jLab Audio’s B-Flex Hi-Fi Stereo USB Speaker is a set of stereo speakers in a compact package that connects to a USB port on any recent computer — running Mac OS X, Windows 98 or higher, or even GNU/Linux (Kernel 2.4 or above) — and gets both audio and power from that port. The 3.3- by 1.7- by 1.2-inch speaker enclosure, available in black or white, contains left and right 1-inch drivers. This enclosure connects to the B-Flex’s USB plug via a four-inch, flexible arm that lets you rotate and position the speakers relative to your computer.
In my testing, the B-Flex was automatically recognized by a range of Mac and Windows computers; like most USB speakers, the computer’s volume level controls the B-Flex’s output.
If you’ve got a Mac laptop, or a Windows laptop with decent speakers, the B-Flex won’t offer you much in the way of improved sound quality; my MacBook Pro’s speakers offer comparable sound quality — perhaps not quite as much bass, but similar treble response and, thanks to speakers that are separated by the width of the keyboard, better stereo separation. However, many notebooks provide truly horrible sound quality; for these computers, the B-Flex offers a decent audio upgrade at a reasonable price that won’t take up as much room in your travel bag as some of the better-sounding USB speaker systems we’ve tested.–Dan Frakes