Bluesound Pulse Mini
With Bluesound’s original Pulse being so large, there was always a need for a smaller speaker solution. Though we’re not sure ‘Mini’ is the right name for this — it may seem mini alongside the huge Pulse, but it is far larger than, say, a Sonos Play:3, and at 33cm wide by 17cm high and 15cm deep, it’s only a couple of centimetres short of the largest Sonos speaker, the Play:5. The Mini retains the Pulse’s styling on the top surface, with five-way touch-buttons over a sculpted cut-out carry handle.
Connections are simple round the back — and if used wirelessly, you may need only the mains connection. Optional, then, are the Ethernet cabled connection to your network, a minijack headphone output, a USB socket, and another minijack which looks like an analogue auxiliary input, but is also a mini optical digital input.
We went Wi-Fi, which involved using our smart device to connect to the unit’s own hotspot, giving it our network password, then heading off to the Bluesound app itself to enjoy our music.
This it presents marvellously well, with the high format friendliness of the whole Bluesound family, good for MP3, AAC and WMA, OGG, Apple Lossless (to 24/96), WAV and AIFF both to 24-bit/192kHz and perhaps higher, since we were able to successfully play our only 352.8kHz FLAC file (though this did rebuffer twice through Wi-Fi).
It’s perhaps strange to call a wireless speaker ‘purist’, but that’s what struck us about the sonic balance here. Many speakers this size have been over-EQd through digital signal manipulation to push out more bass than the box can really produce, often joined by fizzy forced treble up top. The lack of such a forced treble is one of the Pulse Mini’s most obvious characteristics — at times it might almost be accused of sounding reserved in its control of the top-end, soft if heard directly alongside some rival designs. Our advice if facing such a comparison is to turn the volume up significantly, because the Pulse Mini is built for longterm listening pleasure and its sound is best balanced at higher than background levels. Its solid bass delivers an underpinning for everything, whether fully presenting Chris Squire’s bass right down to the bottom E on ‘Long Distance Runaround’ or grinding a rich cello line on a 24-bit/96kHz recording of the Blue Chamber Quartet. Timing is fairly tight, too, giving a kick but not a bloated thump to Bonham’s bass pedal on assorted Zep 24/96 remasters.
The midrange seems highly accurate, delivering spoken voices exact to their tone, though at low to medium volume vocals can sound slightly boxed and low on sibilance definition, again because that top is so becalmed. We did try notching the treble up halfway on the app’s EQ to lift things for quieter listening, but that thinned the nicely neutral midrange, so we brought it back down again.
There are two other big bonuses here which apply to all Gen 2 Bluesound units — Bluetooth, and IR remote control, both of which we examine in our Powernode 2 review overleaf.
“It’s perhaps strange to call a wireless speaker ‘purist’, but that’s what struck us about the sonic balance here...”