Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: I'm not the first to say it.
The Long Version: I've been reading reviews of little speakers for a while, and the X-mini capsule speaker kept coming up as one to buy. It can be tough to find in a crowd of others that now share its expanding-ping-pong-ball design, so when I happened to find it in a local store I decided it was time.
The speaker has the slogan "sound beyond size" moulded right into the top of it. I'm not a fan of ostentatious displays of marketeering, so this bugs me, but it's a tough slogan to argue with. This one little speaker can play loudly enough that I can hear it throughout my little apartment and worry about disturbing the neighbours. Impressive.
What's even more impressive is that the X-mini keeps up a surprisingly good sound quality almost all the way through its volume range, losing only a modest amount of definition when everything's fully cranked. But its entertainment value makes up for that: heavy bass will have the speaker jumping around and skating across tables. It's hard to dislike anything that happy.
And if one speaker isn't loud enough then there's the option to add more. These things can be daisy-chained together to hook multiple speakers to a single source. The sound remains mono, but it increases the headroom. There may be a second X-mini in my household's future – officially it would belong to Penny, but we're often in the same place.
Also included in the retail package is a carrying case and an unusual cable. It's USB-A on one end, 3.5mm audio on the other, and USB-mini in the middle. With the mini USB plugged into the speaker, then the audio end can plug into a sound source for a longer connection than what its short built-in cable provides, or the USB-A end can be plugged into a computer or charger to recharge its internal battery. But audio won't play through a USB-USB connection: there's a handy little instruction sheet that says so, but I still fell for it a couple of times.
The underside of the Mini shows its controls and the neatly stowed audio cable. (The volume dial is on the other side, not visible, opposite the power switch.) They missed an opportunity here – having the bright blue 'power' LED line up with something useful, like the On/Off switch or volume dial, would make the speaker more intuitive to control. But that's about the only criticism that I can come up with, especially considering the sound-to-price ratio that this little thing provides.
I've been very pleased with the X-Mini as an extremely small and easily portable speaker. It's loud enough to provide some music for a backyard family gathering, and good enough to be an improvement over my laptop speakers. The next time I travel it's guaranteed that this little thing will be coming with me.
last updated 26 nov 2012