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Mint Studio Speaker System review: Mint Studio Speaker System

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The last Mint product we looked at--the =" portable-speakers="" mint-220-wireless-digital="" 4505-11313_7-33089663.html"="">Mint 220 Wireless Digital Music Station--offered us something that we had not yet seen in an iPod speaker dock. Instead of combining iPod playback with a CD player or AM/FM alarm clock radio, the Mint 220 gave us the ability to wirelessly stream any audio from a PC or Mac.

OVR
6.8

Mint Studio Speaker System

The Good

Compact iPod speaker dock; wirelessly streams audio from any Windows PC or Mac; works with up to three speaker docks; simple setup; solid sound considering its compact size.

The Bad

AC-only operation crimps portability; size and limited wireless range limits use in larger rooms; little stereo separation.

The Bottom Line

The Mint Studio Speaker System combines a great-sounding iPod speaker dock with the ability to wirelessly stream audio from any PC or Mac to up to three speaker docks.

With the Mint Studio, the company has taken things a bit further, this time allowing for the USB transmitter to play back audio to up to three Mint Studio systems. The main bundle, which includes the speaker dock and a USB dongle, is $130, and extra speakers will go for $100.

The Mint Studio is pretty small: about the size of a loaf of bread. It's encased in a glossy black plastic that is quite the fingerprint magnet. Mounted on the front of the speaker is an iPod dock that is compatible with any iPod with a dock connection. Yes, this includes the iPod Touch and the iPhone. However, your iPhone will need to enter airplane mode to work, as the interference from the device will cause static during playback.

On the dock is where you'll also find all of the Mint Studio's controls. Stealthily positioned on the left side of the dock are the power and input buttons; the volume controls are on the other. Facing front are four blue LED-lit icon indicators, letting you know which function is active--unfortunately, however, these cannot be clearly read from a distance.

Included with the device is a small matching remote control that can switch the Mint Studio between its three modes. The remote will also give you some basic control over your iPod by allowing you to pause and skip tracks.


The included credit-card-size remote has only a limited amount of iPod control functionality.

As mentioned above, the Mint Studio isn't just an iPod speaker dock. In addition to the standard line-in jack on its backside (so you can hook up any external non-iPod audio source), the Mint also doubles as a wireless external speaker for any Windows PC or Mac. Simply attach the included USB dongle to a free port on the computer, switch the Mint Studio to "wireless audio" mode, and you're all set. In our testing we didn't even have to sync the USB key to the speaker; pressing a "connect" button on both the key and Studio may be required, though. We should mention, however, that this essentially cuts off your existing sound card. As soon as you pull out the USB key, your PC or Mac switches back to the default sound output.

The USB dongle should autoinstall on newer Windows and Mac computers. And there are no issues with DRM or music restrictions--if you can hear something on your standard (wired or built-in) computer speakers, you'll hear it on the Mint.

Mint now lets you hook up to three total speakers to a single USB dongle. These additional units will cost $100 each and come with an iPod dock onboard as well. Getting wireless audio to play from an extender speaker is easy; just set it to "wireless" mode and it will automatically pick up the transmitted signal. Mint claims the dongle will broadcast up to 100 feet with an unobstructed view. In a more real-life home living situation, you can depend on about 50 feet. A USB extender is included in the packaging and claims to improve signal quality, but we didn't notice much of a difference when we used it.


Don't expect the USB extender to improve the signal quality.

We wish each speaker system repeated the audio while expanding the overall range. That's not the case with the Mint Studio; all systems connected wirelessly to the single USB dongle must remain within that original range. Also, you can't stream iPod music from speaker to speaker.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Mint Studio's sound. While it can't get as loud as you might like, the sound quality is very sharp and clear. As with most iPod speaker docks, the louder you get, the more distortion is apparent. While the Mint Studio bore out that axiom, noticeable audible distortion was only evident with bass-heavy songs like Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls on Parade."

The Mint Studio is priced at $130. While that may sound a bit high, it's reasonable when you consider that it's doubling as an iPod speaker and a wireless PC/Mac speaker. As far as alternatives go, for instance, you might consider the identically priced Sony CMT-BX50BTi--but it's a larger three-piece shelf system, and your PC would need either built-in Bluetooth A2DP support or a similarly equipped dongle for the audio streaming. That said, it would've been nice to see a handful of extra features on the Mint--for instance, a clock/radio/alarm.

Overall, the Mint Studio is recommendable for those who split their digital music listening between an iPod and the computer--especially if he or she uses a laptop as the primary music source. The Mint is a great improvement over the puny built-in speakers on notebook PCs, and its wireless capacity means fewer cables plugged into the laptop. Plus, the fact that you can extend the music over to extra units sweetens the deal.

OVR
6.8

Mint Studio Speaker System

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7