Sunday, December 21, 2014

Review: Denon Envaya Mini DSB100 - the mini speaker (r)evolution

I already reviewed the bigger Denon Envaya DSB200 which was introduced earlier this year and although I found it to be quite a solid performer, it didn't knock my socks off. My favorite speaker by then was the Soundlink Mini which was considerably smaller but managed quite a similar sound. Although both were tuned differently, I couldn't discern any real advantage in sound if I chose the Denon Envaya over the Soundlink Mini with a similar boomy bass and similarly muffled treble, except a slightly higher overall loudness but at the same time ending up with a much larger speaker.
Now the smaller brother of the Denon Envaya, the "DSB100" was announced recently without making big waves about it as I only managed to hear about it per chance. I became really curious to hear what Denon managed to sequeeze out of a speaker that small, as they don't seem to be a company to contend themself with little. Let me tell you that this is finally the speaker which indeed managed to blow my mind more than any other portabler speaker I have tried in the last years. Come in to find out why.

Some years ago most compact portable speakers up to larger book-sized ones sounded rather tinny and unimpressive like the original JBL onTour (a kind of pocket flask) although it was very popular by then and still got pretty great reviews while in reality it was a bright thin sounding speaker, which I would have never had considered for listening to music. Maybe the Soundmatters FoxL and later the Jambox which was based on the same internals of the FoxL were the first that started a kind of small revolution for the entire Bluetooth speaker market about 5 years ago. The FoxL was pocketable and probably the first speaker which really delivered a bit of a Hifi-sound, at least at that time, but all speakers that small didn't even manage any real bass response, the FoxL on the other hand sounded much larger than the size would suggest, especially when positioned well near a wall or corner. A battery used as passive radiator was pretty unique at that time to overcome space-limits, then suddenly nearly all small speakers started to use some kind of passive radiator to enhance their low-end.
Looking back now, the FoxL still sounds rather tinny with a quite low maximum output, compared to what is available now. It sounds balanced overall but is still missing the bass-punch of most current speakers. When Bose finally launched their Soundlink Mini 1 year ago (with 2 opposing passive radiators instead of one) they seem to have shifted physical limits of what was possible to squeeze out of a compact speaker on sound. The Soundlink Mini has a cubature of less than half a liter, but manages to play down to 60Hz. Unfortunately Bose preferred to produce too much bass instead of too little, so the Soundlink Mini suffered from quite an imbalanced sound in the end with boomy bass but muffled upper treble and a stronger lower treble boost instead, to divert from the fact that the Soundlink Mini had hardly any upper treble at all. The overly boosted bass came not without problems as deeper bass notes tended to drone on many songs already at half volume with intermodulation distortion creeping in at higher levels. Despite all the flaws Bose succeded with their concept anyhow, as the Soundlink Mini is still selling like hot cakes. Even I enjoyed it for some months and was really impressed about the full sound it was able to produce, but at the same time I already started to complain about it shortly after I had bought it.
Since then other companies tried to jump on the bandwagon and issue their own versions of the Soundlink Mini, but most did not even come close the "original", let alone improve on it. Finally JBL managed to offer a worthy alternative with the Charge 2, which on the other hand was plagued by some unforeseen DSP artefacts and yielded the speaker nearly unusable in many cases or with particular tracks.

The key to success for such small speakers is the perfect interaction of acoustics, drivers, manufacturing and probably most important DSP. A small driver will never be able to produce any low frequencies on its own without some further equalizing and dynamic adjustment etc. But many companies still seem to be ignoring that fact and launch new speakers that could sound so much better, but do not because you have to turn them close to maximum in order to get a satisfying response. Listen at lower levels and they will sound like a clock-radio, an extreme example being the Klipsch KMC-1 which didn't manage to sound really much better than the small FoxL until you turned it up to at least half volume. A DSP is necessary to "model" the sound accordingly and push the drivers to their limits, otherwise a speaker that could play down to 150Hz without any distortion at maximum volume, will never sound full-bodied or mature at lower levels, if the bass-amount below 150Hz is not pushed at the same time.
Denon seem to be the ones who are well aware of that fact and the Envaya Mini is the best example for perfect interaction of all speaker components including the DSP.

Enough history and technical blah, let's have a look what we have here. The Denon Envaya Mini is quite an affordable offer within the confusing Bluetooth speaker market. It is available in either black or white, I chose white because this should be more forgiving on a hot summer day when the sun is burning down on it. Retail price is 99€ in Europe, but it is already sold for 89€ by some vendors (with some temporary offers for 79€) making it considerably cheaper than the Bose Soundlink Mini, which can be found for as low as 159€ right now. I am not quite sure about the price in the US, but it seems to be priced higher with 149$. This would make the speaker indeed more expensive in the US, than in Europe, usually it is just the other way round with a 1$=1€ conversion. Initially I really assumed the Envaya Mini would cost 99$. But I think even for 149$ Denon offered a really competitive package here. for 89€ it's a steal, and I am astounded they didn't already price it higher from the beginning. It makes such speakers as the UE Miniboom, or Jabra Solmate, or some other no-name junk priced close to 100€ really appear embarrassing and obsolete. Maybe this is what Denon intended, but they did it with some real understatement unlike many other companies, which promise "big bass, room-filling sound" but everything you get is only some fart.

Inside the box, which is simple but well designed you will find the speaker and a USB-cable among some quick-guides and security notes. There is no charging unit included, so you will have to use your own. At least it comes with a darkblue plush carrying pouch, which can be even used with the speaker playing from inside, as the used material seems to be quite transparent acoustically. Inside the bag you can let the speaker hang somewhere thanks to the closing-lace.

The Denon Envaya Mini is splash water resistant. This means you cannot submerge it under water, but it doesn't matter if it becomes wet or if you operate it with wet hands etc. (IPX4 certified).
It is not quite "mini", but it is really slim, making it appear much more compact than it is. It has about half the diameter of the JBL Charge 2 and it is also slimmer than the Soundlink Mini, but it is a bit longer at the same time.

The measured cubature is exactly 0.43l, which makes the Envaya Mini even slightly smaller than the Soundlink Mini and 160g lighter. The JBL Charge 2 is 70% larger, the original Jambox is 25% smaller, but in contrast to the Jambox, the Envaya Mini could nearly be called pocketable due to the rounded edges if not the added length, because it will stick out of most pockets and obviously laying it on thick when carried inside some trousers.

The Envaya Mini feels really sturdy and heavy, although it is lighter than most competition including the Soundlink Colour, it makes you think it is heavier maybe because of the massive metal housing, while the Soundlink Colour is a bit plasticky.

The Denon Envaya Mini doesn't give the impression of being easily damaged or dented, even without any protection, if you are still unsure, just use the included pouch before tossing it inside a bag. The speaker grille is a thick metal part surrounding the entire speaker which yields just slightly and only with some stronger pressure. Both speaker ends are covered by plastic/rubber caps containing the ports at the left side (microUSB for charging and 3.5mm auxiliary input) covered by a protective flap.

At the left you'll also find a battery life indicator, which will light up for some seconds when the additional battery button is pressed. There are 3 distinct charging levels available, green will symbolize 70-100%, orange 30-69% and red a level below 30%. The light will start flashing red continously if the battery reaches 5%.

All main speaker controls are at the right side with a very simple layout. Just 4 buttons, one of them being the power-button which has to be kept pressed for about 2 seconds in order to turn the speaker on or off. Below is the play/pause button which can also be used for answering calls or skipping tracks forward with a double press and backwards with a tripple press. The play/pause button also acts as pairing button when kept pressed for some seconds. The volume-buttons are differently cuvred, so you should feel where to press to increase volume without the need to look at it. The buttons need some stronger force to be operated as they are on the speaker-side you'll need a second hand to hold the speaker firm in order to avoid pushing it around, or just grab it with your hand and do all adjustments holding it in your hand. Volume control is not mirrored between streaming device and speaker and the Denon has 100 distinct volume steps just like all Bose speakers. Even volume levels are quite comparable which means the Denon playing at 60%, will play more or less at the same loudness as the Bose at 60%. Not only that but also status tones seem to be inspired by Bose. When a Bluetooth connection is established you will hear nearly the same tone you always get on all Soundlinks too. Apart from that coincidence Denon doesn't try to copy Bose, but rather improve on that and do their own thing which is good.
The Envaya Mini will also play an own power on/off tone, a kind of chord-arpeggio which is a bit annyoing as it is too loud for my taste. I would have preferred it completely without any tones, but obviously I will have to live with it, at least it doesn't talk or play cheesy melodies.
The Denon Envaya Mini can connect to 2 devices simultanously. The first device has to stop playback though, in order to enable the second device for playback. The new device cannot take over the playback of the previous one on its own. Unfortunately the Bluetooth pairing logic as a whole is not very aggressive. The Envaya Mini always tries to connect to the latest device only unlike the Bose Soundlink Colour for example which will always automatically connect to both found devices simultaneously. On the Denon you have to force the connection in case it was connected to another device before, it wil simply ignore all other already paired devices. It might be different with pairing through NFC, but thanks to Apple I cannot talk much about that. According to the manual the speaker will even automatically wake up from standby if you tap your NFC-enabled phone on the NFC-logo.

The speaker will auto turn off after 15 minutes if no Bluetooth stream is currently being played. When connected to Aux, it will turn off after 8 hours, this can be disabled completely by holding the battery button for 3 seconds assumed an aux-wire is attached and might be helpful if you want to use the speaker as an alarm with your phone attached to it. Attaching an aux-wire will disable Bluetooth, there's no need for any further Aux-button.
It seems though, there is a small bug with the auto power-off function. Normally the speaker will turn off on its own after 15 minutes when Bluetooth streaming has stopped. But when 2 devices are connected to the Envaya Mini while the connection to the first device is lost, it will neverthelesss jump into power-off mode, even when the second device is still currently streaming.

The Denon Envaya Mini supports all possible Bluetooth codecs including AAC and most important for all Hifi-junkies: low-latency AptX for nearly lossless streaming. I found Bluetooth connection to be extremely stable (maybe even best in class) and with the speaker standing in our most distant room, I could stream music from within all other rooms with only some occasional hiccups. The Infinity One already struggles at half that distance. Unfortunately there is no support for wireless stereo pairing with another Envaya Mini. This would be really great, but at least you can renumber their names with some button-presses if you intend to own a couple of them for not to confuse them inside your Bluetooth-list. They can be named Envaya Mini up to Envaya Mini4. A pretty unique but definitely helpful function if you really own more devices. I have two TDK A12 for example and I never know which one to select from my list in order to connect to it.

Battery-life is claimed to be up to 10 hours. I made some tests and got close to 9 hours at exactly half volume, which means at volume step 50/100. I also did a test at maximum volume and the speaker turned off on its own after 2:40 hours. Some others report 5-6 hours at higher levels around 2/3, but please keep in mind that for best results you have to control the volume directly from the speaker. Some tend to keep the speaker at maximum all the time and control the volume directly from their streaming device, although this doesn't have any effect on sound quality in case of the Denon Envaya Mini, it has a big influence on battery life and I had done some tests to prove this. At volume step 50/100 I go exactly 8:33 until it turned off on its own, for my next test I left the speaker at 100/100 but reduced the volume on my iPhone instead to get exactly the same loudness as before (I double-checked the loudness with another unit that was set to 50/100). With the Denon Envaya Mini maxed out I suddenly only got 5:11. Just the fact that the speaker was playing at maximum, while still delivering the same medium loudness as before reduced the battery life by 40%. If you remember this, you can definitely improve your battery life, as more and more owners are complaining that they can't reach more than 5 hours at low levels, but I am sure they simply keep their speakers at maximum all the time.
Although actual battery life does not sound impressive it is much better than the 50 minutes I got from the B&O Beoplay A2 when it suddenly dropped the volume to half. The Denon does not reduce volume on its own, nor does the sound deteriorate in any way when the battery becomes low, it will play at full-blast until it turns off. Charging took 2 hours with a 5V/2.4A USB-charger. According to the manual it should take around 2:30 hours with a 2A charger.
Battery life is definitely not hopeless, but be prepared to charge the speaker every day if you intend to use it often especially at higher levels, and trust me, you will! You won't get the impressive battery-life of the Fugoo, which I only charged once a week with similar usage neither that of the JBL Charge 2 which also has a stronger battery built in as it can also charge external devices. Thanks to its standardized 5V input, you can always charge the Envaya Mini with some external power pack in case of emergency or simply plug it into your computer, or charge it in your car. So far I didn't encounter any battery problems under normal usage, but I noticed that the red blinking light started to appear earlier than I expected.

I think I managed to cover all the basic stuff and as you can see there's nothing exceptional here, therefore let's directly jump over and discuss the sound qualities the Denon Envaya Mini has to offer.
Describing the sound with just one word might not be easy, but I would probably use the term: stunning.
Of course the sound of this minuscule speaker cannot compete with any full-grown stereosystem, but given the limits it is impressive what Denon managed to squeeze out of it with just 2 4cm full-range drivers and a twice as large single passive radiator. I am not sure how many different speakers I have heard during the last years, but the Denon is one of the few which really managed to make me speechless. It does not have the strongest bass, nor is it loudest etc. It is just the fact that it is tuned so well, close to perfect, that really makes you smile, I guess the Envaya Mini is the first mini speaker that can really deliver a close to hifi-experience within its limits of course.
The Envaya Mini is not deficient on bass by no means, especially not considering its size or when looking at most other similar offerings, but don't expect the same unnatural bass-boost as that from the Bose Soundlink Mini. Also the JBL Charge 2 or the Sony SRS-X3 will sound more full-bodied, but unlike with the JBL Charge 2 wich has a quite natural sounding bass response, you will hear that the bass of the Sony and the Bose is just bloated, but not very precise or much deeper. The Envaya Mini has a very flat response down to 80Hz and rolls-off stronger below that. It gives you the impression of a grown up speaker unlike all other small speakers, which just continue to sound like clock-radios. Bose and Sony seem to have managed a deeper bass response, but in reality it is just a stronger overall boost. I guess Bose had to boost bass that much in order to make it extend deeper, while Denon on the other hand managed a similarly deep roll-off like the others but at the same time they kept the bass pretty flat. It sounds just "true", not too much not too little, it integrates with the music and doesn't play along or even drown out the mids.
Bass could be always deeper of course, but then such a nice overall tuning probably won't be possible inside a such small speaker. I really welcome this flat response, as the Envaya Mini sounds considerably more balanced than the bigger Denon Envaya, which had a similar bass-boost as Bose, and treble response was far not as impressive as from its little brother, because it is not only bass-response which is pretty solid for the size, the Envaya Mini continues to sound good up to the highest frequencies with only some slight boost at around 15khz. Treble is crystal clear particularly when listened exactly on-axis. The speaker drivers are tilted slightly upwards, thus allowing better focusing of treble in case the speaker is placed on a table below with the listener sitting above. Although treble is quite directional, the Envaya Mini is not completely lost if not listened directly on axis. You will lost all the sparkle, but it will still sound pretty clear even from a higher angle. The Bose Soundlink Mini was totally hopeless in this regard, although the JBL Charge 2 has still a less directional treble response.
I am quite sure there will be enough people who will complain about lack of bass, while others will complain because of too much like my wife who claims it to be too bassheavy for her taste. I think it is just spot on, if you need better bass (not more) then you will have to look at larger sizes like the B&O Beoplay A2 for example.
When I turned up the Denon Envaya Mini for the first time and listened to some familar recordings, I immediately felt "at home", it sounded right and I didn't even bother listening closer to find some inconsitencies. I liked the sound that much that I continued listening to it until 4:00 in the morning, because I wanted to know how this or that song would sound through it. I couldn't stop being impressed when looking at the small box standing in front of me that was able to produce such a big sound. I also tested lots of different placements and found the Envaya Mini to be not very critical regarding positioning. It doesn't have the tendency to sound boomy even at the most disadvantageous places.

Thanks to the single passive radiator at the back the Envaya Mini tends to vibrate quite a lot. Usually this shouldn't be a problem though, as the rubber-feet at the bottom absorb all unwanted vibration really well. Even at highest levels with the bass heaviest tracks the Envaya Mini shouldn't rattle around against the base. The vibration can become really strong and could probably compete with any women's toy, but it is remarkable that the speaker still seems to have everything under control, without any unwanted rumbling inside or outside the body. When cranking the FoxL to the max (which of course doesn't even reach the same loudness of the Envaya Mini) you could easily feel that it was already far beyond its limits with the mass of the passive radiator taking control over the whole speaker. The Envaya Mini doesn't creep or dance around, even when I tired putting it on some slippery table it stayed still unlike the Fugoo which had a slight bias towards creeping, despite having 2 opposing passive radiators built in, obviously they were not congruent with each other. Keep in mind to place the speaker directly on its rubber feet without touching other objects, otherwise it will rattle against them. Thanks to the feet the speaker is elavated a little bit, but if you try putting it on some bumpy ground, the main body might still touch the base at some parts and start rattling or consequently becoming scratched. I would avoid putting it directly on concrete without any additional supporting cloth or material.

To be sure I also did some heavy back and forth switching between different speakers during my extensive listening tests only to discover that the Denon held up pretty well with even the larger and much more expensive ones. Just on bass-response alone the Envaya Mini is on par or better than most bigger popular speakers like the TDK A33 or Soundblaster Roar, funnily it even outperforms the B&W T7 if you listen at normal levels, it cannot compete in overall loudness of course. In fact I would claim the Envaya Mini to sound considerably more impressive than most speakers in the class above let alone its own class including toys like Jabra Solemate, or Teufel Bamster etc, which just cannot compete in any way with the Denon Envaya Mini soundwise.

So far I really liked the Fugoo quite a lot, not only because of sound, but as overall package it was quite an appealing speaker, including great battery life, ruggedness etc. But putting the Denon Envaya Mini against the Fugoo, you will immediately notice that something's not right with the frequency response of the Fugoo. The Denon will sound more mature, more natural and will play considerably louder without any distortion. There is some serious bass-punch noticeable with the Denon, while the Fugoo despite having a nice deep bass thump is rather lacking on overall bass-amount, especially if you start increasing volume past half. The Denon was impressive because regardless of loudness level it always remained controlled. It sounded full-bodied and warm at lowest levels, and it sounded competent at maximum volume without even the slightest hints of distortion or any noticeable dynamics compression. I am not sure if it really applies any kind of loudness-compensation, but regardless how soft or loud I tried to listen, it never became anemic sounding. I did not notice any intermodulation distortion either, the Denon will sound the same at low levels as it does at high levels with only some bass-reduction but it will never give you the impression as if it was already close or beyond its natural limits. Although the Bose Soundlink Mini might sound more serious on the first listen, you will quickly notice problems with low frequency distortion including some intermodulation into the higher frequencies at half volume, while the Denon will remain perfectly clean, I am not even mentioning the rather muffled treble response of the Bose. The Envaya Mini can even compete with the 3 times bigger Infinity One to some degree. The Infinity One has a stronger bass punch for sure (it has a similar bass-boost as Bose), but the Denon sounds more natural and even larger in regard to its sound-stage.
I didn't mention it yet, but the Envaya Mini is probably the first speaker that small, which really manages some kind of decent stereo separation. On many recordings you will get the impression as if some instruments were coming beyond the speaker edges. The effect is not as pronounced as "Liveaudio" from the Jambox, but it is completely artefact-free, while Liveaudio only sounds good when listened exactly on-axis, otherwise it becomes quite weird. There is some additional DSP processing going on here for sure, it just doesn't sound that clumsy as all the other simple phase-shifting algorithms I have heard before. It depends a lot on positioning and distance from the speaker, I found around 1.5m to be the sweet-spot for the effect to become noticeable, and it will also work when the speaker is not aimed directly at the listener, sometimes I even found it to sound better when the speaker was offset or turned away slightly just some degrees. Some recordings will really sound huge and broad when played through the Envaya Mini. Some can give you the impression as if the instruments were floating inside the room. This is probably the reason, why the Envaya Mini is longer than most other speakers. The drivers are placed quite close to the speaker edges to allow better stereo separation together with the alleged stereo broadening algorithm which seems to add to the effect, the speaker really does a great job to offer some stronger stereo width. I've heard various different stereo algorithms, from the simple phase-shifting stuff up to more sophisticated crosstalk cancellation filters like "Liveaudio" from the Jambox. The algorithms used by Denon (I assume something from Maxxaudio) are really decent to that degree that you won't notice any negative impact, while the positive effect is easily noticeable. I am not quite sure what kind of "magic" is going on here, but it definitely works. It is just a pleasure to listen to. A Bose Soundlink Colour will resemble more of a mono kitchen radio if placed against the Denon Envaya. Although the JBL Charge 2 sounds considerably better than the Soundlink Colour (if we forget about the sound processing artefacts for a minute), but if you listen to both JBL and Denon, the Denon will give you that depth and width to the sound, that is totally missing from the JBL. The Infinity One manages slightly better stereo imaging, but is still not quite close to the Denon Envaya Mini.

If we recall that the Enaya Mini has just 2 drivers and a single passive radiator inside, one has to wonder how they managed to squeeze out that amount of sound. The DSP as such seems to be quite sophisticated, but apart from the main DSP acting as control center, the Envaya Mini has some additional sound enhancing algorithms included to improve bass response, increase stereo width and extend treble response. The bass you will hear is not all "real bass". I am pretty sure that the drivers have their limit at around 80hz, but on the Envaya Mini you will even hear much deeper notes. The idea behind this is based on a psychoacoustic effect called "missing fundamental". The algorithm (most likely Maxxbass) is adding virtual pitches to the original signal which fools the brain of hearing a deeper note which in reality is not present. This seems to work pretty well on the Envaya Mini as I could indeed hear deeper notes on some particular recordings that are usually missing when played through many other similar speakers, although according to the measurements their bass response should reach even deeper than that of the Envaya Mini. Demanding ears might probably hear some side-effects of this as bass reproduction is not 100% clean and the punch of the fundamental is missing. You'll hear the tone or are rather fooled of hearing it, but the real punch you would usually get from the fundamental is just not there compared to other speakers that really manage to play that deep. It is still a very impressive result what Denon achieved here, the same goes for the stereo widening algorithm and the treble enhancer which work together pretty well and manage to sound convincing without being noticed as some "fake"-effects.
In contrast to many other speakers the DSP inside the Envaya Mini seems to be completely dynamic.
As we already know the Denon Envaya Mini doesn't have mirrored volume control, which means you can control volume from both the speaker and from your streaming device. Doing so with any Bose speaker or especially with the Sony SRS-X3 and even JBL Charge 2 will result in strange changes in sound, depending if you max out the speaker or max out the player gain. Keeping the speaker volume close to maximum while keeping the player low, will make many other speakers sound strange as the dynamic sound adjustments are not dynamic at all, but rather seem to be bond to the actual volume step. The speakers expect high loudness and will turn down bass instead, although in reality the loudness is still low, because the player-volume is kept to the minimum. On the Envaya Mini the DSP doesn't care what gain it gets in, because the DSP seems to analyse the input-signal in real-time and adjusts bass-amount according to the estimated loudness level, thus the Envaya Mini will sound exactly the same if you turn it up to maximum while keeping the player-volume down and vice versa. You could indeed leave the Envaya Mini just at the highest possible volume step and then adjust the volume directly from the player but as we have seen this has a huge negative impact on battery life, therefore it would have been favorable if they had implemented synced volume control between speaker and player to get the best out of the Envaya Mini.
I guess the DSP forces the drivers to their maximum possible excurison all the time before reaching distortion. This way they manage to make the sound full-bodied at low levels while still keeping control of everything at highest level. I only noticed some slight rattling from the passive radiator with really heavy mastered stuff. I did not manage to make the Denon Envaya Mini distort at all with most of my usual test-tracks which left me quite impressed. Other speakers start appying noticeable compression or overall volume starts to fluctuate depending on the amount of bass, not so with the Envaya Mini, as it won't give you the impression it is reaching its limits.
I was curious to see where the limits really were and listened a lot. One thing I noticed was that you might get some scratching or crackling if you increase volume on the speaker quickly when some music is playing. Obviously the DSP lags slightly behing the set volume level which might result in some short distortion. Another thing I noticed was that if the speaker was set to exactly 60% the DSP seemed to overshoot the mark because some slight distortion started to appear here as well although it went away again if you increased or lowered volume 1-2 notches. This is a very narrow volume-range where the sound can start sounding clipped and usually you will really have to seek this particular level, as it is only 2-3 steps wide where those problems might occur, therefore I won't call it problems at all, unlike the Beoplay A2, which suffered from considerable distortion through the whole upper half of its volume range.
Sometimes the Envaya Mini also seemed to swallow some beats of particular tracks, especially the first 10 seconds of a track were affected. I am not sure if really the speaker is to blame, or the iPhone or whatever, but this never happened with any other speaker so far. It was really weird, but it seemed as if the DSP was getting confused by some new unexpected content in the music. For example when a song started only with a piano sound, the speaker started cutting off some notes as soon as the drums kicked in later on. I tried playing the same tracks through many different speakers but only the Denon repeatedly didn't manage to play those tracks without hiccups, just when I reset the speaker by pressing the play and battery button at the same time, the song was finally played fine.

To bring everything into some context I prepared several comparison videos of course. I asked myself why putting the Denon Envaya Mini against some overpriced low-end competition, if we could compare it against the real big boys. Therefore I wanted to show you how the Envaya Mini fares against the much larger Sonos Play:1 which is not portable at all but known for its pretty natural frequency response:

Of course the Envaya Mini cannot compete in both bass response nor overall loudness of the Play:1, but ignoring the differences in bass, sometimes it is hard to tell which one is actually playing, both play tonally on a pretty high level with a very natural response.
The Infinity One might be currently one of the best sounding portable speakers available. It is around 3 times larger and much heavier but the Denon Envaya Mini holds up pretty well with what I would call more natural sound than the Infinity One, albeit missing the deeper bass punch of the Infinity One. But when just looking at the difference in size and price, it is hard not to remain impressed by the Denon.

The same goes for the JBL Charge 2, which manages a punchier bass although with some really strong distortion on the bass-drum. I still wonder how the engineers could overlook such a flaw. What kind of music do they use for testing, or do they just play pink-noise whole the time?

Of course we should also try how the Envaya Mini compares to the Fugoo, or to the similar priced Mini Jambox, or the highly acclaimed FoxL DASH7 which is much more expensive than the Denon, that's why I won't lose more further words about this (you can also find some more comparisons on my YouTube channel):

We can also have a look at some frequency response measurements. Let's start with an in-room response from 50cm at different loudness levels. As you can see from the measurements there is hardly any increase in output above 50% volume which is just humbug because the speaker can play much louder, but it seems as if the DSP was preventing any louder output if fed with some sine-sweeps only (smoothed with 1/6 octave).

A close-up measurement from 10cm to reduce room-influence as much as possible taken from the speaker-center shows a pretty linear frequency response with a slight upwards tilt towards bass and roll-off below 80Hz (unsmoothed). I think this looks pretty examplary (especially for a speaker with such a small cubature) with only some stronger inconsitencies above 15kHz:

It might be funny to compare the Denon's frequency response to some other speakers. Most will probably be interested how the Envaya Mini compares to the Bose Soundlink Mini and I think it is pretty obvious that the bass of the Bose is not really deeper just more boosted, let alone the strange lower treble boost, which is nearly 10dB louder compared to a flat response:

I thought it might be interesting to compare the Envaya Mini against the B&W T7 (designed and engineered in the UK), a speaker that is much larger and more than 3 times as expensive and I think it is understandable why I found the performance of the T7 pretty subpar for the asked price (you are definitely paying for the great Micro Matrix here):

Although the Fugoo is not a bad sounding speaker, I think the measurement reveals that the Envaya Mini is more true to the original signal than the Fugoo which doesn't have the same strong bass response, nor does it play that flat:

Just for fun a comparison of the measurements for the Envaya Mini and the UE Boom, which is still claimed to offer spectacular sound by some self-proclaimed "audiophiles", and particularly because it got all "5 stars" in the WhatHifi review. For the UE Boom I provided the front measurement where you would actually hear both drivers and the measurement of the right side, where you would only hear the right channel (so much for the spectacular audiophile qualities of the UE Boom, just beware of the 300Hz hump):

Bottom line:
The Denon Envaya Mini left me quite impressed indeed. Regardless what I was trying to play through it, it sounded great at any volume level. I think the Envaya Mini is currently by far the best compromise between sound and size if you want to stay as compact as possible with the best sound possible. There are definitely similar speakers with more bass, but they just don't sound that good overall lacking in either treble response, or fighting with other issues. When hearing the Denon Envaya Mini it finally led me to the decision to sell all the other junk I was owning, including JBL Charge 2, Sony SRS-X3, Fugoo, Mini Jambox, FoxL DASH7 the Envaya Mini does nearly everything better than the others while still being perfectly portable. It is larger than a Mini Jambox or other smaller pocketable speakers, but it produces such a better sound, that I am willing to bear the extra bulk and weight. Just be prepared to charge it every 5-6 hours if you really like it louder, as the battery seems to be the only weakness of this otherwise close to perfect speaker.
The Denon Envaya Mini is definitely my current reference for any portable speaker below 100€ sized that small, although it can also easily outperform much larger speakers, albeit without reaching their loudness of course. If you really need more loudness or more power you will probably still need another speaker, in my case it's the Infinity One, but for everyday usage I meanwhile even prefer the Denon, as it sounds pretty close to the Infinity One with slightly less bass but a more natural overall sound. I have yet to hear a better sounding speaker that small, let alone one that is able to offer some real stereo separation. Denon really raised the bar with this one, offering it much lower than most competition makes the other speakers look and sound pretty bad now.
The Denon Envaya Mini is to the whole Bluetooth speaker market what the Sonos Play:1 is to the stationary wireless speaker market and earns my highest recommendation for anyone being serious about music to be taken with you!

+ great design, high build quality
+ small, light and perfectly portable
+ splash water resistant
+ impressive and full-bodied sound at all loudness levels
+ very natural sound with nice treble definition (on axis)
+ pretty loud without distortion nor compression
+ powerful bass, never boomy nor weak
+ wide stereo imaging 
+ great Bluetooth range
+ multipoint pairing with 2 devices simultaneously
+ track control through the speaker
+ carrying pouch included

- upper treble quite directional
- battery life not very reliable at higher levels
- significant battery life drop when speaker is kept at maximum while playing low level content
- no synced volume control
- no wireless stereo-pairing with another speaker 
- automatic connection to the latest device only
- needs a flat base to really stay still and avoid rattling
- some occasional and unexplainable hiccups during playback