REVIEW – What, another Bluetooth speaker review, you ask. How many of these things exist, you ask. What makes this one different, you ask. Your answers, in order: Yes, Infinity plus one, and read on…
What is it?
The Flare Mini from Soundcore (an Anker brand) is a smaller, lighter version of the Flare Bluetooth speaker. While it shares a lot of the same features as its bigger brother, there are also some trade-offs that help this speaker to come in at a lower price.
What’s in the box?
- The Flare Mini speaker
- Charging cable
- Instruction booklet
Design and Features
The Flare Mini is an attractive and attractively small Bluetooth speaker. It claims to have a full 360 degree sound so that you can place it anywhere and still hear as if you were standing in front of a traditional speaker. Soundcore says that it is IPX7-rated so you could drop it in your pool and not have to run out and buy a new speaker. And it says it has a light show that keeps time with the music. We’ll take on these claims, but first a comparison in size:
Only slightly bigger than your average soda can and weighs about the same, too.
The first question to ask in a crowded market like this is “how does it sound?” In a word, spectacular. The claim to 360 degree sound is accurate – I placed the speaker in the middle of our large open floor plan, cranked up the volume and wandered around. No matter where I was in the space, the sound followed me as if someone was pointing the speaker in my direction as I moved. This is thanks to twin speaker arrays that cover 180 degrees each and pump out 5 watts of sound per array, the music pours out in every direction. Nice touch, and one that guarantees you’ll hear everything no matter where you are.
Getting the sound there is only half the battle, though. When the music (or podcast or Gregorian chants) hits your earspace, it has to sound good as well. This is where the Flare Mini really shines. Thanks to the Bass-Up technology built-in, the lows are vibrant – you can feel them at volume, and it isn’t a muddy thumping like the low-cost cousins. The mids are clear and bright, and the highs are anything but shrill. To put the speaker through its paces, I played a bunch of reggaeton music because it has everything – great bass lines, guitar riffs, and vocals in all ranges. So, for an hour we had a Latin dance party on our back patio: Gente de Zona, Enrique Iglesias, Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi, CNCO/Meghan Trainor. Each song came through perfectly, giving the impression we were listening to a much more expensive sound system.
One of the tricks the Flare Mini has up its sleeve is the ability to “pair” with another Flare Mini. Although this is called stereo, it is really a way to have two Bluetooth devices consume a single source and keep the sound synchronized between the two speakers. Instead of a true left/right split, you get the same sound from both devices. I wish I had a second speaker to test this as it sounds like a great feature.
Our dance party came to an abrupt end when the massive rain storm moved in. In a matter of seconds we were drenched – and so was the Flare Mini. The music never stopped, though. And the speaker was not in any way adversely affected by the sudden storm.
On to the design. Other than the branding on the “front” of the speaker, the nice fabric cover is only disrupted by the charging port on the “back”. This uses a mini USB cable to charge. Using an Anker wall charger, I was able to get just shy of 13 hours playtime at half volume from a 2 hour charge. As you can see in the picture, though, this is a Bluetooth-only speaker. There is no line-in jack, most likely to squeeze in more speaker and battery. Still, be aware of this omission if you are old school on your connections.
The Flare Mini uses the Bluetooth 4.2 standard, so theoretically you can have your sound source up to 66 feet from the speaker. In practice, a lot will depend on the material between your phone and the speaker. For example, I could leave the Flare Mini on the patio in the backyard, go into the house to the opposite end of our “great room” the music would not miss a beat. That’s about 30 feet with a brick wall in between, a scenario you would think would be terrible. On the other hand, I left the speaker in the master bedroom and went into my office – in between there is an open bathroom and a walk-in closet but no brick walls. The connection to the speaker was flaky at best – the connection would drop and then almost immediately reconnect. To be expected for sure, and not an ordinary example by any means. Just remember that the connection is only as good as the stuff trying to stop the connection is bad, and open space is always the best for distance.
All of the controls for the speaker are on the top. There is no microphone so you can’t take/make calls from the speaker. But then, why would you want to?
You have the usual set – on/off, Bluetooth pairing, volume up/down, play/pause/next/previous control. The last two are not lit up, but they are raised so you can find them easily. If you have 2 Flare Minis, pressing the Bluetooth button on both simultaneously “pairs” the two speakers – only 1 is connected to your device, the other is connected to the “anchor” speaker. The last button on the right side controls the light show – you can turn the lights on/off, leave on a single color, or allow the bass to drive a light show.
The room has to be pretty dark for the light show to be effective. While this might be a great feature for kids, it represents a battery drain to me – more light equals less music, so pass.
The most important question you asked: what makes this different than all the rest? There isn’t a single thing, but rather the sum of all things. Build quality is amazing at this price point – it feels substantial and looks smart. Long battery life means fewer interruptions to the music. The 360 degree sound lets you worry less about where the speaker has to go. And the sound in those 360 degrees is akin to a speaker that costs much more.
What I like
- The sound – all around, this is the best-sounding budget speaker I have ever seen
- The design – small, smart-looking and waterproof for any environment (even my backyard)
- Battery life
What I’d change
- This speaker is not supported by the Soundcore app – probably a cost-saving measure, but something to be aware of if you are familiar with their app
- The lights – gimmicky and unnecessary
Full stop, at this price point you are just not going to find a better built, better performing or better sounding speaker than the Soundcore Flare Mini.
Where to buy: Amazon
Source: The review unit was provided by Soundcore. For more info, visit the Flare Mini product page.