Kinivo ZX120: The Best Portable Speaker $20 Can Buy

Kinivo Scratch

I’m about to make your ears really happy and your wallet downright ecstatic.A few weeks back I reviewed the Qube2, a portable Bluetooth speaker that delivered pretty amazing sound–but cost a pretty painful $80.

If you’re not hung up on Bluetooth, you can get a seriously amazing portable speaker for one-fourth the price.

It’s the Kinivo ZX120, a new, upgraded version of the already very popular ZX100. And it currently sells at Amazon for $19.99 (plus shipping, unless you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, in which case shipping is free).

The ZX120 is a squat, surprisingly lightweight speaker that resembles a three-dimensional Pac-Man ghost. Its six-inch cord (conveniently a bit longer than the ZX100′s), which plugs into any smartphone, tablet, or MP3 player, stows in a wraparound channel embedded in the underside, while a microUSB port allows for charging of its 10-hour battery.

There’s also a 3.5mm audio jack for daisy-chaining multiple ZX120s, though this wouldn’t give you true stereo, just bigger, louder sound.

But start with one, because a single ZX120 already delivers bigger, louder sound than you’d expect from a Pac-Man ghost. It’s not really a “360-degree” source as Kinivo claims, because the speaker points upward, but for a portable speaker of this size, it sounds amazing.

And that’s thanks to a feature I initially considered a gimmick: When you twist the top of the ZX120, the whole center chamber pops up, accordion-style, with the promise of dramatically improved bass levels. And you know what? This “expandable bass resonator” actually works. The ZX120 sounds small and tinny when the resonator is closed, but big and deep when it’s open.

Indeed, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the clarity and fullness of the songs I sampled. I mean, sure, the ZX120 is a small speaker, not something you’d use during a noisy party or out by the pool. But it’s perfect for tossing in a pocket, purse, or glove box, pulling it out when you want to enjoy your tunes without the need for headphones.

And for just $20, there’s no better portable speaker to be found. This is my favorite product of 2014 (so far).

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.


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