Review: Minirig 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker | iLounge

Review

Review: Minirig 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

B
Recommended

Company: Minirig

Model: MRBT-2

Price: $190

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Jesse Hollington

Minirig is a relatively new speaker company that hails from the west of England and has enjoyed organic growth and popularity in the U.K. market. Although the company's speakers are less well-known on this side of the pond, they're beginning to make a name for themselves in the North American market. The Minirig 2 is a rugged and powerful little portable speaker that represents the second iteration of the company's flagship product, providing Bluetooth 4.2 aptX support and advanced connectivity options that allow two Minirig speakers to be paired, or even the addition of a Minirig subwoofer to build a 2.1 system.

The Minirig 2 is a small cylindrical speaker about 4 inches in diameter and 3 inches in height, constructed from anodized aluminum and polycarbonate, and surrounded by a silicone cladding on the outside edges which comes in eight different colors. The speaker is rated IPX5, so while it’s not waterproof, it will certainly handle itself well enough for everyday outdoor activities and travel — fine for backyard parties or camping trips, but not something we’d suggest you take kayaking. The package includes a 3.5 mm male-to-male audio cable and charging cable; a power adapter is not included. Rather than charging via a micro USB connection, Minirig uses a standard barrel connector on the speaker side, so the included cable provides the USB-to-barrel connection. We were a bit disappointed by this, as it means you’ll need to pack the Minirig-specific charging cable with you when travelling, rather than relying on the USB to micro USB cables that you may already be packing for other devices, however it’s also worth noting that Minirig promises a relatively astonishing 40 hours of battery life at average volume, so you’ll probably find yourself recharging the speaker a lot less often than you might expect. Battery life drops to 15 hours at maximum volume, and goes up to 80 hours if you operate at a relatively low volume. The included charging cable also features both male and female USB connectors, as Minirig’s internal battery can be used to recharge any USB-powered device, with enough juice to recharge an iPhone 7 up to 2.5 times — assuming you’re willing to trade listening time in favor of recharging your iPhone, of course.

Pairing the Minirig 2 was very straightforward — the unit is discoverable as soon as it’s turned on, and in fact there’s no special “pairing mode” involved. Instead, the unit is always discoverable any time fewer than two Bluetooth devices are connected to it, so you can pair a second device as easily as the first, and pairing additional devices — Minirig can remember up eight Bluetooth devices — is simply a matter of disconnecting one of your already-paired devices. Minirig features a fairly minimalist design, and there are in fact no buttons or other controls on Minirig other than a single power button which doubles as a gain control and battery status check via a multicoloured LED, so you’ll need to handle volume and playback from your connected device. The rear of the Minirig includes the barrel connector port for power and charging, as well as two multipurpose 3.5 mm audio jacks — one high gain, and one low — providing some versatility in the wired devices you can connect to it; Minirig will always start in high gain mode when used with a Bluetooth device, but the gain level can be toggled by a single press on the power button. The 3.5 mm jacks are not only used for connecting an audio source, but also double as audio output jacks when the speaker is receiving audio via Bluetooth as well as connectors for adding a second Minirig or subwoofer to the mix to create a 2.0 or 2.1 system.

We only received a single Minirig for review, so we were unable to test the 2.0 or 2.1 configurations, however the company explains that the speakers can also be paired completely via Bluetooth to create 2.0 system; for a 2.1 system the subwoofer will need to be connected to one of the two Minirig speakers using a 3.5 mm cable. Under the hood, Minirig features an extra large 3 inch driver with an adaptive audio filter and a 15 watt amp, allowing the small speaker to pump out an impressive 102 decibels. Minirig pumps out very impressive sound quality for its size, and it’s clear that the company has put a lot of care into providing a very balanced sound signature — it has just the right amount of bass to provide a solid low-end without muddiness or distortion, even at higher volume levels, making for a very crisp, clean sound. To be fair, the sound quality is pretty much what we’d expect from a speaker in this price range, but it’s definitely surprising for a speaker of Minirig’s diminutive stature. While Minirig only packs a single driver — meaning you’re not getting stereo sound — multiple drivers in a small speaker don’t provide enough stereo separation to make a difference; we couldn’t differentiate stereo from mono in blind tests with other small two-driver speakers, and in terms of sound quality Minirig’s single driver noticeably outperformed the $120 JAM Xterior Max and wasn’t even on the same playing field as the $80 Fugoo Go. We’d say you’re definitely getting what you’re paying for here.

Minirig also provides two companion iOS apps for the speaker. One is used for controlling and configuring the Minirig while the other is a dedicated updater app that allows the speaker’s firmware to be updated wirelessly; Minirig promises updates not only for fixing problems but also adding new features to improve the experience. The main Minirig app is a useful addition although not by any means required to use the Minirig speaker; the app provides features for adjusting gain control, muting the speaker (useful when using it with other audio sources), checking battery life, controlling playback, controlling output channel, dimming the power indicator, and configuring paired speakers. The app also provides a more streamlined way to share the speaker between two devices, allowing you to flip back and forth a bit more easily.

Although sound quality isn’t always the most important priority in a travel speaker, Minirig definitely provides the best sound quality we’ve heard in a speaker this size in some time, although it doesn’t come cheap. In fact, if your priority is on audio fidelity, the same amount of money will get you better speakers that actually provide multiple drivers and decent stereo separation, but of course you’ll sacrifice portability in doing so. The ability to pair two Minirig speakers is also a nice feature, but we think that’s a lot more of a niche use case — there are much better options available for the price of a pair of Minirig speakers, not to mention adding in the additional cost of the subwoofer on top of that. As a single speaker, however, Minirig’s key selling point is that you’re getting very good sound quality in an otherwise very portable speaker — it’s a great solution for those that are looking for good, loud, and balanced sound that they can toss in their backpack and take just about anywhere.

 

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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