[REVIEW] X-Mini shrunk the boom box and spiced it up
During Cebit this year, we got talking to the manager of XMI, the company behind the massively popular portable speaker revelation: The X-Mini.
XMI agreed on us reviewing their latest innovations in their pocket speaker niche. We ended up testing their whole lineup.
Our egg basket
We will be referring to the short name of these XMI products during the review, so here is a list on what we got in store for you:
- X-mini II Capsule Speaker
- X-mini MAX II Capsule Speakers
- X-mini HAPPY Capsule Speaker
- X-mini RAVE Capsule Speaker
- X-mini Hello Kitty Capsule Speaker
- X-mini KAI Capsule Speaker
Unbox, Look & feel
The original X-mini Capsules (mono, stereo and RAVE) come in a can, the limited edition Hello Kitty series have their dedicated gift box. The KAI series comes in a fancy hard plastic box with carton sleeve, the HAPPY series come in a specially designed box where you can press the play button to test the sound right from inside the box (without having to unbox anything).
All speakers, except for the stereo MAX II series, look like small orb-shaped items you can easily put in your pocket or bag. Depending on the particular model, they feature an FM Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, microphone input or SD card playback. Very lightweight, yet their sturdy PVC outer shell will perfectly endure any rough treatment in the avid traveller’s bag.
The MAX II (Stereo) series have a more particular design. Attached together they look like an elongated goose egg, detached they look like.. …well, 2 times half an elongated goose egg. They feature stereo sound and do a great job at giving you the impression to have much bigger sound equipment in front of you.
All XMI products feature an accordion system; you can open/close the speaker’s accordion system with a simple twist lock. Closing them gives you less bass, and generally speaking the closed state is intended for compact travelling. Opening them up will unlock their actual sound potential.
Ecstatic sound quality
Honestly said, there are few products out there that put an instant smile on your face for the simple fact that they look odd, but actually make perfect design-sense. You just want to connect them to any audio device present, and once you press play the amazement kicks in.
Sound beyond size is the motto of XMI, and that motto could not have been more accurate and convincing when you hear one of these little orbs play-out live.
To get back to our previously discussed open and closed state, the difference in sound quality is an imminent change in atmospheric punch. All models feature the wealth of a 40mm magnetically shielded driver, which can produce frequencies from 100Hz up to 20KHz (more than the human audible frequency’s 20Hz – 20KHz). The internal closed driver becomes much more potent when the capsule is open, the extra air inside the accordion resonating chamber will give you a much more pungent subwoofer effect and make vocals more naturally tonal, eliminating the screechy/high tone dominance when closed. XMI calls this accordion system BXS (Bass Xpansion System).
That said, we are still talking about lightweight portable speakers. You can’t match them up with full size home cinema systems nor will they live up to 5.1 surround computer kits, but that was never the intention of this gadget. The target for this product is mainly phone, tablet and notebook users, and for them this is possibly the best audio solution out there, beating every built-in notebook speaker system even the ones endorsed by popular headphone manufacturers.
By default, all x-mini’s (except for the stereo series) feature a tuck-in 3.5mm audio jack to connect on-the-go to whatever device that can “feed them” audio signals, just like your iPhone, iPad, Notebook, Android, Smartphone, PMP, PSP or any other device that supports a 3.5mm audio input.
Not particularly a part of the connectivity, yet still important to know about, is the fact that every X-mini has a built-in battery (usually 8 up to 12h playback time depending on the particular model). Charging happens via the supplied USB2 to Mini-USB & 3.5mm audio jack split cable. Personally I tend to charge them every time they get hooked up to my laptop, but if you got a cheap power plug to USB converter (or USB car charger, or battery pack) you can use that too if you find it a hassle to use the PC/Mac’s USB ports.
The part about this included cable we wish to dig in deeper is the fact that this is a multipurpose cable. You can use it to:
A) Charge, USB -> Mini USB
B) Stream your music, 3.5mm -> Mini USB
C) Charge and stream audio simultaneously USB -> both Mini USB and 3.5mm need to be plugged into your “master device” (this can be a PC, Tablet, Mac, …).
There might be a bit of static when both charging and playing music, if you put the volume high enough then it becomes inaudible, but you might want to keep charging the units and playing music separated if this happens to bother you.
And finally: buddy jack (no sexual joke intended), is a feature that (at first) will strike you as: “Uhu, so pairing, nothing special right?”… This might seem as simple as just being able to pair all the X-mini’s you own together, and actually it’s “just that”. If you have multiple units as we had for our tests, 3 or more units paired together gives you some serious sound-power that will fill the room in a way you normally expect from 5.1 or other high-end systems.
Examining the accessories
We can be pretty short about this; accessories were made to be very user friendly. One of those being the multipurpose charge/audio streaming cable, which is good as you don’t have to carry around 2 separate cables. Included also is a pouch for putting your X-mini device away or used for protection during travel.
And you get a card that says a part of the money from your purchase will go to aid children in need. A most lovely incentive if you ask us.
Which one should you get?
X-mini has plenty of choice and options; we’ll line up the differences in this chart.
|Audio driver||Playback time||Frequency||Bluetooth|
|Capsule speaker v2||40mm||12h||100Hz-20Khz||-|
|MAX II Stereo||40mm angled/directional||12h||200Hz-18Khz||-|
|KAI||40mm||8h (4h on Bluetooth)||100hz-18Khz||Yes (Mic built-in)|
|HAPPY||40mm||12h (5h on SD card)||230Hz-20Khz||-|
|RAVE||40mm||8h (6h on FM radio)||110Hz-18Khz||-|
Note: we didn’t list the Hello Kitty edition, as this technically speaking is a regular capsule speaker with a different outer shell.
As you can clearly see from the chart, there is a portable speaker for everybody’s needs.
The sporty audiophiles amongst us will probably prefer the HAPPY series over the regular Capsule speakers as they cancel the sound output once the supplied in-ear headphones are plugged in. Combine this with the SD card slot, making the speaker both a highly portable storage medium as an extra option to play music from.
If your phone does not have FM radio, and you really wish to have your favorite radio broadcast at hand when working or out camping, the RAVE is certainly the way to go.
For the road warrior there is the Bluetooth equipped KAI, which is an excellent device when you like to drop the cables. Wirelessly connected, we tested the KAI to be excellent up to 3meters from the phone/notebook we paired it with. Just like the HAPPY series, this model features a control wheel, allowing you to choose play/pause, the next or previous song (remote control the playlist on your Bluetooth master device). This device works excellent for radio player apps, the control jog lets you swap between broadcast channels with ease. For fitness purposed the KAI is great too, as you can leave your phone in a bag near you and put the KAI next to you and work those muscles.
This said, the MAX II stereo speakers stay paired to the notebook, as they deliver excellent/superior audio over the built-in solution (yes, even on Apple notebooks). The regular mono Capsule orb speakers might look basic in capabilities, but the 12h playback and astonishing sound quality will quickly make you put them in the bag every time you leave the house.
Would we recommend these speakers? Yes! No doubt about it, they will be the best portable audio experience you’ve encountered in years. Durability-wise they are worth every penny, twice!
Note: For genuine X-mini speakers, please refer to their website as Amazon and some other big name enterprises have had sellers who were dealing with counterfeit goods.
AkihabaraNews recommends: If you’re on a laptop, get the stereo MAX II speakers and pair up a mono Capsule speaker on both sides (the basic model will do the job just fine), now you have a nice little 4.0 surround system for on the go. Strictly for mobile phone usage we are big fans of the KAI and HAPPY.