28 July 2013

REVIEW: Xmini Uno and Max Speakers

Size really doesn't matter.

It probably feels as if your smartphone, tablet or laptop can do whatever you want it to. These powerhouses of devices are used in every aspect of our lives, from surfing the net and playing games, to writing your thesis and texting your mum happy belated birthday. There's nothing our little mobile pals can't do.

Except play decent quality audio.

We've yet to see any phone, slate or lappy achieve great quality music and sound, instead producing a tinny limited range of sounds most of the time. So, we the tech-heads with dreams of musical nirvana, invest in speakers and amps and bluetooth gadgets to help get us there. Unfortunately these so-called mobile speakers hardly ever are and take up more room in our bags than a fat person's bum on an economy flight. Is there a better way to kick back with some first class audio? Yes, and it comes in the form of the Xmini speaker range.

The Uno
When first heard about the Xmini range are smiles were first spurred not by good looks, solid build quality and versatility, but rather by the fact that the speakers did not connect via Bluetooth. Yes, you heard us, we were glad of no bluetooth connectivity. Here's why:

• We're sick of bluetooth speakers. As ungrateful and backward as it may sound, here at The Test Pit we've reviewed quite a few bluetooth speakers over the months and mostly they've been much of a muchness. We're bored of writing about them.

• Lack of bluetooth support means that the speakers are backward compatible. Anything with a 3.5 inch headphone jack can use these, including older model laptops and netbooks that don't ship with bluetooth support.

• The can be used as desktop speakers without having to go through the rigmarole of pairing and charging.

• They're cheaper. 'Nuff said.

And so with these points in mind we set about testing the Xmini Uno and the duel-pack Xmini Max.

Both sets of speakers are similarly designed with a unique space saving feature built in. Both the Uno and the Max are built around a compressing concertina allowing them to be squashed down to a smaller size. So points already for portability.

Uno compressed and ready to travel
The Uno, the larger of the speakers (although the two Max units can combine to create 'Das Uber Speaker'), is a solid and reassuring weighted piece of tech. Compressed it's about the size of a golf ball, comes with its own carry case and needs only one wire for both charging and connecting. That wire, which also scores points, features a micro USB at one end (to connect to the Uno itself) and at the other a traditional headphone jack which splits away to a full sized USB. The genius of the Uno is that although the speaker features an internal battery it can also comfortably be powered by plugging it into a USB port and staying put as the stereo jack remains free to connect to your phone/tablet/computer.

It's a similar story with the Max, however this time round the wire features double micro USB heads (there is even a cable divider to stop them getting tangled, bless them). What makes the Max different from the Uno is, of course, the stereo effect of having two speakers. They can be placed far apart for more musical immersion or stuck together by way of the hidden magnets in their bases.

Best of buds: the Max units conjoined

One last thing to mention before moving onto the sound quality... they're sociable. Both the Uno and Max feature Xmini's trademark "buddy" wire, in that all individual speakers can be connected to another so as to increase the volume and quality of music. Therefore if you purchase both the Uno and Max sets you have essentially got a three speaker system ready to buddy up and go. If anything we love the way the connector wires are built in to the base of each speaker. More points, gentlemen.

So, sound. We played a great mix of music and podcasts through both sets and found that while the quality was not necessarily room-filling it was more than enough to meet the needs of most situations.

The Uno, as a stand alone individual speaker, performed well but we could definitely tell we were listening to a mono. Three hours on charged resulted in nearly 18 hours of continuous playback on battery mode and we found it to be the perfect companion for a smartphone should you want to hear a recording out loud or listen to a quick bit of music.

The Max was altogether more impressive. Both speakers worked fantastically together and both volume and clarity were far superior to the Uno's efforts. We found the Max suited media like films and games far better, and we used it a lot to watch Netflix on our laptops and for better audio while on YouTube.

But for a sound that far outshines both speaker sets, try combining all three. The buddy cables work well to create a micro speaker set that produces astonishing audio while packing up into carry cases that fit inside your pocket.

If money is tight, go for the Max as this set offers both versatility and quality. But if you are rich and laugh at the peasants on the bus and burn money as a way to keep your unicorn warm, get both. These are two good speaker sets that, when working together, become great.

Wow, that's like a metaphor for life. Man.

Xmini Uno: £37.99
Xmini Max: £48.99

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