We test lots of speakers at iLounge, very few of which are designed to be “fun.” Three recent iPod-friendly toys from BlueBox were featured in our 2008 iPod + iPhone Buyers’ Guide, combining speakers with other features that make the $20-$30 items fun and easy gifts for younger iPod users.
BlueBox’s $20 toys are the miJam Mini Mix Miniature Mixer and MiJam Mini Keyz, two similarly pocket-sized black and silver plastic items that let you add sound effects to your iPod’s music. Both light up in red when they’re turned on.
Mini Keyz is the better of the two, combining 8 synthesizer-style keys and a simple, tempo-adjustable drum loop to add futuristic keyboard-like accompaniment and an additional beat to whatever the iPod is playing.
Mini Mix, by comparison, is supposed to be a portable mixer that adds DJ-like sound effects to iPod songs. Perhaps not surprisingly, it doesn’t sample anything from the iPod you attach, and it doesn’t let you mix the sounds of two iPods together; it’s just there to mix its own effects into your music.
With the exception of the drum beats, which are more varied than Mini Keyz’s, the effects, such as “voices” and record scratches, play back without precise control on the integrated turntables, and seem sort of random. Mix does more, but with the exception of its beats, doesn’t do it as well.
Just as with BlueBox’s earlier miJam Mixer, which offered similar functionality in a much larger enclosure last year at twice the price, Mini Mix really isn’t anything more than a sound effect maker with pass-through iPod audio: Mini Keys is as much a mixer as Mini Mix is, but instead of adding phony DJ sounds on top of your songs, it actually lets you make music, albeit simple music, hence its higher rating. A concern common to both units is their battery power: neither unit appears to have any way to let you change whatever battery is inside, so longevity may be limited.
Both Mini Mix and Mini Keys come with the same parts: an integrated cable that connects to your iPod’s headphone port, and a small, decent speaker that lets you can hear your combined music out loud.