Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jabra Solemate Mini: Big sound in a small package

Today, we’ll be testing the smallest member in the Solemate family – the Solemate Mini. Selling at half the price (and clocking in at half its size) of the original Solemate, the Mini is designed to fit in your pocket or even a purse with the promise of ‘big sound’. Usually the ‘mini’ moniker attached to any technology product comes with compromises in specifications and features but thankfully, that’s not the case here. The Solemate Mini ticks all the boxes of its bigger brother but at a more affordable price. Here’s our review.

Design and Features
The Solemate mini is built to last with a full, rubber-clad exterior and a deeply ridged sole. The latter lets you place the speaker on practically any surface without worrying about it slipping. It also really helps keep the Mini grounded when you’re belting out tunes at full volume. The rubberised shell is also available in four youthful colours of your choosing. There’s a metal mesh on either side protecting the two full-range drivers on one side and a bass port on the other. Jabra doesn’t want you to know the specifics of the audio drivers used as their spec sheet simply says “Hi-Fi” for Frequency Response.
Jabra Solemate mini
The two full-range drivers beneath the mesh
There are volume adjustment buttons at the top and a third button for switching between input modes. During playback, you can use this to check the battery level of the speaker. There’s a NFC pairing spot on one side while the other houses the power toggle switch, 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB port for charging. The mini even has a microphone for answering calls when paired with your phone. Some of the connectivity features include Bluetooth v3.0, NFC and the AUX connector. Sadly, you can only connect a single device wirelessly at a time and not multiple, like other Bluetooth players.

Performance and Battery Life
Upon powering up the Solemate mini, we are greeted by a voice assistant that tells you how to pair your device. You can also directly plug in a 3.5mm jack and the Mini will switch to the AUX input. Alternately, pressing the middle button on the top of the player lets you pair a device via NFC. We tried this with a couple of phones like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S3 and they paired just fine. However, the pairing didn’t happen when tapping it to NFC logo on the player but rather when we touched the sides of the grill, which was a bit odd.
Jabra Solemate mini
The 3.5mm cable is smartly placed underneath
Given the size of the Mini, we were pleasantly surprised at how loud it actually is. The midrange drivers fill up a small room very well with very good spatial distribution. The sound doesn’t weaken when heard from extreme angles, which is usually the case with front-firing speakers. The bass port in the back does a decent job of reproducing low frequency sounds and while there’s no audible slam, we can’t really fault the Mini for that given the size of the chamber. With the speaker volume maxed out, we began testing with Zero 7’s Ghost Symbol album which features a healthy mix of rich vocals, deep bass and plenty of midrange. The Mini was faithfully able to reproduce the dynamics of songs like Mr McGee and Medicine Man with great aplomb. Pop and R&B genres – right from Bruno Mars to Rihanna – were also handled well. The sound tends to distort slightly at high volumes with Rock or Heavy Metal. The bass lacks the slam that’s needed for songs like Cradle of Filth’s Nymphetemine or Marilyn Manson’s Nobodies. Once again, we have to remind ourselves that the Mini is smaller than most palms so we should cut it some slack.
Jabra Solemate mini
The conenctivity ports on the side

The omnidirectional microphone didn’t seem too sensitive as the caller couldn’t hear us too clearly when standing about 2ft from the speaker. Overall, the Solemate Mini is a shockingly loud speaker for its size and is backed up by very good audio quality as well over Bluetooth.

The speaker has a rated battery life of 8-hours but in our testing, we managed to get closer to 6.5-hours. This is with the speaker at maximum volume most of the time. This is still pretty impressive considering it weighs just 295g.

Verdict and Price in India
The Jabra Solemate mini is priced at Rs 4,999 which makes it a good buy and perfect gift for this holiday season. It’s lightweight, rugged, has very good sound quality, NFC support and decent battery life. This is easily one of the most feature-packed Bluetooth speakers in this price range that’s backed up by good audio quality. The one thing that could have made it even better is the ability to pair multiple devices at the same time. We also felt the microphone could have been more sensitive for voice calls. But apart from this, we recommend the Solemate Mini if you’re looking for a good, NFC-capable, Bluetooth speaker.

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