The X-Mini Clear delivers clean, pure sound (hands-on)

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Aloysius Low/CNET

Updated 5a.m. PT August 26: X-Mini has changed the expected retail price to S$299 ($239, £144, and AU$257).

X-Mini's latest endeavour may be a surprise to fans of the Singapore company that's known for its series of portable capsule speakers (which it invented). The X-Mini Clear, is the first 2.1 portable Bluetooth speaker from the company, and it packs hefty punch in the sound department.

The boxy X-Mini Clear may share the same shape and size as other similar devices (such as the Jabra Solemate or the Lexus of Bluetooth speakers, the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III), but this portable music player sports a beautiful design that helps it to stand out.

The X-Mini Clear will debut globally some time in November, though those in Singapore (where the company is based, can pre-order the speaker this week and get them by October). The Clear's global pricing has yet to be firmed, but will retail for S$299 in Singapore (for comparison, this converts to $239, £144, and AU$257 at the current exchange rate). There's special a pre-order price of just S$199, but only in Singapore.

Design

The Clear sports a transparent rear that lets you peek into its innards. While there's really not much to see since it's mostly air with the circuit board and battery serving as the base, there's some attention to detail -- the company placed its logo on the circuit board (just so you don't forget the branding, of course).

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Aloysius Low/CNET

Internally, the speakers have built-in LED lighting, and while this may seem tacky, you can adjust the settings to either strobe the lights based on the music or a more soothing mood glow for a romantic evening.

There are not obvious buttons -- instead X-Mini has placed touch-sensitive buttons on the top of the unit. These weren't really obvious to me, but that's a good thing, as it doesn't detract from the speaker's clean design.

The Clear comes with a magnetic dust cover that easily clicks on to the front for protection from curious poking fingers. While the Clear comes only in black for now, X-Mini is considering other shades, but may instead offer differently colored magnetic covers.

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The Clear's magnetic dust cover easily snaps on the front. Aloysius Low/CNET

Features

The one thing that X-Mini knows how to do is to get a lot more sound from a small device -- the Clear easily blew my expectations away. The Clear sports X-Mini's ceramic drivers (that are also found on the Kai 2) and a 70mm active subwoofer.

Interestingly, instead of pumping out bass, X-Mini chose to keep the bass low and focused instead on the mids and the highs. This results in a much clearer and detailed playback, and I was able to pick out distinct instruments without having the bass beats overwhelm the audio.

Besides delivering pretty good (and loud) sound, the Clear comes with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity, a noise-cancelling microphone for making conference calls with your smartphone and can also charge your smartphone with the Clear's 6,600mAh battery (rated at 10 hours).

Outlook

I was pretty impressed with what I heard at the demo session, and while the Clear may be a little pricey compared to, say, the Jabra Solemate, it makes up for it in its audio quality and feature set. If anything, the Clear appears set to give the Bose Soundlink a challenge in this area.

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X-Mini Clear

Part Number: CNETX-Mini Clear
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