ANKER SOUNDCORE MINI
The first impression of this Bluetooth Speaker coming out of the box was how small it was. Dinky, tiny (about 2" x 2"), beautifully made of metal, black (though various colours available), attractive and very 'Sony' in look/feel and quality. The base has a rubber ring which ensures a stable hold on surfaces, not toppling here until about 45 degrees. The 'speaker' is on the top and is covered by an attractive metal grille with Anker emblem, centre. On the front is a nicely rubberised and sized three-button controller with Plus, Minus and Play icons. Under this is the status LED which flashes blue when looking to pair and is unable to locate the last paired device or continue with last used service.

Push in a MicroSD card to the slot on the back and it starts playing the tracks in order (no way to select tracks individually) with track up/down working with Plus and Minus long-presses (no FF/RW ability). I'm testing with a 128GB card and it's working perfectly. Next to the MicroSD Card slot on the back is a MicroUSB socket for charging (and another function which I'll come to), 3.5mm socket for Audio-In, On/Off physical slider-switch, Mode button and Microphone.

The surprise in the package, which is not advertised anywhere I can see, certainly not on the AmazonUK page, is FM Radio! Cool! Love it! As previously reported, a way of playing FM Radio and not having to pay for streaming services is an absolute peach for those looking to minimise cost and connectivity. A cable plugged into the MicroUSB socket acts as an aerial and it works brilliantly! Obviously depends on where you are for signal etc. but laying that aside, it picks up really well here. It's a bit tricky to know which station is which as, clearly, there's no display on this unit. Long-press the Play button and it scans, finds the first station and connects, then short-presses of the Plus button moves onto the next station. Bit of a fiddle, I guess, but, as I say, a real bonus I wasn't expecting. If you turn the unit off, mid-play of FM Radio or MicroSD Card music, it returns to pairing mode, but press the Mode button again, and it gets back to where it was. Leave the MicroSD Card in the slot and it can then be selected again by another Mode press. If you don't take the card out, and power doesn't die, it'll continue from where last played.

Hooking up to various units by Bluetooth (4.0) is easy-peasy and flawless in my experiments here. Plug in a Audio source to the 3.5mm socket from anything playing music and it'll take over whatever else the unit is doing. It's a super little speaker and one of the brilliant uses for me is having the FM Radio running, charge cable plugged into a powerbrick (or whatever) acting as an aerial. Low power consumption, good clear signal (here) and a great option OffGrid. I know, I've got a bit of a thing going on just now about FM Radio, but this is a great option to have rather than not.

Bluetooth range seems very good. I just did a test (walking down the road like a buffoon!) and the music started to break up at 46 yards. Way in excess of the claimed 66ft. There's a microphone for using as a hooked-up mobile phone, controlled by the Play button of Call/End works well with Google Voice Commands here, though it didn't seem to restart the music after the call ended. You can also talk to the unit via an Android phone to select music by voice etc.

And so to the sound! Apparently it contains "an advanced 5W driver and passive subwoofer". Obviously if you want to equalise the sound in any way, you need to rely on your source unit being able to do that - which works very well after a short pause for thought - as there's no controls to do it in-speaker. But that's not unusual. If you get silly and wind up the bass, yes, it's pretty easy to distort the speaker, but I found used on 'flat' settings there's no problem. So for the purposes of this assessment, I'll use music from a plugged in MicroSD Card playing 320kbps MP3 tracks. On full volume there's more than enough sound to fill an office/bedroom/lounge sized room for casual listening or a dinner party, for example. You'll be turning it down! The sound produced shows evidence of a very pleasant level of bass and treble by default. It's clearly not going to be the bass'y powerhouse of bigger units, but hey, this has a 2" footprint! It's a nice rounded sound.

Physically, it's almost pocketable! Coat pocket, fine. Jacket pocket maybe not. But we're heading down that way. I'm continually amazed at how good speakers have become for their size. The evolution of hardware and software support pushing out music in smaller and smaller units seem to know no bounds. Where will it end! The implications for smartphones becomes more and more exciting. The gold standard just now of the Marshall London is nowhere near this sound, but it's not a million miles away and I can just see the gap getting smaller if phone manufacturers actually take music playback outside of earphones seriously.

Battery claim is 15hrs and charge time seems to be about 1-2hrs. It charges quickly and the battery does indeed seem good for that kind of playback claim. Full volume of course and you can expect less. Less, more! There are so many rubbish units out there which only do 5-10hrs which are substantially bigger physically than this, which makes this a great performer. This is typical for Anker, who clearly specialise in batteries with my SoundCore 1 continuing to provide 24hrs on a charge.

I remain impressed with pretty much every piece of hardware made by Anker and thoroughly recommend this unit, too. For £17.99 (https://goo.gl/aYJ8n1) I don't think you can go wrong. And no, I did not have to write this review for the company because they gave it to me - it really was a free gift, no strings attached from a company reflecting good customer service.

(Backstory: Anker sent this over to me as a gift following my previously reported dissatisfaction regarding a SoundCore 2 unit (https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TedSalmon/posts/PxGumr4D9pL) in which an 'always-on' functionality had been removed after it had been 'upgraded' from SoundCore 1 - which could be left on for convenience when plugged into, for example, a TV and power. I contacted support about that at Anker, who replied promptly apologising that yes, indeed, this was the case. In a subsequent email after I had returned the unit, they then told me that I could have attained this functionality by leaving a 3.5mm audio cable plugged into it. Clearly, I didn't have the opportunity to then test this as it had gone back. Anyway, to cut that long story short, and in order to provide good customer care, they offered to send me another unit up to the value of £20 as a gesture of goodwill. I decided that I'd choose this one, which they promptly arranged for AmazonUK to send to me. I think that the Anker customer service is very good and this incident was an unfortunate communication issue over functionality of their products and the representative who fielded the initial enquiry.)
Photo
Shared publiclyView activity