Review of X-mini II and X-mini MAX II

X-mini logo
I was recently sent a couple of the new series II X-mini portable speaker systems to review here on the site. The X-mini series claims to deliver “Sound beyond size” and even comes with a faux warning label stating “Warning – Unbelievably Loud”. So, do these tiny, inexpensive speakers live-up to those bold claims? Read-on to find-out…

After having both of the X-mini models in my home to play around with over the Holiday vacation, I’ll give you my thoughts and review of these diminutive speakers. Just so you know, I have mainly used them with my iPhone 3G but these speakers will work with any audio device featuring a normal headphone jack.

Quick Conclusion:

The X-mini speakers do indeed play very loudly for their size and the sound quality surprised me. The tiny speakers certainly don’t “boom” by any means, but the sound is clear and reasonably full for the size. Only at the highest volume levels did I experience any distortion. For music on-the-go, the X-mini speakers will get the job done when you don’t want to use headphones.

Now, for the full details. Note that I’m covering both the X-mini II and the X-mini MAX II in this review.

The X-mini MAX II box

Packaging:

Both models of the X-mini come in a similarly styled box that is not much larger than a normal CD case in width and length. The boxes are easy to open and thankfully, there is none of that annoying packaging that is sealed shut and cuts your hands trying to open. Unpacking either model of the X-mini from the box is a 30 second process and doesn’t produce a huge pile of waste.

What’s In the Box:

The X-Mini II includes:

  • The single speaker X-mini II unit
  • Cloth carrying bag
  • Audio/charging cable w/velcro tie
  • User’s guide

The X-mini MAX II includes:

  • The X-mini MAX II pair of speakers
  • Cloth carrying bag
  • Audio/charging cable w/velcro tie
  • Audio adapter cable for single speaker use
  • User’s guide

Single speaker X-mini II connected to iPhone
Assembly / Setup / Design:

The single-speaker X-mini II is exceptionally easy to set-up. The speaker unit is self-contained and has the audio cable built-in and snapped into a convenient holding slot in the bottom. You simply un-snap the cord, plug it into your player, expand the bellows, turn it on, and you’re set. The design is clean and simple. The fact that the X-mini II is self-contained really makes it easy to carry and quick to use.

The X-mini II controls are simple and consist of a volume knob and an on/off switch. There is a bright blue LED that indicates when the unit is powered-on. For charging, you connect the included USB cord and the LED glows red. The charging cord also has a headphone jack on it should you want a longer cord than the built-in three inch cord to connect with your audio source.

The dual-speaker X-mini MAX II is a bit more complex. While each speaker has a built-in battery, just like the regular X-mini II, there is not a self-contained cord. Instead, you have to use the (included) audio/USB cord to connect to both speaker’s mini-USB connectors, which also double as the audio input, and then attach that to your audio player. The resulting setup does give you two speakers instead of one, but at the cost of having a cord chaining chaining everything together and getting in the way.

Single speaker X-mini MAX II connected to iPhone
Each of the MAX speakers has a blue LED when powered-on which changes to red when charging from the USB port. Each speaker has its own on/off switch, but curiously, there is no volume control on the MAX so you’re limited to using your audio player to adjust the loudness.

One nifty feature of the MAX speakers is that they “stick” together when not being used thanks to some magnets built into the bottom of each unit. This makes them easy to separate and connect and there’s no latches or hooks to break.

Both the X-mini II and the X-mini MAX II speakers have an interesting feature: you twist the top and bottom about 1/4 of an inch and the top and bottom pops apart to expose a plastic expanding bellow. This gives the tiny speakers a larger air volume to work with when listening, and when you’re done, you simply press the halves back together and twist to lock.

The new series II in both X-mini lines has what they call a “buddy port”. This is a 1/8″ headphone jack that can be used to connect more X-minis together to get additional volume. For example, I took the MAX pair and connected the single Mini to it and made a three-speaker setup. It’s an interesting setup and lets you hook many, many series II speakers together.

One potential concern if you’re planning to keep the speakers in a bag is to ensure that pencils or other similarly shaped items don’t poke the speaker cones. Both models of X-mini have the cones somewhat exposed and a pen could easily end-up making contact with the speaker cone. The included cloth carrying cases will help prevent this, but it would still be possible to cause damage to the speakers even inside the bag.

Build Quality:

Both models of X-mini are built of solid, matte black plastic. The plastic has an almost rubbery feel and the matte finish is far classier than the cheap looking shiny plastic you often find inexpensive devices these days. Holding the speakers in your hand gives you the impression that they are well-built. There is no creaking nor does the plastic flex when you press on it.

X-mini II with bellows open
When you expand the bellows in each speaker pod, the quality feel remains. I was expecting a flimsy feel when the speaker is “open” but the bellows appear to be made of a thicker plastic which keeps them sturdy.

The cables included with each set include a velcro tie which is a very nice touch. Too often, manufacturers don’t include any type of cable management and you end-up with tangled wires from carrying in your purse, backpack, or whatever. With these velcro ties, you can neatly bundle the cords so they are organized and less likely to snag and break on other things in your bag.

The controls and ports are solid and don’t flex when inserting the plugs.

Overall, the build quality of the X-mini and X-mini MAX II sets are “above average” in my opinion. For the week and a half I’ve owned them as of writing this, I have no complaints about the build quality and the speakers seem to be holding-up well to normal use.

Audio Quality:

The packaging for both sets of these speakers claims they are “unbelievably loud”. I did find this to be true. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with building speakers in the past and thus I understand that a small-cone speaker cannot physically play loud bass or other low frequencies. Thus, I had no expectation that either X-mini model would “wow” me in that regard.

X-mini MAX II box contents
However, I was surprised by the sound these little things actually do put-out. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t ever mistake these for your set of high-end home stereo speakers, but for speakers that are only a couple inches long and battery powered, the sound is impressive.

At first, when I was testing the single-speaker X-mini II, I didn’t know about the expanding bellow. I was listening to music with the speaker “collapsed”. Yeah, yeah, I should read the instructions, but you know how it goes. Anyway, once I expanded the speaker, the sound quality in the lower-end of the spectrum improved significantly.

Obviously, the higher-end treble frequencies are present in the X-minis as the tiny speakers very much resemble a tweeter. But, the mids and upper-end bass is relatively full as well thanks to the expanding bellows.

As I write this, I’m listening to the Avatar movie soundtrack which is largely orchestral. There are some drums playing and I can actually hear a bit of fullness in the sound of the drum. It’s far less “tinny” sounding that I ever expected from a speaker of this size!

I also listened to some Aerosmith and Crystal Method to cover several styles of music. I figured that some orchestra (Avatar), rock (Aerosmith) and electronica (Crystal Method) should cover most of the range of sounds out there. On all types of music, the highs were very strong and the lower the frequency, the more it dropped-off. However, listening was fully acceptable and pleasing especially for a very small portable system that I can easily carry.

Note that I did also test the speakers with a mega bass album from Techmaster P.E.B., as I always do. I was not expecting the X-minis to be able to reproduce any of the low-end 20Hz bass simply to due physics, and I was right. There is no “boom” in the X-minis, so if you’re looking for rumbling, powerful bass, you probably already know to look elsewhere.

The X-mini II and X-mini MAX II performed nearly identically with the exception that the MAX has two speakers so they can get louder and also provide stereo sound.

As for the “unbelievably loud” claim, yes both the X-mini II and X-mini MAX II speakers do get much louder than I expected. At maximum volume, there is some distortion and the small speaker size causes the treble to become rather shrill, but backing the volume down just a bit brought the speakers back into a listenable range that was still quite loud.

X-mini MAX II connected to iPhone
Conclusion:

As usual, here’s the bullet list everyone is probably skimming for:

X-mini II:
Pros:

  • Very compact.
  • Self contained battery and audio input cable.
  • Volume control.
  • Surprisingly good sound for the size.

Cons:

  • Small speaker means less bass.
  • Mono sound.

X-mini MAX II:
Pros:

  • Very compact for dual speakers.
  • Can use just one speaker if desired (like X-mini II above).
  • Self-contained rechargeable battery.
  • Surprisingly good sound for the size.

Cons:

  • Small speaker means less bass.
  • Cable management for dual speakers is less convenient.

I must say that these tiny little speakers surprised me. I had not heard of the X-mini lineup before I was sent these evaluation units, so I had no idea what to expect. The sound exceeded my expectations for a 20mm speaker, thanks in large part to the unique expanding bellows design. The fact that they have batteries built-in means that you don’t need to connect them to a USB power source except to charge.

Personally, I expect to use the X-mini II single speaker the most simply due to the convenience of the built-in cord and simplicity. The stereo MAX II set will probably appeal to more people looking for “hang out music” with their friends, however. Either set is well-built, and sounds surprisingly good – and yes they are unexpectedly loud too if that’s your thing. The prices are pretty cheap, too.

If you need an occasional speaker for use with your iPod, iPhone, or other portable audio player, check-out the single speaker X-mini II or the dual speaker X-mini MAX II. I think you’ll like what you find. They aren’t easy to find in stores (yet) but as word spreads, I’ll bet you see them in-use all over.

CLICK HERE to order the single speaker X-mini II

CLICK HERE to order the dual speaker X-mini MAX II

CLICK HERE to order the single speaker X-mini II

CLICK HERE to order the dual speaker X-mini MAX II

I hope you enjoyed this review. For full disclosure, as stated above, I did receive no-cost evaluation units to do this review, but the opinions are entirely mine and derived from my own use of the products. Some links are affiliate links.