House of Marley has built up a solid reputation among consumers and reviewers for delivering products with unique, eco-friendly designs, great-sounding audio and affordable prices. So of course I jumped at the chance to check out their Chant Mini Bluetooth speaker.
I’ve been playing with the Chant Mini for a few weeks now, and I have to say that I’ve been impressed. The speaker sounds great for its size—at just 4.25″x5.5″x4.35″ this thing is incredibly portable—and I have to admit that the unconventional design has kind of grown on me.
Unconventional is really the name of the game with House of Marley. The company says its products are “soulfully” designed using earth-friendly materials such as hemp, organic cotton and Forest Stewardship-certified woods, and their packaging is made of recycled paper and plastic.
The Chant Mini I’ve been using is green in color, wrapped in House of Marley’s Rewind fabric and bamboo. It features Bluetooth 4.1 (EDR, A2DP mono audio), a built-in microphone for speakerphone calls, and a built-in Lithium Ion Battery that’s good for about 6 hours of playback. Located on the lower left side, you’ll find a Micro-USB port for charging (cable included) and a 3.5mm input for connecting other devices. Notably, both are protected by a plastic cover for added durability.
Controlling the speaker is done via a simple button cluster on the front of the device. Here you can turn the Chant off and on, initiate Bluetooth pairing and turn the volume up and down. The buttons are well-made, easy to press, and because of their size and location, they are always within thumbs reach.
Admittedly, I came into testing with a fair bit of skepticism. I’ve used a lot of Bluetooth speakers over the years, some of which produce incredible sound, so I didn’t think a small, ~$50 speaker from an indie manufacturer would do enough to move the needle. But you can’t really compare this with bigger, more expensive speakers. This is something completely different.
In my usage, I found the Chant Mini to work best in small spaces. The speaker can get loud—extremely loud—but the sound quality starts to drop off noticeably past the 3/4 mark. Some of my more enjoyable experiences were using it in my office to play music, using it to listen to podcasts while on the treadmill, and using it on our back patio to play background music for a small get-together.
I’m not an audiophile by any means, but I found the Mini’s sound quality to be pretty good in the aforementioned settings. If pressed, I’d say that music doesn’t sound as sharp as I’d like it to (maybe too mid-heavy?) and bass is almost non-existent, but again, I don’t think you buy this speaker because it sounds better than all other speakers. You buy it because it sounds great for its price and size.
And don’t underestimate that last part, size. You don’t realize how convenient having a smaller speaker like this is until you take it with you somewhere. It requires almost no space in an overnight bag or suitcase, fits nicely in the cup holder of a car or golf cart, and it’s small enough that it doesn’t look gaudy sitting next to your iPad on a picnic table or in an airport. This is a speaker I wouldn’t mind traveling with.
If you’re looking for negatives, I don’t have many, and the ones I do have mostly spawned from comparisons with larger speakers (wanting sharper sound, better battery life, etc). I will say that I haven’t been very impressed with call quality while using the speakerphone function, but since I don’t get great wireless service at my house, I can’t pin that squarely on the Chant. And to be honest with you, I use the feature so infrequently that even if it was the issue, it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me.
Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I have no problem recommending the Chant Mini from House of Marley for folks in the market for a smaller Bluetooth speaker. If you’re interested, you can find it on Amazon for $59.