The most recognisable feature of Xmi’s X-mini range of Bluetooth speakers is probably their diminutive size. The new X-mini CLEAR is quite different. While we wouldn’t consider it large, it’s certainly the largest Bluetooth speaker in the X-mini product line. It’s not set to reach the market until mid November, but Xmi kindly sent a review unit for me to test.
The X-mini CLEAR is quite different from any of the other X-mini speakers. The size is one thing, but apart from that, it’s also totally different in design. As you can see from the photos, the CLEAR is mostly transparent. The front face is opaque, except for two sound ports, but the rest of the body is made of clear plastic. Yes, plastic, fortunately, not glass, otherwise it would be a pretty but very fragile speaker.
It’s a really beautiful speaker to look at. The transparent design is unique, and it’ll certainly be a hallmark characteristic of the X-mini CLEAR. Of course, like other transparent speaker designs out there (and thankfully the X-mini CLEAR is not simply a copy of them), there’s not much to see inside the speaker, because it’s mostly empty space. The main electronics are sealed inside a module at the base of the speaker.
The design aside, the X-mini CLEAR is Xmi’s first speaker that is not mono. In fact, the X-mini is not just stereo, it’s also a 2.1 audio system, which means that it has a subwoofer. It seems quite a bit of a leap for Xmi, and sets us up for huge expectations in terms of sound quality. We’ll find out in a moment if the X-mini CLEAR sounds as good as it looks.
All the main controls of the X-mini CLEAR are in the form of touch-sensitive buttons at the top of the speaker. While the glossy black plastic is very nice, the touch buttons do mean you’ll leave lots of fingerprints on the surface. Some of the buttons, namely the music control and volume buttons, are not really visible until they are lit up.
There’s a noise-cancelling microphone on the left, used for conference calls. There’s a NFC logo on the right, so I guess that’s where you’ll place your phone for easy NFC pairing with the X-mini CLEAR. However, Bluetooth pairing is straight-forward enough, I personally don’t feel that NFC pairing is a significant value-add. Nevertheless, it seems like just about every other manufacturer is putting in NFC anyway to make sure they match up on specifications.
The X-mini CLEAR offers a fabric front dust cover for the speaker, and it attaches magnetically.
The massive (relatively, by Xmi’s standards) X-mini CLEAR is battery powered, no need to tether to a power source. The speaker incorporates a 6600mAh battery, rated to last a generous 10 hours.
The X-mini CLEAR, unfortunately, does not charge via micro USB. It requires its own power adapter, connected via a barrel jack. The output voltage is somewhat non-standard, so you’d better not lose that power adapter, lest you be left with a fanciful speaker that’s only good to look at.
The DC barrel jack is on the back of the X-mini CLEAR, next to a USB type A connector. That USB connector means you can use the X-mini CLEAR as a battery bank to charge your other portable gadgets. On the far right, you’ll find a 3.5mm aux-in jack and a recessed reset button (the sort requiring a needle to poke at).
How does the X-mini CLEAR sound? Impressive. The bass is punchy and no doubt well covered thanks to a dedicated subwoofer. It’s powerful and loud enough to drive most house parties. Unfortunately, the sound quality, in particular, doesn’t match up with its outstanding looks. The sound quality is not bad, it’s just not outstanding compared with similar products.
A rather novel feature of the X-mini CLEAR is the LED lit sound ports. You can set the LED lights to strobe to the music or pulse a more soothing glow. In practice, though, in a well lit room, these LED lights aren’t going to be all that noticeable.
The X-mini CLEAR will retail for S$299, and should be available from around mid-November 2014.
The X-mini CLEAR is a beautiful looking 2.1 channel Bluetooth portable speaker.
- Beautiful transparent shell design
- Novel coloured LED lights
- Impressive overall sound production
- Requires dedicated power adapter for charging