We wouldn't recommend the On Tour Micro for its flaw in protecting its most important asset, short wired connection, flat sound quality and rather high price tag compared to lesser known brands. Having to use a wired connection really is a downer these days, especially when using a portable speaker. With that being said, if you're looking for a pocketable speaker to enhance your tablet and smartphone's sound and don't mind plugging it in, then the On Tour Micro is worth checking out.