Editors' Note: The rating on this review has been lowered from 6.3 to 6.0 due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
JLab Audio entered the U.S. market at the beginning of this year, choosing to debut at CES. The company announced a limited array of products, including a USB speaker, a pair of earbuds, and a tiny speaker designed for the iPod Nano, the MiniBlaster. The unit, which is available in either black or white to match your iPod of choice, went on sale at the end of June with a tempting $49.95 price tag.
The MiniBlaster for iPod Nano is the most compact iPod speaker we've ever reviewed. It measures just 4 by 1.9 by 1.2 inches, and that's with the Nano fully inserted. The speaker has a slot built into the back made just for the player, though you have to use the included skin to ensure a snug fit (and to protect the Nano from scratches). At the bottom of the slot is a 3.5mm connector positioned to plug into the Nano's headphone port. If you want to use other MP3 players with the device, an auxiliary line-input (and included cable) lets you do just that. Alongside this port are a power jack, a power switch, and a volume dial. And opposite the Nano slot are the two 1.4-inch speakers protected by a silver speaker grille.
A wall-wart adapter is included to power the speakers, but it won't serve to charge the Nano since the player is not connected via the dock. For maximum portability, the MiniBlaster can be powered by four AAA batteries (not included)--this slot is located behind the Nano when it's plugged in. The speaker is rated for 10 hours of battery life at top volume, which is on a par with larger sets such as the Logitech mm32.
Audio performance from the tiny MiniBlaster is about what you would expect from a speaker set this size. There's limited bass and virtually no stereo separation, and overall music sounds a bit tinny. However, the little system does offer good detail and clarity, and it gets surprisingly loud, though at the expense of sound quality at the loudest volume. The MiniBlaster is bordering on pocketable, so we'll forgive it its so-so sound quality. If you're a frequent traveler who likes to keep carry-on bags as light and small as possible, this little guy could be a good fit for you.