If you wanted a small and affordable portable speaker, X-mini might be one of the brands you’ll consider. The Singaporean company invented the small portable capsule speaker ten years ago but the new KAI X3 is a whole new breed from X-mini designed to appeal to your finer audio senses while staying affordable. That’s not an easy feat since the market is now proliferated with small portable speakers. But let’s see if the new KAI X3 could carve out a new niche!
Build Quality and Design
While you cannot collapse the new X3 speaker into a more portable form like previous X-mini canisters, the X3 dishes out a few other advantages on its own. Firstly, X-mini have switched from plastic to metal designs that have improved durability and a clean look that lasts. Consequently, the X3 is also a tad heavier than its earlier plastic counterparts, which is to be expected.
The X3 sports a single powerful driver that faces upwards and vents from the rubberised base with concentric reflex ports. On the front face you have a small LED serving as the X3’s sole indicator light. At the back you’ll find a small micro USB port that connects with the supplied USB cable for charging and (lacking an actual 3.5mm port) a special USB-3.5mm cable. Only one of those special cables is provided so protect it with your life!
A microSD card slot is also included so that you don’t have to rely on your phone if its running out of juice. Although I wouldn’t depend on it too much because it’s less simple to navigate my playlists and folders without a screen.
Oddly, the buttons are located at the very bottom. To access any forms of control, you’ll have to pick the speaker up which isn’t too convenient. The X3 could also serve as a handsfree with its built-in mic.
Performance and Features
The KAI X3 is fairly loud but if you’re searching for deep, clean bass (like in the UE WONDERBOOM) you won’t find it here. The X3 sounded quite pleasant at a moderate volume with clear highs and mids but with a fairly shallow bass response. At higher volumes (above 70%), the KAI X3 has the general tendency to distort in an ugly fashion with grainy highs and muddled mids.
It’s a whole lot better if you’re planning to get these in a stereo pair. The X3 in stereo actually sounds pretty clean, even flaunting decent track separation for most genres of music at higher volumes. Bass extension seems to be better too. Hitches aside (read below) I do enjoy listening to these on stereo.
The type of music I enjoyed most with the X3? Some smooth jazz standards and instrumental music with a chockfull of percussions, winds and strings.
The Kai X3 has a stated battery life of 8 hours, but when I tested it with at 50% volume (loud enough to enjoy) the X3 managed an impressive 29 hours of battery. The X3’s battery is ridiculous even when comparing it to other speakers of the same price. By far it’s best feature!
Pairing was fairly straightforward and my phone got a reliable 10m line of sight connection with the speaker.
You could pair this speaker with another X3 wirelessly for stereo sound. But the pairing process is sketchy at best, mostly requiring several attempts. And since the instructions manual wasn’t too detailed about the process, I had to guess half of the way through. But once it’s done, the connection was pretty reliable between the speakers.
But like most other speakers that could do wireless stereo, the connection range is weaker than the full 10 meters I got initially.
The X-mini KAI X3’s price point of S$129 may seem steep, even for a premium metallic canister-type speaker. Its sound quality and features can be compared (somewhat) to the SS$79 Sony SRS-XB10. And just adding S$20 more nets you the UE WONDERBOOM (S$149) which sounds much fuller and is even waterproof. However, its amazing 29-hour battery and microSD card slot are the best arguments I can make for the KAI X3. It truly deserves a good look for its clean, sturdy design and insane battery life.