Portable speakers for your MP3 player are easy enough to come by, but the smaller of these often suffer from problematic audio. Every once in a while, though, we come across a supercompact speaker that surprises us. The X-Mini Max II Capsule Speaker is one such model, featuring an innovative, travel-friendly design and surprisingly good sound quality for just $49.95.
The X-Mini Max II Capsule Speaker could almost fit in a pocket, if not for its egglike shape. When the two modules are connected for transport (called "capsule mode"), the unit measures just 4 inches long and 2.5 inches around at its widest point. A relatively strong magnet keeps them in this position, but when you want to listen to music, you simply pull the modules apart and set them upright. A twist of the tops pops them out accordion-style for maximum bass. Around the base of each speaker you'll find a power switch, an aux-in jack, a Mini-USB port, and an indicator light. The LED glows red during charging and blue when the modules are powered on.
Connecting an MP3 player or other audio source to the X-Mini Max II is a simple matter of attaching the included four-way cable. This rather messy setup includes two Mini-USB attachments, a 3.5mm straight plug, and a standard USB male connector. The USB male cable attaches to the computer for charging purposes, while the rest are used for enjoying audio through the speakers. X-Mini also offers an optional accessory called the Buddy-Jack, which lets you create a virtually endless daisy chain of Max II modules.
One of the benefits of speakers that are designed with two separate modules is that you can set them apart for optimal stereo separation. As such, the sound space offered by the X-Mini Max II speakers is wider than many other ultracompact models. Indeed, sound quality in general is much better than what we'd expect from speakers this size--and at this price point. Music comes through clear and open with no distortion or background hiss, and there is none of the tinny quality one usually experiences from such a small unit.
In fact, we're quite impressed with the warmth of the audio, though it is understandably nowhere near as rich as what you might get from a full-size system. Bass is not deep, though it thumps enough to vibrate the surface upon which you set the modules. The Max II also gets shockingly loud, though it does tend to sound hollow at higher volumes. Still, the level this little thing can achieve is fairly incredible, and distortion remains at a minimum even at highest.
In the final analysis, the X-Mini Max II Capsule Speaker is a good value for the money. The design is compact and innovative, and sound quality is impressive. If you're looking for great ultraportable speakers on a budget, this should be a top choice.