Tech

This Is the Best Mini Bluetooth Speaker Value Yet

Back in 2020, Tribit released the StormBox Micro. It’s effectively a budget version of Bose’s excellent SoundLink Micro speaker, and it delivers surprisingly good sound for its size and modest price. Now we get the StormBox Micro 2, which offers improved sound and battery life along with a charge-out feature that turns the speaker into a power bank for mobile devices such as phones and tablets. It lists for $60, but if it follows its predecessor’s footsteps, we expect to see frequent discounts. Like the original, it’s an excellent value and easy to recommend if you’re looking for a super compact portable wireless speaker. 

Like

  • Excellent sound for its ultracompact size and modest price
  • Waterproof and dustproof (IP67)
  • Integrated strap
  • Can be linked to another StormBox Micro 2 for stereo mode
  • USB-C charging in/out
  • 12 hours of battery life

Don’t Like

  • Not as durable as Bose SoundLink Micro
  • Still distorts slightly at higher volumes with certain tracks

While it’s similar in size to the original, the StormBox Micro 2 is slightly larger and weighs a bit more (315 grams vs. 280 grams). Like its older sibling, the Micro 2 is IP67 dustproof and water-resistant, which means it can take a dunk in shallow water. Its battery life is rated at up to 12 hours at moderate volume levels versus 8 hours for the original and 6 hours for the Bose.

Read moreBest Bluetooth Speakers for 2022

In addition to upping the power rating of the speaker from 9W to 10W, Tribit equipped the second-gen StormBox Micro with Bluetooth 5.3, giving it a range of 120 feet, according to Tribit. In my tests at home, with walls in the mix, I was able to stray about 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 meters) from the speaker — about double the range I get with most Bluetooth speakers. And the connection was rock solid as long as I didn’t stray too far from it.

On the charging front, it has USB-C charging and, as noted, you can use the USB-C port to charge out to other mobile devices. A USB-C to USB-C cable is included (albeit no charger), but you’ll need a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge an iPhone. You can also pair two StormBox Micro 2 speakers together to get stereo sound.

The integrated rubber strap comes in handy for attaching the speaker to your backpack or a bike. 


David Carnoy/CNET

Like the original and the Bose SoundLink Micro, the Tribit StormBox Micro 2 has an integrated rubber strap that allows you to clip the speaker to anything from a backpack to poles, tree branches, your bike’s handlebars or a belt loop on your pants. With its fabric covering, the speaker doesn’t seem as durable as the Bose, but it seems sturdily enough built. It should fit in most pockets as long as you aren’t wearing tight jeans.

Cosmetically, the buttons on the speaker are now highlighted in white and more noticeable. You can adjust volume with the +/- buttons and control playback with the universal O button. A set of LEDs on the side lets you know how much battery life you have left and there are dedicated buttons for power and Bluetooth pairing.

If you’re wondering if this can be used as a speakerphone, it can (there’s an integrated microphone on the side next to the power button), but I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest speakerphone. Callers said I didn’t sound all that clear when I stood several feet away from the speaker. However, things improved when I moved a foot or so away from the speaker. 

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It’s easy to mount on a handlebar. 


Tribit

What impressed me about the original Stormbox Micro was how it was able to deliver comparable sound to the Bose SoundLink Micro for around half the Bose’s price. The Stormbox Micro 2 sounds even better than its predecessor, with improved clarity, bigger volume and more bass (I’d say the sound is about 20% improved). For the most part the speaker sounds quite impressive for its size and it sounds bigger and fuller than the similarly priced JBL Clip 4

However, the speaker still has its limitations. It still distorts at higher volumes — I rarely took the volume above 75% — and has to constrain itself with certain frequencies to avoid distorting. For instance, I played Norwegian singer Aurora’s Running With the Wolves track and it sounded really good initially but when the chorus kicked in (“I’m running with Wolves tonight”), the speaker just couldn’t quite handle it and dialed itself back.  

The long and short of it is critical listeners will find faults with the sound but most people aren’t expecting audiophile quality from a tiny mono speaker and should be more than satisfied — and maybe even a bit shocked — with the quality of the sound that you get. Note that when you pair a couple of these together in stereo mode, the sound improves dramatically. But that’s true for all of these mini Bluetooth speakers you can pair up. The sound from two is always better than one. 

tribit-stormbox-micro-2-vs-bose-soundlink-flex

The Bose SoundLink Flex is more than two times the size of the StormBox Micro 2.


David Carnoy/CNET

Add the Micro 2 to your short list

Bose is due to update the SoundLink Micro in 2022 and last year it released its excellent SoundLink Flex speaker (yes, it’s superior to this speaker but more than twice its size and more than twice its price). I called the Flex the “Best Mini Bluetooth Speaker You Could Buy Now” when I reviewed it. That’s still true, but the StormBox Micro 2 is arguably the Best Bluetooth Mini Speaker Value. In time, I expect we’ll see it selling for slightly less and eventually be available in more color options aside from black. But even at full price, it’s a great buy. 


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