The Xmi X-Mini Max ($59.99 direct) speaker system, newly revamped with ceramic drivers, tries to do the impossible: Deliver powerful stereo music output from tiny enclosures. On this, it doesn’t quite succeed. But used within its limits, the X-Mini Max turns your smartphone or tablet into a surprisingly capable system for background music listening. It performs exceedingly well given the incredibly tight design constraints, and the distinctive orange ceramic drivers—new for 2013—are exceptional.
Design and Setup
The X-Mini Max system looks unique. Each speaker measures 3.22 by 2.13 inches (HWD), weighs 2.8 ounces, and has a plastic, closed resonator enclosure with a soft-touch coating that feels nice and expensive. In between the two halves of each speaker is a plastic, accordion-like material that compresses and releases with a prominent hiss, as if it were an air pump; you can also lock the two halves together in order to shrink the size further. The speakers feel substantial without being heavy, and each has a hard plastic power switch, the kind with the sharp grooves you may remember from electronics in the 1980s.
The cabling system is unique, and a little messy. The main cable branches out in two places; once to split between USB and a 3.5mm jack (for charging or listening, respectively), and once to split again between left and right micro USB connectors, one for each speaker. Underneath each speaker is an additional wrapped-up 3.5mm wire you can use for mono listening with just that speaker if you so choose.
In line on the main cable is a small wired remote with a fiddly volume slider; there’s no mic, so you can’t use the X-Mini Max as a speakerphone. A new weighted base helps keep each X-Mini Max speaker planted, although we found some tracks were still able to get the speakers dancing on our lab bench. You can also face the two bottoms of the speakers together; they’ll join up, thanks to the magnets inside, and create a sort of giant maxi-mini speaker. Xmi also includes a small, cloth pouch with a tie for bundling up both speakers and the cable. Pack the system inside, and you’ll barely notice the pouch in your travel bag. I even fit them in a coat pocket.
Performance and Conclusions
Each X-Mini Max speaker contains a 2-watt amplifier and a new 1.4-inch, orange ceramic driver. Xmi rates the frequency response of the system as 60 to 20,000Hz, but without plus or minus figures, those numbers are essentially meaningless. From the first time you play a track, they sound impressive. Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” sounded otherworldly and ethereal, with beautiful stereo separation, a real sense of space, and a surprisingly rounded electric bass, and they didn’t fall apart when the drums kicked in later, either. 2 Chainz’s “No Lie (ft. Drake)” sounded too bright, mainly from the lack of true low-end, although, amazingly, the tiny ceramic drivers didn’t distort that heavily.
On less-demanding tracks, like Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” the X-Mini Max delivered a pleasant, balanced sound at low volumes with little of the tinniness that characterizes most laptop speakers, although there was barely any bass punch from the kick drum. I also tried a number of tracks in mono mode, using just one speaker and the tiny 3.5mm cable tucked underneath it; while all stereo separation disappeared, the individual speaker did an impressive job, and got almost as loud as the stereo pair did. The speakers charge via USB; the company claims you can get 18 hours of music playback on a single charge. My pair charged up fully in less than three hours.
Overall, the Xmi X-Mini Max achieves what it’s designed to do, which is to provide decent stereo sound in as small a package as possible. Just keep in mind Xmi designed the speakers to a very specific size and weight, and that there are limits to the laws of physics. If you take the same $60 and apply it toward a larger, same-price desktop speaker pair, it’s likely you’ll get much fuller and louder sound, but they won’t travel as easily. If you’re looking for spacious, natural stereo sound on the go, the Xmi X-Mini Max is worth a listen. If you want a comparably priced wireless speaker, the iHome iDM8 delivers decent performance and works via Bluetooth. Finally, the $100 Edifier Exclaim e10 is our current Editors’ Choice system; it offers crisp, articulate audio and it’s an excellent value, although it’s significantly larger and doesn’t run on batteries.
More Speaker Reviews:
|Wireless Remote Control||No|
|Power Rating (Left and Right, Each)||2 watts RMS per channel|
|Type||iPod, Computer, iPad, iPhone|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc