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?
A: I have a new recommendation that is perfect for you. Modern Portable started about two years ago with low-priced portable chargers and earbuds, which were hit-and-miss at first. They found their sweet spot when they moved upmarket a bit with the Super 66 headphones, a solid product with a four-star rating from more than 1,000 reviews on Amazon. Now they have unveiled the $29.99 HIFI MC Micro Music System, and, popular as the headphones are, I think it’s going to be even a bigger hit when word gets around.
Modern Portable says the system, which is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, is designed as a tiny, modern mashup of a midcentury leather-wrapped transistor radio and a 1970s-vintage eight-track player. It includes Bluetooth with speakerphone, a built-in media player, FM radio and a miniplug connection. The squat, square shape 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 a little too loud. The HIFI MC uses a volume knob that avoids this issue.
The media player uses MicroSD cards. You can load thousands of MP3 songs on a card, changing tracks with the forward/back buttons. I loved being able to use the speaker independently of my phone, and I used this feature frequently.
One potential drawback: 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. After a few minutes the speaker will have several tune-able stations stored in memory (the number depending on your location), selectable with the forward and back buttons.
As for the sound, it ranks among the best for comparably priced speakers. At maximum volume, it plays pretty darn loud and distortion-free for something so small. But most notably, it has great midrange. 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 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. If you buy direct from the manufacturer, you can get two for $49.99 plus shipping, or four for $99.99 with free shipping. modernportable.com
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.