James Stanbury

See other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury

The Speedlink XILU Bluetooth speaker's sound quality will have you dancing – but don't be surprised if it joins in, says our expert James Stanbury

Overview

We have all got used to being able to listen to our favourite music wherever we go, thanks to an array of devices. And portable music gadgets have certainly come a long way since the Sony Walkman personal stereo was launched in 1979. 

Sony may have created our hunger for cool portable audio accessories, but a host of manufacturers have scrambled to meet our needs ever since. Before you could say 'Jumping Jack Flash' they'd come up with plug-in speakers to enhance the sound. So people said goodbye to cumbersome ghetto blasters and hello to those Walkmans with plug-in speakers, but the sound quality from the tiny speakers was not nearly as good.

Fortunately there have been enormous improvements in audio technology since that time and today you can expect to get good sound from even tiny speakers – hence our group test of portable Bluetooth speakers. 

We're thankful to leave behind the bad old days when there were audio cassette tapes that would suddenly scramble and spill the tape into the machine. Unless you still like to buy CDs, the CD-changer many of us had in our tow cars, stacked with music CDs for the journey, is now redundant. In the age of the download, you're more likely to have a vast choice of music, stored on a range of newer, smaller devices. 

Now what we all need is to enhance the sound quality of music played on smartphones, tablets and laptops. Fortunately the same Bluetooth technology that gave us hands-free mobile phone use in the car can now enhance the sound from all these devices and provide us with a decent sound quality. 

Some portable Bluetooth speakers go above and beyond the others by having a small memory-card slot and a built-in digital player, which effectively makes them into tiny stand-alone sound systems. This can be handy if you need to preserve the charge on your mobile phone, laptop or tablet. We've been testing a selection of portable Bluetooth speakers, and you can read our reviews here. For instance, we tested the blue cuboid Creative MUVO Mini, costing £39.99, the same price as our overall winner, a neat and efficient all-rounder called the Edifier MP211. We also liked the Edifier Prisma Encore, despite the fact that it costs a whopping £129.99. With tech products, you do often get what you pay for! Check out all our Bluetooth speaker reviews, to find out more about the Denon Envaya Mini DSB-100 at £79.99, the cheery red Creative Woof 3 at £39.99, the Edifier Bric Connect at £79.99, and the Speedlink Portajoy at £64.99 at the time of our test.

In this review we will focus on the Speedlink XILU portable Bluetooth speaker. Imagine entering a micro-campervan and finding an interior befitting a luxury RV. Acoustically, this speaker delivers something just as unlikely. Despite its tiny 45mm x 45mm x 45mm size — think of a Mr Kipling Fondant Fancy in brushed aluminium – this produces meatier sound than many bigger rivals.

It weighs just eight grams, so it's portable enough that you can take it with you on bike rides and picnics away from the motorhome. It has a microphone built into it, too, so if you get a phone call it can interrupt the music and let you take the call wirelessly. Thanks to the wireless signal you can even put the Speedlink XILU portable Bluetooth speaker at one end of the motorhome and wander up to 10m away from it, controlling the music from your mobile phone or other device. 

The only drawbacks of the Speedlink XILU speaker's size are a playback time of four hours between charges, a slow recharge rate via its short little microUSB cable, and a tendency to dance around, even at low volume. It comes with two short 500cm cables, the 3.5mm audio cable and USB cable.

Technical specs

Size45mm x 45mm x 45mm
Weight8g
Power output2.3W RMS
Audio cable3.5mm
MicroUSB cable500cm

Verdict

If you want a lightweight, versatile portable Bluetooth speaker that you can take out and about wherever you go, the Speedlink XILU does the job pretty well. The sound quality is not bad considering its size and it boosts your phone when you're using it for hands-free calls. It will connect wirelessly or via its USB cable to all your devices. The only drawbacks are the short battery life and the fact that it tends to leap around when you're playing your music, even at low volumes. We've awarded the Speedling XILU a three-and-a-half-star rating.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Excellent sound for its size
  • Ultra portable, cupcake size

Cons

  • Full charge only lasts for four hours
  • The speaker bounces around when playing music
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