We have seen quite a handful of wireless bluetooth speakers ranging from a few dollars right up to several hundred dollars. All varying in the build quality and actual sound performance. Xiaomi has been making a splash in the market with their Mi branded smartphones. The speciality being that the phones are better as compared to Samsung and the likes, while maintaining a very low price. There is a trade secret behind their low prices that we will be revealing later on. Meanwhile, we will focus on Xiaomi’s fairly brand new Mini Bluetooth speakers. If you would like to scale up see the Xiaomi Bluetooth 4.0 speaker review, only double the price at £20.
The speaker comes in a brown cardboard box, well seated inside a circularly shaped cardboard packing. There is a simplistic “Mi” branding on the box and nothing else. Even if there is not much printed stuff on the box, it looks quite good. There is a USB cable, the speaker and some user manuals that are written in Chinese. Who reads the manual anyway?
The speaker is a circular cylinder with the driver output on the top and a few controls located at a rather unintuitive location, beneath the speaker. The entire body is made from CNC milled aluminium which is covered in a black matte finish. You will also notice a transparent plastic stripe going around the body near the base. That stripe lights up when you power the device on.
When you have just turned the speakers on, the stripe will fade in and fade out with red and blue colours alternating. The effect is quite cool and shows that Xiaomi has worked on the operational aesthetics. Once the speaker is paired with your phone or whatever, the fading will stop and become constant.
The speaker stands on rubber feet which also happen to be the control buttons. There are 3 buttons on the bottom as I said before. Two of them are for volume while the 3rd one can be used for playing or pausing the music. You will also find a tiny hole on the bottom which has a microphone behind it. This means you can also use it to make hands-free calls while driving or whatever you activity you may be doing.
While doing some research on this speaker I also came across a tear down review done by Lui Gough on goughlui.com. Looking at the pictures, there is a usual green PCB with a separate Bluetooth module soldered over it. Usually, the Bluetooth module soldered over a PCB ruins the radiation pattern thereby reducing the maximum range. Apparently, care has been taken to make sure the antenna portion of the module sticks out in open air. There is a nice little power supply section for charging and voltage regulation. If this was some high end bluetooth speaker, you would find a dedicated DSP to do the surround sound magic or equalization. Apparently, the Xiaomi Mini Bluetooth speaker has it all inside the Bluetooth controller. There are only a bunch of op-amps for amplifying the audio signal.
The speaker is powered up by a 1300mAh battery that is supposed to last at least 10 to 12 hours as the specifications say. If you use this speaker for an hour or two, you should be good to go for at least a week without charging it.
With the Bluetooth and all other circuitry in one section inside the cylinder, the other half or rather more than half of the volume is dedicated to the driver. According to the specification sheet, the driver can output a maximum of 3W of output power. Apparently, the drivers are rated for a higher wattage. That indicates that there won’t be any distortions even at highest possible volume you can go with. In fact, if you were to change the amplifier circuit with something else, we could drive the speaker to the rated maximum thereby pumping more power.
The driver is nicely seated in a sealed section inside the cylinder. It is held together with some sort of glue and pushed towards the surface with a structure screwed inside. A firmly placed speaker is always a good thing because it will not vibrate and produce distortions. Since, the driver is quite small in diameter, I do not expect it to produce bass that well.
The 3W output is quite high and it is enough to vibrate the desk you place it on. That being said, the volume can go way too loud. If you want to create a mini party wherever you go, this speaker should be in your backpack at all times. Like we saw earlier, the speaker is rated for a higher wattage than it ever will be used at. Thus, there will be no time when you will feel that the speaker is stressing out under max volume.
At higher volume level the bass, mids and the highs seem to be quite okay. But if you lower the volume, effect of the bass diminishes by some level. Yet, at this price point it is still better than anything else available on the market. There is no muddiness or sparkle at the mids and the highs respectively. The bass remains punchy but do not expect the kind of punchiness you get from neodymium drivers.
On the whole, this speaker produces sufficiently good quality audio required for casual listening. It definitely isn’t meant for audiophiles, rather to play good quality audio at a relatively lower price point while being highly portable.
Getting it to work and the secret stuff
Bluetooth speakers are quite easy to operate. You might have gone through a bunch of our reviews in the past. Still, to summarise the process here is how it needs to be done.
Get your smartphone, turn on the Bluetooth and scan for devices. Make sure you have the Xiaomi Mini Bluetooth speakers turned on as well. The stripe will fade in and fade out with alternative red and blue colours. Once you spot the speaker on your device, pair with it. The stripe will glow red. You can now play music and whatever you intend to do with it.
As for the secret as I promised earlier. Why are Xiaomi devices so cheap yet they appear to have high quality parts inside them? It is not just that they appear to be high quality, they are indeed sourced from reputable producers. How can they manage to generate profit when the cost of the components used is higher than what the device is being sold for. We saw this inside the speaker, the specifications mentioned 3W of power, while the driver itself was rated for much higher capacity.
If you observe other manufacturers, you will notice that their devices become cheaper with time. Whereas, if you observe Xiaomi’s pricing, it remains constant. Same goes for the components used inside the device. Especially the processor and the screen that are the most expensive components in most devices. As technology advances, the component price drops and so does the overall product cost, but that is not the case with Xiaomi. Xiaomi devices maintain their cost through the product’s life, say for next 3-4 years. They do not generate profit for sometime after the product launch, but they surely start raking in profits after several months.
Whatever it be, Xiaomi Mini Bluetooth speaker which is available for mere $21 (discounted price) from gearbest surely stands up among all other speakers in this price range. The Xiaomi Mini Bluetooth speaker produces great sound that can be heard in an entire house and it can keep pumping for quite a long time before its battery runs out.