Saregama, India’s oldest music label owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group of companies, recently launched the Carvaan Mini at Rs 2,490. The Bluetooth-enabled speaker, which has USB and AUX connectivity and an FM/AM receiver, also comes with a pre-loaded playlist of 351 songs that makes it a unique proposition in the portable speaker segment.
The Carvaan Mini is similar in design to single-side cassette players, which were quite famous back in the days when the phones weren't so smart and music CD players wore a halo of exclusivity. Saregama's piece is a near-perfect geometrical cube with curved corners, in which the speaker has plastic sides and the back, and the front is covered with metallic mesh sheets embossed with pictorial representations of legends from the Bollywood music industry.
Like the cassette players of yore, the speaker’s controllers such as play/pause, next/previous, volume rocker keys are placed on the top, along with a power button. For ease of use, the speaker features separate keys for different modes -– Saregama, FM/AM and Bluetooth. Connectivity ports, including a USB port, AUX-in and micro-USB charging port are placed on the back, along with an FM/AM antenna that fits well within the profile.
Overall, the Carvaan Mini has a solid build and a pretty good portable profile with everything placed appropriately for ease of use.
This is by far the most impressive feature of the piece. You can raise the volume to a level good enough for a party without any jarring at all. The output isn't stereophonic but clear enough from signature to close, for you to be able to catch the subtlety of each instrument.
Three-hundred-and-fifty-one songs isn't really a bad deal for a box that costs Rs 2,490 -- unless, of course, you start comparing it with Carvaan's larger radio that comes with as many as 5,000, and costs about twice as much.
So what's the flip side? For starters, the music isn't properly documented and you'll have a tough time locating a tune you particularly like if you want to listen to it subsequently. For instance, I had to go through the annoying routine of switching from one song to another to get to Kishore Kumar's Main Shayar Badnaam from the move Namak Haram. The songs are also randomly placed, so you'll have Rafi following Kishore, after which there's some Mukesh, then Lata Mangeshkar and back to Kishore. It would have been much better to have maintained all the songs sung by each crooner under a single cluster. But I guess that becomes difficult in the case of duets.
The collection itself is good, but not great, with the gems being interspersed with the purely passable and the downright duds. What on earth, for instance, is something like Jab Hum Jawaan Honge from some forgettable Sunny Deol movie or Pyar Karne Wale Kabhi Darte Nahin doing there? I would much rather have had Talat Mahmood, Geeta Dutt or something in S D Burman's raspy vocal chords instead. Perhaps they are indeed there, but I didn't find them in the first 100-odd songs that I heard. My personal take is that a compilation ought to have the classics, not just some fillers to make a collection. You can always get the junk on radio.