It turns out that the iPad Mini is the first Apple mobile device to ship with stereo speakers. Although Apple’s product page only mentions a “built-in speaker,” the two grilles on the new iPad’s bottom edge do in fact contain separate stereo speakers.
I read the initial rumors with skepticism, as the iPhone 5 also has a matching pair of “speakers” on its bottom edge, which turn out to be just one speaker. But in his iPad Mini review The Verge’s Josh Topolsky points out that the speakers are indeed stereo. He confirmed this later in a Tweet.
Who cares, right? After all, they’re so close together that you couldn’t possibly hear a stereo effect… Wrong. While they won’t have the big 3-D soundstage of a pair of floor-standing speakers, even a closely-spaced pair of speakers will create a noticeable stereo effect.
I just tried it out with a little Jambox, which packs stereo speakers in a box not much wider than the case of a Mini. Using the accessibility settings in my iPhone (hooked up via cable to circumvent the Jambox’s fancy sound processing circuitry) I switched between mono and stereo audio. The difference was noticeable. And via Bluetooth, with the 3-D sound (LiveAudio) processing switched on, the stereo effect from two small, close-together speakers is pretty incredible.
So don’t know stereo. At the very least, two speakers are better than one. Then again, you’ll only get the full effect in portrait orientation, which means that stereo movies won’t benefit at all.