It would be understandable, then, to approach Creative's Muvo 2c with a degree of trepidation. At £23, it's certainly cheap, and at 93 x 38 x 67mm, it's not like there's much room to fill with top-quality tweeters. Its six-hour battery life is also decent rather than extraordinary.
However, it quickly becomes apparent that the Muvo 2c isn't just bargain-bin rubbish. It's rated at the IP66 standard for dust and water resistance, and has a fair few connection ports, including a 3.5mm auxiliary input, a micro-USB port for both charging and data, and a microSD slot, which works hand in hand with the integrated MP3 player. Most promising of all is the large passive radiator, which aims to augment the single active driver with some bass presence: easily one of the most prolific weaknesses on compact speakers.
Does it work? Yes, to an extent. The Muvo 2c won't make your organs shake, but the mid-bass is clearly there, filling out the song as a whole and avoiding the rattly, tinny output that dooms so many budget speakers.
The main driver also does a surprisingly good job of highlighting vocals and bringing them to the front, which is great for podcasts and most genres of music. The Muvo 2c can also go far louder than its stature suggests, and doesn't even distort much when approaching its limits. We were happy to keep it at around 10-20% of its maximum volume.
It doesn't entirely manage to sound like a much more expensive speaker, however. Sometimes the mids can get muddled, especially in rock music, where distorted guitars can almost blend into cymbal crashes. The soundstage is fairly narrow, too, so if you're listening while positioned to its far left or right, the trebles lose some of their sharpness.
Still, overall sound quality far exceeded our expectations, and the IP66 rating meant we could use it in the shower. Just remember it's only splash-proof, not waterproof: it won't cope with full submersion, like the UE Wonderboom can.
As mentioned, the built-in MP3 player allows you to play tracks, including FLAC files, directly from a microSD card. This is another nice little feature to have on a budget speaker, and especially a portable one.
The downside is trying to control playback with the scant few buttons on top. There are no dedicated pause, play or skip buttons, so you need to hold the multifunction button and press the volume buttons to search, which is fiddly. You could use the Creative Sound Blaster Connect mobile app, but this has its own problems: it couldn't locate any music on our Android handset until we minimised it and started playing from the VLC app instead.
This is a great little speaker for very little money. Save up for the UE Wonderboom if you can, but it is significantly more expensive. Anyone looking for a budget alternative will be pleasantly surprised by the Muvo 2c.