Bluesound Pulse Mini
Input: Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, 1x USB Type-A port for connection to USB memory sticks and supported peripherals, 1x USB Type-B (mini) for product servicing, Combo Toslink/3.5mm
Output: Headphone output (3.5mm Stereo)
Dimensions: 13.2 x 6.8 x 6.1 in (335 x 172 x 155 mm)
Weight: 7.9 lbs (3.6 kg)
Availability: Online and through authorized Dealers
You can serve to it, stream to it, and play to it via WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Toslink, or 3.5mm analog input. Armed with an ARM CORTEX A9 processor, 2x 50mm (2") speakers and an 89mm (3.5") woofer tri-amped with 60W of direct-digital power, the Bluesound Pulse Mini pumps out a claimed 45Hz - 20kHz of not so mini music. Control playback from your iOS, Android, or Kindle device running the free BluOS control app or via the top-mounted touch controls and you have a world of music-in-the-box.
PSB's Paul Barton has more than a hand in designing the speakers for Bluesound, PSB, NAD, and Bluesound all fall under the same Lenbrook Group corporate umbrella, so the Pulse Mini sounds like music rather than a small box wherein Alvin and the Chipmunks are trapped squeaking out covers of all your tunes. According to the company, the Mini houses a patented dual-acoustic chamber and "state-of-the-art" DSP equalization which help account for its prodigious frequency response.
The Pulse Mini, like every other Bluesound device, can handle PCM resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz in MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, HRA file formats. Also like every other Bluesund device, you can stream from the cloud (WiMP, Slacker Radio, Qobuz, JUKE, Deezer, Spotify, TIDAL, Napster, Rhapsody), Internet Radio (TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio), network-attached storage, attach USB storage and play from it, and connect up to it via Toslink or 3.5mm analog in. There an IR Sensor built into the front panel so in addition to using the BluOS app or top-mounted touch controls, you can train your remote to control it too.
I had the Bluesound Vault 2 (see review) still connected to my network so the Mini used the Vault's internal storage as music library. This also allowed me to control playback between both Bluesound devices with the same iPad mini-based BluOS app, easily switching between playing the same or different music to both. I'd imagine many a potential Pulse Mini buyer will look to it to add music to rooms and places their main hi-fi won't reach. While you have to plug the Mini in, it is small, roughly the size of a complete set of Art Dudley's Listener magazine, and lightweight with an easy-to-grip cavity up top making it portable plug and play.
Of course you'll want to stay within your WiFi network's range to have access to all of your music, but if you do leave home, you can always use your smartphone as source and send its music to the Mini via Bluetooth. And if you get hot, say sunning yourself on the back porch, crank the Mini up and let it's rear port blow some music conditioned air your way.
The Pulse Mini is clad in the same semi-soft touch plastic as the other Bluesound devices and comes in matte black or white (how about red or a cool Blu?). Overall the Mini feels nice and well made.
I had the little Mini cranked! in the barn and it really did a good job with loud! Along with loud, it also remained in control with nice clarity and buxom badass bass. I can easily imagine the Mini living in a smallish room and very easily filling it with all manner of music. Of course if you want real stereo separation you'll need more than a single box, but I think it's refreshing, fun even, to escape the confines of the illusory specter of the soundstage. You know, move a little, dance a lot.
Something is happening to me, and I don't really know what it is. One example being my complete and utter joy in listening to Beyoncé's new Lemonade, even more than PJ Harvey's new The Hope Six Demolition Project. Weird, right? In any event, "Don't Hurt Yourself" (feat. Jack White) is pure badass strength and the Mini did it justice even at louder than I'd normally listen levels. Want even more bass? The BluOS app allows you to dial up, or down, bass and treble (±6dB) and while you're in the Audio Settings menu, you'll see you can assign the Output Mode of the Mini to Stereo, Left or Right channel only when paired, or Mono. You can even set a volume limit, although that kinda ruins some of the fun.
I'm afraid I cannot offer any comparisons to other similar players because I don't have any on hand. What I can offer is I found the Pulse Mini to be a blast to listen to and when considering it can become another node, pardon the pun, in the Bluesound ecosystem bringing music to places non-portable players won't go, its appeal grows when considered as another part of a whole-house musical sum.
The headphone feature, the 3.5mm jack is located around back, delivers sound on par with the other Bluesound gear I've had here (see the Node 2 review) which means I enjoyed its output, too, driving the ever-enjoyable AudioQuest Nighthawks. Plugging your headphones in mutes the speaker's output, which makes sense to me. Listening here, up close to the Mini, made those top-mounted touch controls come in handy for controlling volume and skipping mainly back to the previous track so I could listen to "Don't Hurt Yourself" again.
I moved the Mini around the barn and it seemed particularly happy in a corner pointing out where the sound was bit fuller. I imagined that rear port blowing air backward only to be forced forward. But it's portable and takes less than a minute to start up and appear in the BluOS app so feel free to experiment. While I wouldn't be fooled into thinking I was listening to more than one box, under the relevant, at least the way I see it, circumstances, I also don't care. Think fun, a recurring theme in my experiences with the Bluesound line of products.
It's worth noting the entire Bluesound ecosystem which is comprised of the aforementioned and reviewed Vault 2 and Node 2, the Powernode 2 which adds a 60 Watt x2 (into 8ohms) HYBRIDDIGITAL amplifier to the Node 2, the larger Pulse 2 speaker, the smaller Pulse Flex, and the Duo Sub/Sat speaker system.
Just Add Music
If you want a portable, albeit with a plug, player than can do loud (or soft) really well while streaming high-res PCM from network attached storage and USB storage and/or stream from streaming services and Internet Radio, while acting as part of a multi-room Bluesound music system controlled by a single app, give the Mini some thought and ideally a good listen.