After years of churning out small speakers, some just the size of golf balls, Singapore tech firm X-Mini is finally moving on to something bigger.
Roughly the size of a square loaf of Gardenia bread, the X-Mini Clear is not just a bigger speaker. It has been redesigned from the ground up. It looks different from existing X-Mini speakers, and also from the competition.
If you have ever wondered what the inside of a portable speaker looks like, just look through the Clear's transparent rear shell. The placement of all three amplifiers is clearly defined and I am sure the team spent considerable effort in hiding the wires that normally link everything to a motherboard.
Inside, two thin, curved plastic tubes connect to two five-cent-sized holes in the front of the speakers. An LED light is located at the mouth of each hole and can be set to light up in varying colours, with each beat of the music.
As far as I can tell, this placement is purely aesthetic but it is a clever design. The plastic tube channels and reflects the pulsating light across the body of the speaker, and each flicker is, in turn, reflected by the transparent chassis, creating an array of lights that move with the music.
The front of the speaker has a removable mesh if you want to see the lights as the music plays.
The touch controls are on the top panel, with playback and volume controls. The touch controls are best used with an instruction manual though, as the auxiliary and Bluetooth button, which toggle between a physical or wireless connection, is shared, together with the LED light switch.
At times, I switched off the Bluetooth connectivity by accident while trying to switch on the LED lights, or vice-versa.
But none of the aesthetics matter if the speakers are not impressive. X-Mini has long prided itself on the clarity of its mini speakers. This extends to the Clear, but some bass has been sacrificed.
Now, the use of bass, or rather, the overuse of it, to establish audio strength, has long been a trick that certain manufacturers use.
X-Mini seems to take the opposite route, dialling back on the bass more aggressively than necessary, such that background music and instruments are relegated to a distant second place compared with vocals.
If you enjoy vocal tracks and watch movies on your computer, the Clear will do wonders for your music and movie library, as it brings out the sharpness in voices with an intense focus.
But if your music library is filled with instrumental tracks, or if the speakers channel video-game soundtracks, the impact of the music is weakened and comes across as rather hollow sounding at times.
Given the X-Mini's pedigree, the Clear is not just another portable speaker that looks and sounds like something Logitech, Beats, Jabber or so many others have designed.
As it is a Singapore company, it is easy to compare the Clear to the Creative Roar, an incredible portable speaker with a good balance between clarity and bass performance. But both are geared for different uses, even if they share many traits.
There is a purpose to the Clear's use and functions, but clearly, it is not meant for everyone's musical tastes.
Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20kHz
Loudspeaker Output: 20W
Bluetooth Profile Support: 2DP Stereo, AVRCP v1.0, HFP v1.5
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 4/5
This article was first published on Feb 04, 2015.
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