9.0

Bluetooth Minirig Portable Speaker Review: Big Sound in a Small Frame

Tech Reviews Audio
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Bluetooth Minirig Portable Speaker Review: Big Sound in a Small Frame

British-based Minirig updated its wired portable speakers with Bluetooth capability, making it far simpler to use while traveling. Like its predecessors, the Bluetooth Minirig Portable comes in a compact, rugged and utilitarian package with a water resistant body. That makes it pretty ideal for outdoor adventures. Just don’t let the Minirig’s small size fool you—this compact speakers pumps out massive sound.

If the wired version of the Minirig got you excited before, the wireless version delivers the same premium build quality and big sound in the compact design, but allows you to shed the wires this time around with the inclusion of Bluetooth.

Constructed out of unibody aluminum with plastic end caps, and available in a variety of colors—our review unit is clad in an understated matte black coat of paint—the Minirig screams quality. Given its metal construction, the speaker’s design goes well with today’s metal iPhones or glass-backed designs from Samsung and LG. The black Bluetooth Minirig looked equally at home with my silver Huawei Mate 9 smartphone.

Design

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 11.15.41 AM.png

The unit is only 3.75 inches tall and comes in a cylindrical form factor with a 4-inch diameter. The internal components of the speakers are sealed away with a plastic bottom cap. The speaker’s IPX4 rating means that it can handle splashes of water, perfect for bringing the music to wet summer parties. Although the speakers aren’t waterproof, the rugged design means that the Minirig can survive the outdoors for camping trips, hiking treks and beach outings.

Up top, Minirig highlights the speaker’s rugged design with exposed screws and a mesh design up top. The mesh is where the speakers fire from, and when the Minirig Bluetooth is placed standing upright on a flat surface, the speaker’s top-firing design allows it to produce loud sounds from its compact body.

There’s a single plastic button on the top rim surrounding the speaker mesh, which serves to turn the speaker on and off when depressed, and to also initiate Bluetooth pairing when pressed and held. The button also houses an internal LED light that glows different colors to indicate if the speaker is on, charging or in pairing mode.

Unlike many other competing speakers in this category, the Minirig doesn’t come with volume or audio playback controls on the speaker’s housing. Instead, the company figured that you’ll like play and pause songs, skip or go back tracks, and adjust volume through your audio source.

While the omission of buttons for audio control helps to keep the minimalist design, I’d much prefer to have controls on the speaker for instances when you’re sharing your music with a group, like at parties. For personal music playback, the lack of built-in audio controls isn’t too bothersome, but I’d rather not have to leave my phone on the table, along with the speakers, so guest can choose songs to play.

Audio

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 11.21.19 AM.png

Driving the sound from the Minirig is a single three-inch driver. Unlike competing compact speakers in this segment, like the Beats Pills and Samsung’s Level Box Pro, that offer smaller stereo drivers, the Minirig is a mono-only affair. You won’t get the stereo isolation for watching movies on your laptop or phone, but the upside—and one that’s big—is that volume from the Minirig gets plenty loud. Minirig’s mono sound design makes it ideal for blastic out music at parties when stereo sound isn’t important.

Additionally, you’ll get crisp audio with very minimal distortion, even at higher volumes. Android users will also benefit from aptX support for Bluetooth music streaming, which offers higher fidelity audio over a wireless connection. I found the sound coming from the Minirig to be rich and balanced. Fidelity isn’t quite as rich as it is on stereo systems designed for indoor use, but the Minirig’s massive distortion-free sound punch more than makes up for this small quibble.

And despite lacking dedicated audio playback buttons, the power button up top serves one additional purpose: gain. Pressing the power button while a track is playing amps up the volume even further, producing room-filling audio. And whereas my Jambox speakers faded into the background when played outdoors, I didn’t experience this issue with the Minirig, especially with the high gain mode enabled.

There’s also a 3.5mm socket on the side of the Minirig, allowing you to connect the speakers to your audio source via a wired connection. Additionally, you can also connect two Minirig units together to gain stereo sound, or add bass to your jam sessions with a Minirig subwoofer, giving you a 2.1 audio setup.

Even without connecting a subwoofer to the Minirig, I found the bass to be adequate. Highs and mids were clean, and there was a punchy response for bass-heavy tracks.

If you’re connecting multiple Minirig units, the company also has a beta app on the App Store and Google Play Store that gives you more granular control of your speaker setup. If you’re just using a singular Minirig speaker, like I did, then you don’t need the extra app. Blueooth playback works like it does on any pair of wireless headphones or competing Bluetooth speakers.

Battery Life

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 11.22.28 AM.png

With loud enough speakers, you’ll likely want to keep the party going, and thankfully there’s ample battery life to be had with this compact speaker. Minirig claims that you’ll be able to squeeze up to 50 hours of battery life at lower volume settings. I found the company’s battery claims to err on the conservative side, and I got a bit over 50 hours with music playback at medium volume settings.

The downside with Minirig’s power situation is that it doesn’t come with a built-in micro USB port to recharge. Rather, an adapter is included in the box, allowing you to connect a USB cord to the coaxial socket to recharge the speaker. The cable also comes with an adapter allowing you to plug in your phone’s USB power cord to recharge your mobile device from the Minirig’s battery in a pinch if you find yourself running low on power.

Verdict

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 11.23.34 AM.png

At $189 on Amazon, the Minirig speaker comes in at the higher end of compact Bluetooth speakers, competing in the same price segment as Jawbone’s Big Jambox and Beats Pill 2.0. Whereas many of Minirig’s rivals use a stereo speaker design, the larger mono driver on this speaker sets it apart from the competition. This allows the Minirig to offer a surprisingly loud and rich audio experience from its compact travel-friendly package.

If audio fidelity and loud sound is what you’re after for outdoor gatherings, then Minirig’s rugged industrial design and splash resistant construction are welcomed bonuses in this price range.

To combat the lack of depth from its mono speaker design, Minirig’s modular design allows you to connect an additional speaker and subwoofer to get a richer 2.1 channel audio listening experience.

Also in Tech