Anker's Baby Boomers - a review of Anker's smallest bluetooth SoundCore speakers

I’m impressed with the amount of sound and battery life we can get out of tiny bluetooth speakers today. I gotta say, the UE Boom caught my attention. This is an awesome speaker that fits in the water bottle cage on a bicycle, ready to roll at a bike rave. But I wasn’t about to drop the $100-$200 that those products command. Not for something that’d likely get beat up, abused, sweated on, and shoved in the bottom of a backpack.

This is when I discovered that Anker sells an entire line of bluetooth, battery-powered SoundCore speakers that could fit in a small backpack or pocket.

I bought a black SoundCore Mini just to see how Anker compared in terms of sound output. I figured it wouldn’t stand a chance to the 1-liter sized UE Boom, but that’s it’s selling point. It takes up less space, whether it’s sitting on the counter while you’re chopping vegetables for dinner or laying in bed reading your favorite book series while playing the soundtrack. This speaker is roughly half the height of a 12oz can of soda, and so it fits in anything as small as a jacket pocket.

On full volume, I was a bit disappointed to hear this speaker distort (clip), but I wasn’t surprised. If you want a tiny speaker to go up to volume 11, clipping is how you get from 10 to 11.

This speaker is bullet proof. It leaped out of my unzipped jacket pocket while biking at full speed, hit the ground and rolled. It didn’t miss a beat. Try doing that with a Sony Discman! It was a pretty cool sound hearing the volume fade and doppler effect as I rode past the rolling speaker, continuing to play as if it had never liberated itself from the safety of an cozy cotton domicile.

As I leaned over to pick it up, the only sign of the fall was a slight marring of the aluminum body. I’m glad Anker engineered this speaker to withstand abuse, as a significant fall like that could be an early demise for products built to lower standards. I wouldn’t be surprised if this speaker could withstand being run over by a car, and yet it’s surprisingly lightweight.

Fast forward a few weeks, I came up with an excuse to buy another Anker speaker. This time I wanted to try the SoundCore nano. Again, when this speaker arrived, it was smaller than I had imagined–and that’s a good thing. As the pictures show, this speaker is pretty flat, which means you can shove it in a pants pocket–so long as they’re not the variety of jeans that can comfortably accommodate a nothing large than a AAA battery.

As expected, this speaker is smaller, has a smaller driver, both in terms of wattage and dimensions, and so can’t compete with its not-so-big brother. It suffers from iPhone 7 syndrome, lacking an audio port and microSD port, but that’s okay because this is a bluetooth speaker and it’s 2017, and the 3.5mm port is facing mass extinction like we saw with VGA, disc drives, and floppy drives. It still has a power button, but even Anker has thought of a way to make half of that button unnecessary by powering off the speaker automatically if its disconnected for 10 minutes.

These speakers are a companion on a long bike ride home after a long day. They’re an audible alert on busy multi-use trails that doesn’t spook runners when you ding your bell or shout “on your left!”. And while I try to keep the volume at a courteous level, these speakers have enough volume to make your presence known to nearly everyone but the loud-music earbud wearers, though anything short of an air horn probably wouldn’t work to get those folk’s attention.

Alright, this ain’t a paid review. Time to unload the dirt on these speakers.

The audio is very quiet and sounds as awful as a 144p video on YouTube looks when the speaker has a poor bluetooth connection with the source. This could happen when you hide your phone on one side of your body and the speaker on the other, and are far enough away from walls for the 2.4 GHz bluetooth waves to find their way from your phone to your speaker. The range is otherwise pretty good, so long as it’s either outdoors with line-of-sight or indoors with line-of-sight or walls to bounce off.

The clipping does kinda bother me, so I back off the volume a bit. The SoundCore mini will also audibly remind you when you try to increase the volume past the maximum with a bell, which is annoying, especially at max volume. I’d much rather the speaker silently max out. Subsequent requests to increase the volume, either via the audio source or the rubberized volume button should have no effect. The SoundCore nano doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem, but I need to verify that.

Both battery lives are pretty respectable. The SoundCore mini certainly has a more generous battery, but I don’t tend to listen to these speakers for more than an hour at a time. I’d have to say that the parasitic battery drain (how many days it takes for the batteries to discharge if the device is left off) is more than I expect, but I haven’t investigated because these speakers are so quick to recharge with an Anker USB cable and Anker IQ charger.

I’m looking forward to your reviews of the Soundcore mini’s slightly larger brethren. I’m really curious about the SoundCore Sport. Does the max volume live up to your expectations? Is the sound quality decent? Are you also surprised at how much bass these speakers can try to put out? Let me know.