X-mini has streamlined its portable speaker offering and brought out the X-mini Max v1.1, the predecessor to the X-mini Max II we reviewed just a few months ago.
Like the Max II, the Max v1.1 is a set of two speakers that lock together in an egg shape via magnets on the base. It's a stylish basic design, and it's nice to see that X-mini knows when it's onto a good thing. Also like the Max II, the Max v1.1 speakers twist open to reveal an accordion-like resonator for very slightly enhanced bass.
They're smaller than the Max II, though, weighing in at 104.8g (compared to 178g), and a simpler, cleaner design. We also really liked the matte finish, even on the metallic red colour; in this day of piano-gloss gadgets, it gives the speakers quite a refreshing, refined chic. And it doesn't attract fingerprints like a crime scene.
For little speakers, the X-mini Max v1.1 packs a decent punch. You will find — and this shouldn't come as a surprise, given the speakers' size — that the sound gets less robust and even tinny if you move more than a couple of metres away from them; if you want a set of speakers that's going to fill a larger space well, you really do need to look at something bigger. However, they do work quite well in a travel context: cars and hotel rooms, for example. Not public transport, though. If you use these on public transport, the Demon of Inconsiderate Commuters will take your soul.
Alternatively, you can purchase additional units and create a long daisy chain of speakers by plugging the audio jack into the next set. This will create a bigger sound, although whether it is necessarily better is questionable.
The problem of the custom cable from the X-mini Max II remains. Two mini USB plugs at one end connect to the speakers, another to a USB port for charging or using the X-mini Max as a computer speaker and a fourth is the audio jack for plugging into and MP3 for portable listening. It's not difficult to figure out, but it looks messy — and if you lose it, you'll have to find a retailer who sells replacements.
One thing we did like was the magnets on the base. They're not exactly meant for this purpose, but they had the nifty side effect of sticking nicely to metallic surfaces. We stuck them on a fridge where they were nicely out of the way of cooking space. Granted, we could have put them on top of the fridge, but that wouldn't be as fun, now, would it? As it turned out, we still had to find a surface for the MP3 player to rest on anyway.
If you're looking for a small, portable travel speaker, you would be hard pressed to find better than the X-mini Max v1.1. For their size, they offer great sound and the playback time is fantastic. And we're a sucker for the really rather elegant design.