Last year, those wanting to own a bare minimum Bluesound multi-room system had to fork out for two Pulses totalling £1200 – that’s a good few years of birthday and Christmas presents.
So what if we told you it could now be achieved for as little as £540?
Bluesound not only revamped its ecosystem earlier this year, spawning Gen 2 versions of its Node, Powernode and Vault, but added to it with two wireless speakers: the portable Pulse Flex (£270) and the Pulse Mini – you guessed it, a smaller version of the Pulse.
This isn’t the first time we’ve set eyes on the Pulse Mini, having reviewed it with the rest of the Bluesound family last year.
Like its big brother, the Pulse Mini is a bi-amplified 2.1 speaker; a 50W amplifier drives a 10cm woofer (the Pulse’s is 13cm) in a dual-port enclosure, while there are two 5cm full-range drivers in their own acoustic chambers, each with a dedicated amplifier channel.
The Pulse can be served Bluetooth by a plug-in dongle, but the Pulse Mini has it already built in. There is also an IR sensor and input so it can be controlled by a TV remote control, for those inclined to use the Pulse Mini in a video-based set-up.
The fresh-faced Pulse keeps the distinct shape of its sibling (picture the top half of an octagon), but true to its name is a dress-size down, trimmed back at every dimension.
The less-is-more line of attack presents us with a smart, neat box – not unlike its arch-rival, the Sonos Play:5 – with just a simple touch control panel and recessed gap for a handle up top as points of notice.
Inside, a 32-bit DAC handles everything from MP3s and WMAs to FLACs and WAVs up to 24bit/192kHz – not such a unique selling point with the likes of LG and Samsung sharing the hi-res spotlight, but important nonetheless in the Sonos-versus-Bluesound battle.
More after the break
The Pulse Mini matches its big brother for physical connections with single USB and optical/analogue combo inputs, a headphone output and micro-USB for service.
An ethernet socket provides the most stable way to get online, although wi-fi can also open the door to your digital network library.
With the Pulse Mini, Bluesound claims to have “shrunk down the footprint, without compromising the performance” and just a few songs into our playlist we are not inclined to disagree.
Rich and full bodied, weighty yet agile, it’s the Pulse’s doppelganger when it comes to sonic character. And although it may not be capable of the same level of room-filling, powerful sound, we’d actually take it home over its big brother.
There’s a touch more refinement, and tonally it’s more neutral, even if still slightly leaning towards bass. We’d avoid putting it in a corner, although you can adjust balance through the app’s EQ.
The low-end reach may be no match for the powerful Pulse, but it’s far from lacking. Play Local Natives’ Heavy Feet and drumming is agile and punchy, the top-timed Pulse Mini first to sniff out its idiosyncratic rhythmic pattern.
The midrange is clear and articulate, getting across the rustic whine and soaring nature of their vocal signature, and the treble is clear and open.
It’s an expressive, explicit listen from top to bottom, though. The piano-playing driving Buena Vista Social Club’s Pueblo Nuevo straddles enthusiasm and precision, with a sense of warmth and texture oozing through the keys.
Bluesound set out to shoehorn the Pulse’s impressive sound quality into a smaller, more affordable package, and it has worked.
A welcome addition to the Bluesound household, the Pulse Mini is a fantastic speaker for the money, and perfect for one room or several.
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