Walk into any consumer electronics store and you'll likely encounter an overwhelming choice of wireless speaker systems on display. If you want premium cable-free sound, however, you can expect to pay a premium price. The Minx Go portable speaker from London-based Cambridge Audio is a little different. Not only is it claimed to offer high fidelity audio for a fraction of the cost of comparable systems, but its built-in battery keeps the party going long after other devices have given up and headed for the wall outlet. Gizmag has spent the last few weeks with a review unit, and we're suitably impressed.
With dimensions of 9.3 x 4.8 x 2.4 in (237 x 123 x 60 mm) and tipping the scales at a travel-friendly 2.4 lb (just over 1 kg), the Minx Go is certainly small enough to hold in one hand – I found two were used more often than not. It's not as one-hand-friendly as the Jawbone Jambox or the Beats Pill Speaker, but it is cheaper than both. Though some form of carry handle might help in this regard, Cambridge Audio says that the inclusion of such would have reduced its internal volume. I found the unit to be pretty stable when placed on a flat surface, but if such things are a concern, there's a fold-out foot located at the back to help keep it steady.
The Go is available in glossy black or white. The scratch-resistant housing proved to be quite the fingerprint magnet during the review period. Though no micro-fiber cloth is included, a quick spruce-up with a damp cloth is all that's needed to restore its sparkle. Its two 2-inch woofers and two titanium dome tweeters are fronted by a speaker grille that spans the whole of the front of the unit, and there's an active bass radiator at the back. This array, combined with a Class-D amplifier, Digital Signal Processor and digital-to-analog converters, is reported to offer users "an expansive, clear, deep sound that really fills your room with music."
The system's EQ is determined by the Kalimba DSP on the CSR Bluetooth 4.0 chip and cannot be altered on the Go itself. During tests, I found that the portable speaker delivered a very balanced output, even without touching the source player's own tone settings, and there was more than enough low end thump to satisfy most tastes. Vibration and distortion are given an eviction notice thanks to an acoustically-dampened cabinet design.
"Front and rear are a composite plastic that has especially good damping properties and are sealed to each other and further mechanically damped by the silicone band," explains the company's Simon Hewitt. "Because there are no flat surfaces, the form being made up of complex curves, the structure is inherently rigid. Further, using FEA (finite element analysis) we have analyzed any areas where resonance could occur and added internal strengthening rubs."
That said, at higher volumes the tweeters did produce some distortion on a few modern rock tracks. This was remedied by slightly lowering the volume, which didn't really affect the overall output. A minor inconvenience, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
The speaker system includes a Li-ion battery that's claimed to offer up to 18 hours of continuous use between charges. Naturally this will vary depending on output level, but I found that at a comfortable volume, the Go consistently went over the 22-hour mark. If there's no sonic output for 30 minutes, the unit will auto shut down to preserve the battery.
The battery is not user-replaceable, but a service agent can replace it with a new one at the end of its operational life. Top-up time took just under four hours. When plugged into a wall outlet, a mobile device can be connected to the included USB charging port to have its battery topped up.
Pairing a source device to the Go via Bluetooth proved a very straightforward affair, and the unit is capable of remembering the previous eight connected smartphones, tablets, laptops, and so on. Unfortunately, my favored mobile music player doesn't have a Bluetooth chip, but the Go can still accommodate connection with the help of a 3.5-mm aux input jack to the rear.
Overall volume levels are controlled using a combination of the source device output controls and the up or down buttons on top of the Go. I've played a wide variety of music through this portable audio thrower, and have been floored each time by the excellent sound quality and surprisingly generous space of the output through its fairly tight speaker array. It has provided the background soundtrack for meal preparation, as well as the ambiance for occasional dinner guests. It's entertained us while we've sunned ourselves in the park, and been a regular feature in the garden (where the sound appears to have carried for some distance, if the comments from neighbors are anything to go by).
While researching this product I noted that there seemed to be some unusual omissions from the packaging, product page and user manual in the form of the audio specifications, which can serve to help the buyer when comparing different devices.
"We don't give out a frequency response for Minx Go because with such small speakers the levels of EQ required make the figures meaningless," says Hewitt. "In addition, many choose to adapt the EQ to volume level, typically cutting bass at higher levels to gain a last few dBs of loudness. We have chosen not to do this however as the 'pumping' effect you get as this cuts in and out is detrimental to the music. Again, THD is not of any real significance because the amplifier THD is just one part of the equation and this itself would require the system EQ to be disabled for it to make any sense. The input distortion from analog and BT sources is different and the speaker distortion will outweigh all of this in a small system. We obviously check all of the above during development to make sure that there are no basic errors and all components are performing 100 percent, but at the end of the day you really have to rely on subjective tuning."
Cambridge Audio doesn't even give away the rated power output of the Minx Go "because it is extremely misleading to customers."
The high-end micro hi-fi system sitting in front of me has not been used at all while the Minx Go has been throwing out tunes from my laptop, smartphone or tablet. It's proved simple to use, easy to clean (although it does need a regular rub down to rid it of all those grubby finger marks), and the audio quality has been excellent. The long battery life has meant that I could move it around the home without having to worry about its proximity to a wall outlet. Everyone who has heard it while I've used it on the move has warmed to its clean design and portable power. Highly recommended.
The Cambridge Audio Minx Go is available now for US$149.
Have a look at the overview video below.
Product page: Minx Go
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