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KitGuru gets loud, proud and dangerous to know

We live in a world that's split on the question of whether size matters. For every French cuisine dish that places a tiny morsel of food in the centre of a massive white dish – there's a country like Italy that insists that the entire platter is covered in pizza or pasta. While semi-conductor manufacturers desire the minuscule, many a holiday romance has been spoiled with arguments about the motion of the ocean and the size of the wave. So how important is size to a portable audio solution? KitGuru gets hands-on with a bigger bullet speaker.

The volume of air being moved is something that we relate directly to loudness. Loudness is to music as physical strength is to humans. Although we can all agree that whispers are quiet and the front row of a Motorhead gig is loud, loudness is a very subjective thing.

It's not as simple as saying, “This sound is loud and that is not”. There are many other factors to consider, including the frequency of the sound, the pressure that a sound wave exerts and even things like the duration. So if you have one of the original ‘bullet speakers' for your phone, iPod or computer – is it worth checking out the second generation units? How much will you be spending and how will that change your life?

Capsule or bullet speakers are telescopic devices, so that a simple turn will increase the physical length. Alongside the speaker mechanism itself, you also have a rechargeable battery, USB interface for power and an audio lead that will connect to your sound source.

When we first saw the bullet speaker at a trade show several years back, it immediately grabbed you as a good idea. It was something small, simple and effective – easy to pack in your luggage when heading off on a trip or holiday. Recent price moves on products like the second generation X-Mini product mean you can pick one up from Play.com for just £11.99 – and that includes FREE delivery. It also features ‘Buddy Jack', but we'll get to that later.

Having ordered in one of the bigger portable speakers, we decided to stack it up against two older models and see if the big dog really does have the loudest bark.

Technical Specification
Manufacturer: X-Mini
Model: Mini II
Dimensions: 60mm x 44mm (closed)
Weight: 83 gramms
Speaker Output: 1.9 watts
Frequency Response: 100Hz to 20KHz
Signal to noise: >80db
Battery Charge Time: 2.5 Hours
Playback Time: Up to 8 Hours

Packaging and Contents
X-Mini products come in a nice little container, with intelligent internal moulding that should prevent damage in all but the most extreme ‘drop' situations. One audio cable is integrated into the unit itself – so you can plug and play when you have a charge. There is also a cable to connect to a USB power source when you need to play audio ‘tethered'. Instructions on use and a leaflet that encourages you to be charitable toward children, because small things matter. Ahhh, ain't that sweet.

Product Shots

Simple, but effective packaging - you really feel that you get value for your £11.99
It's worth giving the MINI II a spin, cos it will reveal the additional ports and 'solo use' connection jack. Alongside the power switch, there is a volume control and USB charge/audio socket. The 'killer' is the audio jack port - scroll down for 'Why'
Making audio sound good means moving air. The bigger your air mover (generally), the better. Here you can see the MINI II stacked up against a typical first generation device and the kind of 'stocking filler' that we've all bought someone
Not only is the build quality far superior to other products we've seen, it's also taller as well as wider. Each increase in dimension, means more air moving. And we like the air moving.

OK, so design and packaging aside, what is the experience of using the MINI II like?

In a word, great! It packs a significant punch and if you add it to your laptop, iPod or phone – then your musical world will definitely be better. We can agree with the manufacturer's label “Sound beyond size”, but struggle a little with the warning label that it is “Unbelievably loud”. This is a great little speaker. It is not, however, a magic speaker.

That said, it does have one neat trick left up its sleeve – and that's the ability to be daisy-chained. Yep, that's right. the audio out can feed another MINI II and that, in turn, can pass the signal down the line. With the huge array of internet radio stations available these days, it does mean that you could be out with friends (weekend break, post-clubbing chill out etc) and combine your powers for a quite sensational sound. This feature is called ‘Buddy Jack' and we loves it we does.

We tried it with just 3 speakers and the effect was really impressive. On holiday, in a group, you could quickly get to the level where a hotel boss would be asking you to turn it down or leave. On a smaller scale, the Base eXpansion System works and you can easily get a kitchen table to vibrate in a pleasing way.

Engage 'Buddy Jack' with friends and you have yourself an X-Mini Wall of Sound. This is a Must Have product.

KitGuru says: With battery life up around the 11 hour mark, volume control, extra base boost and the cool ability to daisy-chain your speaker with mates, this £11.99 unit from Play.com is almost perfect. Great addition to any music/movie lovers travel luggage – we can't recommend it enough. Compared to some of the poxy solutions we've seen punted for iPad/iPod at extremely high prices, this is a bargain.

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