Review – The X-mini Supa has an identity crisis

X-mini Supa front

X-mini has carved a comfortable place for itself since introducing capsule speakers ten years ago, yet to grow they need to diversify. With Bluetooth being today’s weapon of choice, the company’s range now includes headphones and soundbar-styled speakers. In the shadow of that rapid expansion is the X-mini Supa, the seemingly lost child.

As the largest, heaviest, and priciest portable speaker I’m forced to question who the Supa is for. At 1kg this certainly isn’t something I’d casually toss into a backpack, and at just over $200 I’d hesitate to even bring it out. Given the size and attractive design, it seems better suited to being rooted indoors and the product photos seem to agree. Besides, they already have the Explore Plus to handle outdoor duty with its IPX4 water resistance, while the Xoundbar tackles ultimate portability.

Instead, I see the Supa as an extension of the X-mini Infiniti, a standing omni-directional speaker. The two share a premium aesthetic and similar audio technologies, built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and DPAC (Dual Pressure Air Compression), making the Supa a little brother of sorts. It’s another nudge towards home audio, only this can be packed into luggage for a chalet or weekend stay.

X-mini Supa top

X-mini doesn’t explain what the “Supa” name signifies so I’m just going to take it as meaning “loud”. It sports a pair of 10W speakers that can easily fill a room or balcony, without the distortion or attenuation smaller options and smartphones bring. It’s far more pleasant on the ears, especially if you plan on using it at a gathering or event for long periods – the battery runs for up to eight hours.

While it sounds fine the Supa isn’t a miracle worker. X-mini knows their limitations and their house sound favors mids and treble, putting the focus on vocals and certain instruments. In other words, it’s a well-rounded performer but cannot reasonably tackle every genre under the sun.

The imaging suffers when I jump from acoustic to orchestral, Austin Wintory’s Abzû sounding compressed and less ethereal without the separation. Similarly, life ebbs from the electronic beats and sweeps of Magic Sword’s Volume 1, making me wonder if the music wasn’t how I remembered it. Spin up some Do As Infinity, however, and all is right in the world; Misia slightly less so, but I wasn’t going to complain.

Once again, when it comes to music and sound preferences mileage almost always varies, but I believe the X-mini Supa adequately serves consumers wanting better overall quality for the size. Provided they can tolerate the dial.

X-mini Supa dial

I’m sure you know how frustrating it gets when games bind two very different actions to the same button. Here, let me present the Supa’s control dial. While I love the minimalist look they’re shooting for, please, X-mini, keep volume control independent.

The Supa’s dial always centers to the twelve o’clock position, which means there’s some springy resistance to it. That alone makes it hard to judge volume adjustment but the real annoyance is when you end up skipping or rewinding, because those are the options at the extreme ends of the dial. I don’t have a heavy hand but after accidentally skipping a track for the umpteenth time, I realized this was a clear deal breaker for me. If we’re going to pair a Bluetooth device, in my case a smartphone, then why wouldn’t I just use the buttons there? Volume dials are great because they provide quick, precise control. Take that away and it just becomes a cosmetic piece.

The fact that there’s only Bluetooth and 3.5mm auxiliary input seems like a miss on X-mini’s part too, since it sticks by the idea of outdoor simplicity when the Supa could, and should be, a somewhat versatile home audio option. It’s very likely a matter of size and electronics but a USB input would be nice, as would optical – the first for directly connecting smartphones, the latter for gaming consoles. While the Supa may not have the bass coverage for action-packed shooters and the like, it does have those two 10W speakers to throw sound at you. I’m not asking for rows of XLRs or pass-throughs, just options for better direct connectivity.

X-mini Supa ports

Ultimately, I get the impression that the X-mini Supa isn’t sure what it wants to be, as other options within the company serve better at their roles. The price puts it out of the range of students who’d want to use it for events and club activities, while the size and weight put outdoor durability and portability into question. If it’s for the living room, the Infiniti is a much better proposition, while the capsule speakers are still a better fit for kitchen or office use.

There’s potential in the X-mini Supa but it’ll take a few more revisions to get there. In the meantime, look to the Kai series instead.

Ade Putra

Ade thinks there's nothing quite like a good game and a snug headcrab. He grew up with HIDEO KOJIMA's Metal Gear Solid, lives for RPGs, and is waiting for light guns to make their comeback.