The Minirig 3 portable speaker (and subwoofer): a year review.
Last year, I had one trusty companion at my side accompanying me to pretty much every picnic, barbecue and festival I attended.
In the colder months, it has sat with me whilst I cook and work. We’re inseparable. My squat little friend in question is the Minirig 3 Bluetooth speaker, and if you and I have met up outdoors in the past twelve months, you’ve probably seen us together.
I’ve owned a fair few portable speakers in my time, which have ranged from good to terrible. When my last Sony one gave up the ghost, I wanted something with more oomph that could power a busy outdoor gathering. I was keen to support a UK company with a repairable product, and I’d heard great things about these little devices - so I went for the Minirig 3.
Minirig makes just three products: a portable speaker (the Minirig 3), a mini version (the Minirig Mini 2) and a subwoofer (the Sub 3). The sub is an optional add-on that can lend extra bass by being plugged into a Minirig or Mini. The numbers simply differentiate the current version from older models.
Minirig is a small company, so it’s likely you haven’t heard of them before. Bigger brands like Sonos, JBL and Bose have the marketing budgets to make more noise about their portable speakers. But within its price range, the Minirig is quietly (or not so quietly) outdoing them all.
These speakers are made by audiophiles, for audiophiles. If you’re considering buying a Minirig or Minirig Mini, or wondering if you need the Sub 3 subwoofer, read on for a very thorough Minirig review.
Build and design
Over a year has passed since I got my Minirig 3 - but I can still remember how it felt to unzip it out of the case and handle it for the first time. I had seen these speakers on Buy Me Once, but never held one.
Its pleasing round form was weighty, a fair bit heavier than any other portable speaker I’d owned. Combined with the sturdy anodised aluminium body, this gave an impression of quality that I still appreciate a year later.
My next thought was, how the hell does this thing work? Most portable speakers have a fairly uniform setup: on/off, pairing mode, volume buttons and a micro-USB or USB-C charging port. The Minirig, on the other hand, just has three mysterious holes and a single featureless button on the top. I definitely had to crack the manual out more than once.
Anatomy of a Minirig 3
This speaker does not have a conventional setup - so in case you’re wondering how it’s operated, here’s a rundown.
- LED button - this multifunctional button operates the Minirig, and lights up in different colours to show its battery level. Generally, you just need to turn it on and off - volume and pairing is done from your device.
- Speaker - massive noise comes out the top.
- AUX sockets (high gain and low gain) - you can plug in a 3.5mm AUX cable into these top or bottom holes instead of using Bluetooth. This can also be used to ‘daisy chain’ multiple Minirigs to play together. Low gain (bottom socket) is for listening at regular volumes, and high gain (top socket) is for listening at louder volumes.
- Charging port - this is the slightly larger middle hole in the side of the Minirig 3, for a barrel-shaped charger. The USB end of the charging cable is double-sided - this allows you to stack them if you want to charge multiple Minirigs from one socket.
- Four screws - the Minirig is designed for disassembly and repairs (though we don’t recommend you attempt DIY repairs).
- Anti-vibration base - a rubbery bottom that’s slightly elevated on four feet prevents the speaker from buzzing on hard surfaces.
So first up, the most important part. When you have a speaker that’s small and portable, you expect to miss out on some degree of sound quality or volume - particularly at the bass end. The Minirig 3, however, sounds sensational. It has a rich, full and clean sound profile that thrives with bassy tracks, and can instantly fill a room.
Despite just having a single driver (a custom 70mm design with a neodymium magnet), it’s insanely powerful. I have pretty much NEVER used the Minirig at full volume, even for parties and outdoor gatherings. It’s not that I have sensitive neighbours - other tech reviewers have said that the Minirig 3 is one of the loudest portable speakers they’ve ever tested.
If you do take it to its most antisocial limits, this audio powerhouse still sounds fantastic - but you can start missing out on some bass clarity. So if you’re planning on listening to music with a lot of bass (such as drum and bass, or dub) at high volumes, I recommend kicking it up a notch with the Sub 3 subwoofer. More on that later.
A cool feature Minirigs have is that you can ‘daisy chain’ multiple ones together - either wirelessly or with cables. As I said, I’ve never even needed to turn up one Minirig to full volume, so I’ve never done this. But knowing that Minirig chains can and have driven full-blown raves, it seems they can blast out some serious power.
After a while, you can start taking for granted how great the Minirig’s sound quality is. But even after a year, I’m constantly amazed by how much juice it has. With light use around the house, I charge it about once a month. That’s how much I charge my Kindle.
They say the Minirig 3 can play for 7 hours at max volume, 30 hours with average use and 100 hours at low volume. Personally, when I’m just playing it in my room whilst I work, I probably have it on the quieter side - because between charges it usually lasts closer to 100.
Considering its size, this is a huge amount of power to store in a device, and it really makes a difference to its practical use. It does take a while to fully charge - about 4-5 hours - so I tend to do it overnight. But if I grab my Minirig on my way out to a picnic and see that it’s at less than half power, I don’t even worry that I forgot to charge it. I get home after playing it all afternoon, and it’s still got hours of battery left.
Another useful feature of the Minirig is that you can use it as a battery pack to charge other devices in a pinch. Because of the double-sided USB on the charging cable, it will link up to most phone chargers. Very handy when you’re out and about.
Connectivity and app
When it first came to wirelessly linking up to the Minirig, I couldn’t figure out how to activate ‘pairing mode’ with its one button. After consulting the manual, I found out that the Minirig doesn’t actually have pairing mode - when it’s turned on, it just becomes constantly visible for anyone to hook up to. Multiple people can pair with the Minirig at once, and you can just pause your music to let someone else play theirs. Easy.
The Minirig’s Bluetooth is decently powerful - its connection range is stated to be ‘>10-30 metres line-of-sight’, and I’ve found it can sometimes maintain it through walls too. Very occasionally, I’ve had issues where the speaker will disconnect during play. It hasn’t been frequent enough to be annoying, but would be a problem if you’re powering a party - so if you’re in a situation where you really need a reliable connection, the AUX cable would be a good bet.
Minirig also have an optional app (available for Android and iOS) which you can use to control the speaker with a finer degree of detail, as well as the basic functions. I’ve not needed to use it much, though it can be useful for switching between high and low gain. I also like to use the ‘voice’ setting to reduce the bass (perfect for late night podcasts).
The festival test
The Minirig’s enormous battery life, durability and powerful sound make it famously well suited to seeing you through a festival weekend. Last summer, the opportunity arose for me to put it through its paces. Before setting off to not-so-sunny Lincolnshire, I charged my Minirig overnight and popped it in its protective case (indicating my good intentions of looking after it).
I have to say, the Minirig endured more than it should have had to. It was dropped on one hard and then one muddy surface, it was (lightly) rained on, a beer was thrown over it and at one point, we left it sitting on a very wet surface for several hours before realising. I don’t recommend trying this with yours, but the Minirig (which is sold as ‘splash resistant’) is clearly built to endure.
The Minirig was played at a fairly loud volume for much of the three-day festival, providing the soundtrack to our campsite. I also used it once to charge my phone in a pinch, which was a lifesaver. And by the end, it actually still had some juice. Festival test well and truly passed.
Comparison to the Minirig Mini
For the purposes of this review, I also recently took home a Minirig Mini 2 to compare with its bigger sibling. If you’re struggling to contextualise the size of both speakers, the regular Minirig 3 has a diameter of 10cm, and the Mini is 8.5cm. The difference doesn’t sound like much, but the Mini can very comfortably fit in the palm of your hand, and at 312g versus the Minirig’s 550g, it’s significantly lighter. The Mini also has about a third of the Minirig’s battery life - a maximum of 36 hours versus 100.
I was actually really, really impressed by the Mini. Compared with the Minirig 3, the Mini’s sound was just as full and rich at lower volumes, with no perceptible difference in quality. As you turn up the volume, the Minirig 3 starts to pull ahead, with more powerful and well-defined bass notes. And eventually, the Mini simply doesn’t go as loud as its big sibling. But let me be clear - the Mini still gets loud, and it sounds fantastic.
For its size and price range, the Minirig Mini is every bit as exceptional as the regular Minirig. If you’re looking for something ultra-portable, or a casual listening home speaker, it’s worth considering this cheaper option. Even though I haven’t given it a year of hard testing, I’m certain the Mini is built to last too.
But if you want the extra power, or (what sold it for me) significantly more battery life, the Minirig 3 is outstanding. I think it’s safe to assume that you could own either of these speakers for many years, so in my opinion, they’re both great value.
Do you need the subwoofer?
The Minirig Sub 3 subwoofer is an add-on that can supercharge the bass power of either the Minirig or the Minirig Mini. It’s not a standalone speaker, and has to connect to the Minirig or Mini via cable - it can’t do a wireless connection.
I’ve tried out the Sub 3, and it definitely makes a difference to the depth and clarity of the bass sound on both speakers. However, the Minirigs already have a fairly bassy sound profile, and for everyday listening, it’s not really something you miss.
But as mentioned previously, these speakers do lose some of their bass definition when you take them up to high volumes, so if you’re planning on doing this, the Minirig subwoofer is definitely worth investing in. In fact, you might like the idea of a full-on sound system of two or more linked speakers, plus the subwoofer to take it to the next level.
Like the speakers, the Sub 3 is compact (it’s the smallest portable subwoofer in the world), and has a chunky battery (maximum 80 hours). So if you fancy playing your music loud and proud when you’re on the move, the subwoofer is both powerful and convenient.
The future of my Minirig
These speakers are tough. But this is Buy Me Once, and it’s not just a rugged build that’s important. I love how Minirigs are specifically designed to be taken apart and repaired, especially when so much tech these days is glued together. Their speakers carry a one year warranty, and repairs are priced fairly thereafter (it’s a non-profit service).
Their customer support is excellent, something I attribute to them being a small company. Minirig continue to provide support and repairs for all their old models, and as technology advances, old versions can be upgraded. In a world of throwaway electronics, that’s true futureproofing.
Minirig review: final verdict
There are a lot of reasons to love the Minirig 3. The sound quality is outstanding, the battery is insane and they’re tough. They’re small enough to throw in your bag and take everywhere, so that you’re spared from listening to someone else’s shoddy speaker.
Looking at the wider market of portable speakers, the Minirig 3 - and the Minirig Mini, too - come best in class within their price range. If you’re looking for really detailed, high-definition sound, you could pay more and do a little better with another brand. However, the speaker will be chunkier, and it won’t have anything near this kind of battery life.
What’s more, these speakers are properly built to last, and can also be repaired and upgraded indefinitely. This means they’ll give you outstanding value for money over the course of many years. This is going against the grain of disposable tech - most companies actively discourage repair, encouraging you to buy their shiniest new model instead.
Minirig speakers were designed by a passionate team of DJs and producers, and in these circles, Minirigs are known to be the best. There aren’t a lot of people making tech products in the UK, and these speakers represent a gold standard of manufacturing that comes from keeping everything under one roof.
If you’re looking for high-quality portable sound, the Minirig 3 will surpass your expectations. And if you want a bit of kit that will last? Well, there’s a reason Buy Me Once has been selling them for years.
Shop our collection of Minirig speakers here.
Why are long-lived electricals so rare? Read our article about the rise of throwaway tech.
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