X-Mini Portable Speakers: Do they make the grade or fail the test?
We checked out two versions of the X-mini--The Uno and the Max
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Remember when we used to play our music through speakers and hardly ever used headphones?
There was a time not too long ago that most people played their music to not only enjoy it themselves, but also to share it with whomever was in close listening range.
But somewhere between the downfall of the compact disc and the rise of the mp3 player, consumers developed a stronger desire to play music to themselves through headphones, and as devices got smaller and easier to carry, using your headphones became the normal way to listen to music.
And people aren't just using their headphones outside of their homes anymore. A lot of the people I know admit to playing music through their headphones in their house too, since many times the headphones they own are much better than the speakers they bought long ago.
But in the last year or two traditional speakers have started to make a comeback.
Making a comeback
With more companies creating portable speakers that seem to be getting tinier but more powerful with each new release, a lot of consumers are returning to the days when they want to play their music "outwardly" again.
And with speakers being so small and portable today, music lovers can get the best of both worlds by having the ability to fill up an area with music, while still being able carry their sounds anywhere they want to go.
And when it comes to carrying those sounds to different places, the X-mini capsule speakers are among some of the most popular with their many styles and various colors, so I was eager to see just how well these mushroom-shaped speakers actually performed.
What’s interesting is that headphones have been made so well these days that they’ve become the standard for portable sound, so speakers that are within the same price range really have some catching up to do.
So the first thing I wondered about the X-mini was how much would I miss that fullness of sound that I usually get with my headphones.
Now I realize that outward sound will always lose to inward sound when it comes to directness and fullness, but good portable speakers are able to come pretty close by covering each corner of the room or area with music, which is all you can ask from speakers that aren’t sitting directly on your ear.
Max and Uno
To determine a level of consistency among the X-mini brand and the different models of speakers they release, I tested both the X-mini Max and the X-mini Uno speakers that come two in a box.
I first gave the Uno model a whirl, as it’s supposed to defy its size by putting out big sounds with remarkable clarity, while also having the ability to maximize bass sounds, which unfortunately so many portable speakers are unable to do.
I wasn’t only interested in seeing if the right amount of bass sounds were produced, I was also eager to see if the bass could be captured without being distorted, and if the mid- and high-level sounds remained intact without being swallowed by the lower parts of the music.
To gauge the level of sound quality I listened to songs that I’m very familiar with and have completely memorized in terms of just where where certain instrument and vocal levels should be.
I must say, the X-mini Uno certainly captured the bass without struggling to do so. In fact, it captured the bottom of the musical track more than I thought it would, being a speaker of such a small size.
When I played a bass-heavy track and turned up the volume on my laptop, the bass was one of the first instruments that I heard and it didn’t sound distorted until I turned up the volume as high as it could go.
Using maximum volume isn’t the best way to test out speakers because most studio engineers master or finalize songs at a high level these days, so you don’t have to blast the volume to get a full sound, but I wanted to see how powerful the tiny speakers really were.
The rest of the instruments in the song came out very closely to what they sounded like when I play them in more expensive speakers or headphones, which pleased me.
A little distortion
Although there was a small bit of distortion when songs were turned up to maximum volume, the X-mini Uno worked very well when music was turned down to more moderate levels, as it produced a clean sound that wasn’t the absolute sharpest, but it still played better than I expected.
After playing several genres of music at various levels of volume, the X-mini was able to fill up the room, and the tunes could still be heard with some level of clarity when I walked to other parts of the house, which means the Uno can definitely be used for a small gathering without the music sounding small or confined.
However, one area that bothered me a bit was how the Uno wasn’t able to remain still when heavy bass sounds were played through it.
After playing several songs, the speaker vibrated, moved and danced around the desk with each bass pump, which may be cute to some, but to me it was a little annoying. I found by putting the speaker on top of a cloth, it took away the vibrating movement and remained still.
Next, I plugged in the X-mini Max speakers that are supposed to provide an even fuller sound, which it should since it's two separate speakers intead of one. Users have the option to play the speakers together or separately.
First off, I was very impressed with the Max version, as its thickness of sound caught me off guard a bit since the room was instantly filled up with big sound and musical clarity, and the subtle and quieter parts of each song weren’t lost when the music was played at a high volume.
And not only were the Max speakers powerful, they also played with a smoothness that lacked any kind of distortion or cloudiness.
Although the Max has two speakers, it didn’t provide the separation of sound that I was looking for, as it just played louder than the Uno which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been nice to adjust the balance levels on each speaker, which is usually a benefit of having two.
But still, the X-mini Max still performed at a high level and is great for gatherings, to bring on vacation or to just blast your favorite tunes to yourself when you’re home.
Both the Uno and the Max are extremely small, being only a few inches in length and each has a battery life of 20 and 18 hours respectively. They can be charged through USB ports.
The design of the speakers is a plus too, as they come in nifty little colors like royal blue, a rusted orange color and lime green.
Each speaker also seems pretty solidly built despite its small size, and it doesn’t seem like it will break by being carried daily or by throwing it into a bag when you’re going on vacation or heading out of town.
It’s hard to lock down an exact price point for both the Uno and the Max, as the company offers it for around $65 on its website and other online stores have it for less.
But either way we definitely recommend both X-minis, as each unit had an extremely strong output with little distortion, aside from the Uno having a small bit of static when turned up to maximum volume.
All in all, the Uno and the Max make really solid holiday gifts for the music lover who wants to get back to playing music outwardly again. It will be interesting to see just how much more portable speakers will advance in the years to come.
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