For a 2.5 watt speaker in a palm-sized capsule under 100 grams, the X-Mini Rave pumps out some impressive sound. It's nothing to write home about, but for a $70 device-attach speaker, it's worth a listen.
We've looked at a few X-Mini speakers, and this one tops the range so far with clear sound, a fresh build and the added bonus of an FM radio - but all at an added price that some could make some wince.
A 40mm driver sits inside a ball-shaped pod that lives up to its portable promise. The self-sufficient unit charges in a couple of hours via USB and goes on to deliver over 10 hours of music from an iPod, smartphone, laptop, or anything else you hook it up to via its handy little 3.5mm jack that sits coiled underneath. It out-does its advertised promise of 6-8 hours of battery life, which is a rare trait for anything portable, so a pat on the back for that is in order.
Like its predecessors, the Rave twists open in an accordion-style pop-out design that immediately amps up the sound. While slightly tinny in its shell, popping open the capsule enlivens the sound with a deeper layer of bass that warms through the rest of the sonic spectrum.
Sound is dynamic to suit a whole range of music, and doesn't crackle when pushed to its decibel edge - but it does rattle. This little guy punches above its weight at its top-end volume, and will shake in its boots when sitting on a table. The sound won't suffer if it's perched on a soft surface like a blanket, but on any other tabletop where it'd more commonly sit, the rattling as it vibes against the floor can ruin your music. It's got a case of the Jambox.
The FM radio is the big sell this time around, with a small screen and a plus and minus tuning button to auto-detect stations. With no antennae in sight, the reception is still quite clear and sound is reproduced clear and sharp, though it won't always play nice with radio signals. At one point the unit would bit up radio frequencies faultlessly sitting on a couch, but would black out when turned upside down.
The radio is very basic, and while it won't save radio station presets, it will at least remember your last tuned station when you turn the unit back on. The tuner could be better and the reception could be boosted, but out in the open you won't find much as good this small.
The attached 3.5mm cable is very short which can be inconvenient, but an added longer cable comes in to save the day.
The previous X-Mini II capsule speaker runs at $44.95 and is virtually identical (in fact, its frequency response is a little wider than this new offering, except on a speaker of this size and quality you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference), so that'd be your best bet if the FM radio doesn't tickle your fancy.
Also like the previous speaker, it can be linked with other X-Minis to form a chain of sound that'll boost your music up a level. Nothing special like a miniature 2.1 set up, but the added capacity is great for outdoor barbecues and beach days where you need the extra oomph.
While the two speakers are very similar, my ear leant slightly toward the new Rave. With their internals being so similar, my guess is the added weight and slightly altered build of the Rave slightly aids the sound. For a simple solution to adding that extra bit of volume to your tablet or notebook or sharing your music outdoors that actually lives up to the portable promise, look no further.