Harman Kardon’s Go + Play Micro portable speaker system for iPhone and iPod looks simultaneously modern and retro. (If it looks familiar, that’s because the Micro is the smaller sibling of the company’s 2006 Go + Play system) The unit’s sleek lines, minimal buttons, and black plastic with metal accents all contribute to its modernness, but the form factor feels delightfully reminiscent of the portable boomboxes of yesteryear.
The Go + Play Micro is advertised as a portable system, though it’s more accurate to call it transportable. I found the system to be a bit heavy at 8.6 pounds, and at 20 inches wide, 9 inches deep, and 9.5 inches tall, its footprint isn’t insignificant.
The curved, metal bar atop the Go + Play serves as its handle. On the front-left of the unit’s angled top is a backlit Power button and a pair of buttons for volume adjustment. However, these are the only onboard controls the Go + Play Micro provides—to skip tracks, navigate playlists, or pause playback, you’ll need to rely on either your iPod or iPhone’s controls or the Go + Play Micro’s included infrared remote.
That remote is tiny, and its similarly tiny buttons feel cramped—not at all in keeping with the design of the Go + Play Micro itself. The remote does include iPod/iPhone menu-navigation buttons to scroll through lists and select items, along with Play/Pause, Back, Forward, Volume Up, Volume Down, and Mute buttons. (You can’t turn the Go + Play Micro on or off using the remote.) But those menu-navigation controls seem a bit superfluous—if you’re close enough to your docked iPod or iPhone to navigate its onscreen menus, it’s easier to just use the iPod or iPhone’s own controls. The remote is functional, so it’s not a major issue, but I couldn’t shake the notion that the remote’s design was little more than an afterthought for Harman Kardon.
The system’s dock-connector cradle, located on the angled top face, foregoes Apple’s Universal design in favor of Harman Kardon’s own design, and for the most part it’s implemented well. The cradle’s placement relative to the Go + Play Micro’s metal handle makes docking your iPhone or iPod a bit more precise a maneuver than you might expect, but it’s certainly not difficult. (One minor hitch: When I first docked my iPhone, its ringer volume started decreasing to silent, as if I were pushing the volume rocker on its side. I wasn’t, but the Go + Play’s dock cradle was. And, indeed, the included manual mentions this potential issue. Fortunately, the cradle’s height is adjustable; raising it slightly, by turning a knob underneath where the iPhone sits, alleviates the volume-button issue.) An included cradle adapter helps to position iPod nano models properly in the dock.
The Go + Play Micro can be powered by eight C-cell batteries; you insert the batteries into a compartment on the back that you open by unscrewing two large, locking screws. (I managed to unscrew them with a fingernail, but a screwdriver is easier.) Harman Kardon advertises “up to 18 hours of continuous music playback” from one set of batteries—the system includes an energy-saving sleep mode that kicks in after a period of inactivity.
Directly below the battery compartment are the unit’s four ports and jacks: one for the included AC adapter, a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) audio line-in jack, an RCA composite-video output, and a USB port. Each is covered with a small, protective rubber flap; you peel the flap up to access the port. The USB port is for connecting the Go + Play Micro to your computer for syncing your iPhone or iPod with iTunes. The Go + Play always charges your iPhone or iPod while the system is connected to AC power, but you can also charge an iPhone or iPod when the system is running off battery power by simply connecting the Go + Play Micro to your computer via USB.
The Go + Play’s audio components include two (left and right) of Harman Kardon’s Odyssey midrange/high-frequency drivers, each hidden behind a metal grille on the front of the system. On the bottom, behind a similar grille, sits a 5-inch Atlas subwoofer. (The system provides 15 Watts of power per channel for the left and right drivers, along with 30 Watts for the subwoofer.) Harman Kardon advertises the Go + Play Micro as employing both Computer-Optimized Equalization (COE) and Optimized Compression Topology (OCT) to improve audio quality. To my ears, music sounds clean and rich, even when the Go + Play Micro’s volume is dialed up, and in my testing, bass presence was prominent enough to shake the table on which the system was seated. I thoroughly enjoyed rocking out to the Go + Play, and I had no complaints about its sound.
Macworld’s buying advice
The Go + Play Micro is attractive, sounds very good, and is straightforward to use. The unit’s bulk and cost are the two biggest factors to consider before you buy, but its sound and design will not disappoint.