By CHONG JINN XIUNGintech@thestar.com.my
Don't let the size of the X-Mini Happy speaker fool you as it is louder than it looks.
PORTABLE speakers are a dime a dozen but they aren't known to produce quality sound. However, unlike most other speakers in this category, the X-Mini Happy attempts to shed that image by taking an innovative all-in-one solution that combines a powerful portable speaker with a built-in MP3 player.
The idea is quite brilliant and it works with practically any music playback device be it your music phone, iPod or iPhone.
The Happy is uniquely designed, fits just about anywhere and also folds up into a compact ball shape when you need to fit it into your pocket for travel.
There aren't any buttons around the sides of the speaker except for a single mute button. In fact, the speaker relies solely on a small jog dial for nearly everything it does. You hold it to switch it on/off and twist it from side to side to skip to the next track. But aside from that it doesn't do anything else.
On the bottom side of the speaker is a very short line-in cable that can be stowed by wrapping it around the edge of speaker.
Small but louder
Don't let the size of the Happy fool you - the Happy sounds a lot louder than it looks. Granted, the speakers won't blow your socks off but it is pretty loud when the volume is turned up.
Speaking of volume, the speaker doesn't have direct control over your music volume so you will need to adjust it from your music playback device. It is a little of an inconvenience but I guess it wouldn't have fitted in well with the aesthetics if there was a dedicated volume control on the speaker itself.
More than just a portable speaker, the Happy also doubles up as a standalone MP3 player. Using an SD/SDHC card slot, you can fit up to 8GB of music into this little speaker. Since there are no restrictions or fancy proprietary software to worry about, transferring music into the Happy by way of SD card is as simple as dragging and dropping files into a folder.
One thing I didn't like about the built-in MP3 function is that it will by default automatically play music off the SD card whenever a card is inserted even when I had another device connected to it. I was forced to eject the card before my music player could start playing.
The speaker runs on a built-in rechargeable battery that's easily charged via USB 2.0.
Since the Happy doubles as a MP3 player, it comes with an obligatory 3.5mm headphone jack for you to plug in a pair of headphones when you don't want to disturb the people around you. Frankly speaking, however, the idea of wearing headphones does kind of defeat the purpose of having a speaker.
The headphone jack also serves another purpose as you can connect the Happy to another X-Mini speaker and use both speakers for a stereo music listening experience.
When it comes down to sound quality, we really haven't come across anything to rival the performance of the X-Mini Happy in the portable speaker category.
The speaker certainly does live up to its billing and we were generally happy with its performance. Both music and vocals come through crystal clear during playback.
Even better, the speaker is able to produce some bass tones - while it is not fantastic, it does help keep the music from sounding completely flat.
As I mentioned earlier, the music can be surprisingly loud; so loud in fact that you may want to tone it down.
A couple of sample tracks we played sounded really nice on the Happy; this included Plastic Beach by the Gorillaz, a pretty bass-heavy song that came out wonderfully clear. Songs like Here Comes Your Man by Meaghan Smith also sounded good with the vocals sounding natural.
Instrumental pieces such as Married Life taken from the Pixar film Up also sounded good on the speakers; right down to the individual piano keys played.
All in all, the X-Mini Happy is a fun-sized little speaker that delivers as promised. It's a pleasant surprise to find a speaker of such a small size being able to deliver big tunes in ways we did not imagine before. Better still, having a built-in SD card reader means you can easily carry your favourite songs along with you wherever you go.
The Happy however could use a longer in-line cable, as the current length is far too short and limits its flexibility. Also, the speaker would benefit from a source switch button for changing between listening to music on an inserted SD card and a connected music playback device. A dedicated volume control would've also made it more convenient to control the volume.
If you are looking for a portable speaker that delivers great sounding music, you should seriously give the X-Mini Happy a try.
Pros: Compact size makes for easy storage; great sound quality; built-in SD card reader; built-in battery.
Cons: Line-in cable is too short; no dedicated volume control; speaker plays SD card source by default when card is inserted; pricey.
(Xmi Pte Ltd)
Portable mono speaker
Speaker: Magnetically shielded D40mm 2 watts
Frequency response: 230Hz to 20kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: more than 70dB
Ports: Analogue stereo 3.5mm jack, SD card slot, USB 2.0
Other features: Built-in MP3 play function
Dimensions (W x H x D): 60mm x 49.1mm
Review unit courtesy of Asia Angle Sdn Bhd, (03) 5122-3203.
Rating: Four stars