Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes, and the market is flooded with them. But there’s one speaker we’ve previously tested that stands out from the rest: the Harman Kardon Esquire Mini — and now there’s a new version. This ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker is what the modern-day James Bond would carry with him. It’s sleek, luxe, pocketable, and doubles as a USB battery pack. It’s the perfect speaker for bouncing around the house, bringing on vacation, or tossing in a backpack.
We’ve been using the original Esquire Mini for 5 years, and it’s not because it’s the best sounding of all our speakers, instead because it’s so ridiculously convenient. It also happens to be one of the most durable. The whole speaker is basically the size of two stacked up smartphones. It measures just one inch thick and weighs about half a pound. It’s beautifully crafted out of polished metal and faux leather. There’s a kickstand that pops out of the back to prop it up, and it takes up a relatively small footprint. It’s ultra suave and sophisticated with a very premium look. The design is very similar to the original, but there’s a sturdier stand this time around and a little more curve and smoothness to it.
We love the design even down to the buttons; all of the controls are really easy to use. The buttons are small but they give great feedback when they’re pressed. There’s also a dedicated button for volume up and down, as well as a power button, Bluetooth button, and multi-function button. Best of all, there’s no press-and-holds required to turn it on and shut it off, making it really quick and easy to turn on. There’s an auto-off feature in case you forget to shut it.
There’s a built-in 2200mAh powerbank that can share juice with your phone or USB device even while the Mini cranks out tunes. The battery is a tad larger than the original’s. We love having the battery but unfortunately these days it may not even be enough battery for a full phone charge so it’s best kept for an essential boost. The speaker can last for 10 hours on a single charge, unless you’re sharing the battery power. It has a full-sized USB port for charging any USB device. For charging the speaker, there’s now a USB-C charging port, which is an upgrade from the original’s micro USB. There’s a standard USB to USB-C charging cable included but no power adapter. There’s a series of battery status LEDs on the side of the unit.
When it comes to audio quality it really depends on what you’re looking for out of this speaker. If you want a small party speaker, this gets loud enough but you won’t write home about the quality. The higher volumes highlight some muddiness and distortion. Now, if you’re looking for something more personal, something to fill a room with low to moderate volumes, then it actually sounds great. It excels playing volumes that you could technically achieve with your phone speaker, but it comes out warmer and much less harsh. We’re snobby about our audio quality and find the quality perfectly acceptable in all the scenarios we’d otherwise use our iPhone speaker for playing music. The sound quality is bassier than the original Esquire Mini, but otherwise, it’s not a dramatic improvement. The bass is pretty decent for a speaker this size, although you may not agree when you’ve maxed out the volume.
Since this is the James Bond speaker that has it all, there’s also a 3.5mm port for playing music from any device, as well as noise-canceling microphones for crystal clear conference calls. We found the Esquire is great for loud speakerphone calls, and the microphone works just fine. We were expecting better voice recording quality, and found iPhone’s built-in mic actually records voices more clearly.
If you do some research you may not find the best reviews for the Esquire Mini 2, or even the original Esquire Mini, which is a bit unfair. If you know what to expect and understand that such a small and compact speaker can only do so much with audio quality, volume, and battery, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’re planning on filling the need of a larger portable speaker, like a JBL Flip, then you may not be impressed. Personally, the Esquire Mini 2 has become an essential companion for me providing ample tunes while I’m in the kitchen, playing on the floor with my kid, or taking on the go. Because it’s so small and has such a small footprint, we don’t need to play the volume as loud when it’s sitting right next to us. There’s over a dozen portable speakers in our apartment, yet this is the most convenient for quick and easy listening. It also helps that we can use it to charge our phone. Objectively, it’s missing two things: waterproofing or water resistance, and the ability to charge with a USB-C fast charger. It seems to only charge with a USB-A to USB-C cable like the one that came with it.
The Harman Kardon Esquire Mini 2 retails for $149 at Amazon. While that is certainly a bit pricey, if it’s built as well as the original (and it feels like it is), then it can last you years. The Esquire Mini 2 comes in black, brown, rose gold, silver, and blue.