When it comes to listening to music, I tend to just deal with the speakers on the device I am using, be it the PC, mobile phone or iPad and I never have bothered with portable speakers, as they are usually clunky, require cords or large and need a separate power outlet, so seeing something like the Astone Acostic Minis gave me hope.
Right off the bat, when you take them out of the box, there is a lot to like, the size is very small, not quite laptop bag small, but a lot more travel friendly than other speakers out there. The size of the speakers should not put you off them though, as while they are really small, they do contain a fair amount of tech, but while all that is inside, the outside does look well. The units have a basic stand at the back, which helps give the speaker a small nudge upwards, but to ensure that it does not slide around, on the front they have a small rubber stop, which is nice. On the side of the units are the 3.5mm input jacks and the usb port as well, with the ports used for charging the speakers, but with all that technology packed within, the speakers together only come in at around 500g, which is really light.
What is important though with any speakers is the quality of the sound they provide, the size of the unit and the looks come secondary and here, the sound quality is really good. The volume output is controlled by your device, as such there are no ways to increase the volume on the unit, so you need to keep your device close by, but on the flip side, if your device of choice has limits on its volume output, like some pc’s do, then that might limit the audio levels. Syncing the devices is really simple, pressing the only button on the unit down for a few seconds powers up the devices and then they start to scan for open connections, on your device you select the speakers and if the pair is successful the speakers will actually tell you, then you just place them where you want and you are all set up.
As the speakers are connected by Bluetooth to your device, you need to keep them within range else the sound will cut out, but the same can occur if you move one speaker a little too far out from the source. When I was putting them through their paces, I was able to get around 8 meters from the music source, before they started to drop connection, but depending on your locations, that could vary, but when they did cut out, it was more just dropping of sound, rather than a complete cut off. If you turn only one speaker on, you can listen to the music fine, if you however turn them both on and then try to turn one off, it will turn them both off, which is odd, the same issue is also presented with the 3.5mm jack, plugging a device into one, while they are paired to another device, will remove one from working on Bluetooth, this is however where the problems started to show.
When I plugged my phone into one of the speakers, using a cable I use on my existing system, the quality of the playback was very bad, in fact, it was so bad both the quality of the sound and the volume, I went and bought a new cable and still had the issue. I went about attempting to discover a fix for the problem, but to no avail, with new cables, speaker changes and more, I could not get the sound to work properly through the aux input. Another downside to the situation is that, at no point, was I able to plug my phone into both speakers, as you need to do, if you want to use the cable. Both speakers have the 3.5mm input, but I believed at the start, that was so they could be used separately, but it turns out, if you plug in anything by the 3.5mm plug, you need to take your cord and have it split between the two, which means you can’t just use a standard cord. Because the signal did not send from one to the other, I thought perhaps I could just split the signal and that might give me proper sound, but that did nothing either, the 3.5mm seems more like an afterthought than anything else, which is sad.
Sadly, though, I also encountered issues when it came to Bluetooth playback, there were times when the speakers would be either side of my Surface tablet and would start dropping signal, I moved everything to a different location and still the issue persisted, so I moved the speakers further away and the issues cleared up. I switched from the Surface to an iPad and the issues were the same, whenever the speakers got to close to the device broadcasting the music, the signal would get choppy and I had to move them away. Charging the speakers was also an issue, not because of the complexities in charging them, you just plug the cable in and you’re done, but because you need to have two spare USB ports, the benefit is that most people will have multiple phone charging blocks around, but if you are a like me, they might not be around the same place, so I was charging them in different rooms.
Astone have created a really great product in the Acostic-Mini, but sadly the almost useless 3.5mm jack and odd playback issues hamper it. When it plays without issue, the sound quality, especially for the size of the speakers is incredible, you can really crank it up and enjoy your music, no matter where you are.