AudioReputation.com https://www.audioreputation.com Your Audio Electronics Guide Wed, 20 Feb 2019 10:04:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 https://www.audioreputation.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/cropped-AUDIOREPUTATION-32x32.png AudioReputation.com https://www.audioreputation.com 32 32 Naim Uniti Atom All-In-One Audio System Review https://www.audioreputation.com/naim-uniti-atom/ https://www.audioreputation.com/naim-uniti-atom/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 10:26:52 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4420 Looking for a compact high-end all-in-one audio system? Well, you can stop your search – Naim Uniti Atom may be just the thing you need. It’s a hi-fi stereo receiver, wireless music streamer, amplifier, music player, and so much more. The number of different features packed in this small and compact device is simply remarkable. […]

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Audio Reputation AwardsLooking for a compact high-end all-in-one audio system? Well, you can stop your search – Naim Uniti Atom may be just the thing you need. It’s a hi-fi stereo receiver, wireless music streamer, amplifier, music player, and so much more. The number of different features packed in this small and compact device is simply remarkable. In this review, we are going to go through all the highlights of Naim Uniti Atom, give you our opinion on the performance, talk about downsides and, finally, evaluate it and suggest some alternatives. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this review.   

Naim has been one of the synonyms for high-end audio equipment, especially when it comes to amplifiers, for more than 4 decades. It’s a British audio company established in 1969. The last 10-15 years have been a huge success for Naim. They have started pretty successful cooperation with Bentley, introduced a highly-praised Naim Uniti line of all-in-one players as well as their high-end NAC S1 preamp and NAP S1 power amp, and made Mu-so and Mu-so Qb wireless players/streamers/speakers. It’s been a really busy decade for Naim. We are about to review the simplest and cheapest (cheap is maybe not the best word to describe it) Naim Uniti all-in-one player called Uniti Atom. If you want something more advanced and more capable, you should check out the other two Naim Uniti players – Uniti Star and Uniti Nova.  

Naim Uniti Atom is a very simple and compact yet very attractive and luxurious device. It’s a successor of Naim UnitiQute 2 and it’s better than UnitiQute 2 in many ways. Unfortunately, it’s also significantly pricier. The manufacturer sometimes calls it all-in-one music player, but that’s an understatement. It’s a full audio system packed inside a super-small chassis. This device is, at the same time, an amplifier, hi-fi receiver, multi-source music player, wireless streaming device, and DAC.

Naim put a lot of effort to pack all kinds of software and hardware inside the Uniti Atom. Atom features built-in Chromecast, it can be wirelessly connected to your Bluetooth devices, it supports Airplay and UPnP streaming. It also supports TIDAL, Spotify Connect, and Internet radio.  

Uniti Atom features 2 speaker outputs (+ subwoofer out). Inside the Atom, there are Class A/B analog amplifiers. Amp’s output power is 40W per channel (for 8Ω load) which is more than enough for any kind of bookshelf speakers and it can even be good enough for your floorstanders. Still, you are probably going to need something more powerful for more demanding floorstanding speakers.

There’s a lot of great things about Naim Uniti Atom and we are going to try to mention them all, but there are also some negatives. First, you have to think about the price. Uniti Atom is priced around $3,000 which is definitely not cheap. This could be the biggest deal breaker for most people. Still, if you have that kind of money and if you are willing to spend it on a high-end receiver/amp/streaming device/music player, you won’t regret it. Flawless performance and luxurious design definitely justify the price tag. Another thing we’ve noticed is that the Naim app, which is one of the ways to control the Atom, can be buggy. The app is very user-friendly and we don’t have any complaints regarding the interface, but it crashed once or twice during our 1-week test.

Naim Uniti Atom

Check Price on Amazon

UPSIDES

  • Luxurious design with a beautiful 5in colorful LCD screen and a unique volume wheel on the top
  • Versatile connectivity – analog and digital inputs, Ethernet port, Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz), Bluetooth
  • Great streaming capabilities – Chromecast, Airplay, Spotify Connect, TIDAL, UPnP, Internet radio, Roon-ready
  • Supports various audio formats including lossless FLAC, AIFF, and ALAC
  • Comes with a Zigbee remote
  • Naim app (iOS and Android)
  • Impressive sound quality and detailed and dynamic music reproduction

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Expensive – priced around $3,000

 
VERDICT

Naim Uniti Atom is a remarkable all-in-one audio system. It performs almost flawlessly and it’s incredibly versatile when it comes to connectivity and streaming capabilities. Everything about Uniti Atom is very luxurious and very premium, including the design, build quality, remote, hardware components, and performance. In our opinion, Naim Uniti Atom is definitely worth the price tag. The only question is – are you prepared to spend $3,000 on a piece of audio gear.

Official video – Naim Uniti Atom All-In-One Audio System

What’s in the box?

Uniti Atom comes in a simple white box with Naim Uniti logo on it. It doesn’t look very premium which is kind of surprising considering the price. Still, it’s more important that all the equipment is carefully packed and protected. Inside the box, you will find your Naim all-in-one audio system, Zigbee (not IR) remote with 4 AAA batteries, power cable, 2 Naim speaker plugs, cleaning cloth, all the documentation, and 2-year warranty.  

Naim Uniti Atom box contents

Box contents

Naim Uniti Atom Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Width245mm/9.6in
Height95mm/3.74in
Depth265mm/10.4in
Weight7kg/15.4lb
INPUTS
AnalogRCA x1
DigitalCoaxial x1

Digital optical (TOSLINK) x2

USB Type A x2

HDMI (ARC) x1
OUTPUTSHeadphone out x1

Preamp output x1

Speaker outputs x2
AMP OUTPUT40W per channel (8Ω load)
WIRELESS CONNECTIVITYEthernet port x1

Bluetooth (with aptX support) x1

Chromecast x1

Airplay x1

UPnP
SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMATSFLAC

ALAC

WAV

MP3

AIFF

OGG

DSD64

AAC
SUPPORTED STREAMING SERVICESSpotify Connect

Internet Radio

TIDAL

Roon-ready
ADDITIONAL FEATURESNaim app (for iOS and Android)

5in full-color LCD display

Zigbee remote

Design

Naim Uniti Atom is maybe boxy and simple, but there’s nothing ordinary about this beautiful device. The whole chassis is made of aluminum. It looks very hard and very premium.

Large 5-in LCD screen occupies a large portion of the front panel. The colors are so vivid and every info written on the screen is perfectly clear. It actually looks like a touch screen, but it’s not. You have to use the control buttons located on the right side. There are four button – power, play/pause, input, and favorites. On the left side near the bottom end, there is one USB Type A input and one headphone output. At the bottom, there’s a backlit Naim logo.

Naim Uniti Atom front panel

Front panel

The rest of the inputs and outputs are located at the back. Besides the AC input and speaker inputs, you have one Ethernet port, another USB port, 2 digital optical inputs, one coaxial input, one HDMI ARC input (for connecting your TV), RCA input, preamp output, and a ground switch.

Naim Uniti Atom rear panel

Rear panel

Huge backlit volume wheel located on the top panel is one of the greatest highlights and the thing you are definitely going to notice when you look at this device for the first time. It’s really fun to play with it. I mean you can use the remote or the app to adjust the volume, but it’s not as fun as using the wheel. It’s definitely worth getting up every single time.

Hypnotizing backlit volume wheel

Hypnotizing backlit volume wheel

On the left and right panels, you will see large heat sinks. They give the Atom a more robust look, but they are not there because of the looks – that kind of cooling system is necessary for the Class AB amplifiers built inside the device.

Large heatsinks on the left and right panels

Large heatsinks on the left and right panels

One thing we should also mention is that, unlike UnitiQute 2, Uniti Atom has Wi-Fi antennas (2.4GHz and 5GHz) built inside. There are no parts sticking out which makes it more stylish and more compact.

Features

The number of features and modules built inside this beautiful device is truly impressive. It takes some serious effort and work to make something like Uniti Atom. The manufacturer basically tried to build all the popular technologies into Atom and make it compatible with all kinds of services.  

Highlighted features

Highlighted features

You can use Uniti Atom as your stereo receiver/amplifier. Just attach your two speakers and input devices (analog or digital) and start playing music. You have three digital inputs as well as RCA analog input, but that’s just the beginning.

If you want to, you can connect your TV to the Uniti Atom (via HDMI ARC port or via TOSLINK port) and send all the audio to your external speakers.

Playing external sources

Furthermore, you have 2 USB inputs (one on the front and one on the rear panel) and you can attach your external storage (flash drive or external HDD) and play the music directly from it.

Uniti Atom has one Ethernet port and it also features Wi-Fi module (2.4GHz and 5GHz). Naturally, the wired connection is more reliable and it’s recommended, but we haven’t experienced any issues with wireless connection.

This device is also UPnP-compliant and Roon-ready.

Atom supports both Chromecast and Airplay so it doesn’t matter if you have an Android, Apple, or Windows device. This thing allows you to stream any audio content no matter which device you are using. It also has a built-in Bluetooth with aptX support, which is probably not going to be used as much as Chromecast and Airplay, but it’s good to know that you can always stream the music via Bluetooth (just in case your mp3 player is not Wi-Fi enabled).

On top of all these streaming services, you have preinstalled music streaming services like Spotify Connect, TIDAL, and Internet Radio.

Online streaming services

Uniti Atom can be a part of your multiroom system. You can easily connect multiple (up to 6) Uniti Atom audio systems or even different Uniti audio systems. Just place them in different rooms and use the Naim app to set up your multiroom system.

Music server for multiroom streaming

This audio system supports a wide variety of audio formats including FLAC and ALAC (max 24bit/384kHz). It also supports WAV (32bit/384kHz), MP3, AAC, OGG, and DSD formats.

When it comes to controls, you have three options – control buttons and volume wheel on the unit itself, Zigbee remote, and Naim app. We have already mentioned the controls on the unit itself. They are simple, intuitive, and easy to use.

The Zigbee remote that comes with the Atom is really special. It looks much better than all those plasticky IR remotes that come with more affordable hi-fi receivers. It’s very premium and all the buttons are backlit.

Zigbee Remote

Zigbee Remote

Naim App is another way to control the unit and it’s the most capable one. You can use it for all the stuff you would use the remote, but you can also play with UPnP libraries, adjust multiroom settings, make playlists, discover and connect different Naim streaming products together, update the unit, etc. The app is very user-friendly and has a nice interface. It’s available for iOS and Android devices.

Setup and Performance

The setup was pretty smooth and quick. You can use banana plugs for connecting speaker wires to the unit. You will find those Naim speaker plugs included in the package, but they really look finicky. Simple banana plugs seem like a better option. Once you connect the speakers, you should connect all the audio sources (TV, players, external USB storage, etc.), plug in the power cable, and turn on the unit. Before you start using it, you should pair the remote with the Atom (press and hold the Home button on the remote for three seconds), and install the Naim app on your phone/tablet. You can use the app to perform the initial setup, arrange playlists and UPnP libraries. The whole installation should not take more than an hour. Placing the Atom could be the trickiest thing. You’ll want to place it in a way that allows you to use and, more importantly, to see that volume wheel. I mean, what’s the point if you can’t see it and maybe even brag to your friends about it.

Setting Up Naim Uniti Player

Once you connect everything, you can start playing music from any of the connected audio sources or stream audio through one of the available streaming services. Uniti Atom really does everything that’s supposed to do and it’s all done with ease. Shifting between various sources is done in no time and every single source sounds amazing.

This little unit can handle everything, from compressed lossy audio formats to lossless FLAC and ALAC. Of course, the performance depends on your speaker set, too and we recommend some more sensitive speakers (90dB+). Uniti Atom can handle some 85dB florstanding speakers, but it definitely sounds better (more revealing, more detailed, more powerful) with more sensitive speakers. That being said, we have tested the Uniti Atom with MA Silver 6 floorstanders and Focal Aria 906 bookshelf speakers.

The amount of clarity and detail this small unit delivers with only 40W per channel is simply amazing. That kind of dynamic and spacious reproduction was not expected. It really allows you to hear the tiniest detail hidden in lossless tracks. The reproduction is consistent across various genres. It’s energetic, refined, and very lifelike. If you compare it to some more powerful Naim all-in-one players and amps, you may notice a small lack of depth and texture in the bass department but, even if you are an audiophile, you won’t be disappointed. Uniti Atom is a magnificent performer.

Controlling the unit is super easy. There are a few things we want to praise. First, the volume wheel. It is, without any doubt, beautifully crafted and very addictive thing. Then, the remote. It’s very reliable, responsive, easy to use, and it doesn’t require line of sight. In the end, there’s the app. It’s beautiful and simple. It crashed once during our testing but we’ve had no major problems using it. And, of course, we should not forget the LCD screen. It shows you all the changes and adjustments you make. The picture is perfectly clear and vivid.

The Competition


Yamaha Hi-Fi Receiver R-N803BLYamaha Hi-Fi Receiver R-N803BL

Yamaha R-N803BL Hi-Fi receiver is a much cheaper yet very capable and versatile device. It’s priced around $750.

In terms of design and build quality, you can’t really compare these two. Naim Uniti Atom is simply much more sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing. You won’t find flashy and eye-catching details on Yamaha R-N803BL.

They are both very versatile when it comes to connections. Yamaha R-N803BL features even more analog inputs/outputs than Atom (multiple RCA inputs/outputs, phono inputs, subwoofer outputs). They both have digital optical and coaxial inputs, but R-N803BL doesn’t have HDMI input. They both have Ethernet ports and support Wi-Fi and multiple streaming services including Airplay, TIDAL, Spotify, and Internet Radio. They also both feature Bluetooth. Yamaha R-N803BL is also Alexa-enabled and MusicCast-enabled (can be integrated into a large multiroom system).

Yamaha R-N803BL also comes with a remote and MusicCast app. They don’t look as sophisticated as the Atom’s remote and Naim app, but they are very much usable.

The amp delivers 100W of continuous power (per channel) into an 8Ω load which makes it more powerful than Atom. Still, Atom sounds more sophisticated and fuller when it comes to audio reproduction. We don’t have any complaints regarding Yamaha Hi-Fi receiver, especially considering the price. This is a very good and viable option, especially if you can’t afford to splash $3,000 on a high-end all-in-one system.


Naim Uniti NovaNaim Uniti Nova

Uniti Nova has all the same features as Uniti Atom, and then some more. It’s the most capable and most expensive all-in-one audio system from the Naim Uniti line and it’s priced around $7,500.

Uniti Nova is an upgraded Uniti Atom. It has all the same inputs/outputs plus some additional digital (BNC) and analog (5-pin DIN) inputs. It also features one micro SD card slot. Both systems support the same streaming services and have wireless and multiroom capabilities (up to 6 devices).

Unlike Uniti Atom, Uniti Nova features CD player/ripper. Because of the additional CD compartment, Nova is larger and heavier than Atom.

Nova is also much more capable than Atom in terms of power output. They both feature Class A/B amplifiers, but Nova delivers 80W per channel (at 8Ω) while Atom can deliver only 40W. Nova delivers even more accurate, more detailed and dynamic sound reproduction than Uniti Atom.


Moon ACE all-in-one player by SIMAUDIOMoon ACE all-in-one player by SIMAUDIO

In our opinion, Moon ACE is the greatest rival of the Uniti Atom. They are basically priced the same and each device has its own advantages and disadvantages.

There’s no doubt which one is more sophisticated and more aesthetically pleasing. Moon ACE looks too ordinary compared Uniti Atom. Atom also comes with better-looking remote and has a better screen. Naim definitely put more effort into designing the housing than Moon.

Both audio-systems are very versatile in terms of connectivity, but Moon Ace has a few additional inputs (multiple RCA inputs including phono inputs, additional SPDIF input, headphone input, RS 232 port). They both have Ethernet ports and they both feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

When it comes to wireless streaming, Atom is our favorite. They both support TIDAL and internet radio. ACE Moon supports Deezer Hi-Fi and Qobuz while Atom supports Spotify Connect. They are both Roon-ready, UPnP-compliant, and can be parts of your multiroom system. Atom features Chromecast and Airplay while ACE Moon doesn’t.

ACE Moon can deliver more power than the Uniti Atom. It features Class A/B amplifier and it delivers 50W of continuous power per channel at 8Ω load (85W at 4Ω).


Comparison Table

Audio systemAmp output per channel
Naim Uniti Atom40W (8Ω load)
Yamaha R-N803BL100W (8Ω load)
Naim Uniti Nova80W (8Ω load)
Moon ACE by SIMAUDIO50W (8Ω load)

Final Thoughts

Uniti Atom is an impressive performer. It’s a mixture of a high-end hi-fi system and modern streaming device, and it’s all packed inside a beautifully crafted housing. There’s literally nothing to complain about when it comes to performance, sound quality, connection versatility, design or build quality. Naim has covered all the fields and made an audiophile-grade all-in-one audio system.

The only problem we have with this device is the price. It’s not actually overpriced, especially when you consider all the technology built inside, but it’s still expensive. You can always combine some nice, or even great Hi-Fi receiver (like Yamaha R-N803BL) and some great pair of speakers (like Focal Aria 906) and even save some money, but most of these devices won’t be as versatile and they most definitely won’t be as beautiful, compact, and convenient as Naim Uniti Atom. Atom is a great example of how the future hi-fi systems should perform and look like.


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How Important is a Subwoofer in a Home Theater System? https://www.audioreputation.com/subwoofer-in-a-home-theater-system/ https://www.audioreputation.com/subwoofer-in-a-home-theater-system/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 15:48:06 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4364 Have you ever had one of those moments when watching a movie in a cinema and wondering how they managed to achieve such a nice and powerful sound? Well, in most of the action or dramatic scenes, the key is the subwoofer. This thing is one of the key elements of every good speaker system, […]

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Have you ever had one of those moments when watching a movie in a cinema and wondering how they managed to achieve such a nice and powerful sound? Well, in most of the action or dramatic scenes, the key is the subwoofer. This thing is one of the key elements of every good speaker system, no matter if it is 2.1, 5.1, 7.1, or bigger. If you want to buy a great home theater system or to add a subwoofer to your existing speaker system, stay with us and you will find out all about the importance of a subwoofer and about different ways of optimizing the subwoofer’s performance.

What Is Subwoofer and How It Works?

Subwoofers are different from the regular speakers because they are made specially for reproducing very low-frequency tones, usually from 20 to 125 Hz (or up to 200Hz). Subwoofers are the inseparable part of every quality speaker system because regular speakers can’t produce such low tones. Actually, these tones are so low that you may not even hear some of them but you will definitely feel them due to strong vibrations.

Subwoofer

Subwoofers are easily noticed because they are often the largest speakers in the speaker system, they have their own enclosure and their diameter can vary from 20cm to 40cm. When it comes to subwoofers, the larger is always better because only large speakers can reproduce extremely low frequencies.

These speakers are usually connected to the audio receiver or amplifier/preamplifier (like all the other speakers in a system), which sends the low-frequency signals or low-frequency effects (LFE) to the subwoofer. The speaker amplifies the incoming current, the magnetic coil moves and creates the cone vibrations which are converted to sound that we hear. In order to produce such powerful sounds, the subwoofers are usually provided with their own power supply.

Subwoofer’s Role in a Home Theater System

Technically speaking, a subwoofer is not absolutely necessary – your speaker system will work even without one, but there are many reasons why you should have it and here they are.

As we’ve said, regular speakers can’t reproduce all the frequencies – they won’t be able to deliver the lowest tones and, as a result, an important part of sound will be taken away from you. Without the subwoofer, you will be exposed to poor bass or too stressed highs. The sound won’t be balanced and full. However, bass and sub-bass frequencies are the ones that add fullness to the sound, making it complete, rich, powerful and even three-dimensional.

Subwoofer’s Role in a Home Theater System

This means that without the low-frequency tones, you will be just a passive listener of a soundtrack or a passive observer of a movie scene. Well-produced low-frequency tones involve you into every scene, into the music, and, of course, enable you to feel, hear and see exactly what the artist wanted you to feel, hear or see. Even if you aren’t able to hear some of the extremely low bass tones, you should have a subwoofer that can produce them because you will definitely be able to feel them through the vibrations of your furniture. Without well-produced bass, you won’t be able to hear the drums well just like you won’t be able to feel all those explosions in action movies.

Of course, in order to get a perfect subwoofer performance, it is not enough to simply buy the subwoofer and connect it to the source (receiver, amp). Good installation is the key factor. In the following text, we will explain what you can do to improve the subwoofer’s performance.

How to Optimize Subwoofer Performance?

Poorly installed and placed subwoofer could deliver too boomy or poorly defined bass. In both cases, there will be a gap in the frequency spectrum between the regular speakers and the subwoofer, which means that you won’t be able to enjoy your music or video content completely. On the other hand, a nicely installed subwoofer brings so much joy to every room and once you experience the real feeling, you won’t be able to settle for anything less than perfect.

Subwoofer Performance

When we say “subwoofer installation”, we actually mean its setup and its placement. These are the key factors that affect its performance. Let’s see how you can optimize it and adjust to your requirements and preferences.

Subwoofer placement

Many will say that subwoofers are non-directional speakers and that you don’t really have to worry too much about their placement. This means that there is no fixed or special place where your subwoofer should stay in your apartment in order to produce perfect bass. Well, this is only partially true. You will definitely feel the vibrations and hear the bass wherever you place the subwoofer but that doesn’t mean that its position in the room is completely irrelevant.

The subwoofer placement can significantly lower or enhance the overall sound quality. The perfect placement should be thoughtfully planned because the final effect depends not only on the subwoofer placement but also on the furniture placement. You can find out more about this in our previous articles.

Poor/wrong subwoofer placement can be the key reason for disappointment with a new home theater system, so let’s see how to avoid that.

Place your subwoofer near a wall

Placing the subwoofer in one of the corners of the room or simply near one of the walls, improves its performance in the way that increases the overall level of bass. This happens because wall proximity causes the sound coming from the subwoofer to reflect from the walls, which increases the bass power and strength.

Place your speaker under your couch

If you really want to feel every movie scene, try placing your subwoofer under your couch or coffee table. Most of them have cavities that are perfectly sized and shaped for placing an average subwoofer. This way, you will be closer to the source of powerful bass tones and vibrations that will drag you into every scene.

Use a separate subwoofer amplifier

Maybe you haven’t noticed it but numerous surround sound amplifiers have a special subwoofer output and it is used to power the subwoofer and enhance its performance. You can simply take a cable that will go from your main amp to the second stereo or mono amp dedicated to your subwoofer, set this up once and later control every change with the main amp.

Sometimes two is better than one

5.1 and other X.1 systems are the most popular ones. They all have only one subwoofer. In some cases, especially if you have a large room, having two or even 3 subwoofers instead of one is completely fine. In fact, it’s desirable and it will improve bass performance.

Good bass management

What does bass management mean? This is the process of removing the bass portion from the signal that goes towards the speakers and re-routing them to the subwoofer or subwoofers. This is actually very similar to a regular crossover. The device that separates the bass portion from the signal is placed either in the subwoofer or in the receiver.

In case of 2.1 systems, the bass is managed in the subwoofer that filters the signals and passes the mid and high-frequency signals to the satellites / regular speakers. The situation is a bit different with 5.1 or larger home theater systems because they have the AV receiver that receives all the signals and filters them out, removes the low-frequency tones from the signal that goes to the satellites and sends them to the subwoofer.

Choosing the subwoofer with the right enclosure

You probably know that the subwoofer enclosure affects the bass quality a lot. One of the common ways of achieving high-quality bass is to buy the subwoofer with an opened “bass-pass” enclosure. These cabinets are tuned, resonant and the sound can go out through more than one port. These cabinets are great when you need powerful bass for watching action movies with many explosions and crashes but it can also be too boomy and inadequate for high-quality songs where you want to listen carefully to the bass guitar sequence.

Correct alignment

One of the most important things related to speaker system installation, especially if your subwoofer and your satellites are made by different manufacturers, is to match their phases. This actually means that all the parts of the system should have the same polarity and time alignment. In the opposite case, the crossover region will have some kind of level dip and that won’t sound good. Every part of the system has different phase characteristics that have to be aligned. Also, when they are located in different parts of the room and at different distances from the listening position, you could experience some kind of time delay.

All of this can be solved with a good phase controller that is usually located on the quality subwoofers. A small adjustment can change the overall sound quality and harmonize the speaker system.

In the end, we just want to say that all these tips should be taken with a pinch of salt because every home theater system and every apartment or house are completely different, with different features and acoustic properties. This is why the only correct and honest advice is to experiment with both – your speaker system and your furniture in order to find the perfect combination.

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Top 16 Loudest Bluetooth Speakers In 2019 https://www.audioreputation.com/loudest-bluetooth-speakers/ https://www.audioreputation.com/loudest-bluetooth-speakers/#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2019 00:01:01 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=100 If you are searching for the loudest Bluetooth speakers on the market you’ve come to the right place. If you tried to find the right Bluetooth speakers without any previous knowledge of what you should be paying attention to when buying Bluetooth speakers, this article is designed for you. Since we are going to present […]

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If you are searching for the loudest Bluetooth speakers on the market you’ve come to the right place. If you tried to find the right Bluetooth speakers without any previous knowledge of what you should be paying attention to when buying Bluetooth speakers, this article is designed for you. Since we are going to present to you some of the loudest Bluetooth speakers, the most of our article will be related to SPL (Sound Pressure Level), power, their correlation, and their influence on speaker’s loudness. First, we are going to explain what technical specifications you should be taking into consideration when determining how loud is some speaker. After a short introduction, we are going to present to you our list of top 16 loudest Bluetooth speakers on the market.

Loudest Bluetooth Speakers

Most people don’t really know what to look for when buying Bluetooth speaker, and the most common thing they want from speakers is to be powerful (and when they say that they usually mean they want speakers to deliver strong, loud, and clear sound). The word powerful implies, in a way, that you should be checking the power rating of the speaker (the amount of power that speaker can handle), which is not completely wrong, but it is also far from being completely correct. Choosing the right (or in our case – the loudest) Bluetooth speaker is slightly more complicated than comparing different power ratings, and if you base your decision only on this fact, you are in danger of making the wrong decision.

If you are interested in buying loud Bluetooth speaker, you should pay attention to at least two things – one is speaker’s power rating and the other is speaker’s sensitivity (or efficiency, to be precise). Only by combining these two features, you will understand how loud some specific speaker can be.

The efficiency of some speaker describes the effectiveness of transforming power into sound. It is expressed in dB of SPL per 1W, and it basically shows how loud sound some speaker can produce for given power of 1 Watt. Manufacturers often give efficiency values in their specification lists, but they mistakenly call it sensitivity (or simply SPL) and express it in dBs instead of dB/W. In order to keep it simple, we will use the same terminology like the manufacturers, but you should be aware of this common mistake. Efficiency is measured with a microphone in a soundproof room at 1m distance (between the speaker and the mic). If you want your speakers to be loud you should be looking for anything above 85dB (or even 90dB). This kind of speakers can be considered pretty sensitive.

The power rating of a speaker, as we already said, describes the maximum amount of power that can be handled by that speaker. Power rating is a bit trickier than sensitivity, and it is probably less important, although it might seem different, and the explanation follows.

Now when we established what is sensitivity and what is power rating, we should determine what kind of correlation exists between these characteristics, and what kind of influence they have on loudness. To simplify things, we can say that sensitivity describes nominal loudness of a speaker, and power rating combined with sensitivity will tell you what is the maximum loudness of a speaker. We will try to explain this through the following example.

Let’s assume that we have a speaker with 90dBs sensitivity and power rating of 500W. The most important thing you should know is that doubling the power increases loudness by 3dBs. So, 1W of power will be transformed into 90dBs, 2W into 93dBs, 4W-96dBs, 8W-99dBs, 16W-102dBs, 32W-105dBs, and maximum power of 500W will be transformed into 117dBs.

Based on what we said, you can probably understand that neither sensitivity nor power rating could describe maximum loudness of some speaker if you observe them separately. Bigger wattage doesn’t have to mean louder sound – if you have, for example, 300W speaker with 93dBs sensitivity, and 1000W speaker with 85dBs sensitivity, 300W speaker will be, in fact, louder (as you can see from the table).

If you want to buy really loud speaker you must take into consideration both values – sensitivity (or nominal SPL) and maximum power.

To conclude, out of two speakers with the same wattage, the louder will be the one with higher sensitivity, and if they have the same sensitivity, the louder will be the one with greater wattage. If two speakers have different sensitivities and wattages, then you can make your own tables and charts and determine maximum loudness on your own, just like we did in the previous example.

16 Loudest Bluetooth Speakers – Comparison Table

Loudest Bluetooth SpeakersRatingPriceReview
The Soundboks 24.4Check PriceRead Review
Aiwa Exos-94.8Check PriceRead Review
Peachtree Audio deepblue34.4Check PriceRead Review
DiamondBoxx5.0Check PriceRead Review
Marshall Woburn4.5Check PriceRead Review
Bose SoundTouch4.4Check PriceRead Review
Braven BRV-XXL4.5Check PriceRead Review
ION Road Warrior3.8Check PriceRead Review
Nyne Rock3.9Check PriceRead Review
Fluance Fi704.6Check PriceRead Review
Sony GTKXB904.3Check PriceRead Review
Altec Xpedition 84.0Check PriceRead Review
JBL Boombox4.6Check PriceRead Review
ION Audio Tailgater4.3Check PriceRead Review
ECOXGEAR GDI-EXBM9014.1Check PriceRead Review
Teufel Rockster4.5Check PriceRead Review

When you click on “Check Price” you will be redirected to Amazon.com.

Max SPL (Loudness) Comparison Table

SpeakerMax SPLPlaytime (at 50% volume)
The SOUNDBOKS 2122dBUp to 40 hours
Aiwa Exos-9100dBUp to 9 hours
Peachtree DEEPBLUE3102dBNo battery/Not portable
DiamondBoxx Model XL120dBUp to 30 hours
Marshall Woburn110dBNo battery/Not portable
Bose SoundTouch 30 Series III110dBNo battery/Not portable
BRAVEN BRV-XXL104dBUp to 14 hours
ION Audio Road Warrior113dBUp to 14 hours
NYNE ROCK107dBUp to 10 hours
Fluance Fi70103dBNo battery/Not portable
Sony GTKXB90104dBUp to 16 hours
Altec Xpedition 8106dBUp to 14 hours
JBL Boombox101dBUp to 22 hours
ION Audio Tailgater99dBUp to 35 hours
ECOXGEAR GDI-EXBM901112dBUp to 20 hours
Teufel Rockster122dBUp to 30 hours

Just two more things before we present to you our list of top 16 loudest Bluetooth speakers – In case you already know how loud you want your speakers to be (exact or approximate value in decibels), there is this simple table below, which shows you for how many decibels will be increased nominal SPL for certain maximum allowed power. So, if you have some speaker with nominal SPL (sensitivity) expressed in dBs, and you have the maximum allowed wattage of, let’s say 500W, then you can simply sum the nominal SPL and the increase of SPL from the table (in this case 27dBs), and get the maximum SPL (maximum loudness).

The other thing you should know is that perceived SPL drops as the distance from the speaker increases. Studies showed that by moving one meter away from the speaker decreases SPL by 6dBs. You can see the correlation between the SPL and the distance on the chart below. This is useful to know when installing your speakers – you don’t want them to be too close (especially if they are extremely loud), but also, you don’t want them to be too far because of significant loss in SPL.

You should be aware that loudness is not everything, and that there are some other, equally important features you should pay attention to when buying Bluetooth speakers, but we will talk about that later.

The basic criteria we were using for making this list was combining sensitivity and maximum power and determining maximum loudness based on these two characteristics, but we also paid attention to the price, sound quality, design, and quality of connection (since these are all Bluetooth speakers). We hope you’ll find this list helpful.

Here is our list of top 16 loudest Bluetooth speakers in 2019.


1. The SOUNDBOKS 2

The SOUNDBOKS 2

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SOUNDBOKS 1 was our previous favorite. It was a perfect speaker for all kinds of outdoor events (backyard parties, barbeque parties, tailgate parties, etc.). It was one of the loudest and one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers on the market. Now, we have an upgraded version that’s even better. The successor is simply named SOUNDBOKS 2. It is 40% louder than the first version, it has a better battery, the design is slightly improved, and the sound is more detailed and clearer. This is not a cheap speaker – it’s priced around $900.

 What’s in the box?

The packaging is pretty large. The size and weight of SOUNDBOKS 2 is pretty much the same as the size and weight of the SOUNDBOKS 1. Along with the SOUNDBOKS 2, you will get one easily removable/replaceable battery (you can buy a spare battery separately), AUX cable, charging cable (with adapter), instruction manual, and a 2-year warranty.

The speaker is quite hefty and you might need some help to carry it around. It weighs 33 pounds, and the dimensions are 17x26x13in (WxHxD).

The front side is fully covered with a hard, semitransparent metal grille. The SB logo is located in the top left corner. The rest of the grille, as well as the speaker itself,  is completely black.

The frame is made of brushed aluminum and it covers all the edges while the corners have an additional aluminum protection.

The enclosure is made of plywood with a matte black finish. On the left panel, you will see one large battery compartment and a strong carrying handle. On the right panel, there are 2 knobs (volume and power/mode button), charging port, and AUX input. Also, there’s another carrying handle. That’s about it – the manufacturer really wanted to keep it simple. There are no additional buttons (no play/pause, forward/rewind, no bass and treble knobs, or anything like that).

SOUNDBOKS 2 features 3 drivers – two 10-inch woofers, 1 soft-dome tweeter, and two bass reflex ports. They are powered with 3 class-D amplifiers (72W each).

 Things we like

Simple and functional design

The speaker features simple boxy design. There are no fancy details or excessive branding. It’s a simple box with two carrying handles on the left and right panels.

Great Build Quality and Durability

SOUNDBOKS 2 is very rugged. It can definitely withstand all the rigors of outdoor use. The only problem is – it’s not fully waterproof and dustproof (not IPX certified), so you should keep it away from water and other fluids.

Easy-to-use controls

The controls are super-simple, maybe even too simple. Some people like speakers with bass/treble knobs and a few playback buttons, but this speaker doesn’t have any. There are only two knobs – volume knob with 11 levels of loudness and power/sound mode knob. You can choose between two sound modes – indoor and outdoor.

Loudness

The first SOUNDBOKS had the max SPL of 119dB, but the new version can go up to 122dB, which is more than enough for a big outdoor party. This is, if not the loudest, one of the top three loudest Bluetooth speakers on the market. The only speaker, that we know about, that’s capable of reaching these SPL levels is Rockster made by the German audio manufacturer called Teufel. Unfortunately, Rockster is not available in US stores but you can order it from the German Amazon or from the manufacturer.

Battery

The battery on this thing is pretty impressive. The capacity is rated at 7.8Ah which is enough for 40 hours of continuous listening at moderate volumes (40-50%). You will get 8h at full volume which is more than enough, even for the longest parties. If that’s not enough for you, you can buy an additional battery. Replacing/removing the battery is incredibly simple and takes just a few seconds. The recharge takes approx. 4 hours.

Bluetooth connectivity + AUX input

SOUNDBOKS 2 features Bluetooth 3.0 which is not something we were delighted with. The first SOUNDBOKS had the same Bluetooth version and we have expected an upgrade. After all, that should be one of the cheapest upgrades. The Bluetooth connection works as advertised (33ft advertised range, 20ft actual range) and the pairing is simple, but you won’t get any of those nice additional Bluetooth features (NFC pairing, automatic pairing, multipoint pairing, etc.). If you don’t want to use Bluetooth or if you want to connect a non-Bluetooth device, you can use the standard AUX input.

Powerful bass – perfect for outdoor use

Loudness alone is simply not enough. This speaker also delivers pretty clear and detailed sound, even at high volumes. The bass is definitely the greatest highlight, especially when the outdoor mode is enabled. The outdoor mode basically boosts the bass frequencies and improves the loudness a little bit. The sound is just a little bit clearer in indoor mode. In the outdoor mode, bass tends to bleed into the midrange and makes some lower midrange frequencies muddy. The distortion is not a huge issue, but you can notice it if you crank up the volume (if the volume is set at 9,10, or 11).

 Things we don’t like

You have to use your phone for everything – there are no control buttons on the speaker

As we have said, some people might like those simple volume and power/mode knobs, but others want more control. If you prefer the speakers with more control buttons, this one is not for you. If loudness and sound quality are your only concerns, SOUNDBOKS 2 is one of the best options.

It lacks USB charging port

There’s a bunch of big speakers on the market with built-in USB charging ports (powerbank ports). Unfortunately, SOUNDBOKS 2 is not one of them.

You can’t pair two/multiple SOUNDBOKS 2 speakers in Bluetooth mode

We have already mentioned this. You can’t pair two or more SOUNDBOKS 2 speakers wirelessly and play them in stereo or party mode (due to older Bluetooth version). If there’s going to be the third SOUNDBOKS version, updating the Bluetooth version should be one of the manufacturer’s top priorities.

Comparison Table


2. Aiwa Exos-9 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Aiwa Exos-9

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Aiwa was once Japanese company established in 1951, and it was bought by Sony in 2002. It existed as part of Sony Corporation for 4 years but since it didn’t prove to be a good investment, Aiwa brand was discontinued. In 2014 Joe Born bought the rights to use Aiwa brand and formed new audio equipment company that operates under old and well-known name. The speaker we are going to present to you is one of the trademarks of this new Aiwa company.

 What’s in the box?

Aiwa Exos-9 come in a pretty big black box along with one Li-Ion battery, audio cable with 3.5mm gold-plated jacks (in case you want to use speaker in wired mode), and power supply cable. Exos-9 speaker is pretty large for something that is considered portable – it is 11.7 inches high, 19.4 wide, and 7.5 inches deep, and it weighs 13 pounds, so it is much larger than some Bose or JBL portable speakers, but it can still be carried around, although you have to be a little bit stronger.

On the front side of the speaker, there is aluminum grill that protects the drivers, and there are volume knob and screen with equalizer. On the back side, you will find bass reflex port which is right in the middle and in the bottom right corner you will find ON/OFF switch, power input, AUX input, USB port for charging your phone which is a nice addition, and micro USB port for updating the firmware. On the top, you can find touch-sensitive controls which you can use to play/pause songs, adjust the equalizer, and link two Exos-9 speakers, but we will talk about that function later.

Inside the speaker, there are 5 drivers – one 6.5 inches large bass driver (subwoofer) which is right in the middle, two 3 inches large midrange drivers (bottom left and right), and two 1in large treble drivers (tweeters). There are also integrated class D bi-amplifiers.

 Things we like:

Design

Maybe it’s just nostalgy, but this speaker irresistibly reminds us of old-school cassette boombox, which brings up some memories, so we kind of have to be subjective and like this mixture of old very recognizable design and some new technology. It might be a little bulky compared to most of other portable speakers, but it still looks really stylish and simple.

Durability

Although it is mostly made of plastic and has some really sensitive parts (like touch screen on the top) there have been no complaints regarding durability of this speaker. Our first impression is that it looks robust and compact, and previous users’ experiences allow us to say with certainty that this speaker is really durable.

EQ screen and EQ controls

If you want some specific type of sound you can use EQ control buttons to adjust different frequency bands – you can emphasize bass, mid-tones, or highs. There are 4 preinstalled EQ settings, and 5 frequency bands you can control separately. All the adjustments you make can be seen on the EQ screen on the front side of the speaker next to the volume knob.

Sound quality

This is the point where Exos-9 goes well beyond any expectations. This speaker delivers well-balanced sound with punchy bass, full mids, and clean highs. There is almost no distortion (less than 0.1%), and you will be able to enjoy your music without annoying sound ‘’deformations’’.

Loudness

With numerous big drivers comes loud sound, and that’s the thing you can expect from this speaker. The manufacturer claims that the maximum SPL is above 100dB, which is much less than maximum loudness of the previous model we were talking about, but we may have raised the bar a little bit too high with Soundboks 1. If you compare this speaker to a bunch of smaller models made by Bose or JBL (which are the most popular portable speakers), you will get significantly louder sound. The loudness won’t make your ears ‘’bleed’’, but it is more than enough for home parties (up to 30 people), and probably still not good enough for bigger outdoor events. If you need more loudness, there is one interesting feature we are going to explain in the next passage.

Possibility of pairing two Exos-9 speakers

So, as we mentioned above, if you want more loudness, you can buy 2 Exos-9 speakers, pair them and double the loudness. Pairing is very simple, you just tap the LINK button on the touchscreen which is positioned on top of the speaker and you’re done. There are two modes of pairing – you can choose double stereo mode (each speaker reproduces the same sound), or separated-stereo mode (one speaker acts as the left and the other as the right in order to get great stereo sound). Depending on the position of the speakers and their purpose, you can shift from one to another mode.

Battery

Exos-9 speaker uses Li-Ion battery that allows you up to 9 hours of constant listening to music at 85 dB of SPL. You should know that battery won’t last that much if you crank up the volume to the max. There is also an option to buy separately ‘’extended battery’’ which offers up to 18 hours of listening to music. Although this is not even close to Soundboks 1 (which is probably the best on the market when battery is concerned), 9 hours seems just enough for this kind of speaker.

Bluetooth connection and NFC pairing

Bluetooth connection works really well on this one – it allows you to control the playback from as far as 50ft, and there were no reported problems regarding connectivity or signal loss. There is also that option we mentioned above, to pair two speakers via Bluetooth, which is nice thing to have. If you want even faster pairing there is NFC function, so if you have an Android phone, you can just tap the speaker with your phone and pair them in a second.

USB and mini USB port

These ports on the rear panel are really helpful additions – you can use standard USB port to charge your phone (which is a great thing if you are outside), and mini USB port is there for installing firmware updates. The mini USB port is great stuff and it was extremely useful in the past. When Aiwa started producing this model, there was a certain number of small glitches and flaws (there was also one major flaw called ‘’speaker hijacking’’), and based on customers’ complaints people from Aiwa made a couple of updates which fixed all the bugs. That’s why Exos-9 speakers that are produced today don’t really have any significant flaw that would make you wonder if this is a good deal.

 Things we don’t like:

As we already said, Exos-9 speaker doesn’t have any major flaws, or at least we didn’t manage to find some. All the important bugs from the past are fixed thanks to firmware updates, but there are some small improvements that could make this speaker even better.

Design of the controls

Although control screen looks really nice, it would probably be better if Aiwa placed EQ screen next to the controls, since you have to tap controls on the top and look at the EQ screen on the front side, and you can easily press the wrong button while looking at the EQ screen.

Sensitivity (responsiveness) of the touchscreen

Sometimes you have to tap control buttons twice or three times or tap them just a little bit harder before you get response (before the music starts playing for example).

No volume level indicator

Since there is already EQ screen on the front side, it would be nice to have a volume level and battery status indicators on the screen. That would be small but really useful additional feature.

No remote control included in the package

Although you can buy it separately and it doesn’t cost too much, it would be fair to get a remote for the money you pay. The same thing applies to carrying bag, which is also available separately.

Comparison Table


3. Peachtree Audio deepblue3 Bluetooth 3-Way Speaker System

Peachtree Audio deepblue3

 

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Peachtree Audio deepblue3 is the upgraded version of a very popular deepblue2 Bluetooth speaker. The biggest issue with the deepblue2 was the Bluetooth connectivity – the connection range was relatively short and the connection was unreliable. You won’t be experiencing any of those issues with the new deepblue3 speaker. All the good things about the deepblue2 remained the same.  

 What’s in the box?

The deepblue3 comes in a nice box along with all the accessories you could possibly need. That was really careful and we have to praise the manufacturer for that. Besides the speaker, you will get a set of audio cables (standard AUX cable, 3.5mm to RCA, digital optical cable), the power cable, IR remote, owner’s manual, and 1-year warranty.

The speaker doesn’t look big, but it’s hefty. It weighs 16 pounds, and the dimensions are 14.2×9.1×6.5in (WxHxD).

Deepblue3 features 5 drivers, just like deepblue2. There is one 6.5in woofer, two 3in midrange woofers, and two 1in tweeters.

This speaker features a recognizable boxy design similar to Aiwa Exos-9. Actually, deepblue3 is shaped exactly the same as Exos-9, only smaller.

The whole front panel is covered with a black inflexible grille. On the grille, there are some gray details as well as the deepblue3 logo in the middle and Peachtree logo at the bottom.

There are 5 capacitive control buttons on the top panel – Bluetooth/pairing, input, power, volume +, and volume –. The buttons are backlit. Also, you will see 5 LED Bluetooth/input/volume indicators.

On the rear panel, you can find all the inputs as well as carrying handle. The speaker is not incredibly versatile when it comes to connections, but the good thing is that both analog and digital inputs are covered. You have one AUX input and one digital optical input.

 Things we like

Design

This is another boombox-like Bluetooth speaker. The front panel is not completely flat – the sides (left and right) are slightly angled backward. That kind of design is supposed to improve the dispersion of the sound and provide better stereo separation.

Solid build

Deepblue3 is entirely made of plastic, but it looks and feels very solid. Nothing looks cheap or flimsy and that is definitely reassuring. The grille on the front panel is very hard. It’s not transparent and it’s not flexible. The top panel is rubberized.

Simple and responsive controls

The control panel is very nice. All the buttons are backlit and they are all responsive. You will know how to use them even without the manual – everything is pretty much self-explanatory.

Remote

You don’t even have to get up if you want to change the source – the remote is included in the package and it’s a really convenient detail. The remote is simple and easy to use. One thing you can do with the remote but cannot do with the control buttons on the unit itself is the bass adjustment. You can boost or decrease the bass level by pressing the Bass+/Bass- buttons. There are no treble and mid adjustment buttons.

Loudness

Deepblue3 can get really loud for its size. The speaker can reach 102dB. It can actually go even higher, but that’s the moment when the distortion becomes really obvious. Still, 102dB is pretty impressive for a speaker of that size.

Digital and analog inputs

You will find an AUX input on almost all the speakers, even the cheapest ones, but you won’t find digital optical input on that many Bluetooth speakers. That’s one of the advantages of deepblue3. You can connect it to your new TV if you are not happy with your TV speakers, or you can connect it to any other digital audio source.

Improved Bluetooth connection

The previous deepblue speaker had some Bluetooth issues, but deepblue3 is much better when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity. The range is significantly longer. If you are in line of sight, you can be more than 70ft away and you won’t experience any drop-out or signal loss. If there are walls, furniture, and other obstacles between your phone and the speaker, the range is shorter. The connection is perfectly stable and the audio quality is pretty impressive. You can pair up to 5 Bluetooth-enabled devices with the speaker. The speaker will pair automatically with the last paired device when you turn it on.

Good sound quality + smart volume feature

The sound quality is surprisingly good for the size. The bass is impactful and thick, but can’t be compared to an actual 8-in or 10-in subwoofer. If you prefer powerful, extended, or even overemphasized bass, this thing might sound tiny to you. The midrange is nicely fused with the bass. It’s well defined and very detailed. The highs are a bit brighter but not harsh.

The separation between the left and right channels is pretty impressive, especially considering the size of the speaker.

Depblue speakers also feature something called smart volume. This feature basically brings the balance into your music. It will elevate the bass response at low volumes in order to add some definition to your music. It will also recess the bass and treble levels and remove most of the peaks at high volumes in order to prevent distortion and make your music more balanced and more natural.

 Things we don’t like

Volume and bass reset

When you turn off the speaker, the bass and volume levels will reset to default values. Ironically, the speaker will remember all the Bluetooth devices (5 of them) and it will reconnect to the last device, but it won’t remember your customized volume/bass settings.

It lacks battery – It’s not portable

This thing has to be plugged in all the time. There’s no battery and it can’t be used on the go. Deepblue3 is supposed to be a desktop speaker.

No EQ presets or EQ settings (only bass adjustment)

You can only adjust the bass levels. You won’t be able to adjust the treble with your remote. Surely, you can always install some EQ app on your phone and play with sound, but having two additional treble level buttons (and maybe a few EQ presets) would be a more convenient solution. After all, Aiwa Exos-9, which is the biggest rival of the deepblue3, has multiple EQ presets and it allows you to make your own EQ adjustments. Hopefully, the next upgrade will include these features.

Comparison Table


4. DiamondBoxx Model XL

DiamondBoxx Model XL

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DiamondBoxx was established in 2014, in California. Although it is one of the youngest audio equipment companies on the market, the people involved in making their most famous models (M, L, XL) have huge experience in manufacturing audio equipment. All their speakers are completely handmade so you can expect first-class quality and only the best materials. Their speakers are indeed premium and they cost a lot, but when you hear the sound, how accurate and loud it can be, you will maybe understand why they cost that much. We decided to present to you their biggest, loudest and most expensive Bluetooth speaker – DiamondBoxx XL. This is probably the loudest speaker on our list, and the reason why we decided not to present it first was the price – we didn’t want to scare you away with the priciest model right at the beginning.

 What’s in the box

Diamondboxx XL comes in a huge 50-pound package, while the speaker itself weighs some 40 pounds and its dimensions are 28 inches (width), 19 inches (height), and 11.2 inches (depth). Along with the speaker, you will get big battery charger, audio cable with 3.5mm gold-plated jacks, and the extension power cable.

Most of the features can be found on the front panel of this massive speaker. There is no protective aluminum or plastic mesh like with most of other speakers, and you can see all the drivers immediately. There are 6 5.5 inches mid-range woofers made of neodymium magnets, 8 1in drivers for high frequencies (tweeters) also made of neodymium magnets with heatsink, and 2 3in ‘’wind throb’’ bass ports which enable the sound to go as low as 42Hz. Inside the speaker, there are also 12 separate amplifiers with combined max power of 960W (this refers to peaks, while the RMS is 560W). In the middle of the front panel you will also see power button, volume knob, mode button (there are two modes – SQ and SP), AUX input port for 3.5mm jack, standard USB port (for charging your phone), and there is also one small diamond (actual diamond) and under the diamond there is preinstalled LED light. Depending on the color of the diamond, you will know the status of your battery – when diamond is white – battery is full, when diamond is yellow – battery is low, and when diamond changes its color to red it means that battery is going to die soon and you should recharge it. Near the top, you will see 10 LED ‘’output meters’’. These 10 LEDs also show battery level when you turn on the speaker, and every dot represents 10%, so you can have more precise info on battery status. After you pair your phone or any other Bluetooth device with the speaker and play the first song, LEDs become VU (volume unit) meter that shows peaks of sound in decibels (each dot represents 3dB in SQ mode or 6dB in SP mode). On the rear panel, there is battery charger port, and ¼ inch RMS audio input and output ports which you can use to connect 2 or more DiamondBoxx XL speakers. On the top there is carrying handle made of premium leather, it is very well-made and durable so you don’t have to worry it will snap during transport, although there will be not much carrying around because of the 40 pounds weight.

 Things we like

Quality of construction (durability)

Only the best premium materials were used to build this gigantic model – there is a lot of metal, wood (practically without plastic parts), and many titanium reinforcements. Front and rear panel are made from aluminum with Duratex finish. You can even sit or stand on this speaker, and you won’t damage it. DiamondBoxx XL is, without any doubt, made to last and to withstand heavy use during many years, and when you pay that much this is the only normal thing to expect. The speaker also comes with 2-year warranty, while many other speakers come with only 1-year warranty.

Bluetooth connection

Bluetooth connection works like a charm. You can pair DiamondBoxx XL with literally any Bluetooth enabled device (iPhones, Android phones, tablets, PCs, etc.) within 50ft range (it is a little bit shorter in practice, but we won’t make big fuss about that). There were no connection problems (loss of connection, interference) and all the users had only words of praise for Bluetooth connection.  

Sound quality

With all the effort involved in combining 16 drivers, it would be a shame not to get incredible result. DiamondBoxx XL is perfect example of well-crafted speaker with perfect sound with no (or minimum) distortion even at extremely loud volume. You can almost feel lows, mids, and highs working together to produce perfectly accurate natural sound.

Loudness

We have already mentioned that this speaker is loud. The loudness goes to the point where you can consider it insane. Single XL speaker can produce 120dB output sound, and if you are crazy enough and you don’t think that’s too much, you can pair 2 DiamondBoxx XL speakers for combined 126dB output, or you can connect multiple (up to 25) XL speakers, if you really have that kind of money and you don’t care about your ears at all.

SQ and SP modes

Depending on what you need from your speakers you can choose SQ (sound quality) or SP (sound pressure) mode. If you are at your home SQ mode will provide just enough loudness (probably more than you need), but if you are having outdoor party and you need your speaker to be as loud as possible, you can shift to SP mode and get maximum loudness.

3D gravity sensor

3D gravity sensor constantly tracks the changes in position of the speaker and makes adjustments to the sound depending on relative position to earth. Thanks to this sensor, you can even place the speaker vertically and get the same quality of sound, although DiamondBoxx XL has rubber feet only at the bottom, and it will be unstable if you place it vertically (you can always buy additional set of feet from the manufacturer’s website).

Battery

DiamondBoxx XL uses new-generation Li-Ion batteries, the exact type that use Tesla cars. The battery is very durable, and it can last for up to 30 hours (at low to moderate volume). If you raise the volume up the battery drains faster, and at maximum volume, it can last for 4-6 hours. You can also buy more powerful battery (462Wh) separately which can last twice as much. Recharge takes 3 hours, and you can use the charger to power the speaker while the battery is charging. The battery is built-in, so you can’t take it out or replace it. One battery can survive 1000+ cycles with minimum losses.

 Things we don’t like

Design

Well, this is the matter of taste – we don’t find this speaker as appealing as some others we have mentioned, even though we usually like this kind of old-school boombox design. Bear in mind that this speaker is more about sound quality, loudness, and quality of construction than about the looks.

Price

As we mentioned earlier, this is one really expensive piece of equipment. We don’t want to say that it is overpriced especially because it is handmade and offers incredibly good sound and insane loudness. This speaker is worth that kind of money and if you can afford it, you should definitely buy it.

Comparison Table


5. Marshall Woburn Bluetooth Speaker

Marshall Woburn

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Everybody knows what kind of brand is Marshall. This London-based company has been an integral part of audio and music industry for 55 years, and it has become famous for producing amplifiers. Seven years ago, people from Marshall decided to expand production and start making not only amplifiers but also some other pieces of audio equipment. In 2010 they launched the first Marshall headphones, and that was a big success. Two years later Marshall launched the first speakers called Hanwell and Stanmore. Both models were highly praised for their sound quality and classic Marshall design. We decided to present to you their latest and loudest Bluetooth speaker called Woburn. We honestly think that this speaker deserves place among top l0 (probably top 5) loudest speakers on the market, and it is probably among top 3 when design and construction quality are concerned. To conclude, you can’t go wrong with this speaker, unless you need something portable because this one is not.

 What’s in the box

Marshall Woburn comes in a pretty large box, not as large as Soundboks 1 or Diamondboxx XL, but it is still larger and heavier than most of others. The box itself looks like some kind of user manual since you have bunch of instruction and presented features on the side and on the back of the box. In this box, you will find Woburn speaker (it weighs 17.5 pounds, and it is 11.4 inches high, 15.75 inches wide, and 7.8 inches deep), coiled audio cord with gold-plated 3.5mm jacks on both sides, user manual, and two power cables (one for European and one for US customers).

Protective mesh covers the front panel of the speaker, and all the controls are located at the top. On the gold-plated control panel, you will find AUX input, 4 LEDs showing the selected input (Bluetooth, Optical, Input 1 – AUX, Input 2 – RCA), 3 knobs for volume, bass, and treble, SOURCE/WAKE and PAIR buttons, and retro Power ON/OFF switch. On the rear panel, there is standby switch with two modes – Powersaver and Standard. This switch is there because the EU legislation requires that any device made for European market have at most 0.5W power consumption in standby mode. Whichever option you chose, power consumption will be the same while the speaker is in use – speaker goes to standby mode if it’s not been used for 20 minutes, and if it is in Powersaver mode, your electricity bill will be slightly lower. There is, unfortunately, one annoying thing about this standby switch and you can read about that in ‘’Things we don’t like” section. On the rear panel there are also RCA input for connecting your DVD player or any other device that can be connected through RCA cable (you should know that there is no RCA cable included in the package), optical digital input (for Apple TV or any other TV with optical output), and power jack.

Inside the Woburn speaker there are 4 drivers2 5.25 inches woofers and two 1-inch tweeters, and at the back, there are 2 bass reflex ports. Speaker also has 3 class D amplifiers – one with rated power of 50W (for woofers), and two amplifiers with rated power of 20W (for tweeters).

 Things we like

Design

The speaker has classic Marshall design, it has nice retro vibe, and it’s really stylish. The manufacturer took care of every detail in order to make incredibly visually appealing speaker. Everything looks just like you would expect from Marshall. One more thing you should know is that Woburn is available in two colors – black and cream.

Construction quality and durability

Marshall has made its name by making robust and durable amplifiers, and Woburn speaker is not an exception. Quality wood and vinyl finish were mostly used and there are also some metal parts and reinforcements. There were no complaints in the past regarding speaker’s durability, and based on that and our experience, this is one sturdy, compact, and really durable speaker.

Sound quality

It’s no surprise for some speaker made by Marshall to produce incredible sound. This speaker excels in this department. The sound is crisp and clear, you can practically hear every individual tone, there is nice balance between lows, mids, and highs (you can also adjust bass and treble, but we will talk about that later), and the sound is natural and pleasant.

Loudness

Since this is the most important criteria for making this list, you can probably guess how loud Woburn can be. This speaker has maximum SPL of 110dB, which is incredibly loud for home use and you are going to use it mostly at your home since there is no battery. One more important thing you should know is that there is a certain amount of distortion at maximum volume (THD is 3%).

Bass and treble knobs

When the bass and treble knobs are at medium level you will get the sound quality we were talking about, but if you want more bass, or you want to emphasize highs, you can use these knobs and adjust the sound to your preferences. Knobs are really nice touch by Marshall and they are probably inspired by all the Marshall amplifiers made in the past. This is one of only a few Bluetooth speakers on the market that has bass and treble controls – some speakers have bass knob, but treble knob is something that you can find on Marshall’s and just a couple more speakers.

Bluetooth connection

Woburn uses Bluetooth V4.0 technology which allows pairing with any Bluetooth-enabled device (iPhones, Android phones, PCs, tablets, etc.). Marshall didn’t make statements on connection range, which is in our opinion, a smart move since it’s pointless to claim that it can be connected to any device within 33ft or 50ft range when it happens so often that the range is shorter than that. This way, you know that there is Bluetooth connection and you can check yourself what’s the maximum distance between the Bluetooth-enabled media device and the speaker. There were no complaints regarding Bluetooth connection in the past, and we also didn’t experience any problems. Pairing is really easy – you just have to choose Bluetooth input by pressing source button, then press pair button, and find Woburn among available Bluetooth devices on your phone. The speaker can memorize up to 6 different devices, so when you connect your phone for the first time you don’t have to repeat the connection procedure every time – the phone and speaker will be paired automatically whenever they are in range.

Optical digital input

If you have TV with optical output or Apple TV, you can easily connect it to Woburn speaker via optical cable and get even better sound quality.

 Things we don’t like

Not really portable (no battery)

Although it’s not that big (like DiamondBoxx XL for example), this speaker is not portable, and can’t be used outside, unless you have some power socket nearby. Woburn doesn’t have battery, and it is dependent on external power source, so you can’t take it with you to the beach, or to a picnic. This speaker would probably be even more popular if it would have battery.

Waking up the speaker in Powersaver mode

This is not really an issue, and it’s not something that Marshall doesn’t already know. We explained why is Powersaver mode present, and the thing with Powersaver mode is that whenever you want to stream some music from your phone and the speaker is on standby, you have to ‘’wake up’’ the speaker first by pressing source/wake button. You don’t have to do this when the speaker is in Standard mode.

Comparison Table


6. Bose SoundTouch 30 Series III Wireless Speaker

Bose SoundTouch

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Bose is an American audio equipment company established in 1964, in Massachusetts. Bose became famous for producing speakers, audio systems, and headphones. The guiding idea of Bose corporation for the last decade or so was combining great sound with the latest hi-tech inventions and new functions. Unlike some companies with more traditional approach (taking care of the sound, design and build quality), Bose is trying to add new functions and gadgets to their devices all the time. Soundtouch 30 wireless Bluetooth speaker is the product of that kind of approach, and it is probably the only speaker on this list that could offer you one-click connection to bunch of music libraries, online music services, and internet radio stations. This is also one of only a few speakers that could be controlled by an app. One thing we don’t like about Bose is the fact that they are not completely transparent when technical characteristics of the devices they make are concerned – if you want to buy Bose speaker or headphones, you really have to dig hard to find technical specifications, and there is always possibility that you won’t find what you’ve been looking for. If you want to find out what’s the maximum SPL of this speaker or some other specs, keep reading this article and we will provide you with all the information you need.

 What’s in the box

Bose Soundtouch 30 speaker comes in a large box along with power cord, USB to micro USB cable (for installing updates and setting up the speaker), remote, and user manual (you can consider it your bible for the next few minutes after unboxing, since you really have to read the instructions in order to connect the speaker to the network). Speaker is kind of heavy, it weighs 18.5 pounds, and it is 9.7 inches high, 17.1 inches wide, and 7.1 inches deep.

The front side is covered with protective mesh and there are wi-fi connection indicator, OLED panel, and Bose logo in the middle. The control buttons are placed at the top– there are power button, source button (for shifting between AUX and Bluetooth inputs), 6 preset buttons, and 2 volume buttons. All the other controls are on the remote (2 buttons for skipping tracks, thumb up/down buttons, and play/pause button), and the best way to completely control the playback is to use the Soundtouch app which is available for all Apple and Android phones, and bunch of other devices. On the rear panel you can find ethernet port (for wired internet connection), micro USB and USB ports (for setup), AUX input, and power jack (the only way to power this speaker is through an external power source (wall socket) since there is no battery).  

Inside the speaker, there are two 50mm Twiddler speakers with 4 Ohms impedance and one 116mm woofer with 1 Ohm impedance. Bose decided to go with sealed enclosure without bass reflex ports. The bass is not affected too much, and it is still very much booming.

 Things we like

Design

When design is concerned there is no doubt that you can’t go wrong with any Bose device. Bose takes care of every detail, and what you always get is stylish and elegant-looking product. This speaker is no different from any other Bose device, and it is nicely designed with much patience and attention to details. Speaker is available in two colors – black and white.

Durability

Soundtouch 30 is a sturdy, well-constructed, compact speaker. The enclosure is made of welded plastic, and most of the parts are also made of plastic, but it seems really durable, and there were no complaints regarding build quality.

Sound quality

This speaker delivers nice balanced sound with strong bass, articulate mids, and clean highs, although when you compare it to the sound that DiamondBoxx XL or Woburn produce, it sounds a little bit unnatural (and rather shallow), and we like more the other two. Soundtouch 30 is still much better than most of the speakers on the market, and we don’t think that the sound is bad, only that there is some room for improvement. One more thing you should know about the sound is that you can adjust the amount of bass through the app.

Loudness

Soundtouch 30 can be really loud, much louder than you need for home use. Maximum SPL is approximately 110dB, and because of multiroom functionality you can combine two or more Bose systems (there are unfortunately some problems regarding this feature but we will talk about that later), and get even louder sound. You should be aware that mids and highs get muffled at maximum volume, and it is probably better not to go above 85-90% with the volume.

Bluetooth connection

Bluetooth connection is somewhat neglected due to presence of wi-fi connection which is advertised more than any other feature. Bluetooth works really well if your device is 20ft away from the speaker or closer. Pairing is very easy, and you will be able to stream your music in no time. Speaker is able to memorize devices, so whenever Bluetooth connection is active your device will be automatically paired with the speaker.

Dual-band Wi-fi connection

Wi-fi connection is the most popular function of this speaker, and bunch of other functions is dependent on wi-fi. Speaker can be connected to your home network via ethernet port or via wi-fi. Before using your speaker, you need to connect your speaker to your PC (use the USB cable that comes with the speaker) and set up the speaker. The other option is to install Soundtouch app and use it instead of your PC for setting up the speaker. Soundtouch app is also the best way to control the speaker after the initial setup. On the front side of the speaker, there is wi-fi LED indicator (it will be solid white when the speaker is connected to your home network, solid amber when the system is in setup mode, and blinking amber when the system is disconnected). The connection is stable, although the speaker can sometimes get confused when your MacBook and iPhone, for example, are near the speaker, so if you are streaming something from your phone, it happens sometimes when you turn on the MacBook that the speaker connects automatically to it instead of staying connected to your phone. Bose should make some software improvements to avoid this interference between different devices using the home network (adjusting priority list would probably do the job).

6 Presets

Bose decided to include 6 buttons for presets, which you can use to memorize some of the music services, libraries, or internet stations you are using. That way, you can play the music you like just by pressing one of these buttons and you don’t have to use your phone to access these services at all. Let’s say that you are using Soundtouch app to listen to one of thousands internet radio stations, and you really like the music. If you want your speaker to memorize this station so you could listen to it without searching through the list of available stations every time, you can simply press and hold one of six preset buttons (you can either press the button on your speaker, on the remote, or you can do that with your app). Once the station is memorized, you can simply press the button whenever you want to listen to that station and the music will start – you won’t have to use your phone, access the Soundtouch app, etc. The same goes for any service you use – Deezer, Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, music libraries. Some people complained about the number of presets saying that they need more than six, but we think that 6 is just enough.

Remote

Remote is a nice touch, but you are probably going to use your phone and Soundtouch app to control the speaker more than the remote. Remote can still be useful if you want to change, play, or pause the track quickly without taking out your phone, or if you want to include some song among your favorites (thumb up/down buttons).

 Things we don’t like

Not portable

This speaker doesn’t have battery, so you can’t use it outside if you don’t have power socket nearby. This one is designed to be used at home, and it is also very sensitive to rain (Bose even advises their customers to clean it only with dry mop without any chemicals or water).

Sound delays

This is probably the most annoying issue we’ve experienced. If you connect your TV to your speaker (by using Bluetooth) and you start watching a movie, you will notice this sound delay, which is not too big (less than a second) but it is just enough to annoy you. The same thing happens when you connect more Bose speakers together, but it is less annoying when you are streaming music than when you are trying to watch a movie.

Setup takes some time

Although Bose did its best to make the setup as easy as possible with step by step setup procedure, it still takes some time to start using the speaker, and you really have to read the instructions to get the basic idea what to do.

No hi-fi

Bose Soundtouch 30 can’t play high-resolution audio files (anything above 16bit/44.1kHz), and if you try to play some high-res WAW, FLAC, or ALAC file, you will get an error message.

Comparison Table


7. BRAVEN BRV-XXL Portable Bluetooth Speaker

BRAVEN BRV-XXL

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Braven is an American audio equipment company established in 2011. It makes, almost exclusively, wireless audio devices, and it is probably one of the fastest growing companies in this specific field of audio industry. Braven BRV-XXL is their latest and loudest speaker. It is one-more boombox-like device on our list, but it definitely has some new features that we haven’t seen on other speakers that we’ve mentioned. The most noticeable feature is IPX5 rating, which means it can survive some water splashes (not much though – it certainly wasn’t designed to be used under water, but it won’t get damaged by some light rain).

 What’s in the box

Braven XXL is one more large and heavy speaker on the list – it weighs 18 pounds, and it is 20.2 inches wide, 8.25 inches deep, and 8.2 inches high. Based on the contents of the package, you can see why Braven is so popular internationally. Braven was careful enough to include in the package not one or two, but even four power cords, so no matter where are you from, you will be equipped with just the right power cord for your wall socket. You will find in the package one power cable for US customers, one for European customers (TUV), one for British customers, and one for Australian customers. You will also get one AUX cable with 3.5mm jacks on both ends, shoulder strap which can be attached to speaker so you can carry it around (although it is still quite heavy), and battery adapter. On the strap, there is bottle opener attached, which is a nice touch and could come in handy.

Front and rear side of the speaker are practically the same, they are completely covered with protective aluminum grid, on the bottom there is also the same grid that protects the subwoofer, and on the top, you will find rubberized grip which can be used for placing your phone. There is also strong rubberized handle, so you can wear it around if you don’t want to use the shoulder strap. On the right side of the speaker, you can find all the controls. There are 4 buttons – power button, play button, and +/- buttons, and you will also see there 3 LED indicators for bass, treble, and volume, as well as LED meter which shows the volume level, and bass and treble adjustments. You must use only these four buttons for all the functions, so it takes some time to get used to the controls. To turn on the speaker you have to press and hold the power button and when it turns on you will hear short beep. After you turn it on, if you want to adjust the volume, bass, or treble, you have to press and release power button, until the LED indicators for one of these three functions turn on, and then use +/- to adjust the volume, bass, or treble. If you want to pair speaker with some Bluetooth enabled device, you have to press and hold play button until you hear specific sound, and after that, you should just find Braven speaker in the list of available Bluetooth devices, and pair them. On the left side, there are four LEDs which indicate battery status, and below battery indicator, there is rubberized cover. Under this cover, there are AUX input, mic input (if you want to use this speaker as a PA system, or for karaoke party), USB port for charging your phone, and charging port for battery adapter.

Inside the speaker, there are 4 HD drivers, 2 of them are on the front side, and 2 on the back side. On the bottom, there is low-frequency resonator which provides bass. HD drivers are in the corners, of the speaker, and the idea was probably to achieve good stereo separation. Since the drivers are on both sides, so you can get nice 360-sound.

 Things we like

Design

As we said, this is one more boombox-like speaker, with quite unusual lines. This speaker isn’t boxy like many others and the shape of the speaker is very interesting, but similarity with old-school boomboxes is still noticeable. It’s available in only one color – black with silver aluminum mesh.

Durability

This is one of the most noticeable features of Braven XXL speaker (aside from sound quality and loudness). It is designed for outdoor use, so you can expect lots of reinforcements. The whole speaker is covered with some rubbery material, which makes it shockproof and waterproof (be aware that it has IPX5 waterproof rating), all the ports are also protected with rubberized cover. Braven XXL doesn’t look cheap or fragile, but after all, for the price you pay you shouldn’t be expecting cheap-looking product. It is very sturdy and compact, and it is without any doubt, made to last.

Bluetooth connection

Braven XXL uses Bluetooth 2.1 technology with EDR (which should enable better data transfer and improve sound quality). In theory, this Bluetooth version allows you to pair this speaker with your phone or any other Bluetooth-enabled device within 33ft range, but the things are different in reality and you can read about this issue in ‘Things we don’t like’’ section. Still, if you place your phone on the rubberized grip at the top of the speaker, Bluetooth connection will work just fine, and there will be no connectivity problems.

NFC pairing

NFC function is often used today for pairing devices (if they have this function), and it is always nice addition since it is much easier way of pairing than Bluetooth. Braven XXL has this function and it works great – pairing takes just a second or two.

Sound quality

Braven XXL provides great sound quality with emphasis on lows on highs. At high volumes you will hear slightly muffled mids, and there will be some amount of distortion. The good thing about the sound is that you can adjust bass and treble to your preferences by using control buttons, so if you are into techno music you can crank the treble up, or if you are into drum and bass you can add some bass.

Loudness

This speaker is not as loud as some previous models, but it is definitely not quiet. It can reach max SPL level of 104dBs, which is probably more than enough for most people. Thanks to 360 stereo-like sound and maximum loudness of 104dBs, this speaker is great choice for picnics, smaller beach and pool parties, or outdoor events in your backyard. It is also more than loud enough for any indoor use.

Battery

Braven XXL have built-in lithium-ion battery with rated charge of 15,600mAh, which allows up to 14 hours of listening to music at moderate volume level. If you crank the volume up to the maximum, the battery drains much faster, and it can last up to 5-8 hours. It takes some 3 hours to fully recharge battery. If the battery drains, the speaker can be powered through the battery adapter, and you can listen to music while the battery is charging.

 Things we don’t like

Works only as a standalone speaker

There is no way to connect two or more Braven XXL and create stereo sound impression or get louder sound, while many other Bluetooth speakers have this feature, and some speakers allow connecting up to 25 units. Having this in mind, we have to consider lack of this feature a flaw.

Bluetooth range

We’ve already mentioned that Bluetooth works well when your phone is close to the speaker, but the maximum range is significantly shorter than what Braven claims. It is at most 15-20 feet, and some customers had problems even at 10 feet distance. You should be aware of this issue before buying Braven XXL. There is a lot of pros, especially the sound quality, loudness, and construction quality, but you have to take into consideration all these negative things we noticed also.

Comparison Table


8. ION Audio Road Warrior Portable Bluetooth Speaker

ION Audio Road Warrior

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ION is US based audio equipment company established in 2003. ION is not really known for making high-end equipment, but rather decent-quality products that don’t cost much. They are known for combining old-school design and new technology. ION makes DJ equipment, microphones, turntables, Bluetooth speakers, lighting equipment, etc. The speaker we decided to present to you is one more from the BEAST category, at least when loudness and dimensions are concerned. If we observe only these two features, this speaker could be compared with DiamondBoxx XL or Soundboks 1, and it is much less expensive than they are. But, of course, there is always a catch. Although it is very loud there are some pretty big deal-breakers, especially when sound quality and battery durability are concerned. Keep reading our review, and we will try to mention all the good, but also all the bad things about Road Warrior.

 What’s in the box

Road Warrior comes in a huge box, along with AUX cable with 3.5mm jacks, AC power cord, DC power cord (for charging the battery through your car charger), and user manual. The speaker itself is very heavy, it weighs almost 30 pounds, and it is 27 inches wide, 13 inches high, and 9.75 inches deep.

The first thing you are going to notice when you look at this speaker are definitely two huge 10-inch woofers on the front side covered with protective aluminum mesh. They really look impressive, and you will instantaneously get an impression that the sound is going to be really loud. In the top left and right corners of the front panel there are two small 1-inch tweeters, and in the middle, there is nice-looking round-shaped control panel with a small display. Control panel is really well-designed with simple and easy-to-use controls, with 9 different buttonsTUNE+ and TUNE- (for searching radio stations), VOL+ and VOL- (for adjusting volume), MIC+ and MIC- (for adjusting mic volume), SOURCE button (for shifting between radio and Bluetooth mode), Bluetooth button (only for disconnecting Bluetooth device), and LIGHT button (which is really nice addition and it is used to turn on nice flashing lights inside woofers to create real party atmosphere). Small display shows only battery status, volume status, and mode (FM or Bluetooth). On the left and on the right side of the speaker, there are 2 strong carrying handles. On the top panel, there are NFC logo (used to pair Android phones with speaker by taping it), USB port (for charging phones), and rubberized radio antenna. On the rear panel there are AUX port (for 3.5mm audio cable), ¼ inch microphone port, DC input (for charging battery and powering speaker through your car’s power outlet), AC input (for charging battery and powering speaker through wall socket), ON/OFF switch and small LED light which indicates that battery is charging, and when the charging is completed it turns off).

Inside the speaker, as we already mentioned, there are 2 10-inch woofers and 2 1-inch tweeters. On the rear panel, there are 2 bass reflex ports, which is always better option than sealed enclosure when there is huge amount of air moving, and when the speakers are this big. Inside the speaker, there is also built-in battery, which can’t be replaced (and this is not the biggest problem when battery is concerned, so keep reading).

 Things we like

Design and flashy lights

This speaker has classic boxy design and it is visually appealing but there is nothing too special until you turn on the lights which can light constantly (not so interesting option) or follow the beat which is really fun option and makes this speaker really special, particularly during the night.

Build quality of the housing

Housing is really sturdy, it is mostly made of hard industrial plastic and wood, there are some aluminum parts, and some metal reinforcements (frames, handles). The whole housing really looks compact and seems like it could take some beating. You can be sure that this housing is made to last, and if everything was built as good as the housing, this would be one of the best speakers on the market, but it would probably be much more expensive.

Bluetooth connection

The manufacturer didn’t provide the info on what version of Bluetooth was used, but claims that the maximum Bluetooth range is 100ft. In reality, it is much shorter than that, but the process of pairing and streaming music is very simple (you can practically intuitively pair your device with the speaker, without reading the manual), and we didn’t experience any problems regarding connection – no connection loss or interference.

NFC pairing

NFC pairing works like a charm, you just have to tap the NFC logo at the top of the speaker with your phone and you are connected and ready to stream some music. There were no complaints regarding this function. This is probably the only function that works well on almost every Bluetooth speaker.

Loudness

This thing can get really loud and that is the most important feature of Road Warrior. There is, unfortunately, one not so small problem. Drivers are not so great, and you can notice some distortion even when volume is at 60%. When you raise the volume up to some 85% the distortion becomes annoying. The good thing is that even at 80% volume, maximum SPL reaches 113 dBs, which is still incredibly loud.

DC power input and DC power cable

This is really nice feature, and we would like to see it more often, especially with this kind of monster speakers. It is really nice to have a backup option when you want to make some outdoor party and the battery is just not enough. DC power cable that comes in the package, and DC input on the rear panel really come in handy – party doesn’t have to stop, you just have to connect the speaker to your car’s power outlet and proceed.

FM radio

Using radio is maybe not so popular today as it was 30-40 years ago, but still, you have one more option, at least in case your phone breaks and you are somewhere outside. ION made really strong rubberized antenna, which can pick up some radio signals wherever you are.

 Things we don’t like

Sound quality

We have already mentioned this issue. The sound quality is at least questionable, and we think that ION should’ve done much better job. Mids suffer a lot because of strong bass, especially at high volumes. Even bass can get a little bit muddy when you crank up the volume. Highs are probably the best thing about the sound of this speaker, and they are pretty clean. The mids are definitely the biggest problem, so if you like bass-heavy music or techno music you might be satisfied with Road Warrior, but if you need well-balanced sound this one is not for you.

Drivers quality and durability

This is closely related to the distortion we mentioned earlier. Because of so much distortion at high volumes, we can only conclude that woofer and tweeter are not well-built, and it happened in the past that speakers got blown. Some previous customers complained about this exact issue.

Battery

The battery is the biggest issue along with sound quality. The manufacturer claims that battery can last up to 14 hours at moderate volume, and as you already know, higher volume means shorter battery life. At really high-volume, battery will last up to 5-6 hours, but only at first. It will weaken very fast, and after a couple of months it could become unusable – at least that’s something many customers complained about. The manufacturer says that this is lithium battery, but some customers expressed their doubts that this is, in fact, lead-acid battery.

No RCA ports

This speaker looks like something that DJs would like to have for some smaller gigs, especially because of the lights which really change the atmosphere. Unfortunately, ION didn’t include RCA port so there is no way to connect mixer or turntable.

Comparison Table


9. NYNE ROCK Bluetooth Speaker

NYNE ROCK

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Nyne is another young American audio equipment company. Nyne headquarters are in California, but we assume that most of their models are made in China. That doesn’t have to imply that Nyne makes poor quality products, and in fact, we’ve found one model that looks and performs really well. We are talking about their latest and loudest model of outdoor Bluetooth speakers – Nyne Rock. This is one nice-looking (maybe just a little bit weirdly shaped), durable speaker designed for outdoor use, which means it is rugged, weather resistant and loud enough.

 What’s in the box

Nyne Rock speaker is available in only black color. It comes in a pretty large box since this is not small and easily portable speaker, but it isn’t as big as some other ‘’monster” speakers on our list. It weighs 12 pounds, and it is 21 inches wide, 9.75 inches deep, and 6.75 inches high. Along with the speaker, you will get one AUX cable with 3.5mm gold-plated jacks (jacks are straight on one side and L-shaped on the other), power cable with battery adapter, and four different international power plugs.

The whole front panel, as well as the right and the left panel, are wrapped in flexible black aluminum mesh which protects the drivers, and on the sides, you will see rubberized bumpers which should provide additional protection. All the control buttons are located at the top – there are power button, speakerphone button (you can use them to answer/end calls), play/pause button, forward and rewind buttons (for skipping tracks), + and – buttons (for adjusting volume), and NFC pairing tag (for all the Android users). All the control buttons have bright LED backlights. On the rear panel, there is reinforced carrying handle at the top and rubberized cover at the bottom. Behind the cover there are AUX port (to connect your phone through 3.5mm audio cable), line out port (for connecting 2 or more Nyne speakers together to create a system), USB port (for charging your phone), Battery indicator button (when you press it, four battery status LEDs next to it will turn on), and in the corner, there is charging port.

Inside the speaker there are 4 drivers and large subwoofersubwoofer is in the middle, 2 woofers are symmetrically positioned right and left from the subwoofer, and 2 small tweeters are below the subwoofer. All the drivers are grouped in the middle, so you won’t get illusion of stereo sound, and it would be a good idea to buy 2 speakers and use one as the left and the other as the right speaker. On the left and right sides of the speaker, you will find 2 bass reflex ports, designed to improve the low-end sound. The battery is also built inside the speaker, so there is no option of replacing it.

 Things we like

Design

Nyne Rock speaker has really distinctive design, and there is no chance that you could possibly mistake it for some other. It almost looks like a part stolen from the Batmobile or something like that. If you like unusual things, you will love the shape of this speaker. It is not simple, but it is unique, and from the moment you see it, you can’t help but imagine yourself somewhere outside, at some park or at the beach, lying out there and listening to music.

Durability and IPX3 rating

Nyne Rock is mostly made of rubberized plastic with some metal reinforcements, but in spite of all the plastic, there were no complaints regarding durability. Most of the plastic parts are covered with some rubber-like material which provides additional protection. Thanks to that rubber and aluminum mesh, this speaker got IPX3 weather resistant rating (resistant to dust and water, and could also survive fall from smaller heights). IPX3 rating doesn’t mean that you can swim with it, the speaker won’t survive some significant amount of water, but a couple raindrops or maybe even accidental spilling of smaller amount of water should not damage it.

Sound quality at low and moderate volume (up to 70%)

Nyne Rock offers decent sound quality. It is definitely bass-oriented, and it is great choice for all of the bass heads. Mids are articulate, but not perfect, while the highs are pretty clean. So, the sound isn’t perfect but it is more than acceptable for most people. If you are an audiophile, this really isn’t the best choice for you.

Loudness

This speaker is one of the loudest in its price range (the same price range like AIWA EXOS9), although we don’t recommend cranking the volume up to the max since there is significant amount of distortion. Distortion isn’t unbearable, but it is noticeable, especially when you use it indoors. The maximum SPL reaches 107 dBs.

Possibility of connecting up to 4 Nyne speakers in a system

If you want even louder sound there is always an option to connect up to four Nyne Rock speakers together thanks to the line out port. This way, you will get nice surround sound, and enough loudness for bigger parties for up to 100 people.

Bluetooth connection and NFC pairing

Nyne Rock uses Bluetooth version 4.0, and it can be paired with any Bluetooth enabled device within 33ft range. The connection works just fine, there is no interference or signal loss, although the maximum range varies depending on the walls, weather conditions, etc. Speaker memorizes the last connected device and it will stream music automatically from this device whenever it is in range. Pairing is really simple, you just have to press and hold power button until the Bluetooth activates, and then find Rock speaker among the available Bluetooth devices and pair with it. There is also NFC function for Android users, so if you have Android phone just tap the NFC tag with your phone and you are ready to stream some music in 2 seconds.

Battery

Speaker has built-in lithium-metal battery which offers up to 10 hours of listening to music at moderate volume level. Duration of the battery significantly shortens if you crank the volume up, and it can last up to 5-6 hours at maximum volume. The battery is not replaceable, so if your battery stops working, you will have to either use the speaker only with AC adapter all the time or take it to some licensed repair center, so they could replace it for you.

Speakerphone button and built-in mic

This is one simple but handy additional function. Speakerphone button allows you to answer or end calls, and mic is built inside the speaker, and you can find it at the back, behind the rubberized cover. In spite of the odd position, the mic picks up voice just fine, and we haven’t experienced any problems in communication while using it.

 Things we don’t like

Distortion at high volumes

We’ve given you a hint about this issue already while we were talking about sound quality. Whenever the volume level goes above, let’s say 80-85%, there is very noticeable distortion, which is not that annoying, but it is present, and we don’t really recommend listening to music at such a high volume because it will shorten the lifespan of your speaker a lot, and you definitely won’t enjoy that sound, especially if you are using it indoors.

Comparison Table


10. Fluance Fi70 Bluetooth Speaker

Fluance Fi70

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Fluance is Canadian audio equipment company established in 1999. Fluance makes home theater systems, music systems, and turntables. The company made its name by making high-quality products from the best available materials and combining these materials with some hi-tech solutions. People from Fluance pay much attention to details and really work hard to make well-designed speakers. Fluance Fi70 Bluetooth speaker represents everything we said about Fluance. It is intriguingly designed speaker, with great sound quality and loudness, and great functionality. It is made for indoor use, and if you want to buy some home theater system or home music system this is truly great choice.

 What’s in the box

Fi70 speaker comes in a large box, and when we say large we mean huge. The weight of the box with all the contents is well over 90 pounds, so you will probably need some help to get the box into your home. Speaker itself weighs 81 pounds, and it is 29.5 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 23.2 inches high, and these are the dimensions without stand that comes in the package, and you can use the speaker with or without this stand. If you decide to assemble the stand and place the speaker on it, the height will be 36 inches. As you can see, this is one bulky speaker, and you will have to dedicate some space to it so if you have small house this speaker is probably not the best option.  Along with the speaker and the stand, you will get remote, 3ft long AUX cable with 3.5mm jacks on both ends, radio antennas, user manual, and 2-year warranty.

On the front panel, there is black aluminum grid that is magnetically attached to the speaker and can be removed easily. You can choose to use this grid or not, whatever suits best your aesthetic criteria – majority of customers prefer the looks without this grid. Near the top, there is small display which shows only some basic info – selected source (BT, AUX, AM, FM, OPTI) or clock. All the controls are on the top panel, these are touch-sensitive controls and they are not backlit which would be a nice detail. There are 8 buttons on the control panel – power, source, settings, track management buttons (rewind, play-pause, forward), and volume buttons. All the input ports are on the rear panel – there are AC input (which is the only way to power this speaker since there is no battery), ON/OFF switch, AUX input, Optical digital input (for connecting Apple TV or any device with optical output), radio inputs (for FM and AM antennas), and USB port (which can be used only for charging phones, and you can’t play the music from USB storage).

If you decide to remove the aluminum grid, you will see 6 drivers2 1-inch tweeters, 2 5-inch midrange drivers, and 2 8-inch subwoofers. At the back, there are 2 bass reflex ports in the upper left and upper right corners. Amplifiers are integrated and have rated power of 280W.

 Things we like

Design

Fi70 is probably the speaker with the most interesting design on this list, and it is one of the most interesting speakers on the market. This kind of elegant design have only some Harman-Kardon speakers and maybe some Bose speakers (although Bose prefers kind of futuristic design). You can consider this speaker not only a piece of audio equipment but also a piece of furniture. Speaker is available in three colors – black ash, lucky bamboo, and natural walnut.

Durability and quality of construction

Fi70 looks and feels very well made – it is compact, made mostly of wood, and there were no complaints regarding durability. It maybe looks slightly unstable when mounted on the stand, and you will have to be careful around it (not that it could fall if you even breed in its direction or if you accidentally push it, but you should still be careful).

Sound quality

This speaker provides incredibly clear and well-balanced sound. Bass is strong and punchy, mids are full (drivers need some time to burn in for better midrange-frequency response) and highs are clean and sparkling. There is also an option to adjust bass and treble, and you can find these controls on the remote (not on the speaker’s control panel). When sound quality is concerned, this speaker is definitely among the top 5 on this list.

Loudness

This speaker is not as loud as some other huge speakers. Its loudness can’t be compared to DiamondBoxx XL or Soundboks 1 (or even some smaller speakers), and it is in disproportion to its size. Maximum SPL level reaches 102-103dB, which is not impressive for that size, but it is still not that bad, especially when you bring sound quality into the equation.

Equalizer

One more feature of this speaker is the onboard equalizer, but you can’t really control different frequency bands, only bass and treble through Bass+/Bass- and Treble+/Treble- buttons on the remote control. If you are a bass-lover this feature could be quite handy.

Bluetooth and NFC pairing

Fi70 uses Bluetooth version 2.1 with EDR, and it works pretty good when you are within 15ft range, but anything further than that, especially if there are walls, will cause the loss of signal. This is probably the feature that needs some improvements, and newer Bluetooth version would be good solution. If your device stays in 15ft range (maybe 20ft), you won’t be having any problems. There is also NFC function available for Android phones, so you can pair your phone even quicker with the speaker just by tapping the NFC tag.

Radio function

Along with the speaker, you will get 2 antennas – one FM and one AM. You can search the stations by pressing forward and rewind buttons while you are in FM/AM mode, and you can even memorize the stations you like and set them as radio presets – whenever you find some station you like you can press the settings button until the MEM letters appear on the LED screen, and after that press forward-rewind buttons to choose the preset channel. When the screen start flashing, you should press settings button again, and you will have your radio preset.

Digital optical input

Since this speaker can be used only indoors as a music system or home theater system, it is only logical to connect it to your TV, so if you have optical output on your TV, this is the best option to connect these two devices and get the best possible sound. There is always an option to use Bluetooth for connecting your TV and speaker, but be aware that there will be some small sound delay (picture will be faster than the sound).

Remote

Remote is a nice touch, and it has also some additional buttons (bass and treble), so it is definitely not just a substitute for speaker’s controls, but really handy tool, especially when you consider control panel issue (read about this issue in ‘’Things we don’t like’’ section).

Clock, alarm, sleep timer

Even though these are really simple functions, no other speaker we mentioned has them, so we decided to give Fi70 some credit. Functions are really nice touch, and you can easily set the time, sleep timer, and alarm by using settings button and forward/rewind buttons.

 Things we don’t like

Controls sensitivity

Aside from disproportion between size and loudness (which is really not such a big issue), the only problem we experienced with this speaker is related to the controls on the top of the speaker. The idea to include touch-sensitive controls is not bad, and the buttons look really stylish but they seem not sensitive enough, or there is some specific way of pressing them that we haven’t mastered. Anyway, it is probably smarter to use the remote whenever you can, and not get annoyed by the control panel.

Comparison Table


11. Sony GTKXB90 High Power Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Sony GTKXB90

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GTK-XB90 is the best and the most advanced large Bluetooth party speaker made by Sony. It’s one of the coolest speakers on this list, mainly because of those crazy lights. The speaker has many useful features (mic and RCA inputs, USB port, built-in battery). It can also be wirelessly paired with any speaker from the XB series, but it’s preferred to pair it with other XB90 speakers. The best thing is the price. XB90 is priced under $400 and it’s in the same price range as Aiwa Exos-9, Peachtree Audio deepblue3, Altec Lansing Xpedition 8, etc. It’s much cheaper than the loudest speakers on our list SOUNDBOKS 2 and DiamondBoxx XL. In fact, you can almost buy 3 XB90 for the price of one SOUNDBOKS 2.

 What’s in the box?

The packaging looks nice and stylish. Inside of it, you will find your speaker, power/charging cord, user manual and other paperwork, and 1-year warranty. You won’t get any accessories. Sony is not as generous as some other manufacturers and you will have to buy all the cables separately. The same thing applies to microphone.

The speaker is quite heavy and large. At 30lb, XB90 is one of the heavier speakers on this list. The dimensions are 13.3×26.5×13.3in (WxHxD).

There are 5 drivers inside the speaker (2 7.5in woofers and 3 2.4in tweeters) but not all five are active at the same time. Depending on the position of the speaker (you can place it either vertically or horizontally), 4 drivers will be active (two woofers and two tweeters).

The front panel is protected with a transparent aluminum grille. You can see all the drivers and all the lights. That was probably the point of the transparent grille – it’s supposed to protect the drivers but not to interfere with the lightshow.

On the left and right panels, you will see two embossed Sony logos.

All the control buttons are on the top. There are 9 buttons, which may seem too much at first, but you will learn how to use them in no time. Besides those standard buttons (power, volume, pairing, play/pause/call), you also have the buttons that activate those additional features (EXTRA BASS, Stamina (activates stamina mode which is basically the battery-saving mode), ADD and PARTY CHAIN buttons). Three LED source indicators are located next to the pairing button.

The inputs/outputs are located on the back. You have a set of RCA inputs and outputs (you can use them to connect some analog audio source or to connect two XB90 speakers together for stereo playback). There is also one mic input with the mic volume knob, party chain button, and a USB port (for music playback and for charging).

 Things we like

Design

XB90 is one of the best-looking speakers on this list, even when the lights are off. It’s boxy but the edges are nicely rounded and the whole speaker is slightly angled upward. When you turn on the lights, the shape and design don’t matter that much. All you can look at are those crazy lights.

Easy-to-use controls

Some of you might want something simple (like the SOUNDBOKS 2), but if you want more features, you will have to deal with more buttons. After a few days of use, you will get used to all those buttons.

Bluetooth connection

XB90 utilizes Bluetooth 4.2 and the advertised range is 33ft. You can pair your phone with the speaker in no more than 10s or you can use the NFC quick pairing feature and you will be ready to play the music in less than 5 seconds. The Bluetooth connection works flawlessly as long as you are within the range. XB90 can also be wirelessly paired with another or multiple XB90 speakers and you can choose between stereo and party modes. The manufacturer also claims that you can pair it with other speakers from the XB series, but we have experienced some issues.

Versatile connectivity

Besides the Bluetooth, there is one RCA input so you can connect any non-Bluetooth analog audio source. Also, there’s a USB port and you can use it to play the music from a USB flash drive. In the end, you even have a mic input. If you want to make a karaoke party, you will have to buy some microphone (it’s not included).

Built-in battery

There is one 2,500mAh battery inside the speaker. This is not an impressive capacity for the speaker of this size. You can get 16 hours at moderate volumes, but only 3-4 hours at max volume. You can prolong the playtime by activating the stamina feature, but that will limit the max volume and make the speaker really quiet.

Loudness

XB90 can go up to 103dB which is not comparable to SOUNDBOKS 2 or DiamondBoxx XL, but it’s pretty loud. If you are about to make a large party, you will need at least 2 (preferably four). The only problem is that the sound becomes distorted (because of too much bass) at high volumes. It’s still bassy but the mids are muddied.

Bassy sound – perfect for parties

This speaker is made for parties and it’s tuned to be bassy. Even without Extra Bass, the lows are punchy and powerful. The mids and highs are recessed and lack some clarity. The mids are pretty clear at low volumes, but when you crank it up, the bass becomes too strong and it tends to overshadow a great portion of the midrange.

Comes with 2 apps – Fiestable and Sony Music App

You don’t really need Fiestable. It’s used only for some DJ sound effects. I mean, it’s fun at first, but it’s not really useful. If you want to adjust the lighting (change colors) or make EQ adjustments, you should use the Sony Music app.  

Built-in mic/speakerphone

The speakerphone feature was not really necessary since this is a party speaker, but it’s useful and works as it’s supposed to.

 Things we don’t like

Not as rugged as some other party Bluetooth speakers

To be honest, the construction quality is on par with the price and it’s pretty good when you compare it to other large speakers at this price point. We just don’t think it’s on par with other speakers of the same size. It’s not rugged, the grille doesn’t seem thick enough, and the speaker is not waterproof.

It lacks digital inputs and AUX input

You won’t find any digital inputs on the rear panel. Also, you won’t find AUX input (which is one of the most common inputs), but you can always connect your audio source with an AUX output (mp3 player, for example) to the speaker via 3.5mm to RCA cable.

You have to install the app if you want to control the lighting

There are no lighting buttons on the speaker itself and if you want to change the lighting mode or the color of the lights, you have to use the app. The same thing applies to EQ settings.

Wireless linking doesn’t work flawlessly

You can easily pair two XB90 speakers and play them in stereo or party mode, but pairing two different speakers from the XB series is problematic. For example, you can pair one XB90 with one XB60, but there will always be some sound lag (they won’t be synchronized). So, it’s recommended to pair your XB90 with other XB90 speakers.

Comparison Table


12. Altec Lansing ALP-XP800 Xpedition 8

Altec Lansing ALP-XP800 Xpedition 8

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In many ways, Xpedition 8 is very similar to the previously reviewed Sony GTK-XB90. They both have similar design, the driver arrangement inside the housings is basically the same, and they also have many features in common. What makes Xpedition 8 better for outdoor use (outdoor parties, tailgating, etc.) is the IP certification. This unit is fully waterproof and dustproof (IP67) and it’s much more rugged than the XB90.

 What’s in the box?

Inside a large package, you will find your Xpedition 8 speaker, two charging/power cables (one standard AC cable and one DC cable for car charging), instructions, and 1-year warranty.

Xpedition 8 is lighter but slightly larger than the XB90. The dimensions are 28x13x15 (WxHxD) and the weight is 25 pounds. Just like XB90, the speaker can be placed vertically or horizontally.

Xpedition 8 has 5 drivers – 2 8in woofers and 3 1in tweeters. Two out of three tweeters are active at a time.

All the drivers and controls are located on the front panel. Both woofers are protected with an aluminum mesh and they are both surrounded by lights. The strobe lights are located on the left and right ends (or top and bottom – it depends on how you place it). The control panel is located in the middle and it separates two woofers. There are 6 buttons (power, strobe, lights, link, beast, and pairing) and one multipurpose octagonal volume/lighting knob. Around the knob, there’s an intuitive LED ring divided into 12 fields. Based on this LED ring and on the number of lighted fields, you can tell the volume level and battery status.

Right, left, and top panels are all very rugged and there’s a very strong handle on each panel.

The rear panel is reserved for inputs. They are located right in the middle and covered with a waterproof cap. Underneath the cap, you will see one AUX input, one USB charging port, one AC and one DC input. On the back, you will also find two passive bass radiators protected with black grilles.

 Things we like

Design

The speaker has the same basic shape as the XB90 with a slightly upward-angled enclosure. In our opinion, XB90 has a little bit more sophisticated look, while the Xpedition 8 features more rugged and more robust design. What makes Xpedition 8 really interesting is the light show, which is basically the same as the XB90’s light show.  

Durability/Waterproof/Dustproof

This is one of the features that make Xpedition 8 really special. Some of the previous speakers were rugged and durable, but Xpedition 8 is one of the rare speakers that’s actually completely waterproof and dustproof and it has IP67 certificate to confirm that. On top of all that, Xpedition 8 can float. So, if you accidentally drop it into the pool, or if you throw it intentionally, it won’t sink to the bottom.  

Simple Controls

The control buttons are nicely arranged, responsive, and very simple to use. You won’t be able to adjust the bass, treble, or midrange or to play with different EQ modes/presets, but you can always install some EQ app and change the sound signature with your phone.

Bluetooth connectivity

You can pair your phone with the Xpedition 8 wirelessly via Bluetooth. The advertised range is around 100ft (it gets shorter with obstacles and interference but you should be able to get at least 50ft). If your phone features NFC, you can simply tap the NFC logo on the speaker and you will be paired in seconds. The speaker also supports daisy chaining. You can pair two Xpedition 8 speakers and get a louder sound. You cannot pair multiple speakers together and you cannot choose between stereo and party mode when two speakers are paired together.

Built-in battery/Portable

The battery capacity is 5,000mAh. It’s significantly larger than the battery inside GTK-XB90 and it can deliver 14h of playback at moderate volumes (40-50%) if the lights are turned off. You can get up to 5 hours at 80% volume (with the lights on), which is pretty good. It’s not recommended to go over 80% or 90% volume – the distortion becomes really noticeable, especially in BEAST mode.

USB charge out port

This is a nice and useful feature. It’s not the most important one, obviously, but it’s better to have it than not to. In case your phone runs out of juice, you can always open that waterproof cap on the back side, and charge it.

Lightshow

Who doesn’t like the lights? The light show is similar to XB90 and it’s really fun to look at. If you don’t want to buy or rent lighting equipment for your parties, buying a speaker (or speakers) with built-in lights is a convenient and cost-effective option.

Loudness

When it comes to loudness, this one doesn’t come close to SOUNDBOKS 2 or DiamondBoxx XL, but it’s still pretty loud. We’ve pushed it to 106dB. That’s the point when the distortion kicks in really hard. There was 10-15% of volume left and you can definitely get a few more dBs if you crank it up, but the distortion is really noticeable.

Sound quality

Xpedition 8 is a bass-heavy speaker which is not a surprise considering the fact that it’s designed for parties, especially for outdoor parties. The bass is massive and very thick. Unfortunately, it tends to overshadow the low midrange, which is particularly noticeable when the BEAST mode is active.

The rest of the midrange is slightly elevated and pretty detailed. Most of the voices are perfectly clear and dynamic.

The treble is there and it definitely has some impact, but it lacks some detail and clarity.

To conclude, this is not an audiophile speaker with a perfectly flat response. This is a party speaker and the most important thing for a party speaker is the bass. Xpedition 8 can deliver plenty of it.

 Things we don’t like

It lacks mic input

If you are into karaoke, this is not the speaker for you since it doesn’t have a mic input. If you are looking for a large, loud, and portable karaoke speaker with lights, you should check out Sony GTK-XB90.

The playtime is shorter than advertised

The advertised playtime is 24h and you can maybe get those 24 hours if the volume never goes over 30%. At 50%, you will get up to 14hours but only if the lights are off. Since this is a party speaker, the manufacturer should offer some real playtime numbers at high volumes. You will get up to 5 hours at 80% which is decent (better than XB90) but it’s far from the advertised 24h.

Comparison Table


13. JBL Boombox Portable Bluetooth Waterproof Speaker

JBL Boombox

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Along with the JBL PartyBox 300 (introduced a few months ago), JBL Boombox is the biggest and loudest portable Bluetooth speaker made by JBL. If you want something louder than your old JBL Xtreme or UE MEGABOOM, and you are into bassy sound, JBL Boombox is a great choice. There are a lot of good things about this speaker, but the greatest highlights are 20Ah battery, build quality, wireless connectivity and, of course, loudness. JBL Boombox is priced under $400. The greatest rivals at this price point are Aiwa Exos-9, deepblue3, Marshall Woburn, and BRAVEN BRV-XXL. Each of these speakers has its own strengths and weaknesses, but if you are looking for something that can be used outdoors, that’s very rugged and waterproof, then you should choose either JBL Boombox or Braven BRV-XXL. Some other speakers can be used outdoors, too but they are not waterproof.

 What’s in the box?

The speaker comes in a recognizable JBL-branded box along with charging/power cable and adapter, user manual, and a warranty card.

The speaker is kind of heavy, but it’s not something that an average person can’t handle. It weighs almost 12lb, and the dimensions are 19.5x10x7.7in (WxHxD).

The speaker has 4 drivers2 4in woofers and 2 0.8in tweeters. It also has two passive bass radiators that look the same as passive bass radiators on smaller JBL portable speakers.

The speaker is very compact and looks quite stylish. It’s almost entirely wrapped in that recognizable waterproof fabric we’ve seen on other JBL speakers. The speaker is placed on a rubberized stand.

On the front side, you will see 6 buttons (Bluetooth, 2 volume buttons, power, JBL Connect button, and play/pause/call button). In the middle, there’s a small JBL logo and, at the bottom, you will see five small LED battery indicators.

On the back, you will see the indoor/outdoor switch and a rubber flap protecting the inputs. When you open it, you will see the charging port, AUX input, 2 powerbank ports (for charging phones and other devices), and one micro USB port for firmware updates.

 Things we like

Design

JBL Boombox is basically a supersized JBL Charge. It basically features the same kind of recognizable cylindrical shape. The only difference is that the Boombox has a handle. It’s very likable, just like all the previous JBL portable speakers.

Impressive construction quality (IPX7-certified)

As we’ve said, the whole speaker is wrapped in waterproof fabric which protects the drivers and other internal components. This fabric makes the speaker fully waterproof (IPX7-certified). It also makes it perfect for pool parties and outdoor parties in general. It’s maybe not as rugged as Xpedition 8, but it looks solid and very durable.

Simple controls

The control buttons look the same as control buttons on other JBL speakers. They are responsive and simple to use. You don’t even have to read the manual – everything is pretty much self-explanatory.

Bluetooth connection

JBL Boombox utilizes Bluetooth 4.2 with a 50ft range (under ideal conditions – line of sight). The connection is stable and strong. The pairing is done in a few seconds. Quick pairing (NFC) is not supported.

Wireless daisy chaining

In case you have two or more JBL Boombox speakers, you can pair them wirelessly and play the music in stereo or party mode. Theoretically, you can connect more than 100 JBL Connect+ speakers (not only 2 or multiple JBL Boomboxes).

Additional AUX input for non-Bluetooth devices

If you want to connect your mp3 player or some other non-Bluetooth device, you can use that AUX input located beneath the flap. It’s important to remember that the speaker is not waterproof if the rubber flap is open.

Very large battery – excellent playtime

This is one of the biggest highlights of this speaker. The manufacturer packed a huge 20Ah battery inside the Boombox. Thanks to such a large battery, you will get approx. 22h at 50% volume and up to 10h at max volume. The recharge takes 6-7 hours.

USB powerbank ports

JBL Boombox features 2 powerbank ports, which means that you can charge two phones and listen to music at the same time.

Built-in mic

The speakerphone feature is not really that important for a party speaker, but it can be useful sometimes. The mic delivers satisfying performance.

It comes with the JBL Connect app

You can use this app to choose between stereo and party mode when two speakers are paired wirelessly. Also, you can use it to pair multiple Boomboxes together and you can use it to control the playback and change/select the sound mode (indoor or outdoor).

Loudness

JBL Boombox can’t compete with the monster speakers (SOUNDBOKS 2, DiamondBoxx XL), but it can be pretty loud and it’s comparable to other speakers within the price range. We have managed to get 101dB at approx. 90% volume. Anything higher/louder than that will cause too much distortion. Even before you reach 90% (somewhere around 70%), you will notice some distortion.  

Bassy sound

It’s the kind of sound that’s great for parties but not so great for casual listening. The outdoor mode is particularly bass-heavy. The bass tends to overpower the low mids at high volumes. The treble is also emphasized and, in some cases, a bit too bright and even harsh.

There are two sound modes (2 EQ presets) – indoor and outdoor. Outdoor mode elevates the bass response (upper bass and low mids) and makes it punchier, while the indoor mode flattens the frequency response and removes bass and treble peaks.

 Things we don’t like

It doesn’t deliver 360-degree sound

In a way, the shape of this speaker implies that it can deliver 360-degree sound, but that’s not going to happen because all the drivers are located on the front panel.

You can’t change/adjust the EQ settings through the app

You can only shift between indoor and outdoor modes. You can’t customize the EQ settings or choose some other preset.

Comparison Table


14. ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77)

ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77)

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This is one of the highest-rated ION speakers, probably because of the price/performance ratio. This speaker really offers a lot of features and a pretty loud sound at a reasonable price (priced under $150). As the name implies, this unit is perfect for tailgating and other outdoor events.

 What’s in the box?

iPA77 comes in a large 19-pound box. You will also get one audio cable (3.5mm to 3.5mm), charging cable, wired microphone, user manual, and 1-year warranty.

The speaker is boxy and kind of heavy. It weighs more than 16lb, and the dimensions are 9.4×12.8×12.5in (WxHxD).

The speaker has one 6in woofer and one tweeter.

80% of the front panel is covered with an aluminum grille. The grille is very hard and inflexible. Right above the grille, there’s an angled control panel with a small LED screen. All the control buttons and inputs are located here. You have 5 buttons (Bluetooth, radio, 2 track/tuning buttons, and play/pause button), 2 volume knobs (one for mic and the other for speaker volume). You will also see AUX and MIC inputs and a USB powerbank port. The LED screen gives you some basic info – battery status, radio frequency, Bluetooth status.  

Two strong carrying handles are located on the left and on the right side, while the AC/charging input and power switch are located on the rear panel.

 Things we like

Simple boxy design

There’s nothing flashy about the design. It’s black and it’s boxy. If you prefer something fancier or something with lights, you should look elsewhere and, you should probably pay more.  

Pretty good construction quality

iPA77 is not the most durable speaker on the market but it’s pretty rugged. The enclosure is thick and hard, and every corner is reinforced with aluminum which is a simple but important detail. Unlike some other outdoor speakers, this one is not waterproof/dustproof which could be a deal breaker for some buyers. All in all, the build quality is actually quite impressive considering the price.

Bluetooth connectivity

iPA77 utilizes Bluetooth 4.0 with up to 100ft range. The speaker also supports fast pairing (NFC feature). It doesn’t support multipoint pairing and you can’t pair two or multiple speakers together for louder sound, but that’s not you should expect at this price point.

AUX input for non-Bluetooth devices + MIC input

If you want to connect a non-Bluetooth device, you can use the AUX input and if you want to throw a karaoke party, you can connect your mic to the MIC input. The manufacturer was thoughtful enough to include one wired microphone. It’s not the best mic you could get, but it’s good enough for occasional use.

Large battery

The battery is pretty good. It has the capacity of 5Ah and it can deliver up to 35 hours at moderate volumes. You will get less than 8h at full volume. Our only complaint regarding the battery is that the manufacturer used Lead-acid battery and not Li-ion (we will discuss this in the next section).

USB powerbank port

There’s one powerbank port on the control panel and you can use it to charge various devices.

AM/FM tuner

AM/FM tuner is one of the common features of ION Audio speakers. Most of us are probably more into internet radio and podcasts than into old-school radios, but there’s at least 5% of people that like doing things the old way and they will know to appreciate this feature.

Loudness

iPA77 is pretty loud for its size. It can go up to 99dB without too much distortion. It can actually be a little bit louder than that, but the distortion becomes really noticeable, almost distracting around 100dB.

Sound quality

Sound quality is on par with the price. The sound is punchy and bass-driven. The rest of the frequency spectrum is clear and dynamic (but not detailed enough) at moderate volumes but it gets pretty muffled and overpowered by the bass (especially the low midrange).

Price

If you can’t pay more than $150, this is the speaker for you. You will hardly find something louder at this price point.

 Things we don’t like

No EQ presets/settings

This is not a big issue since you can always download and install some EQ app from the App Store and play with sound.

Poor AM/FM reception

Well, this actually depends on your location. There’s a lot of static noise, especially in the AM spectrum. FM is significantly better and we’ve been able to find 15 perfectly clear stations.

Not waterproof

iPA is rugged but it’s not IPX certified (it’s not fully waterproof). It would be smart to keep it away from the water.

Lead-acid battery

Instead of Li-ion batteries, all the ION speakers use Lead-acid batteries. The problem with Lead-acid batteries is that they are less durable and have a shorter lifespan. You will eventually have to buy a replacement battery.

Comparison Table


15. ECOXGEAR GDI-EXBM901 – Eco Boulder

ECOXGEAR GDI-EXBM901

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Just like iPA77, ECOXGEAR GDI-EXBM901 is a great choice for tailgating and outdoor use in general and it’s also quite affordable (priced under $250). In terms of durability and construction quality, Eco Boulder is even better than the iPA77 (it’s fully waterproof and dustproof). It is also significantly louder (112dB), and has some nice additional features we are going to discuss in this review.

 What’s in the box?

Eco Boulder comes in a large 30-pound box along with a charging cable, user manual, and 3-year warranty. The speaker features mic input but the microphone is not included. Also, audio cables are not included.

The speaker weighs 27lb and its dimensions are 15.5×19.8×11.3 (WxHxD).

Eco Boulder has two drivers – one 8in woofer and one 3in tweeter (on the front panel) and one passive bass radiator (on the rear panel).

Eco Boulder is incredibly compact and very rugged. The whole front panel is covered with a strong aluminum mesh.

On the top, you will see two carrying handles and a large control panel with a small LED screen in the middle. There’s a bunch of buttons (18 to be precise) and they are all backlit. It takes some time to get used to the controls, but it’s not that hard – the controls are pretty much intuitive.

On the left panel, you will see two waterproof caps. The first one protects the inputs (AUX, MIC, powerbank USB port) while the second one protects the charging port.

On the right panel, there’s a large waterproof compartment where you can leave your phone or your documents or money if you don’t want them to get wet. Inside this compartment, you will find one more AUX input and one more USB powerbank port. So, in total, you have 2 AUX inputs, 2 USB powerbank ports, and one mic input.

On the back panel, there’s one large passive bass radiator and a retractable handle.

On the bottom, you will see two rugged wheels which is a nice and thoughtful detail. So, you don’t have to carry the speaker around you can simply extend that handle and pull it like a suitcase.

 Things we like

Design

Eco Boulder is a simple, compact, and boxy speaker. The way this speaker is made implies that it’s very durable. There are a lot of reinforcements and metal parts. The manufacturer decided to put the carrying handles on top – that’s a simple detail that makes this speaker recognizable.

Build quality

Eco Boulder is very solid and incredibly rugged. We have absolutely no complaints regarding construction quality. You may or may not like the design, but it’s impossible not to appreciate this kind of durability. The speaker is IP67 certified – it is fully dustproof and waterproof.

Controls/backlit control buttons

The control panel is maybe a bit confusing, but once you get used to all those buttons, it will become much easier. The buttons are responsive. There’s a nice icon on each button that explains its function. All the buttons are backlit so you don’t have to memorize their positions. In the middle of the control panel, you will see a small LED screen with some basic information (battery status, source, radio frequency, etc.).

Portability – built-in carrying handles as well as telescopic handle and wheels

The manufacturer really did everything to make this speaker portable. You have those standard carrying handles you can find on every large speaker, but you also have a telescopic handle and strong wheels. So, if you are not strong enough or don’t want to waste your energy, you can easily extract that handle and pull the speaker like a suitcase.

Bluetooth connectivity

The speaker utilizes Bluetooth 4.1 with up to 100ft range (under ideal conditions and without obstacles). The pairing is fast and simple as always. NFC quick pairing is not supported.

You can wirelessly pair two Eco Boulders in Bluetooth mode (ECOCONNECT feature) and get a louder sound. You can’t pair multiple speakers together (party mode is not supported).

Two AUX inputs + MIC input

If you want to connect some non-Bluetooth device, you can use one of two AUX inputs and if you want to throw a karaoke party, you have a mic input. You will have to buy that mic separately – it’s not included in the package.

Powerful battery

Eco Boulder has a large 7Ah Li-ion battery. You will get 8h of playback at full volume or up to 20h at 40-50% volume. The recharge takes almost 8 hours.

Loudness

Eco Boulder can be really loud. We have reached 112dB at full volume, but you should keep the volume at 80-90%. The distortion becomes really noticeable around 80%.

Sound quality

It’s not on par with durability and construction quality, but it’s not awful. The bass is punchy but not incredibly powerful. It’s maybe even a little bit recessed. The mids are clear and dynamic but not perfectly detailed. The highs are nicely balanced with the mids. They are not bright or painful.

 Things we don’t like

Poor AM reception

Reception depends a lot on your location, but we’ve been struggling to find some clear AM station. We have managed to find some with a small amount of noise. The FM tuner worked fine.

ECONCONNECT doesn’t work in AUX mode

You can pair two speakers and play them together only in Bluetooth mode. You won’t be able to pair two speakers together and play the music from a non-Bluetooth audio source via AUX input.

Comparison Table


SPECIAL MENTION

16. Teufel Rockster

Teufel Rockster

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We have decided to mention one more speaker. It’s made by the German audio manufacturer called Teufel. The speaker’s name is Rockster. We didn’t test it and that’s why it’s not on the list. But, based on the reviews, sound tests, and comparison test (SOUNDBOKS 2 VS Rockster) we’ve seen on YouTube, this speaker deserves to be mentioned.

Rockster is one of the largest and heaviest Bluetooth speakers on the market. It’s larger than the SOUNDBOKS 2 and heavier than DiamondBoxx XL. It weighs 70 pounds and it’s 22.8in wide, 34.3in tall, and 18.5in deep. The enclosure is made of plastic and MDF.

Rockster has 2 drivers – one 15in woofer and one 1in horn tweeter. RMS output power is 440W and the max SPL is 122dB.

The speaker features 3.5mm and 6.3mm inputs as well as headphone (3.5mm) output and RCA inputs. It also features XLR mic input and two XLR outputs (for connecting two or 3 Rockster speakers together). You will also see one USB powerbank port for charging.

This speaker gives you more control over the sound than any other speaker on our list. On the top panel, you will see 11 knobs including low, mid, and high knobs for two channels.

The speaker has a built-in battery that delivers 30h of playtime per one charge (probably at 50% volume).

You can connect multiple Rocksters together, but you will need some cables to do that (sold separately). You can connect up to four speakers together (in so-called slave mode).

The speaker features Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX support.

There are a few things to think about before you buy this speaker. First, you should know that it’s made and sold in Europe. You can order it from German Amazon or from the manufacturer’s website, but the shipping costs will be high. It’s currently priced under $1,200 but you should also consider all the additional costs. You will have to think about the shipping price and about duties and taxes.  Also, you will have to buy some voltage transformer since this speaker supports only 230V power supply. If you are ok with all these additional costs, then go for it.

Comparison Table


This was our list of top 16 loudest Bluetooth speakers. We have tried to present to you all their important features, but also some flaws we managed to discover. Although we were guided by the loudness of the speakers we didn’t neglect other characteristics like sound quality, connectivity, and available ports, and you shouldn’t also. Loudness is definitely not everything, and there are many other things you should pay attention to when buying Bluetooth speaker. Just like we explained all the important things about loudness and speakers’ power ratings in the introduction, we are now going explain some other things you should look for in a Bluetooth speaker depending on your needs.

So, let’s now list all the possible purposes Bluetooth speakers could have.

The majority of people are looking for portable Bluetooth speakers that could be carried wherever they go. If you want a speaker that could be used outside, at picnics or when camping, you should be looking for a lightweight speaker, with durable battery, good sound quality, and stable Bluetooth connection (like Peachtree DEEPBLUE2 and NYNE Rock). All the other functions can be considered a plus, but these we mentioned are absolutely necessary. If you need the speaker for outdoor use, and not for some smaller events (like picnics) but for parties (pool parties, beach parties, barbeque parties) you should add loudness to the list of required features and probably remove lightweight, since really loud speakers tend to be really bulky (like Soundboks 1 or DiamondBoxx XL). Great additional feature for any loud (party) speaker is any kind of IPX splash-proof/waterproof/dustproof rating, and IP67 would be the best you can get (completely waterproof and dustproof). When the speaker has only IPX3 or IPX4 rating, it’s a good thing, but it means that the speaker could only survive small splashes of water or some light rain. Speakers with IPX7 rating are perfect for pool parties since they can even survive serious immersion, but for beach parties you should have speaker that is also dustproof.

Recommended Reading :

 

If you are planning to use your Bluetooth speaker indoors, then the weight, battery durability, or waterproof/dustproof rating are not really that important, but the sound quality and connection quality become even more important, along with loudness. You can use your indoor speakers as a music system, home theater system, or multi-room system. If you want to use your speakers as a music system, then Bluetooth speakers might be really good option, but if you want to use them as home theater system or multi-room system Bluetooth connection might not be the best option. If you have Apple TV or some other modern HDTV, and you want to buy Bluetooth speakers and use them as home theater system, you should be looking for speakers with digital optical input, since you will get much better sound and no sound delay. In case you connect your TV and your speaker via Bluetooth, you will definitely get some sound delay (picture will be faster than the sound), and depending on the Bluetooth version delay can be really noticeable and annoying (newer versions are of course better than the old ones, but we will elaborate on that later). For the same reason, Bluetooth connection is probably not the best option for multi-room system since there is great possibility that you won’t be able to synchronize all the speakers (you will experience delay issues again). So, if you want to install multi-room system, it would be better to use speakers with wi-fi connection (like Bose SoundTouch 30).

Important features you should be looking for when buying Bluetooth speakers (depending on the purpose)

Is the Bluetooth version important?

You have probably noticed that we’ve been mentioning Bluetooth connection quality quite a lot, and in case you’ve been wondering why, here is an explanation. Every audio that comes out of a Bluetooth speaker has to be compressed to some extent, and as a result of that compression, the audio quality gets diminished. Newer Bluetooth versions have higher data transfer rates, and as a result of that, less compression is applied and audio quality is better. The oldest Bluetooth version that is still in use is V2.1, and it has the ability to transfer data at speeds of 2Mbps, and the maximum distance between the Bluetooth enabled device and the speaker must be less than 33ft. The newest Bluetooth version that is in use is V4.2, and it allows much faster data transfer and transmission distance (up to 100m). In 2017, version 5.0 was released, and this version should allow even faster data transfer and larger transmission distance. One more thing that depends on Bluetooth version (except the audio quality and connection range) is battery durability (or power consumption). Older Bluetooth versions have higher power consumption, so if your Bluetooth speaker is battery-powered, the battery will last longer if your speaker uses newer Bluetooth version. Based on what we’ve said, it is always better option to buy speaker with newer Bluetooth version – audio quality will be better, connection distance will be longer, and power consumption will be smaller (battery will last longer).

What are tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers?

These are the terms that we have also mentioned more than once. So, in case you’ve been wondering what are tweeters, woofers, and subwoofers, here comes the explanation.

All three of them are speakers, and you can differentiate them by their size and by the sound they produce. Tweeters are the smallest (usually 1-inch or a little bit larger) speakers and they are in charge of producing high-frequency sound, usually everything above 2kHz or 3kHz. Woofers are much bigger speakers (the size can vary from 4 inches to even 15 inches in diameter), and they are in charge of producing low-frequency sound (from 20Hz to 2kHz or 3kHz). Woofers must be enclosed in their own housings in order to increase low-frequency sound quality and reduce distortion by preventing sound waves from crossing and ensuring that woofers can always get enough air for all the movement they do. These enclosures can be divided into two groups – sealed and ported. In sealed enclosures, the air that woofers produce stays inside, and you will usually get cleaner and crispier sound with sealed enclosures, but speakers with sealed enclosures can’t get really loud. Ported enclosures allow air to escape through the ports (usually at the rear panel of the speaker), and speakers with ported enclosures usually produce muddier bass, but they can be much louder. Some speaker systems have one more speaker called subwoofer, which is in charge of producing only really low-frequency sound (from 20Hz to 200Hz). The subwoofer can be essential component of a well-balanced speaker system, and can add impact and depth to the bass (so if you are watching a movie and you have your home theater system hooked up to your TV, you will really feel the explosions or earthquakes if you have good subwoofer). In order for all these speakers to produce the sound appropriately, there is one more device called crossover inside the speakers. Crossover ‘’decides’’ which speaker should produce which sound. They are basically electronic circuits with set border frequency, and they assign the signal with lower frequency than the border to a woofer, and the signal with higher frequency to a tweeter. The border frequency is usually set at 2 or 3kHz.

This concludes our article on top 16 loudest Bluetooth speakers. We hope that after all the things you’ve read, you have at least slightly better understanding of what are the most important features to look for when buying loud Bluetooth speaker.


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Meze Audio 99 Neo Review – Awards https://www.audioreputation.com/meze-audio-99-neo/ https://www.audioreputation.com/meze-audio-99-neo/#respond Thu, 07 Feb 2019 10:31:16 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4331 Did you know they make great headphones in Romania? No, we’re not talking about that new Sennheiser’s factory. We’re talking about the Meze Audio, a Romanian headphone/earphone manufacturer based in Baia Mare in Northwest Romania. The company was founded in 2009. They’ve struggled a few years to make a breakthrough, but after the introduction of […]

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Audio Reputation AwardsDid you know they make great headphones in Romania? No, we’re not talking about that new Sennheiser’s factory. We’re talking about the Meze Audio, a Romanian headphone/earphone manufacturer based in Baia Mare in Northwest Romania. The company was founded in 2009. They’ve struggled a few years to make a breakthrough, but after the introduction of 99 Classics in 2015, Meze has become a recognizable name in the audio industry. 99 Classics received many awards and were praised by many customers as one of the best-looking and best-sounding headphones in their category. The only problem was their price. It’s not like they were crazy expensive, but most people don’t really want to spend more than $300 on a pair of headphones.

So, the people from Meze Audio decided to expand their reach and make a cheaper version of their successful 99 Classics model. The new version was named 99 Neo and that’s the headphone model we are about to review. They are priced around $200 which is a significant difference compared to 99 Classics. For $100 less, you will get the same look, design, and build quality with only one visual difference. If you want to save 100 bucks and you really like the design of the 99 Classics, Meze Audio 99 Neo is a great alternative.

Meze Audio 99 Neo are one of the best-looking headphones under $200 on the market. They basically look the same as their predecessor – the 99 Classics. The only difference is that the cups are made of ABS plastic instead of wood. Naturally, the wooden cups look more sophisticated, but those plastic matte black cups don’t look bad at all. We were truly dazzled by the design of 99 Neo. The manufacturer was very meticulous about the appearance and paid attention to every little detail. The result is this beautiful headphone model.

The headphones are incredibly solid. There are a lot of metal parts and everything is replaceable/serviceable.  Also, Meze paid a lot of attention to comfort. 99 Neo headphones are great for long listening sessions.

Meze Audio 99 Neo headphones deliver very pleasant sound with a slight emphasis on the mid-bass frequencies. The mids are dynamic and rich. The highs are nicely incorporated with the mids. They are clear and detailed, and never too bright or painful. The headphones don’t really deliver perfectly flat sound, but it’s very pleasant and enjoyable.

Meze Audio 99 Neo

Check Price on Amazon

UPSIDES

  • Unique and attractive design
  • Impressive build quality
  • Great comfort
  • Relatively flat frequency response with a mid-bass emphasis
  • Above-average noise isolation
  • Super-easy to drive

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Not foldable
  • Bass tends to bleed into the low midrange when the bass-heavy music is played

 
VERDICT

Meze Audio 99 Neo headphones represent the combination of breathtaking design, spectacular build quality, and exciting sound signature. If you are in the market for new headphones and you are willing to spend at least $200, you should definitely consider Meze Audio 99 Neo, especially if you are into EDM and R&B.

Official video – Meze Audio 99 Neo

What’s in the box?

Inside a nice-looking premium box, you will find a hard EVA carrying case. The headphones and all the accessories are placed inside the case. Along with the headphones, you will get a detachable Y-shaped 1.5m-long braided audio cable with in-line controls and mic, 6.3mm adapter, an airplane adapter, carrying pouch (for the cables), short instruction manual, and 1-year warranty.

Balanced cable and 3m-long regular cable are sold separately.

Meze Audio 99 Neo box contents

Box contents

Meze Audio 99 Neo Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Weight9.2oz (without the cable)
DRIVERS40mm x2
TYPEOver-ear, closed-back, wired
MATERIALMetal alloys (headband), ABS plastic (earcups)
BATTERYNo
CONNECTIONS3.5mm, 6.3mm adapter
TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response15Hz to 25kHz
Max input power50mW
Impedance26Ω
Sensitivity103dB
ADDITIONAL FEATURESDetachable cable,

Hard carrying case,

User-replaceable parts

Design

There’s literally nothing we would like to change when it comes to design. Meze Audio 99 Neo headphones are simple yet incredibly elegant. It’s the kind of design that really stays carved in your mind. I guess you could say they are beautiful in their simplicity.

Unique and dazzling design

Unique and dazzling design

The earcups are cone-shaped. Unlike the cups on 99 Classics, these are made of ABS plastic. The cups have a matte black finish and don’t look cheap. Naturally, wooden cups look more sophisticated, but the plastic ones are not bad at all. This difference also has some impact on the sound signature and we will discuss it later.

Wooden cups (99 Classics) VS ABS cups (99 Neo)

Wooden cups (99 Classics) VS ABS cups (99 Neo)

All the other parts are literally the same on both headphone models. The 2-piece headband is made of chromium-manganese alloy. A self-adjusting stretchable head strap with a fake leather finish is attached to the headband and it’s easily replaceable.

Features

The headphones are solidly built. Everything looks strong and very durable. The best thing is – if something breaks, the parts are user-replaceable and you don’t have to bring your headphones to the licensed service store. The parts are not glued together – they are all screwed and you can easily unscrew them and install the spare parts.

We have no major complaints when it comes to comfort. The headphones are super-light. They weigh only 260g (9.2oz). The earpads are thick and soft and the earpad cavity is large enough for all kinds of ears. They have a leatherette finish which, in combination with the closed-back design, could cause some ear sweating after hours of use. That’s our only complaint. The headband padding is not thick but it’s actually quite comfy. The weight is perfectly distributed across the head – there are no obvious and painful pressure points or anything like that. These headphones are perfect for long listening sessions.

The cable that comes with the headphones features two 2.5mm jacks for the earcups and one 3.5mm jack for the audio source. There’s also a ¼-inch adapter so you can plug them wherever you want. The cable is not proprietary. If you want a longer cable or a balanced cable, you will have to pay extra.

Meze Audio 99 Neo are made for mobile use. Their impedance is 26Ω and the sensitivity is pretty high (103dB) which makes them really easy to drive. You don’t need any amplification. You will get a slightly tighter bass with some headphone amp, but it’s absolutely unnecessary. They are already punchy enough.

Performance and Sound Quality

Compared to Meze Audio 99 Classics, 99 Neo headphones deliver bassier and a little bit warmer sound.

The bass is emphasized, especially the mid-bass frequencies, but it’s not overpowering or boomy. If some bass-heavy music is played, the bass could interfere with the lower mids but not to the extent to make the low-midrange tones muffled.

The midrange is just slightly recessed but still very clear and nicely balanced with the bass. The mids are strong, dynamic, and coherent. The vocals, especially the female vocals are nicely defined and clear. The transition between the bass and midrange is smooth and very pleasant.

Treble reproduction is not the greatest highlight of these headphones. It definitely lacks some detail and sparkle but it’s still good enough to add a nice vibe to the sound signature. The highs are not too bright and don’t cause any fatigue. We haven’t noticed any sibilance, not even at high volumes.

Recommended Reading :

 
Considering the fact that these are closed-back headphones, the soundstage is surprisingly wide. The separation between the instruments is not impressive and the imaging is not the most precise but you can still pinpoint the instrument position.  Everything gets a bit jumbled up when there are many instruments involved (listening to a symphony orchestra, for example), but that’s pretty much expected from a pair of closed-back headphones.

Closed-back design has some advantages, too. It improves noise isolation, reduces sound leakage, and makes these headphones suitable for outdoor and mobile use. They isolate (passively) a great amount of ambient noise. When it comes to sound leakage, 99 Neo deliver above-average performance, but they still leak a certain amount of sound at high volumes. When listening to music at 80% volume (which is, by the way, really loud), the person sitting next to you will hear what you are listening to.

The mic performance is satisfying but not without issues. You can have a nice conversation in a quiet or moderately loud environment, but it’s going to be harder in a noisy environment.

Meze Audio 99 Neo - frequency response curve

Meze Audio 99 Neo – frequency response curve

The Competition

At a $200 price point, the competition is huge and there’s a great number of viable alternatives. If you are looking for more accurate/balanced sound and wider soundstage you should check out DT 990 Premium Edition or Sennheiser HD 599, and if you want equally stylish, fun, and easy-to-drive headphones, V-MODA Crossfade M-100 is a great option.


Beyerdynamic DT 990 Premium EditionBeyerdynamic DT 990 Premium Edition

DT 990 headphones are available in three versions – 32Ω, 250Ω, and 600Ω. The easiest to drive and the best one to compare with the 99 Neo is the 32Ω version. The price difference between the two models is minimal.

DT 990 headphones feature that familiar Beyerdynamic design. They are not better-looking than the 99 Neo, but they are more capable in terms of sound quality.

Unlike 99 Neo, these are open-back headphones which makes a great difference. Even though they are easy to drive, they are not made for outdoor or mobile use. They are made for critical and non-critical listening at home (indoors, in general).

The cable on DT 990 is longer than the cable on 99 Neo and it’s not detachable, which makes them less portable.

DT 990 headphones deliver an enjoyable sound signature with a slightly elevated and powerful bass, detailed, crisp, and dynamic mids, and slightly brighter (but not fatiguing) highs. They also have a much wider soundstage and deliver more precise (almost 3D) imaging.

99 Neo headphones deliver much better noise isolation and don’t leak as much sound as DT 990, but that’s pretty much expected (closed-back VS open-back).


V-MODA Crossfade M-100V-MODA Crossfade M-100

In terms of design and build quality, this is the only out of three models in this section, that can really compete with the Meze Audio 99 Neo. Just like 99 Neo, Crossfade M-100 headphones feature a unique and very likable design with those hexagonal cups and metal construction. They are a bit pricier than the 99 Neo and if you are into bass-heavy sound, they are worth the extra money.

Crossfade M-100 are also easy to drive (low impedance and high sensitivity) and can be used outdoors and on the go due to closed-back design. The cable is very strong and it has inline controls with mic, just like 99 Neo.

99 Neo headphones are a little bit lighter and more comfortable. Crossfade M-100 are bulkier and have bigger earpads. If you have a larger head, you might find M-100 more comfortable.

All the V-MODA headphones have that recognizable bass-heavy sound signature and M-100 are not different. We’ve said that 99 Neo headphones have a slightly elevated bass, but these are even bassier. It’s the kind of bass that tends to overpower the lower mids a lot. The low midrange frequencies are slightly recessed while the high mids are slightly elevated. Treble reproduction is clear but lacks some detail and sparkle. We prefer the sound of 99 Neo headphones because it’s more balanced and warmer, but if you are crazy about the bass, you will be pretty happy with the V-MODA Crossfade M-100.

M-100 headphones are not as good as 99 Neo when it comes to noise isolation and sound leakage. They leak more and isolate less.


Sennheiser HD 599Sennheiser HD 599

HD 599 are within the same price range ($200), but they are different in many ways. Most of the differences are caused by the open-back design of HD 599.

HD 599 look premium, but not as premium as 99 Neo. Also, they are made of plastic which makes them less durable and less serviceable.

In terms of comfort, we have absolutely no complaints about HD 599. The earpads are large, thick, and soft. The headband is comfy, too. They are slightly heavier than the 99 Neo, but you won’t feel any extra weight.

HD 599 are harder to drive but that’s not the biggest problem when it comes to mobile use. They are open-back headphones which means that they don’t isolate any noise and leak a lot of sound. They are made for critical/non-critical listening at your home (indoors use).

HD 599 headphones deliver more balanced and more detailed sound than the 99 Neo. Sub-bass frequencies are a little bit recessed but still impactful while the mid-bass and upper-bass frequencies are slightly elevated and add just a little bit of punch. That elevation in the upper-bass region makes the low mids a bit muddy. The rest of the midrange is very accurate, very detailed and dynamic. It’s almost perfect. The high-end reproduction is consistent and very clear. There’s a small peak between 9 and 10kHz which could cause some sibilance, but it’s not too sharp or painful.


Comparison Table

HeadphonesImpedanceSensitivity (at 1kHz, 1mW)
Meze Audio 99 Neo26Ω103dB
DT 990 Premium32/250/600Ω96dB
V-MODA Crossfade M-10032Ω103dB
Sennheiser HD 59950Ω106dB

Final Thoughts

Unique and attractive design, remarkable construction quality, great comfort, and a joyful sound signature at an affordable price – that’s what Meze Audio 99 Neo is all about.

You can hardly get a better look and better build quality at this price point. You could find some headphones with a flatter or more balanced frequency response, more detailed sound and wider soundstage, but there’s no way you could find the headphones that are, at the same time, equally beautiful, durable, or comfortable. In other words, you will have to make some compromises.

If you are looking for a more balanced, more detailed sound and wider soundstage, you should try Beyerdynamic DT 990 or Sennheiser HD 599. Unfortunately, they are not suitable for mobile use because of the open-back design and because they are harder to drive and require amplification.

On the other hand, if you are looking for something equality stylish and durable, but slightly bassier, you should try V-MODA Crossfade M-100.


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Understanding Speaker Frequency Response https://www.audioreputation.com/understanding-speaker-frequency-response/ https://www.audioreputation.com/understanding-speaker-frequency-response/#respond Wed, 06 Feb 2019 08:21:12 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4286 How do you decide which speaker is the right one? What are the key factors that make you choose some speaker or a speaker system? We have made a small research and concluded that many users base their decision on the specifications printed on the speaker box. After all, this is the easiest and the […]

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How do you decide which speaker is the right one? What are the key factors that make you choose some speaker or a speaker system? We have made a small research and concluded that many users base their decision on the specifications printed on the speaker box. After all, this is the easiest and the most convenient way, especially when you don’t know much about speakers and their performance. One of the characteristics that users find reliable is the frequency response. The problem is – the frequency response range itself doesn’t define the speaker’s audio quality. Also, most of the buyers don’t really understand the true meaning of frequency response.

This is the reason and the opportunity to create this article and try to explain the term “frequency response” and help you realize what to expect from a specific speaker depending on the specification list. Understanding abstract specifications such as frequency response, impedance, SPL, etc. is pretty complicated and requires some time and focus, but if you stay with us, we guarantee the things will be much clearer at the end of the article.

What is Speaker Frequency Response?

Speaker frequency response represents the range of frequencies that a certain speaker or a speaker system can produce. As you probably know, the human ear can recognize and hear only the sounds within the 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range. In reality, most of us can’t hear all the sounds, even if they are within this range, but our speakers can reproduce them. Even if they can’t, our ears won’t mind but it is considered prestigious when you have the speaker that covers the entire range. It also gives you the basic idea of the speaker quality. In a few minutes, you will realize why but let’s first see how the audio spectrum is divided into frequency bands based on the high-low ratio.

Speaker Frequency Response

Sub-bass

This is the range of frequencies that spans from 20 to 60 Hz. Tones that belong to this group are the deepest audible tones that most of us can’t hear but can actually feel due to the strong vibrations that spread the sound waves. Only a few instruments can produce such low tones: harp, tuba, bass guitar, bass trombone, etc.

Bass

This is also the low-frequency band and it spans from 60 to 250 Hz. This band is much wider than the previous one and more instruments can produce the corresponding tones (saxophone, cymbals, trumpet, violin, clarinet, bass guitar, etc.). Even some human voices can reproduce such tones. These tones are easier to hear than the sub-bass tones.

Low midrange

The frequency response of low midrange band spans from 250Hz to 500 Hz but these are still considered low tones. They can be produced by many instruments, some male and female voices and they are also easily recognized and heard.

Midrange

These are the tones within the frequency band 500Hz to 2 kHz. These sounds are responsible for your general impression about every song, every melody, so it is very important that they are delivered in the proper way. Vocals belong to this group and they should always be perfectly clean.

Upper midrange

Upper midrange band spans from 2kHz to 4 kHz. The most important and most exposed sounds here are vocals. As far as instruments are considered, these tones can be delivered by the rhythm and percussion instruments.

Lower treble

If the frequency response is in the 4kHz – 6 kHz range, we are talking about the lower treble band that actually determines the overall sound clarity.

Highs

The highs span from 6kHz to 20 kHz and, as you can see, this is the widest band in the whole spectrum but the problem is not many instruments can produce these tones and not all people can hear them. However, if they aren’t reproduced correctly, the sound gets distorted and unpleasant for listening.

Why is Frequency Response so Important?

We can’t really say that frequency response is the only characteristic that matters, but we also can’t deny that frequency response is the characteristic that has a huge impact on the sound quality. Some experts say that you have to understand the frequency response if you want to understand music or any kind of audio content.

Frequency Response

You are probably wondering how to recognize a device with good frequency response.

The performance and sound quality are not defined only by the fact that a speaker is able to reproduce a certain range of frequencies. It is also important to reproduce all the frequencies at the same volume so that they are delivered in the same way they were recorded. If your speaker causes the original track to lose some of its color or overall quality, it’s not a great speaker.

The music coming from your speaker should sound the same as it would sound if you were listening to the band or orchestra playing it live at some concert. The speaker has to be able to reproduce even the most complex sounds with all kinds of different frequencies and it has to do that at the same time and in a balanced way.

You will usually find some info on the frequency response in the specifications list, but you can’t actually make any conclusion based only on those two numbers. You must be wondering how is this possible. Most people think that if the speaker’s frequency response is within the audible range (20Hz-20kHz), the speaker is good enough. However, it is not enough because you also have to know how much your speaker’s sound reproduction across the frequency range deviates from the flat frequency response and this is expressed in dB. So, if you see that your speaker’s frequency range is 20 Hz – 20 kHz with a deviation of ± XdB over the specified range, you can decide whether the speaker is good or not. If the deviation is not specified, you can conclude absolutely nothing.

How Different Speaker Drivers Produce Different Sounds?

The sounds that your speakers have to deliver are quite complex and, in order to reproduce them correctly, it is better to use a speaker system than a single speaker. The system works better because the full audio spectrum is divided into parts. Every part of the system receives only the signal for that specific frequency band and it is able to deliver more accurate sound than a single speaker that does all the job on its own. However, this wouldn’t be possible without a crossover. The crossovers are actually electronic circuits that assign a specific signal to the corresponding driver/speaker. Several crossovers can create a crossover network made of a group of filters that pass the split signals to the corresponding parts of the speaker system and they are also called band-pass filters.

Speaker Drivers

There are different types of crossovers but the most common type is the 2-way crossover that consists of low-pass and high-pass filters. The low-pass filter passes the signal to the parts that reproduce low tones and the high-pass filter passes the signal to the parts in charge of high tones.

Every driver inside a speaker that contains multiple drivers is in charge of a certain range of frequencies. Subsequently, we have full-range drivers, woofers, tweeters, mid-range drivers, and subwoofers.

Full-range drivers

When there is only one driver inside the enclosure, that driver will have to reproduce all the frequencies and that kind of driver is called the full-range driver. As you would guess, this can hardly be a good thing because the speaker’s performance is very limited, mostly by its size. If it’s large, the speaker will produce nicely low and mid-range tones. The mid-sized speakers are good at reproducing human voices, while the small speakers are good at delivering high frequencies. This is why the best option is to combine two or three drivers of different size in one enclosure.

Woofers

Woofers are usually very large drivers (4 to even 15 inches) in charge of reproducing very low to low and mid-range frequencies (from 20 Hz to 2 kHz). The woofer’s size determines the speaker size because it correlates to the size of the enclosure. Larger woofers are built-into larger cabinets that are usually used for floor-standing speakers while the smaller ones are used for making bookshelf speakers.

Tweeters

Tweeters are smaller than woofers and they are in charge of high-frequency tones, usually above 2 kHz. These drivers receive the high-pass signals and reproduce high-frequency tones that tend to dissipate over the living room. In case the dispersion is too wide, the listener won’t be able to determine where the sound is coming from. If the dispersion is extremely narrow, the listener will have a limited number of options when it comes to choosing the listening position. This is why it is so important that these tones are reproduced accurately.

Mid-range drivers

Mid-woofers don’t come in every speaker like woofers and tweeters. They are built only by the manufacturers who tend to increase the audio performance of their speakers by separating the low and the mid-range frequencies even more. These drivers reproduce the sounds within the 200 Hz – 5 kHz frequency range.

Subwoofers

Subwoofers are specially designed for the lowest tones (below 200 Hz). A good speaker system should include at least one subwoofer because smaller drivers can’t reproduce the sub-bass frequencies (the frequencies that are better felt than heard). A subwoofer should be an integral part of your home theater speaker system because it makes your watching and listening experience much more immersive (especially when watching movies with plenty of explosions, earthquakes, etc.). When it comes to music, they deliver the sounds played by deep bass instruments. They can be powered and passive.

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AudioEngine A5+ Wireless Speakers Review – Awards https://www.audioreputation.com/audioengine-a5/ https://www.audioreputation.com/audioengine-a5/#respond Tue, 05 Feb 2019 10:13:13 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4298 AudioEngine has been in the audio industry for quite some time and they’ve been known for making high-quality products, mostly powered bookshelf/desktop speakers. Their first powered speaker A5 was a big hit. Then, they upgraded it to AudioEngine A5+ which is still one of the AudioEngine’s bestsellers. AudioEngine A5+ wireless 2.0 speaker system is the […]

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Audio Reputation AwardsAudioEngine has been in the audio industry for quite some time and they’ve been known for making high-quality products, mostly powered bookshelf/desktop speakers. Their first powered speaker A5 was a big hit. Then, they upgraded it to AudioEngine A5+ which is still one of the AudioEngine’s bestsellers.

AudioEngine A5+ wireless 2.0 speaker system is the upgraded version of the A5+ Classic. The most noticeable difference between the two is the wireless connectivity. A5+ Wireless has a built-in Bluetooth module and can be wirelessly connected to any Bluetooth-enabled device. A5+ Classic didn’t have this ability, but there was a way to make it wireless by connecting it to the AudioEngine B1 Bluetooth receiver. In a way, A5+ Wireless is the A5 Classic with a built-in B1 receiver.

The second difference between the A5+ Classic and A5+ Wireless is the tweeter position. They both feature the same tweeters and woofers, but the A5+ Classic has the tweeter positioned slightly off-center, while the A5+ wireless speaker system has a centered tweeter (tweeter is aligned with the woofer).

A5+ wireless speakers have that familiar studio monitor design, but they were not designed to be used in studios. These are relatively small bookshelf speakers and can be used as your desktop/PC speakers. They can be connected to your laptop, to your phone, mp3 player (3.5mm), to your turntable (RCA), and even to your TV (if it has analog (3.5mm, RCA) inputs).

The greatest highlight is, as you could assume, the sound. For a small bookshelf speaker system, A5+ wireless speakers deliver a striking performance. Thanks to 5in aramid fiber woofers and 0.75in silk dome tweeters, this system can reproduce a large range of frequencies with impressive authority and accuracy. The only problem (sound wise) are those really low sub-bass frequencies. It would be unreasonable to expect these small speakers to achieve that kind of impact. It is definitely recommended to pair this 2.0 system with some nice subwoofer. If you want to pair them with the AudioEngine sub, the only available option is the AudioEngine S8, but you can also pair it with some other powered subwoofer with RCA inputs.

The other important highlight is the Bluetooth connectivity. This is one of the rare speaker systems on the market featuring Bluetooth 5.0. This is the latest Bluetooth version and allows an extended range (not standard 33ft), faster data rate, and better connection and audio quality than any previous version. It also features the latest generation of apt X codec (aptX HD) which reduces the audio latency below 30ms.  

The only real flaw of this 2.0 system is that there are no digital inputs. Adding one digital optical input would be a huge improvement, but we will have to wait for the new upgrade to see this feature.

At $500 price tag, AudioEngine A5+ wireless speaker system has to compete with many other bookshelf speakers (KEF, Edifier, ELAC, Yamaha, Sony, Polk, Dynaudio, Klipsch, Fluance, Definitive Technology). In this review, we will try to list and explain all the upsides, as well as downsides of the A5+ wireless speaker system so you can compare it with others. In our opinion, the A5+ wireless speaker system is one of the top 5 powered bookshelf speaker systems on the market.

AudioEngine A5+

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UPSIDES

  • Simple yet elegant design
  • Self-powered – doesn’t require an amp, receiver or any other equipment
  • Simple and fast installation (all the cables included)
  • Relatively small footprint
  • Input versatility – Bluetooth/3.5mm/RCA inputs
  • Subwoofer output port
  • It features Bluetooth AptX HD and a built-in 24-bit DAC
  • Impressive audio performance for its size – nice mid-bass, perfect balance across the whole audible frequency spectrum, great clarity, airy soundstage, great separation

 
DOWNSIDES

  • No digital inputs
  • Lacks input switch/button

 
VERDICT

AudioEngine A5+ Wireless is an amazing 2.0 speaker system. The system’s audio performance is almost flawless and the only problem, in terms of audio reproduction, is the sub-bass reproduction. You should definitely consider combining these two speakers with a subwoofer. The system is very versatile – it allows you to connect all kinds of analog inputs and to stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth. The biggest issue is the lack of digital inputs and if you absolutely need them, you should look elsewhere.

What’s in the box?

Inside the box, you will find your two speakers, each packed inside a cloth pouch that protects the finish from scratches. You will also get a pouch with all the necessary cables (2m-long RCA to RCA cable, 2m-long AUX cable, 3.75m-long 16-gauge speaker wire with banana plugs, detachable power cable), detachable wireless/Bluetooth antenna, remote, setup guide, and a 3-year warranty. The manufacturer included all the necessary installation equipment so you don’t have to buy anything else to make them work. That kind of care and attention to details deserves some praise.

Speaker stands and all the optional equipment are sold separately.

AudioEngine A5+ box contents

Box contents

AudioEngine A5+ Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
Width7in
Height10.75in
DepthLeft – 9in / Right – 7.75in
WeightLeft – 15.4 pounds / Right – 9.6 pounds
DRIVERS
Midrange woofers5in x1, aramid fiber with rubber surrounds
Tweeters0.75in x1, silk dome with Neodymium magnets
ENCLOSURE TYPEPorted
POWERING OPTIONSAC power cable
CONNECTIONS3.5mm, RCA inputs, subwoofer output, Bluetooth
BLUETOOTH DETAILS
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.0
Supported profilesA2DP, AVRCP
Supported codecsAAC, SBC, aptX, aptX low latency, aptX HD
NFCNo
Bluetooth rangeUp to 100ft
Daisy chainingNo
Multipoint pairingNo
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response50Hz to 22kHz (+/- 1.5dB)
Output power Peak/RMS150W/100W
Sound to Noise Ratio>95dB
THDLess than 0.05%
ADDITIONAL FEATURESBuilt-in monolithic class AB amps

Built-in 24-bit DAC

Variable/switchable input voltage (115V/240V)

Overheat protection

Subwoofer output

Design

AudioEngine A5+ wireless speakers feature simple boxy design, but they still look attractive. Those rounded edges, the lack of excessive branding, and the lack of unnecessary flashy details make it quite sophisticated. The speakers are available in three colors – satin black, glossy white, and solid carbonized bamboo.

AudioEngine A5+ wireless speakers are available in three colors

AudioEngine A5+ wireless speakers are available in three colors

Each speaker features rubber covers on the bottom panel that keep them in place. Also, there’s a threaded screw mount in case you want to mount them on a wall.

On the front panel of the left speaker (which is the main speaker because it features all the inputs), there is one woofer, one tweeter, a volume knob (you can also press it to put the system to sleep mode), LED power indicator, and the IR sensor. On the front panel of the right speaker, there are only woofer and tweeter (no knobs and LED indicators). These speakers don’t have any kind of protective grille. The manufacturer claims that there is practically no need for the grille because the drivers are incredibly durable.

Left (main) speaker – front panel

Left (main) speaker – front panel

Left, right, and top panels are perfectly clean, without logos, brand names, or anything else on them.

All the inputs and outputs are located on the left speaker. On the rear panel, you will see the wireless antenna, Bluetooth pairing button, LED Bluetooth indicator, RCA inputs and outputs, speaker outputs (for the right/passive speaker), power switch, voltage selector (115V/240V), fuse, AC power input, and a large meat heatsink that protects the built-in amplifier from overheating.

Left (main) speaker - rear panel

Left (main) speaker – rear panel

On the rear panel of the right speaker, you will only see two speaker terminals (5-way binding posts).

The rear panel of the right speaker

The rear panel of the right speaker

Features

The cabinet is made of 13mm thick MDF with a veneer finish. It looks solid and very durable. Even that finish seems scratch resistant which is a plus.

Each speaker features one 5in aramid fiber woofer and one 0.75in silk dome tweeter. This kind of material selection improves the durability of the woofers/tweeters but also affects the sound and makes it more accurate and less distorted. The left speaker also features a built-in class AB amplifier which means that you don’t need an external amplifier/receiver to drive the speaker system. You just have to connect two speakers together and connect the left one to some audio source.

Highlighted features

Highlighted features

The most emphasized feature is wireless connectivity. After all, that’s the biggest difference between the A5+ and A5+ Wireless. A5+ wireless speaker system features Bluetooth 5.0 which is the latest Bluetooth version and has some advantages over the older versions. The pairing is not one of them. It’s a standard procedure and it takes a few seconds. The speaker is in pairing mode when you plug it in. You don’t even have to press the pairing button. The first advantage is the Bluetooth range. You can be 100ft away from the speaker and stream any audio content without issues. Most Bluetooth speakers on the market have less than 30ft range. Even if there are walls between the speaker and your device, the range is not shorter than 30ft. Another advantage is the support for aptX HD Bluetooth codec, as well as the support for the earlier versions of this codec (aptX and aptX low latency). This basically means that you can watch any video on your phone and stream the audio to the speaker system without experiencing any audio delay (your audio source (phone/PC/Mac) should also support aptX Bluetooth codec in order to achieve this kind of low latency). The speaker system doesn’t support multipoint pairing (only one device can be paired with the speaker system at a time) but it can remember six devices and it will automatically pair with them when they are in range.

If you prefer a wired connection, you can connect any analog audio source to this speaker system. If a device/source features 3.5mm or RCA outputs, it can be connected to one of the inputs on the left speaker. You can connect your phone, iPod, mp3 player, CD player, etc. If your TV features 3.5mm input or RCA inputs, you can also connect it to this system. Also, you can connect your turntable.

The only issue is the lack of digital audio inputs (no digital optical input, no coaxial input, no HDMI). In case you have a new TV without analog audio outputs, you would have to buy some DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) to connect the TV to this speaker system.

Also, there is no input switch (and there are no input buttons on the remote) which basically means that all the inputs are active all the time. In theory, you can play the audio from multiple sources at the same time. This is not a huge problem but could cause some static when you leave your AUX cable plugged in while streaming audio via Bluetooth.

The remote that comes with the speakers looks nice and it’s very solid but it has only four buttons and allows you to adjust the volume, mute the audio, and put the speaker system to sleep mode. That’s about it – no advanced settings, no bass/treble settings, no EQ presets, no input buttons. Nobody likes complex remotes, but a few more buttons wouldn’t hurt.

The remote is extremely simple

The remote is extremely simple

Performance and Sound Quality

A5+ wireless speaker system truly shines when it comes to sound quality. Our only complaint regarding the performance is that the volume knob regulates the volume independently from your phone. Some people prefer it that way so it’s not really an issue.

There is absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to sound quality. The sound signature is close to neutral. Anything above the sub-bass to the high treble is reproduced with high accuracy and an impressive authority.

The mid-bass frequencies are punchy and impactful. They lay the perfect foundation for the mids. The bass is surprisingly powerful considering the size of the speakers.

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Low mids are slightly elevated but not overwhelming. The mids are perfectly clear and pronounced. All the vocals, male and female, are put forward and sound natural and vibrant.

There are no noticeable peaks or roll-offs when it comes to treble reproduction. Also, there’s no brightness or sibilance. The treble is clear but lacks just a little bit of detail.

The only thing this speaker system can’t do is the sub-bass reproduction. The 5in woofer is simply too small to go down to 10 or 20Hz. It’s definitely recommended to add a matching subwoofer to this system and set the crossover to 70-80Hz.

The Competition


AudioEngine HD6 WirelessAudioEngine HD6 Wireless

In a way, AudioEngine HD6 Wireless is the upgraded version of A5+ wireless we’ve talked about.

HD6 wireless speaker system is $200 pricier (both come with 3-year warranty). They are just a little bit bigger than the A5+ wireless speakers and feature 5.5in aramid fiber woofers and 1in tweeters.

Compared to A5+ speakers, HD6 wireless speakers can produce just a little bit more bass, but A5+ wireless speakers deliver slightly more accurate sound.

The biggest difference between the HD6 and the A5+ Wireless is the existence of digital optical input on the HD6.

All the other features are the same on both models. They are both powered, they both feature analog inputs (3.5mm, RCA) and they both feature Bluetooth 5.0.


Edifier S2000 ProEdifier S2000 Pro

If you are looking for something slightly cheaper than the A5+ wireless speaker system, you should check out Edifier S2000 Pro. Some of the older Edifier’s powered bookshelf speakers (R1280T, R1700BT, R2000DB) are very popular and highly praised by customers. S2000 Pro is one of the latest and most advanced Edifier models.

S2000 Pro features that recognizable Edifier design with the wooden panels and slightly upward-angled front baffle. The speakers are significantly larger than the A5+ wireless speakers and require more space. A5+ wireless speakers are more suitable for desktop use.

Just like the A5+, this is a 2.0 system. Each speaker features one 5.5in aluminum woofer and one 1in flat diaphragm tweeter. Their frequency response spans from 48kHz to 20kHz. The sound is pretty neutral and well-balanced but there’s just a little bit more punch compared to A5+. Also, Edifier S2000 Pro is a bit louder.

S2000 Pro is more versatile when it comes to connections. It has all the analog inputs you can find on A5+ wireless speakers (3.5mm, RCA), but it also features digital optical and coaxial inputs. It’s a better choice if you want to connect the speakers to your new TV.

S2000 Pro also comes with a remote. The remote looks much better and has more buttons than the A5+ remote. It allows you to choose the source and select one of the 4 EQ presets (vocal, classic, dynamic, monitor). The left (main) speaker also features bass and treble knobs so you can adjust the sound to your likings.

S2000 Pro features Bluetooth, just like the A5+ wireless speaker system, but the A5+ delivers slightly better audio quality and better range than the S2000 Pro (Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD compared to Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX).


Klipsch R-15PMKlipsch R-15PM

Klipsch R-15PM powered 2.0 speaker system is another cheaper alternative. It’s priced under $400.

The speakers feature recognizable Klipsch design with those fancy copper woofers and Tractrix horn tweeters.

Thanks to the impressive number of inputs, the speaker system can be connected to various analog and digital sources. In terms of connection versatility, R-15PM speakers are better than A5+ wireless speakers. Besides the analog AUX and RCA inputs, these speakers feature subwoofer output, as well as digital optical input and USB audio input. The main (right) speaker also has a built-in amplifier.

R-15PM can be used as a desktop/PC speaker system but it can also be connected to your TV via digital optical input and it can be connected to your turntable. It features Bluetooth and can be wirelessly paired with Bluetooth-enabled audio sources. When it comes to audio quality in Bluetooth mode, we definitely prefer A5+ wireless speakers. R-15PM doesn’t support aptX codec.

The system comes with a simple and easy-to-use remote. You can use this remote to select the source, adjust the bass response, control the playback, and adjust the volume.  

R-15PM packs some really strong punch followed by the nicely balanced and detailed mids and slightly elevated highs. Just like the A5+ wireless speakers, R-15PM can’t reach those sub-bass frequencies and it’s recommended to add a subwoofer (R-12SW, R-10SW) if you want a better/extended bass response.


Comparison Table

SpeakerFrequency responseOutput power RMS/Peak
AudioEngine A5+ Wireless50Hz to 22kHz (+/- 1.5dB)100W/150W
AudioEngine HD6 Wireless50Hz to 22kHz (+/- 1.5dB)100W/150W
Edifier S2000 Pro48Hz to 20kHz124W/N/A
Klipsch R-15PM62Hz to 24kHz (+/- 3dB)100W/N/A

Final Thoughts

AudioEngine A5+ wireless is a sleek and relatively small speaker system. The installation is simple and takes just a few minutes. You have all the cables included in the package and you don’t need any additional equipment to drive the speakers (the main speaker has a built-in amplifier).

A5+ wireless speakers can be connected to all kinds of analog audio sources via AUX and RCA inputs. They can also be connected wirelessly to any Bluetooth-enabled device. This is one of the best wireless/Bluetooth speaker systems on the market in terms of audio quality, range, and connection stability. A5+ wireless speaker system utilizes the latest Bluetooth 5.0 with the aptX HD codec.

When it comes to sound quality, this speaker system delivers flawless performance. The speakers can’t reproduce those really deep sub-bass tones, but you can solve this issue easily by adding a subwoofer to your setup.

The only thing that could be a deal breaker is the lack of digital inputs. If you want to connect your speakers to some digital audio source, A5+ wireless speakers are not the best choice. If you need digital inputs, you can always go for the more expensive AudioEngine HD6 wireless speaker system or, you can try some cheaper alternatives made by other manufacturers (like Edifier S2000 Pro and Klipsch R-15PM).


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Brainwavz Alara Planar Magnetic Headphones Review – Awards https://www.audioreputation.com/alara-planar-magnetic-headphones/ https://www.audioreputation.com/alara-planar-magnetic-headphones/#respond Sun, 03 Feb 2019 10:44:07 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4242 Brainwavz is a young audio equipment manufacturer that’s been trying to make some real impact in the audio industry and position itself on the market for the past few years. Some of their previous models like the over-ear headphones HM5 and HM100 have been highly praised as great midrange headphones, but Brainwavz decided not to […]

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Audio Reputation AwardsBrainwavz is a young audio equipment manufacturer that’s been trying to make some real impact in the audio industry and position itself on the market for the past few years. Some of their previous models like the over-ear headphones HM5 and HM100 have been highly praised as great midrange headphones, but Brainwavz decided not to stop there. Alara planar magnetic headphones are the latest release from this ambitious headphone manufacturer and it is, by far, the most expensive and the best-sounding model ever made by Brainwavz. These are also the first planar magnetic headphones ever made by the Brainwavz. At $500 price point, Alara headphones have a few noticeable rivals on the planar magnetic headphone market, but there’s also a lot of great dynamic headphones within this price range, and the battle for their fair share of customers won’t be easy. It all comes down to what these headphones have to offer for the price. In this review, we are going to try to give you the answer to that question.

As you would expect from a pair of planar magnetic headphones, Alara headphones have a pretty neutral yet unique and very enjoyable sound signature, extended frequency response, and great responsiveness which results in very dynamic sound reproduction. The only real difference between the Alara headphones and high-end planar magnetic headphones is the amount of detail and maybe the wideness/airiness of the soundstage. At this price point, Alara headphones deliver impressive sonic performance and they are definitely on par with the competition. Now, there are always some nuances in terms of sound coloration, warmth, etc. that make each pair of headphones unique. Some other headphones could sound better to your ears, but that’s all the matter of your personal taste. What we can say with confidence is that no audiophile will be offended by the Alara sound signature. They are simply fun to listen to.

There are also a few other reasons, besides the sound, that could help you make up your mind and choose Alara headphones over some cheaper HIFIMAN, OPPO, or Monolith planar magnetic headphones. Alara headphones look simple but still attractive and elegant. Some people might find them boring because of all-black design, but that’s all up to you and your taste.

They are a little heavier but, after all, all the planar magnetic headphones are kind of hefty. The Brainwavz still managed to make them pretty comfortable for long listening sessions. Furthermore, they can be driven with your phone due to small impedance (20Ω) and a relatively high sensitivity (94dB).

Before we go deeper into the matter, it’s probably fair to mention some downsides. The only problem is – at this price point, there is not much to complain about. The only thing we are concerned about are the plastic yokes connecting the earcups and the headband. There have been no complaints in the past regarding these yokes but, based on our personal experience, they are usually the weakest link on many headphones. Using aluminum instead of plastic would cost just a little bit more and it might add just a little bit more weight, but it would significantly improve the durability. Still, compared to other cheap/affordable planar magnetic headphones, Alara headphones are solidly built.

Alara Planar Magnetic Headphones

Buy Now From Brainwavz

UPSIDES

  • Aesthetically pleasing all-black design
  • Very comfortable
  • Easy to drive
  • Impressive sound quality – extended, tight, and punchy bass, dynamic mids, and clear highs

 
DOWNSIDES

  • Great sound leakage and poor noise isolation due to open-back design
  • Plastic yokes

 
VERDICT

If you are looking for the best entry-level planar magnetic headphones, Alara headphones deserve to be on your shortlist. They deliver a bit warm but still very addictive sound signature with a nice balance between lows, mids, and highs, airy soundstage and very precise imaging. Their sleek design and a great amount of comfort they offer are two additional reasons to try them.

What’s in the box?

Alara planar headphones come in a simple white box. It’s nothing flashy or premium like the OPPO PM-1 box or HIFIMAN HE1000 box. Inside the box, you will find a hard-shell carrying case Inside this case, you will find your headphones, one 2m-long audio cable with 3.5mm connectors, ¼-inch screw-on adapter, an additional pair of hybrid earpads, instruction manual, and a 2-year warranty.

Alara Specifications 
DIMENSIONS
WeightApprox. 17oz (including the cable)
Earpad cavity size2.4in x 2in x 0.6in
3.5mm cable length2m/6.5ft
TYPEOver-ear, open-back
MATERIALAluminum, plastic, faux leather
DRIVERSPlanar magnetic drivers
DRIVER SIZE80mm
CONNECTIONS3.5mm, ¼ inch adapter
OTHER TECHNICAL DETAILS
Frequency response10Hz to 40kHz
Max input power300mW
Impedance200Ω
Sensitivity94dB at 1mW
THDLess than 0.1%
ADDITIONAL FEATURESDetachable cable, hard carrying case, removable/replaceable earpads, a spare pair of hybrid earpads

Design

The Brainwavz adopted a minimalistic approach and made very simple all-black headphones. They are still very likable and very elegant-looking. In terms of design, they remind us of more expensive QUAD ERA-1. The earcups are made of aluminum. On the outer end of the earcups, there’s a very interesting mesh with a discrete Brainwavz logo.

The earcups are entirely made of aluminum and represent the most unique part

The earcups are entirely made of aluminum and represent the most unique part

The headband is made of aluminum and it is entirely wrapped in padding. The padding is made of memory foam and the finish is made of pleather. On the top end of the headband, there’s an embossed Brainwavz name.

Elegant all-black design

Elegant all-black design

These headphones look like something that could easily be the official of headphones of the New Zealand rugby team (also known as ALL BLACKS). Maybe if the Brainwavz changes the yokes and starts making all-metal headphones, they could make a deal with the best rugby team in the world. By the way, we can totally imagine ALL BLACKS performing haka while wearing all-black all-metal Alara headphones.

Features

The first and the most important feature are the planar magnetic drivers. That’s the thing that makes these headphones special and so expensive. You can easily make this kind of shell (earcups and headband) with some random (or even good) dynamic drivers for $200, but what really matters is on the inside. Alara headphones feature two 80mm planar dynamic drivers. Their frequency response is pretty wide – they can go down to 10Hz and up to 40kHz. Another great thing is that they are relatively easy to drive. They have 20Ω impedance and 94dB sensitivity, which means that you can get pretty good results even without an amp or DAC. Naturally, there will be more detail and more clarity in your music if you are using an amplifier/DAC.

When it comes to durability, we have no major complaints, especially when compared to other planar magnetic headphones within the price range. None of the planar magnetic headphones at this price point are perfect (in terms of build quality) and there’s always some room for improvement, but Alara headphones actually seem more durable than others. The only problem are the plastic yokes. All the other parts are made of metal and we don’t understand why they decided to use plastic yokes.

The first thing we’ve noticed about these headphones (besides the design) is the weight. They felt really hefty, even heftier than the other rivals. Our first thought was – there’s no way these headphones could ever be comfortable enough for long listening sessions. And, we were proved wrong. They are actually quite comfy. The weight is perfectly distributed across the headband and there are no noticeable pressure points. Both, the headband and the earpads are nicely padded. The earpads are similar to those on HIFIMAN headphones. They are called hybrid because the part that goes against your face has velour finish (which is supposed to be more pleasant for the skin) while the rest of the earpads is covered with pleather.

The headphones come with hybrid earpads similar to those you can find on some HIFIMAN headphones

The headphones come with hybrid earpads similar to those you can find on some HIFIMAN headphones

The clamping force is optimal. You won’t feel any excessive pressure. They are not made for mobile use, so you are not supposed to use them outdoors or while commuting. Also, the cable is a bit too long for outdoor use.

The only negative thing we’ve noticed is the headband size. The headband is adjustable, but even when it’s not extended, the headband looks really big. It’s definitely not suitable for people with small heads. The headband extension is also very short (only 25mm) which may not be large enough for people with really big heads.

The fact that you get an additional pair of hybrid earpads is definitely appreciated. We don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it would’ve been even better if that pair of earpads was made of different material (all pleather or all leather) so that you could get two different sound signatures depending on the type of earpads you are using. Unfortunately, the spare pair looks exactly the same as the pair that’s already installed. Still, we definitely appreciate the care. Most planar magnetic headphones come with only one pair of earpads.

Performance and Sound Quality

Like all the other planar magnetic headphones, Alara headphones deliver pretty neutral sound and almost flat frequency response, but with certain coloration and certain nuances that make them different from other headphones. What’s important is that none of the frequencies are too emphasized.

There’s a small elevation in the mid-bass region which adds just a little bit more punch and creates a foundation for the melody. It’s nothing excessive or overwhelming. It actually makes them very pleasant to listen to, especially if you are into bass-heavy music (EDM, R&B, house, hip-hop). The sub-bass extension is pretty nice as well and it really brings the additional impact.

The low midrange is nicely balanced with the bass. All the deep male vocals sound very clear and rich. The low midrange tones are followed by the slightly elevated upper mids which put forward the female vocals and instruments. Again, the elevation is not excessive and it doesn’t make the mids overwhelming.

The highs are also extended and nicely balanced with the mids. There are no noticeable dips or peaks. We haven’t noticed any sibilance or any brightness in the treble region.

Recommended Reading :

 
Overall, Alara headphones have mostly neutral sound signature, with just a little bit of warmth.

Since the headphones are open-back, the soundstage is airy and wide but could be a little bit wider. We would also appreciate just a little bit more separation between the instruments.

Alara headphones are simply awesome for bass-heavy music, but they perform great across the wide spectrum of music genres.

Like all the open-back headphones, they leak a lot of sound and they isolate very small amount of ambient noise.

The Competition

As we have already said, there’s a great number of competitors at this price point. Here are some interesting rivals.


HIFIMAN SUNDARAHIFIMAN SUNDARA

HIFIMAN SUNDARA headphones are a little bit cheaper than the Alara. Both of these headphones are over-ear and open-back.

We prefer the looks of Alara headphones, but when it comes to design it’s all about your taste and your preferences.

HIFIMAN SUNDARA are a little bit harder to drive and definitely require an amp to show their full potential.

Just like Alara, HIFIMAN SUNDARA headphones have a relatively flat frequency response. Their greatest highlight is the midrange reproduction. It’s incredibly well-balanced, very rich and dynamic. All the vocals are put forward and perfectly clear. The highs are also nicely balanced and consistent. There’s a small, barely noticeable peak at 5kHz. SUNDARA headphones deliver nice and punchy bass, but we prefer that slightly elevated bass response of the Alara headphones.

SUNDARA headphones deliver slightly better separation, airier soundstage, and just a little bit more detailed sound.


Oppo PM-3Oppo PM-3

Oppo PM-3 headphones are a bit more expensive than the Alara headphones, partially because the manufacturer (OPPO) discontinued the production of all the planar magnetic headphones (went out of business). If you like them, you should hurry up.  

Unlike Alara, Oppo PM-3 are closed-back headphones and they are meant for mobile use. They come with two cables, and one of them has inline controls and a built-in mic (available for iPhones and Android phones). Oppo PM-3 headphones are one of only a few planar magnetic headphones that could be used on the go. It’s not only because of the closed-back design – they are also very easy to drive (26Ω impedance, 102dB sensitivity).

Both headphones are quite hefty, but the manufacturers tried to cover all the other comfort-related issues and made them very comfortable.

When it comes to sound, we definitely prefer Alara, but Oppo PM-3 headphones are not bad at all. They deliver punchy and impactful bass, perfectly balanced and dynamic mids, but there’s some unnecessary brightness in the treble region. Also, Alara headphones deliver slightly wider soundstage, better separation between the instruments, and more accurate imaging. Still, you have to bear in mind that PM-3 headphones are designed for mobile use, while the Alara headphones are supposed to be used indoors, preferably when you are alone because of great sound leakage.


Monolith M1060CMonolith M1060C

Monolith M1060C could easily be the most affordable pair of planar magnetic headphones on the market. If Alara headphones are too expensive for you, but you still want to dive into the world of planar magnetic headphones, this is a great budget option.

Monolith M1060C are closed-back headphones and, just like PM-3, they are easy to drive and can be used on the go.

When it comes to design, we definitely prefer the more refined look of Alara headphones. M1060C have a bit rougher look but the wooden cups are nice and add a little bit of style.

M1060C headphones are lighter and a comfier for long listening sessions.

In terms of sound quality, we like Alara headphones more. Like all the other planar magnetic headphones, M1060C headphones have a relatively neutral response but, compared to Alara, they have more emphasis on the bass, while the low mids are slightly muffled, and there is also some brightness in the treble region. There’s no huge bass boost or some painful ear-piercing brightness, but it’s still noticeable. Alara headphones also have wider soundstage due to open-back design.


Comparison Table

HeadphonesFrequency responseImpedance
Brainwavz Alara10Hz to 40kHz20Ω
HIFIMAN SUNDARA6Hz to 75kH37Ω
Oppo PM-310Hz to 50kHz26Ω
Monolith M1060C10Hz to 50kHz18Ω

Final Thoughts

Alara headphones from Brainwavz Audio deliver impressive sonic performance and addictive sound at an affordable price (the word affordable has a very different meaning in the world of planar magnetic headphones). We were thoroughly impressed by the sound quality – it’s colored in a way that’s very pleasant to listen to. Design, as well as comfort, are two more highlights we would like to emphasize.

There are some minor flaws but most of them are pretty much expected. For example, you can’t expect planar magnetic headphones to be as light as the headphones with dynamic drivers – a little bit of extra weight is inevitable and you will have to deal with it. Also, the lack of noise isolation and sound leakage are simply caused by the open-back design. You can’t expect open-back headphones to leak less sound or to isolate noise better.

The only real complaint/concern we have about these headphones is about the hinges/yokes connecting the headband and the earcups. Unlike the earcups and the headband, the yokes are made of plastic. They don’t look flimsy or anything like that, but we’ve seen these yokes being broken in the past on some other models made by other manufacturers (HE-400i, for example). We are pretty sure that you won’t break them if you handle your headphones carefully, but replacing the plastic with a lightweight aluminum would definitely be a huge improvement and it would prolong the lifespan of these headphones.


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Bass Frequency Response on Headphones Explained https://www.audioreputation.com/bass-frequency-response-on-headphones/ https://www.audioreputation.com/bass-frequency-response-on-headphones/#respond Thu, 31 Jan 2019 09:09:14 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4232 Knowing a few basic things about headphone frequency response can be very helpful when searching for a new pair of headphones. The ability to read and understand the frequency response and especially the frequency response curve/graph could make your search a lot easier and quicker. Depending on the music genres you prefer and on your […]

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Knowing a few basic things about headphone frequency response can be very helpful when searching for a new pair of headphones. The ability to read and understand the frequency response and especially the frequency response curve/graph could make your search a lot easier and quicker. Depending on the music genres you prefer and on your personal taste, you will be looking for a different type of a frequency response curve.

If you are into bass-heavy music, you will be paying more attention to the bass frequency response and depending on your personal preferences, you will be looking for more accurate, more emphasized, or warmer bass.

This article will be centered around bass frequency response and the impact of different bass frequencies on the headphone sound signature. If you keep reading, you will find out a lot about bass and its importance. We will also discuss different music genres that can benefit from a good bass response and we will give you a few tips on what to look for when buying bass headphones depending on your sound preferences.

Headphone Frequency Response and Frequency Response Curve

Before we start discussing bass, it’s important to understand the meaning and the importance of frequency response and frequency response curve.

In layman’s terms, frequency response tells us what’s the lowest/deepest and highest tone your headphones can reproduce. You will almost always find this info in the specs list written in form of a frequency range (for example 15Hz-25kHz). So, this range tells you that the headphones can go down to 15Hz and up to 25kHz.

Unfortunately, these two numbers alone don’t tell you much about the quality of the sound unless they are followed by the deviation (something like +/-3dB or +/-10dB). If there’s no info on the deviation, you won’t have any idea on how accurate the headphones are when it comes to sound reproduction. The deviation value will tell you how close the frequency response is to the flat line (perfectly accurate reproduction of all the frequencies across the spectrum). The flat line or flat frequency response is unachievable, but the manufacturers are trying to get as close as possible. In our previous example, 15Hz-25kHz (+/-3dB) would represent a flatter (more accurate) frequency response than 15Hz-25kHz (+/-10dB). So, these deviation numbers will give you a vague idea on what to expect in terms of sound quality and reproduction accuracy, but you still won’t have the full picture.

Frequency response curve will give you the best info on what to expect in terms of accuracy of audio reproduction across the whole spectrum. Unfortunately, you can hardly find this info – the manufacturers almost never publish frequency response graphs. Sennheiser, for example, will send you a frequency response certificate after you buy the headphones and only if you ask for it. Here’s an example of a Sennheiser frequency response certificate:

Sennheiser frequency response

By Sennheiser

In this example, the horizontal axis represents the frequency range while the vertical axis gives you the information on the deviation in dBs. Zero value on the vertical axis represents the flat frequency response and the manufacturer’s goal is to make the headphones with as flat frequency response as possible. Ideally, it should be within the +/-3dB range. The smaller the deviation, the flatter the frequency response.

In case you don’t know, a human ear can hear the sounds ranging from 20Hz to 25kHz. You may wonder why would you need headphones that can reproduce tones that are lower or higher than something you can hear. The thing is – you can actually feel the difference in sound quality and the amount of detail if the range is wider.

Bass Frequency Response

Now that you know the meaning and the importance of the frequency response curve, we can concentrate on the bass frequency response.

The bass frequencies are the lowest frequencies of the audio spectrum. Depending on the source, you will find different numbers, but it’s probably safe to say that all the tones ranging from 20Hz to 250Hz are considered bass tones. They are responsible for all the rumble, punch, and all the depth and heaviness in your music. Some of the instruments capable of producing low-pitched bass tones are kick drums, electric bass guitar, upright bass, tuba, bass clarinet, bass saxophone, timpani. Also, all kinds of electronic keyboards, as well as some deep male voices, can produce bass frequencies.

Based on the effect they have on your music, all the bass frequencies can be divided into three groups – low-bass, mid-bass, and high bass (upper-bass) frequencies.

Low-bass frequencies

Low-bass frequencies are those ranging from 20Hz to 80Hz. These frequencies are responsible for all the rumble and thump. That’s the kind of bass you can feel in your chest. If the frequency response curve of some headphones is below the target (flat frequency response) for this specific range, it actually means that the headphones lack some real depth and real rumble. If the curve is above the target line, the sound will be perceived as too thunderous. If you prefer more accurate reproduction look for something that’s close to a flat response. Some people (in fact, a lot of them) favor slightly raised low-bass frequency response with just a little bit more rumble. If you are looking for that kind of sound signature, the headphone frequency response curve for the low-bass range should be slightly above the target line (but not more than 3dB). Too much low-bass, as well as too little low-bass, is never good.

Mid-bass frequencies

Frequencies ranging from 80Hz to 150Hz (or even 200Hz) are considered mid-bass frequencies. That’s where the bass harmony, punch, and rhythm come from. If the frequency response curve is well below the targeted flat line (flat frequency response), the sound will lack rhythm (kick, bass guitar, bass synth). If it’s too far above the targeted line, the sound will be too boomy which is also not good, especially when combined with too much low-bass (it will be overpowering).

High Bass (Upper-bass) frequencies

All the frequencies ranging from 150Hz (or, in some cases, 200Hz) to 250Hz are considered the upper-bass frequencies. They don’t affect the bass definition but can add a little bit of warmth to the sound and make it fuller. If the upper-bass is emphasized (the frequency response line is slightly above the target), it will cause the headphones to sound warm and muddy, which doesn’t have to be bad. It all depends on your taste and preferred sound signature. Some manufacturers are actually trying to calibrate their headphones to have this kind of sound signature.

The Importance of Bass Frequencies in Music

This short spectrum of bass frequencies is very important for every kind of listening activity, but it’s not equally important for all of them. For example, if you are going to use your headphones for watching movies, you will need something with a pretty good bass response. Some people would even prefer a little bit emphasized bass that could add just a little bit more rumble to the explosions and other special effects. If you are going to use the headphones for podcasts, the bass response is of secondary importance.

The bass frequencies are essential when it comes to music, but even then, different people will prefer different bass styles (balanced and flat, emphasized, or even overemphasized). Still, we can give you one advice – combining bass-heavy music with bassy headphones can be a bit overwhelming and it can ruin your listening experience (too much bass emphasis could overpower a big chunk of midrange frequencies).

Bass-heavy Music Genres

Generally speaking, every kind of music is driven by the bass. However, some music genres insist on bass more than others. Many contemporary music genres like EDM, dubstep, house, rave, R&B, hip-hop, as well as some pop and rock songs,  have bass-heavy arrangements. If you prefer this kind of bass-heavy music, you will benefit from a pair of headphones with great bass response. That way, you will be able to hear the bass parts the way they were meant to sound. Using headphones with too much bass emphasis, could make the sound too boomy and overwhelming and using the headphones with a suppressed bass response, could make the sound thin and hollow.

The Best Bass Headphones

When it comes to bass frequency response, it’s all about finding the balance. Too much, as well as too little bass, is never good. It may sound good for some songs, but if you are looking for the best possible overall performance, you should be looking for the headphones with a relatively neutral/accurate/flat frequency response. Most audiophiles are looking for that kind of frequency response, not only across the bass range but across the whole spectrum.

The Best Bass Headphones

On the other hand, there’s a growing number of people who prefer a bit heavier bass, more emphasis on the rhythm and thump, even if that means a little bit of muddiness in the midrange section.

Headphones with Accurate and Extended Bass Response

Headphones with a relatively flat/accurate frequency response are hard to make and calibrate and that’s the reason why they are more expensive than other headphones. If you prefer listening to your music the way it was supposed to sound, getting headphones with a relatively flat bass response should be your main goal. You will also benefit from an extended bass response. The fact that you can’t hear anything below 20Hz doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the difference if the headphones can go down to 5Hz and stay within +/-3dB deviation limit.

If you are looking for the most accurate frequency response (including bass frequency response), you should check out our list of 10 best planar magnetic headphones and our review of OPPO PM-3 headphones. The problem with the planar magnetic headphones is that they are quite expensive. Even the affordable models like OPPO PM-3 are priced over $500. You can find some models for less than $300, but even that is far from cheap.

If you are looking for something cheaper with equally good/accurate bass response, our favorites would be Sennheiser HD 4.50, Marshal Mid ANC, Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, and Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO. In case you need something very cheap, you should try Superlux HD 681. These headphones deliver surprisingly accurate bass and a very pleasant listening experience at more than affordable price.

Bass-heavy headphones

If you prefer heavier bass, you won’t be impressed by the sound signature of the previously mentioned headphones since they all have pretty neutral bass response. If you need a bit more emphasis on the bass, you should check out our list of 15 best bass headphones in 2019. Our favorites when it comes to bass-heavy headphones are Skullcandy Crusher (all the bass frequencies moderately emphasized), Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 (big emphasis on the low-bass frequencies), and Sony MDR-XB950B1 (huge emphasis on all the bass frequencies). If you need a budget option, try Superlux HD 681 EVO.

Conclusion

The bass frequency response is very important, but it’s not the only part of the frequency spectrum that matters. Getting the bass response that suits your taste should not be your only goal. The bass means nothing without the mids and highs. If you don’t want to waste your money, you will have to look at the frequency response curve as a whole – too much emphasis on some frequencies or lack of certain frequencies could lead to disappointing results (muffled vocals and low midrange, unfocused and boring mids, too much sibilance, too sharp and painful highs, etc.).

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10 Best Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speakers In 2019 https://www.audioreputation.com/bluetooth-motorcycle-helmet-speakers/ https://www.audioreputation.com/bluetooth-motorcycle-helmet-speakers/#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 08:57:23 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4186 If you are looking for a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker or a Bluetooth-enabled helmet with built-in speakers, this article is a great place to start your search and learn something about these devices. We have already explored the market for you, found the most reputable brands and the most popular products, tested them, and made […]

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If you are looking for a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker or a Bluetooth-enabled helmet with built-in speakers, this article is a great place to start your search and learn something about these devices. We have already explored the market for you, found the most reputable brands and the most popular products, tested them, and made a list of 10 best Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers.

If you don’t want to deal with the installation (although it’s not a huge hassle), there’s a section of this article for you – we have also made a list of 5 best Bluetooth-enabled helmets with built-in speakers and mics.

Best Bluetooth-enabled Helmets with Built-in Speakers and Mics

All the text before and after the list of 10 best Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers is dedicated to those who don’t know anything about motorcycle helmet speakers and those who want to learn more. We have prepared a lot of useful info about Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers, their advantages and disadvantages, their features, and things to pay attention to when buying them. If you are already familiar with these devices or if you prefer ‘’in medias res’’ approach, you can immediately jump to the reviews.

Why Would You Need a Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speaker?

For a biker, there is nothing more enjoyable, more liberating and invigorating, than riding a motorcycle across the country, listening to the sound of the bike, and enjoying the scenery. It cannot get any better than that, right? Well, actually, it can. What if you could listen to your favorite song while riding? Just imagine Lemmy Kilmister screaming into your ears ‘’ On Iron Horse he flies, on Iron Horse he gladly dies, Iron Horse his wife, Iron Horse his life’’ while riding across the Mojave Desert. It’s a pretty cool picture, right? Sure, you can use wired or wireless earbuds, but that would be inconvenient, especially if you are using the wired ones. Even wireless earbuds are inconvenient and can interfere with your helmet. Using something that was specially designed and made for the motorcycle helmet, something like Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker is the most convenient solution you could possibly find. And that’s the first reason to buy it.

Best Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speakers

Furthermore, most Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers on the market (and on our list) are, in fact, Bluetooth kits similar (in terms of functionality and features) to the car Bluetooth kits. They can be wirelessly connected to your phone or to multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices (phone, mp3 player, GPS, etc.) and you can easily switch between different devices by pressing a button. So, you can integrate all your devices with your helmet, answer/make calls or ask your GPS device for directions. Most of the Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers/kits feature built-in mics and voice prompts which means that you don’t have to pull off the road to make a call or set your GPS (it’s still advisable to do that). You just have to press the button and speak. Also, in case you are riding in a pack, you can communicate with other members via intercom. Not all the speakers support this feature, so you should check the specs and see if this is possible.

So, it’s not only about listening to music. Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers are so much more than just speakers. They are very simple, easy to use, multipurpose devices that can make your ride more enjoyable and, even more importantly, they can make it safer (your hands will be on the handlebars most of the time).

10 Best Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speakers – Comparison Table

Motorcycle Helmet SpeakersRatingPriceReview
Sena 20S-01D4.1Check PriceRead Review
Sena SMH10-104.1Check PriceRead Review
FreedConn TCOM-SC4.0Check PriceRead Review
Sena SMH5-UNIV4.1Check PriceRead Review
LEXIN LX-B2 MotoFõn4.4Check PriceRead Review
Cardo PACKTALK4.0Check PriceRead Review
Sena SMH10R3.9Check PriceRead Review
FreedConn T-COMVB3.9Check PriceRead Review
Cardo FRC401023.8Check PriceRead Review
Yideng3.9Check PriceRead Review

5 Best Bluetooth-enabled Motorcycle Helmets with Built-in Speakers

Bluetooth-enabled Motorcycle HelmetsRatingPriceReview
ILM 9533.8Check PriceRead Review
TORC T14B3.6Check PriceRead Review
FreedConn BM2-S3.8Check PriceRead Review
Bilt Techno 2.03.7Check PriceRead Review
Sena Momentum3.6Check PriceRead Review

When you click on “Check Price” you will be redirected to Amazon.com.

Advantages of Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speakers

First of all, they improve your safety. Answering a call while riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, especially if you are using your phone instead of some kind of earbuds or headset (wired or wireless). The very idea of looking into your phone while riding a motorcycle is absolutely reckless. If you really have to answer/make calls while riding, some Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker is a much better, more convenient, and safer solution than anything else. The only safer option is not to make/take calls while riding at all. Just to be clear, we are definitely encouraging you to avoid making and answering calls while riding (even if you are equipped with a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker).

Another great thing about Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers is that they can be paired with multiple devices simultaneously (multiple phones, GPS devices, and other Bluetooth-enabled devices) and you can easily switch between the devices depending on your current needs.

Also, some Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers allow you to communicate with other members of your pack (in case you prefer riding in a pack). This is called intercom feature and usually utilizes radio waves or Bluetooth connection. Not all the Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers have intercom and if you need it, you should choose carefully and check the specs list (or read our reviews).

In the end, there’s the most obvious thing. Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers are the most convenient option for listening to music. Some truly wireless earbuds could also do the job but you never know how uncomfortable they can be in combination with the helmet.

Disadvantages of Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speakers

First of all, it is important for you to know that using Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers for making/answering calls while riding is not perfectly safe. It’s safer than using your phone while riding, but it’s not safer than not talking on the phone. The National Safety Council claims that your brain activity (or focus) decreases by up to 1/3 when talking on the phone while driving (the same thing applies to riding ). So, the best option is to avoid answering or making calls while riding a motorcycle.

Another disadvantage, or rather an inconvenience, is the fact that all the members of your pack have to buy the same type of motorcycle helmet speaker or Bluetooth-enabled helmet (or at least the same brand) in order to use the intercom feature. The manufacturers are trying to make you buy their helmets and keep you within their ecosystem which is not fair but you can’t do anything about it. If you are prepared to pay more, there are some high-end devices that allow you to communicate with any other Bluetooth communication device made by any manufacturer. You can find some of those devices on our list.

This is our selection of 10 best Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers in 2019.


1. Sena 20S-01D Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System

Sena 20S-01D Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System

Check Price on Amazon

Sena is one of the industry leaders when it comes to motorcycling and cycling equipment. Their Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers and smart helmets have been highly praised and very popular among riders and cyclists. One of their latest series of Bluetooth helmet speakers/kits is 20S series. Sena tried to pack an amazing number of features inside one small device and the results are pretty good, but there are some annoying flaws that could discourage you from buying this device. You can buy a single device for around $250 or buy two (dual pack) and get a nice discount.

 What’s in the box

Sena 20S-01D comes in a nice cardboard box with numerous accessories included. You will get the main unit, helmet clamp, three microphones (static boom mic, wired boom mic, wired mic), dynamic speakers, micro USB charging/data cable, car charger (for use on the go), 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, mounting adapter, foam covers and Velcro pads for the speakers, Velcro pads for the mics, and a hex key (for the installation). You will also get the user manual (you will spend a lot of time reading this material so you should try not to lose it) and a 2-year warranty. The only thing they forgot to include is the wall adapter for charging.

 Things we like

20S-01D features an interesting aerodynamic shape. It’s small and unobtrusive. Installing the unit onto the helmet takes just a few minutes– attach the clamp to the helmet and tighten it up and then attach the main unit to the clamp. The main unit, as well as the clamp, is made of hard and thick plastic and look pretty solid.  

The controls are not as simple as we would like them to be. There are 3 buttons and one knob (Sena calls it Jog Dial). The jog dial button is on the front side of the main unit surrounded by the jog dial. There’s another (phone button) on the back side of the main unit. Also, there’s a so-called ambient button on the bottom of the clamp and when you press it, it will pick up the sound from your surroundings and transfer it to the speakers so you don’t have to remove your helmet to hear someone talking to you at the gas station. It’s a nice and very useful additional feature. We were not quite happy about the fact that you have to control so many features (calls, music playback, GPS, FM radio, intercom, etc.) with only three buttons (the ambient button has only one function). It can get pretty confusing and it takes a lot of time, reading, and experimenting to master the controls.

Besides the control buttons, you can also use the voice commands. There’s an astonishing amount of voice commands and they are all listed in the user manual. In order to initiate voice commands, you can double-tap the main unit (or the helmet) or you can speak directly into the mic (you have to say ‘’Hallo Sena’’ first and say your command after you hear the voice prompt). You can use the voice commands to check the battery status, dial phone number (speed dial), redial the last number, control the playback or radio, activate the intercom, etc.

The main unit has a flip-up antenna for the intercom communication. The antenna is supposed to be extracted when the intercom is active (in order to get better reception). On the back side of the unit, there’s a micro USB charging port. All the other inputs are located on the helmet clamp. Besides the inputs for the mic and speakers (both mic and speakers are detachable), there are also two ports (2.5mm and 3.5mm) for the earbuds (you can use some wired earbuds instead of the speakers) and for connecting non-Bluetooth devices with AUX output.

This unit utilizes Bluetooth 4.0, which is one of the newer Bluetooth versions and it delivers a significantly better performance than Bluetooth 2.0 or 3.0. You can pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices with the unit (2 phones or phone and GPS device) which is a great and very convenient thing. The unit can also be paired with some older Sena communication units like SMH10 and SMH5.

The intercom feature is also supported and you can pair up to 8 devices together and have a group chat while riding. The advertised range is 1.2 miles but we were not impressed with the actual range and this is our greatest concern (and greatest disappointment).

Sena 20S-01D supports audio multitasking which means that two features can be active at the same time. For example, you can talk to the other members of the pack while listening to music via Bluetooth. Some features (like intercom) have the priority over other features but you can also change the priority settings (you have everything thoroughly explained in the user manual – Section 19).

The unit features a Li-ion rechargeable battery. It can deliver up to 13.5h of talk or listening to music or up to 10 days in standby mode. The recharge takes 2 hours.

The speakers are not impressive. They are not loud enough and their bass response is below average. The mids (especially the vocals) are probably the greatest highlight when it comes to sound. The good thing is that you can always switch to earbuds and forget about the speakers.

The microphone, especially that static boom mic, delivers an exceptional performance, even in a noisy environment. The noise canceling feature works very well and your voice will be loud and clear on the other end.

On top of all the existing features, there’s also the Sena Utility app (available for Android and Apple devices). You can use this app to set up the device (initial and basic settings), set radio stations, voice commands, volume, configure groups, etc. The app is nice but it’s not very user-friendly.

 Things we don’t like

As we’ve said, the intercom range is our greatest concern. It’s advertised that the max range is 1.2 miles, but in reality, it’s much shorter. We couldn’t even get half a mile (with the extracted antenna). It looks like you have to be in the line of sight with other group members if you want to communicate with them.

The manufacturer doesn’t offer any info on the water resistance or waterproofness of the device. The device is not IPX certified and we strongly believe that this kind of devices should be at least water resistant. If the device gets wet, it will shut down automatically and you will have to dry it off before you turn it back on.  

Unlike the installation, the initial setup and usage are not as simple as we would like it to be. You will have to spend some time reading the manual and watching ‘’how to’’ YouTube videos before you master the controls. Most of the features work fine once you figure out how to use them, but the device is not easy-to-use.

We’ve had some issues with the voice commands right out of the box, but once you upgrade the firmware, most of the voice command issues disappear.

Comparison Table


2. Sena SMH10-10 Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset

Sena SMH10-10 Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset

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SMH10-10 is one of the older Sena headset models. It’s significantly cheaper than 20S headset (priced under $150) and it offers pretty decent performance for the price. Naturally, you won’t get as many features as you would get with the 20S (shorter intercom range, a smaller number of members in intercom communication, absence of ambient button, etc.), but that’s all normal and expected considering the price difference.  

 What’s in the box

The packaging looks really nice. You will get the main unit (the part with the controls), the clamp unit, two detachable mics (boom mic and wired mic), two small dynamic speakers (attached to the clamp unit), USB to micro USB charging/data cable, car charger, AUX cable, glued surface mounting adapter, mic sponges, speaker pads, and a hex key. You will also get the user manual and 2-year warranty.

 Things we like

In terms of design, SMH10 is similar to 20S, but it has a thicker profile and it’s a little bit bulkier. It is available in black color only.

The installation is smooth and hassle-free. It’s supposed to go on the left side of the helmet and it can be mounted on most helmet types. If you know what you’re doing, you won’t need more than 15min to install everything.

The control buttons are basically the same as the controls on the 20S. You have a jog dial button/dial (on the face of the unit) and phone button on the back side of the unit. You can use these buttons to turn on/off the unit, pair with Bluetooth-enabled devices, connect and communicate with other group members via intercom, control the playback, answer/end/make/reject/transfer calls, etc. Controlling everything with only two buttons and one knob can be a little bit confusing at first and you will need some time to get used to the controls.

Instead of the control buttons, you can use the voice commands. The number of possible commands is not as large as it was with the 20S, but it’s satisfying. You can at least answer/make/transfer calls and activate/end intercom communication.

The device utilizes Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR which is not as good as 4.0 and newer versions (in terms of sound quality and battery durability) but still delivers a satisfying performance. The pairing process is smooth and quick. Unlike 20S, SMH10-10 doesn’t support NFC pairing. Multi-point pairing is possible – you can pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously (pair two phones, phone and GPS device, etc.).

You can also connect non-Bluetooth audio sources via AUX port on the back side of the unit.

The intercom feature is also present. You will be able to connect with up to 4 group members and communicate with them. You can communicate with all of them at the same time (conference intercom). The advertised range is 900m (980 yards).

The device also supports audio multitasking, which means that you can listen to the music and stay connected (via intercom) with other riders. Certain features/connections are prioritized (for example, intercom and phone calls have the priority over Bluetooth streaming) and if someone talks to you via intercom, the music playback will be paused.

The battery offers satisfying performance. You will get up to 12 hours of playtime/talking or 10 days in standby per one charge. Recharge takes 2.5 hours.

The speaker performance is not amazing. It’s more mid-centric than anything else. The bass is almost nonexistent. The highs are present but kind of bright. The speakers are not as loud as we have expected.

The microphone, especially the boom mic, delivers an above-average performance. You can ride at 60mph and have an uninterrupted conversation. The mic does a great job at isolating the ambient noise – the person on the other end will hear you loud and clear.

 Things we don’t like

Just like the 20S, SMH10-10 is not IPX-certified. So, it’s not waterproof or water resistant. The smartest thing would be not to use it if it’s raining. If it gets wet, shut it down and leave it to dry off.

Controlling everything with only 2 buttons and one knob can be a bit confusing. You will need to read the manual carefully and learn how to pair with Bluetooth devices and with other SMH10-10 devices via intercom, but once you get used to controls, it will be much easier.

Comparison Table


3. FreedConn TCOM-SC Motorcycle Helmet Bluetooth Headset

FreedConn TCOM-SC Motorcycle Helmet Bluetooth Headset

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After two expensive products, here’s something much more affordable. FredConn TCOM-SC is priced under $60, or you can buy two for about $110. This device is maybe not as capable and versatile as the previous two, but you get what you paid for.

 What’s in the box

FredConn TCOM-SC comes in a much more modest packaging than Sena headsets. It doesn’t look bad but, compared to the previous two headsets, you won’t get as many accessories. The package includes the main unit (the part with buttons that goes on your helmet), clamp unit with screws, screwdriver, detachable stereo speakers with mic, USB to micro USB charging cable, 4 adhesive speaker pads, user manual, and 1-year warranty.

 Things we like

In terms of design, this device looks slimmer than Sena headsets. It’s also lighter and less rugged than Sena. FreedConn TCOM-SC definitely looks less durable and less rugged than Sena devices. So, if you want to pay less, you will definitely have to make some compromises. The good thing is that the compromises are not huge.

The installation is pretty simple. You can clamp it to the helmet and tighten it up or you can stick it to the side of the helmet. On the bottom of the main unit, there’s a headphone jack/charging port. The mic and the speakers are connected via cable and they cannot be separated but you can detach them from the main unit in case you need to replace them. There’s no additional AUX port for connecting other non-Bluetooth devices. The installation should not take more than 10-15min.

When it comes controls, the FreedCon TCOM-SC is very similar to the SMH-10. You have two buttons (power/intercom button and call/playback button) and one knob (volume/next song/previous song). All the buttons are located on the front panel and between the buttons, there’s a small LCD screen. This is not an absolutely necessary feature since you won’t be able to see it most of the time, but it’s nice. You won’t be able to use voice commands to control the playback and communication.

The are some confusing info on the Bluetooth version. The product description on Amazon claims that it features Bluetooth 3.0 while the user manual says Bluetooth 2.1. Anyway, pairing is fast and takes a few seconds. You cannot pair multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously (multipoint pairing is not supported) – you can only connect one Bluetooth device (either smartphone or GPS device).

FreedCon TCOM-SC features intercom, but you will be able to connect only three devices and only two can communicate at the same time (no intercom conference). The advertised range is 800m (875 yards). If you are riding in a group and intercom is important to you, Sena and Cardo devices are a much better choice.

The device features one rechargeable Li-ion battery. The battery delivers 7h of intercom talk, 10h of phone talk, or 300 hours in standby mode. The recharge takes 4h.

The speakers/headphones are actually louder than those on Sena SMH10-10 and 20S. The bass response is not that impressive, but the bass is definitely more present than on previously reviewed Sena headsets.

The microphone delivers an impressive performance. It isolates/attenuates a significant portion of ambient noise and it doesn’t muffle your voice.

 Things we don’t like

The device is flimsier (all the parts including the clamp are made of plastic) than more expensive devices and you will have to handle it carefully if you want it to last.

FreedCon TCOM-SC doesn’t feature Bluetooth multipoint pairing. You can only connect one Bluetooth-enabled device at a time.

Intercom conference is not supported. You can connect three devices via intercom but only two can communicate simultaneously.

Comparison Table


4. Sena SMH5-UNIV Bluetooth Headset and Intercom for Scooters/Motorcycles

Sena SMH5-UNIV Bluetooth Headset

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SMH5-UNIV is one of the cheapest Sena headsets on the market. It’s priced under $100. This is a good substitute for SMH10. In terms of performance, it’s slightly worse than SMH10 (no intercom conference, shorter intercom range), but it’s significantly better than FreedConn TCOM-SC (better durability, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, up to 4 devices connected via intercom, etc.).

 What’s in the box

The packaging includes the main unit, clamp unit, glued surface mounting plate, helmet speakers, detachable boom mic, mic equipment (fastener, mic holder, mic sponges), USB to micro USB charging cable (wall adapter is not included), and speaker pads. You will also get the user manual and a 2-year warranty.

 Things we like

SMH5 is basically a baby brother of the SMH10. In many ways, it looks the same as SMH10, but it’s slightly smaller and lighter. They are similar in terms of design and build quality. The jog dial looks exactly the same.

When it comes to installation, there’s nothing out of the ordinary. You have to attach the unit to the helmet and find the right place for the speakers and for the mic. If you don’t want to, you don’t even have to attach the mic since the mic is not permanently connected to the speakers.

The controls look exactly the same as the controls on SMH10. You have a multifunction jog dial/button and a phone button. You have to use these buttons to turn on the headset, pair it, activate intercom, answer/end/reject/transfer calls, control the playback. It will be tricky at first, but after some time you will master the controls and it won’t be that hard.

The device features Bluetooth 3.0. Pairing is done in seconds (no NFC pairing – you have to do it the old way). You can pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously (multipoint pairing) so you can pair it with your phone and with your GPS device at the same time.

SMH5 does not feature an additional AUX port for connecting non-Bluetooth devices.

SMH5 also features intercom. You can connect up to four devices but you can only talk to one group member at the same time (no intercom conference) and the member has to be within 400m (430 yards) range.

The built-in battery delivers a significantly shorter talk time than SMH10. You will get up to 6 hours of talking and 150h in standby mode (about half of what you get with SMH10). The recharge takes 1.5 hours.

The speakers are surprisingly loud. You won’t be impressed by the bass but it’s there. The emphasis is on the midrange frequencies and voices.

As all the Sena headsets, SMH5 has a pretty good noise-canceling mic. It delivers more than satisfying performance.  

 Things we don’t like

SMH5 does not support audio multitasking – you cannot listen to music and have intercom active in the background.

If you prefer long rides, you need something with a stronger battery. This one can deliver up to 6 hours of talk time.

SMH5 doesn’t support all those fancy advanced features you would get with more expensive headsets (intercom conference, voice commands, etc.). After all, that’s the reason why SMH5 is so much cheaper than SMH10 or 20S.

Comparison Table


5. LEXIN LX-B2 MotoFõn Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Intercom Headset

LEXIN LX-B2 MotoFõn Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Intercom Headset

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This is another affordable option on the list. It’s a simple device offering some basic features. None of the advanced features are present (don’t expect voice commands, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, intercom conference, etc.)

 What’s in the box

The package looks nice. Depending on your needs, you can order a single or dual pack. The packaging includes the main unit, the cradle that’s supposed to be attached to the helmet, spring clip (for attaching the cradle to the helmet), two mics (boom mic for open-face helmet and button mic for full-face helmet), a pair of speakers, speaker and mic accessories (Velcro tapes, boom mic foam, button mic pads), USB to micro USB charging cable, user manual, operation instructions, and 1-year warranty. Wall adapter is not included.

 Things we like

In terms of design, LX-B2 is not different from the previously reviewed devices. It’s slightly slimmer and lighter than Sena headsets, but the basic aerodynamic shape of the device is the same. It’s made of plastic, but some parts of the main unit are rubberized. The overall build quality is on par with the price. Naturally, you will get more rugged build if you pay more, but for the price, you can’t expect anything better.

The controls are quite simple and easy to use. You have every single step and every single command nicely explained in the operation manual. There are four buttons – two on the top panel are volume/track buttons, and two on the front side are the intercom/Siri button and function/call/play/pause button. The micro USB charging port is on the back side. The buttons are large enough and easily accessible.

The unit itself doesn’t feature voice commands (that’s reserved for high-end devices), but you can activate Siri or S-Voice (Samsung voice assistant) by pressing the intercom button.

LX-B2 features Bluetooth 3.0. The pairing process is simple and takes 5 seconds. You can pair the headset with any Bluetooth-enabled device (phone, GPS device, mp3 player, etc.). The only problem is that you can’t connect two devices at the same time (you can’t pair your phone and your GPS and listen to some music and get GPS directions at the same time). The device will automatically pair with the last paired device when they are in range.

The device features intercom but you can only connect two units together. If you prefer riding in a group and if you want to be able to communicate with 3, 4, or multiple group members, this is not the device for you. The intercom range is also problematic – you have to be less than 10m away from the other driver in order to use the intercom.

Phone calls and intercom calls have the priority over the music playback. If you are listening to a song and there’s an incoming phone call, the music will be paused.

The speakers are not the most impressive part of this unit. The bass is really weak and the mids are emphasized. There’s a noticeable roll-off in the treble region.

The mic delivers a pretty good performance. It does isolate most of the noise at 60mph, but if you are driving faster than that, it will pick up some noise and it will muffle your voice a little bit. The microphone does the job well.

 Things we don’t like

LX-B2 doesn’t support multipoint Bluetooth pairing and it doesn’t support intercom conference. You can only communicate with one rider via intercom. The intercom range is probably the biggest issue – 10m (33ft) is really short.

This device doesn’t feature FM radio which is not such a big deal for us, but it might be a deal breaker for some people.

The manufacturer claims that the device is waterproof and weather resistant but there is no info on the IPX rating/certification in the user manual.

Comparison Table


6. Cardo Scala Rider PACKTALK

Cardo Scala Rider PACKTALK

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Cardo is another industry leader (along with Sena) when it comes to Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers. PACKTALK is their high-end flagship communication system. This is an amazing but also quite pricey little device. The single pack is priced around $200, but you can buy a dual pack for less than $330. It’s definitely more cost-effective to buy two at once. In terms of performance and number of available features, PACKTALK is even better than Sena 20S. The actual rival of PACKTALK is the latest Sena headset called Sena 30K but we still prefer PACKTALK because it’s a bit more reliable when it comes to riding in a group. If you are riding in a larger group of up to 15 people, PACKTALK should be your go-to communication device.

 What’s in the box

The headset is nicely packed inside a leatherette box. Inside the box, you will find the main unit, the clip unit for attaching the device to the helmet (Cardo calls it audio kit because all the audio inputs/outputs are on this unit), 2 40mm JBL speakers, 2 mics (wired and boom mic), USB to micro USB charging cable, all the necessary installation equipment (glue plate, Velcro pads, speaker relocators), user manual, and 2-year warranty.

 Things we like

In terms of design, all these devices are shaped similarly, but what’s special about this unit is that it looks and feels much sturdier than any other communication device we’ve tested. It’s solidly built and extremely durable. Unlike many other communication devices, this one is actually waterproof and dustproof (IP67-certified). All the other devices are weatherproof or ‘’kind of water-resistant” but only Cardo PACKTALK communication devices are actually tested and certified. In terms of design, you should probably know that it has a slimmer profile than Sena 30K, and it’s slightly smaller and lighter.

The installation doesn’t take too long if you know what you’re doing. We’ve done it in 15 minutes. If you are not sure how to do it correctly, there’s a lot of YouTube videos with all kinds of installation tips.

Just like Sena 20S, PACKTALK has a flip-up antenna. The micro USB charging port is located on the bottom of the main unit and it’s sealed with a rubber flap. All the control buttons are on the front side. You have three buttons (intercom button at the top, phone button at the bottom, and play/pause button) and a roller wheel. There’s a bunch of different functions assigned to these buttons. Instead of using the buttons, you can use the voice command. You can find the list of available commands in the user manual. All the commands work nicely and almost flawlessly. PACKTALK also features self-adjusting volume – the device will calculate the optimal volume based on the speed and ambient noise.

PACKTALK features Bluetooth 4.1 and can be connected to two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously. The pairing is simple and takes a few seconds and the headset will automatically pair with the last paired device.

Intercom is one of the top features of the PACKTALK system. There are 2 intercom modes – Bluetooth intercom and DMC (Dynamic Mesh Communication) intercom. In Bluetooth intercom mode, you can communicate with 8 other riders and you can have intercom conference with up to 4 riders (2 of them can talk at the same time and the others can only listen). In Bluetooth intercom mode, you can communicate with other Cardo and non-Cardo communication devices. The max range in Bluetooth intercom mode is 1 mile (under ideal conditions).

DMC Intercom is the preferred option for riding in a group. You can connect up to 15 devices in a group and 6 of them can talk at the same time.  The maximum range depends on the number of riders. If there are only 2 riders, you can be 1 mile away from each other, but if there are at least 4 riders, the range extends up to 5 miles because each device receives the signal and then repeats it. Another interesting feature in DMC mode is the DMC bridge. This feature allows other riders with a Bluetooth intercom communication device or a caller to join the previously created PACKTALK group (if there are available slots). What’s great about DMC mode is the fact that the network doesn’t fall apart if one of the riders leaves the network. If the riders are previously assigned to a group, they can leave and join the network whenever they want.

There are multiple ways to perform the initial settings, change your preferences, update the firmware (this is the first thing you should do when you open the box), create a group/pack, etc. The preferred and the easiest way is the Cardo SmartSet app (available for Android and Apple devices) but you can also do that through Cardo Community web service, or through the user menu (which is the hardest way).

Finally, this little device also features FM tuner with 6 presets.

The built-in rechargeable battery delivers up to 13h of talking. The recharge takes up to 3 hours.

PACKTALK has two 40mm JBL speakers. They are probably better than any generic pair of helmet speakers but even these speakers are not perfect. The mids and voices are crystal clear and that’s the most important part.

The mic, especially the boom mic is pretty good. It managed to isolate most of the noise at 60mph.  Riding at higher speeds could be problematic – the mic will pick up more and more ambient noise as the speed increases.  

 Things we don’t like

We didn’t like the user manual very much. It’s comprehensive but not very user-friendly. It’s probably smarter to look for some helpful YouTube channels like MotoGeek Freak or Cardo Scala Rider and find the answers to all your questions.

The number of available features is really impressive but make sure to learn everything before you go on a ride. Trying to figure out how to search for radio stations or how to go from Bluetooth to DMC intercom while riding can be really tricky (and also very dangerous).

Comparison Table


7. Sena SMH10R Low Profile Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset and Intercom

Sena SMH10R Low Profile Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset and Intercom

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Sena SMH10R is a modification of the previously reviewed SMH10. In terms of features and functionality, it’s practically the same as SMH10. The only real difference is the lower profile.

 What’s in the box

SMH10R comes in a simple cardboard box with SENA logo on it. The package contents are pretty much standard. You will get the main unit with three cables attached to it (charging cable connector, mic connector, and speaker connector), 2 speakers, 2 mics (boom mic and wired mic), battery pack, USB to micro USB charging/data cable, cigarette charger, and all the necessary installation equipment (sponges, Velcro pads, adhesive tapes, etc.). You will also get the user manual and 2-year limited warranty.

 Things we like

In terms of design, SMH10R is different than other devices from the SMH series. It’s much slimmer and it doesn’t have a jog dial. Whether you like it or not is up to you and your personal preferences.

When it comes to build quality, we are not impressed. It seems solid enough but we have expected something more rugged considering the price. The manufacturer claims that it is weather resistant, but there is no IP or IPX certificate to confirm that. Only Cardo devices are IP-certified. This device won’t break if it gets wet, but it is not fully waterproof.

All the control buttons are located on the front side. There are three buttons (+, -, and center/SENA button). The buttons are large enough, responsive, and easily reachable. You can use the + and – buttons to control the volume. SMH10R doesn’t feature voice commands, but you can answer a phone call or start an intercom conversation with your voice (first, you have to enable voice-activated phone answering/intercom).

SMH10R features Bluetooth 3.0. and supports multipoint pairing which means that you can pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices with the unit at the same time (two phones or phone and GPS). The pairing is done in a few seconds.

SMH10R features intercom and intercom conference with up two 3 other riders. It’s a great device for people who prefer riding with friends but if you are a member of a larger group of riders, you should buy something that allows more participants (Sena 20S, Sena 30K, Cardo PACKTALK, or PACKTALK BOLD).

SMH10R allows you to communicate with riders using other Sena and non-Sena communication devices. The intercom range between two riders under ideal conditions is 900m (980 yards), but in reality, you will get 400m at best.

The battery delivers up to 8 hours of talking per one charge. It takes 2-2.5h to recharge the battery and the good thing is that you can charge it on the go and you can use it while charging.

The microphone delivers very good performance. It isolates most of the noise at 60mph. Higher speeds could be problematic but it’s not absolutely impossible to make a call.

 Things we don’t like

Assigning too many features to one button (center button) is always problematic and requires some experimenting and learning. You will need some time to master the controls and learn how to do different things. Also, the manual is not the most helpful reading material – finding a YouTube tutorial is a better solution.

The sound quality is pretty bad. If you like bass-heavy music, you will be absolutely disappointed. We haven’t expected much but these speakers are pretty bad. The mids and vocals sound natural and clear – if you are going to use SMH10R for phone calls and communication with other riders, this device is good enough.

You can get a much better performance and more features if you pay $30 or $40 more. You will be much happier with Sena 20S or 30K (at least, in our opinion). The only reason to buy SMH10R instead of Sena 20S is the slimmer profile. If that’s your main concern, go for it.

Comparison Table


8. FreedConn T-COMVB Helmet Bluetooth Headset Intercom

FreedConn T-COMVB Helmet Bluetooth Headset Intercom

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FreedConn T-COMVB is one of the cheapest devices on the market. You can have a dual pack for less than $100 which is more than affordable. T-COMVB is almost exactly the same as TCOM-SC. The only difference is that T-COMVB doesn’t have an LCD screen which is not a deal breaker considering the fact that you don’t really see that LCD while riding.

 What’s in the box

The device comes in a simple box with all the key features listed on it. You will get the main unit, spring clip with fastening screws, 2 speakers with a microphone (you can choose between boom mic and wired mic package depending on the type of your helmet and your preferences), installation equipment (adhesive pads, screwdriver, etc.), USB to micro USB charging cable, user manual, and 1-year warranty.

 Things we like

In terms of design, there’s no difference between the previously reviewed FreedConn TCOM-SC. They both look the same and are shaped like all the other Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers on the list. It’s made of plastic but it looks solid enough. The manufacturer also claims that it’s waterproof and sun-proof but there’s no IP rating to confirm that. In our experience, only Cardo makes devices that are actually certified as waterproof/dustproof. All the others (including Sena) offer more or less protection against different weather conditions (they are more or less weather resistant), but they are not certified. All in all, the build quality of T-COMVB is on par with the price.

The info on the Bluetooth version is somewhat confusing. The product description on Amazon claims that it features Bluetooth 3.0 while the user manual says Bluetooth 2.1. The pairing is smooth and quick but you can only connect one device at a time (multipoint Bluetooth pairing is not supported). The Bluetooth range is 10m which is more than enough considering the fact that your phone is always next to you.

T-COMVB features intercom and allows you to connect up to three devices/riders together but only two of them can talk at the same time (full-duplex). Intercom conference is not supported. If you are riding in a larger group (more than 3 riders), this is not the device for you. The advertised intercom range (under ideal conditions) is 800m. In reality, you will get less than 400m (usually 200-300m).

The rechargeable 400mAh battery can deliver up to 10 hours of talking on the phone or up 7 hours of intercom use. Recharge takes up to 4 hours.

The speaker performance is not impressive, especially when it comes to bass reproduction. The midrange and especially the vocals are very clear and articulate (important for music but also for communication), and highs are present but not sparkling.

The mic does the job (we have only tested the boom mic). It can isolate most of the noise at 70mph and the voice sounds natural and undistorted on the other end. The mic performance actually surpassed our expectations.

 Things we don’t like

This a simple unit that does what’s supposed to do and we have no major complaints. You won’t be able to make conference intercom calls and you won’t be able to communicate with more than two riders in a group. Also, you can’t pair more than one device with the unit in Bluetooth mode. You can’t really expect any of the advanced features (voice commands, app, auto adjusting volume etc.) at this price point.

Comparison Table


9. Cardo Scala Rider FREECOM 4

Cardo Scala Rider FREECOM 4

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FREECOM 4 is not as advanced communication device as PACKTALK or PACTALK BOLD but it’s more affordable. In case you are riding in a smaller pack of up to 4 riders and you want to save some money, FREECOM 4 is a great choice.

 What’s in the box

FREECOM 4 comes in a compact box which includes either one (single pack) or two devices (dual pack). Besides the main unit, you will get the audio kit, 40mm speakers, two mics (hybrid boom mic and wired mic), all the installation equipment (speaker spacers, Velcro pads, mic sponges, glue plate), USB to micro USB charging/data cable (wall charger included). You will also get a comprehensive user manual, a pocket guide, and a two-year warranty.

 Things we like

This device is much slimmer and has a lower profile than the PACKTALK and it doesn’t feature roller wheel, but it still features that recognizable Cardo look. The unit is very compact and sturdy. FREECOM 4 is IP67-certified (fully waterproof and dustproof) which is a great advantage of Cardo devices over any other Bluetooth motorcycle helmet communication device.

The installation is simple and it takes 10-15 minutes. You can use the spring clip or you can simply stick the audio kit to the helmet. Wiring is a bit harder than attaching the audio kit to the helmet, but it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

There are 4 buttons (intercom button, phone/media button, and two volume buttons). All the buttons are located on the front side, they are all easily reachable, and responsive. Learning how to use the buttons and adjusting to the controls definitely takes some time (especially if you are wearing gloves), but once you get used to the buttons, there will be no problems. A small downside is that there are no voice commands, but you can at least answer a phone call by saying anything loud enough.

Cardo once again managed to pack a lot of features inside a small device. FREECOM 4 is not as great as PACKTALK, but it’s more than good enough for most of the people.

The device features Bluetooth 4.1 and it supports multipoint pairing. Pairing one or two Bluetooth-enabled devices with the unit takes just a few seconds and it’s nicely explained in the manual. Your phone and your GPS device can be simultaneously connected to the unit.

FREECOM 4 also features Bluetooth intercom and allows you to connect up to 4 riders together and have an intercom communication with all of them at the same time. Since each device has only 2 channels, pairing four devices is a little bit complicated, but it is also nicely explained in the user manual and in the official YouTube Cardo FREECOM 4 tutorial. The max range under the ideal conditions (line of sight) is 1.2km. In reality, you will get half of that range at best. FREECOM 4 can also be paired with any other Cardo or non-Cardo device in full-duplex.

It may not be important to some people, but this device also features a built-in FM tuner so you can also listen to one of the radio presets while riding.

In order to configure the device and adjust all the settings (pair multiple Bluetooth-enabled devices, pair intercom devices before you go on a ride, set radio presets, etc.) you can use voice-navigated menu (which is the hardest way), Cardo SmartSet app (available for Android and Apple devices), or Cardo Community web service. Some of the features (only a few of them) require a certain method. For example, if you want to upgrade the firmware, you will have to use the Cardo Community service and you will have to connect the device to your PC/Mac (you can’t do that through the app or through the voice-navigated menu). Also, if you want to set the mobile priority (when two phones are connected to the unit via Bluetooth), you will have to use the app.

Battery delivers more than satisfying performance. It can deliver 13 hours of talking and can be fully recharged in 3 hours.

Speakers are not the most impressive part of this unit but they do the job. The bass is tiny and the emphasis is on the midrange reproduction and especially on vocals. The speaker can get pretty loud which is important when you are in a noisy environment.

The mic delivers an impressive performance (especially the boom mic). It’s capable of delivering clear and undistorted voice at 60-70mph.

 Things we don’t like

The only thing that could be a problem is the control panel and the number of things you have to control with only four buttons. It’s really tricky at first, but it gets easier with time.

The user manual is maybe a little bit harder to understand (but it’s still much better than the PACKTALK manual). On the other hand, there’s a lot of useful YouTube tutorials where you can learn everything.

FREECOM 4 does exactly what is supposed to do. We could complain about the lack of some advanced features like voice commands or DMC mesh intercom, but you can’t get everything at this price point, especially if you are buying a top-quality communication device from Cardo or Sena. If you riding in a large group (more than 4 riders), you should consider buying something more capable and more expensive (like PACKTALK, Sena 20S or 30K). For all the other purposes, FREECOM 4 is a great choice.

Comparison Table


10. Yideng Bluetooth Headset for Motorcycle Helmet

Yideng Bluetooth Headset for Motorcycle Helmet

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If you are looking for a cheap option that does the basic things, you should check out Yideng Bluetooth headset. When it comes to inexpensive Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers, we are more into FreedConn devices, but Yideng is also a viable option. You can have a pair of these for less than $100.

 What’s in the box

Yideng Bluetooth headset comes in a simple cardboard box. Along with the main unit, you will get the speakers and the boom mic (they are connected together), semi-coiled audio cable, USB to micro USB charging cable (wall adapter included), installation equipment (headset clip, screws, screwdriver), user manual, and 1-year warranty.

 Things we like

This is another simple-looking device similar to all the previous ones. The control buttons are on the front and top side while the charging port and 2.5mm port (you can use it to connect any non-Bluetooth source) are located at the bottom. Charging port is, at the same time, the headset socket.

When it comes to durability, this is not the most impressive device but it’s solidly built and it looks rugged. The manufacturer claims it’s waterproof but we haven’t been able to find any info on the actual IP certification.

The installation doesn’t take too long. The spring clip that’s supposed to keep the unit in place is made of plastic and it doesn’t look that strong, but it keeps the unit in place. You can always use the adhesive plate instead of spring clip if you think that’s a better option.

The control buttons are simple, easily reachable, and responsive. Phone/media button and intercom button are located on the front side. Two volume buttons are on the top. Since there are no too much features, you will learn how to use the buttons quickly.

Yideng Bluetooth headset features Bluetooth 3.0. It doesn’t support multipoint Bluetooth pairing and you can only pair one device (phone, GPS) with the headset.

Yideng also features intercom. You can only connect with two other riders and only two can talk at the same time (no intercom conference). The advertised range is 1km (under ideal conditions – the line of sight) but you will get less than 400m in reality.

The battery can deliver up to 8 hours of talk time or 10 days in standby mode. The recharge takes more than 3 hours.

The speakers are not the most impressive part of this headset. There’s practically no bass at all, but the mids and vocals sound pretty clear. The speakers are good for vocal-oriented music and for communication.

The microphone is usable, we could even say really good. It’s not as good as Sena or Cardo, but it does attenuate a significant amount of noise. The conversation is pretty clear at 60mph.

 Things we don’t like

Well, you get what you paid for. This is not the best device on the market and it cannot compete with Cardo and Sena Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers, but it does what’s supposed to do. The intercom range is questionable but you will get at least 100-200m. If you are riding in a large pack, this device is not for you. If you prefer riding alone or in a pair, this is a pretty decent budget option.

All those fancy features you would get with more expensive models are not available here. You won’t get voice prompts and voice commands, app, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, etc.

Comparison Table


This is the end of our list of 10 best motorcycle helmet speakers, but we have a little extra for you. If you prefer a cleaner and more convenient solution, you can buy a Bluetooth-enabled motorcycle helmet with built-in speakers and mic instead of a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker. If you opt for this solution, you will avoid all the installation hassle but you will have to spend more.


5 Best Bluetooth-enabled Motorcycle Helmets with Built-in Speakers


1. ILM 953 Bluetooth-enabled Motorcycle Helmet

ILM 953 Bluetooth-enabled Motorcycle Helmet

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ILM 953 is a full-size helmet with a flip-up visor. It’s available in three sizes (M, L, XL) and three colors (black, red, white). The helmet meets ECE and DOT requirements. All the inner pads can be removed and replaced. The helmet doesn’t feature anti-fog visors.

The helmet features Bluetooth 3.0 and it doesn’t support multipoint Bluetooth pairing. ILM 953 does feature intercom but it works only with other ILM  953 helmets. Three riders can be connected via intercom but only two riders can communicate at the same time (no intercom conference). The advertised intercom range is 1000ft. In reality, you will get less than 500ft. The built-in speakers and microphone deliver pretty good performance for the price. This is a great budget helmet.

Comparison Table


2. TORC T14B Bluetooth-integrated Full-face Helmet

TORC T14B Bluetooth-integrated Full-face Helmet

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TORC T14B is a full-face helmet with a drop-down sun visor. It comes in many colors and sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL). The visor is anti-fog and anti-scratch and it’s removable/replaceable. You can choose between dark smoke, light smoke, and clear visor. The helmet is ECE certified and it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (DOT FMVSS 218).

Based on the design of the controls and the look of the volume dial (it looks exactly the same as the wheel on TCOM-SC and T-COMVB), this helmet was made in cooperation with FreedConn which, as you probably remember, makes cheap Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers and communication devices. That’s one of the reasons why TORC T14B is so affordable.

The communication device is simple and easy to use but you won’t be blown away. The helmet features Bluetooth 2.0. It allows you to connect one Bluetooth-enabled device (either your phone, GPS device, or any other Bluetooth-enabled audio source). You can answer/make calls or listen to some music from your phone. Intercom is also supported, but you can connect with only one driver. This is not a good choice if you are riding in a group and want to communicate with more than one group member. The advertised intercom range is 400m (under ideal circumstances), but you should stay within 100m range if you want a clear communication. The battery is quite impressive – it delivers up to 24 hours of talk time and the recharge takes 4-5 hours. The speakers are not the greatest but they are usable, while the mic is pretty awful and it doesn’t isolate the noise well. You will have to reduce your speed to 30mph or 40mph to make the communication clearer.

Comparison Table


3. FreedConn BM2-S Motorcycle Bluetooth Helmet

FreedConn BM2-S Motorcycle Bluetooth Helmet

Check Price on Amazon

This is another affordable (under $200) modular helmet with a drop-down visor. It comes in four colors (gloss black, matte black, white, and red) and three sizes. The shell is made of ABS and it’s very light. The helmet is ECE and DOT certified. All the paddings, as well as the sun visor, are easily removable.

The helmet features FreedConn communication system. It utilizes Bluetooth 3.0 and can be paired to your phone, your GPS device, mp3 player or any other Bluetooth-enabled device. You can stay in touch with 2 other riders but you can only communicate with one at a time (intercom conference mode is not supported). You can also use the device to listen to FM radio. The controls are basically the same as the controls on the previous two helmets (2 volume buttons and one wheel/multifunction button). The battery delivers up to 12h of talking on the phone or 9h of intercom use. The recharge takes up to 5 hours (wall charger is not included). The speakers are decent, but the bass is absolutely nonexistent. On the other hand, all the voices sound pretty natural and clear. The mic is not the best and it doesn’t isolate all the noise but it’s usable.

Comparison Table


4. Bilt Techno 2.0 Bluetooth Helmet

Bilt Techno 2.0 Bluetooth Helmet

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Bilt Techno 2.0 is pricier than the previous helmets because it features Sena DWO-5 communication system. This is a full-face helmet with a drop-down clear visor and built-in sunglasses. It’s available in 6 sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL) and 3 colors (black, matte black, white). The helmet meets all the safety standards (ECE, DOT) and it’s quite light and comfortable.

The communication device is made by Sena. 3-button control panel is located on the left side. It is easily reachable and simple to use. The device features Bluetooth 3.0. It can be paired with 2 Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously. It also supports intercom. You can pair up to four helmets, but you can only communicate with one at a time. You can also connect the helmet to other Sena communication devices (universal intercom). The intercom range is 400m under ideal conditions (it’s probably smarter to stay within 100 or 200m range). You can also share music with your passenger via Bluetooth. The battery delivers up to 7 hours of talk time while the recharge takes 2-3h. The built-in speakers, as well as noise-canceling mic, deliver good performance. The mic doesn’t actually isolate all the noise at 60mph and it’s not exactly on par with pricier Sena headsets, but it’s usable.

Comparison Table


5. Sena Momentum Lite Full-face Bluetooth Helmet

Sena Momentum Lite Full-face Bluetooth Helmet

Check Price on Amazon

If you are looking for a helmet with a high-end communication system, Sena Momentum Lite is a viable option. This is actually an entry-level Sena Bluetooth helmet and if you want even more features and more advanced communication system (voice commands, built-in camera, larger intercom group), you should check out other helmets from the Momentum series – Sena Momentum, Momentum INC, and Momentum Pro.

Momentum Lite is a full-face helmet with a drop-down face shield. It’s ECE and DOT certified. The helmet is available in 6 sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL) and 2 colors (glossy white and matte black). The helmet is light and looks solid.

This helmet basically has Sena’s 10S communication headset built inside. The communication device utilizes Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth pairing is also enabled and you can pair two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously with it. Momentum Lite allows you to connect with up to 3 other riders (intercom) and have intercom conference. The advertised intercom range under ideal conditions (line of sight) is 1.6km (1 mile). In reality, you can get up to 500m. The device also features useful voice prompts (not voice commands) and FM tuner. The built-in speakers deliver clear and loud but not the most detailed sound. The bass is weak and practically has no impact. The microphone reduces the ambient noise pretty well. In order to configure all the settings, make a group, select FM presets, etc., you can use the Sena smartphone app.

Learning how to use the buttons will take some time since you have to do everything with only three buttons.

Comparison Table


Before you go away, there are a few more things we want to discuss. There are a lot of features to consider before purchasing the right Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker and the process of choosing the right one can be quite confusing and time-consuming. That’s why we’ve made a short buyer’s guide.


Buyer’s Guide – What to Look for When Buying a Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet Speaker

There’s a lot of things to pay attention to, including your helmet, ease of use, comfort, durability, Bluetooth version, multipoint pairing, intercom feature, battery life, mic quality, sound quality, and price.

Helmet

If you already have a helmet, it’s important to see if the helmet is compatible with the speaker. Some speakers are designed for so-called Bluetooth-ready helmets and if you are buying a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker you should check if it’s compatible with your helmet. Most of the units on our list can be installed on any helmet (full-face, modular, open-face).

Ease of Use

The control buttons have to be easily accessible and responsive. You need super-simple controls with large control buttons. You don’t need a bunch of buttons. Two, three, or four buttons should be more than enough.

Comfort

If there are parts that go inside the helmet, they must not interfere with the helmet and they have to be ‘’comfortable enough’’. Now, ‘’comfortable enough’’ is a subjective category and we can’t determine what’s comfortable for you.

Durability

If there are parts of the speaker outside the helmet, they have to be resistant to different weather conditions like wind and rain. It’s recommended to look for waterproof Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers but, as you know, only Cardo makes units that are certified as waterproof and dustproof. All the other devices are more or less weather resistant.

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Bluetooth version

This one is pretty simple. Newer Bluetooth version means better connection quality and stability, greater Bluetooth range, and lower power consumption (longer playtime). It also means that you get to pair more devices with the speaker. In short, you should look for one of the latest Bluetooth versions. The only problem is – speakers featuring Bluetooth 4.0, 4.1, or 4.2 are usually more expensive than the speakers with Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. In the end, it’s all about making compromises, especially if you are on a budget.

Multipoint pairing

If you have two phones or phone and GPS device, you need a speaker that can be simultaneously paired with at least 2 devices. This feature is not mandatory but it’s surely desirable.

Intercom Feature

If you are riding in a pack and you want to communicate with other pack members, this feature is ‘’must have’’. The cheaper devices feature only Bluetooth intercom which enables communication between 2,3, or 4 group members, while the more expensive high-end devices feature mesh intercom which enables communication between more than 4 group members. The mesh intercom enables riders to have a group chat (intercom conference) and extends the intercom range (up to 5 miles).  

Mic Quality/Noise-canceling

If you are going to make/answer calls and communicate with other pack members via intercom while riding, mic quality is of crucial importance. The microphone has to be noise-canceling if you want your voice to be loud and clear on the other end. There could be a lot of cars and trucks around you and if the mic picks up all that noise, the person on the other end won’t hear anything.  

Battery life

Just like the Bluetooth version, this one is not a brainer. The battery should last as long as possible, but it also depends on your needs. If you are about to spend 12h on the road, the battery should last at least 12 hours. If you don’t need such a long playtime/talk time, you can buy something cheaper. If money is not an issue, you should buy the best possible device (even if you don’t need long playtime).

Sound Quality

The sound quality is, naturally, the most important thing when talking about speakers. Just to be clear, you can’t really expect Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic sound quality from a motorcycle helmet speaker, but you can still get a decent sound quality. The midrange reproduction is probably the most important thing if you are going to use your speaker for communication (via Bluetooth or via intercom). The mids have to be loud, clear, and undistorted at high volumes. Ideally, you should find something with impactful but not overwhelming bass, perfectly clear mids (especially vocals), and detailed highs (you can’t expect sparkling highs).

Price

This entirely depends on your budget but, in our opinion, you should not spend less than $50 per unit. Motorcycle helmet speakers are often sold in pairs or in bundles, and the price per one device can go up to $250. If you are about to go on a trip with your pack and you want to be in contact with all of them, you should buy a bundle.

Additional Things to Pay Attention to When Buying Bluetooth-enabled Helmet with Built-in Speakers

Basically, you should be looking for the same things you would be looking for in a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speaker, but there are some additional things.

Helmet Size, Helmet Comfort (weight, paddings), and Helmet Durability

You should check the size of the helmet. If there’s no helmet in your size, there’s no point in buying it. Furthermore, even if there is a helmet in your size, you should check if it’s comfortable enough – is it heavy or light, are the paddings thick enough, etc.  The helmet can also be made of different materials. Some of them are more durable and impact resistant than others (look for helmets with EPS (impact absorbent expanded Polystyrene) and ABS (impact resistant thermoplastic) labels). In the end, the helmet has to meet certain safety standards (ECE – Economic Commission for Europe, DOT – Department of Transport FMVSS218 standard).

Built-in Camera

This is a very useful but not absolutely necessary feature. It’s good for recording your trip in case you want to share the video with your friends. Even more importantly, it can be very useful in case of an accident. There’s no better way to prove your innocence than having the actual recording of the incident. So, it’s not mandatory but it’s very much desirable. 


Transparency Disclosure – AudioReputation.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. To put it simply, we have an affiliate relationship with Amazon. In our reviews, you will find links that will redirect you to one of the Amazon’s websites (usually amazon.com). These links are called ‘’affiliate links’’ and they help us fund our work. So, basically, when you click on some link and buy the speaker/headphones/soundbar/home theater system or any other piece of audio equipment, we get a small percentage/commission. You don’t have to pay extra if you click on our links – there are no additional costs.

When we recommend some piece of audio equipment, it’s not because we are under an obligation to do so. It’s because our evaluation and research have shown that certain product deserves to be recommended.

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What are the Parts of a Stereo System? https://www.audioreputation.com/parts-of-a-stereo-system/ https://www.audioreputation.com/parts-of-a-stereo-system/#respond Tue, 29 Jan 2019 12:43:14 +0000 https://www.audioreputation.com/?p=4157 What was your first thought when you read this headline? Some of you may have some knowledge of audio systems but many people don’t know anything about them and others think that the question is absurd because the only logical answer is that a stereo system consists of a pair of speakers. However, those who […]

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What was your first thought when you read this headline? Some of you may have some knowledge of audio systems but many people don’t know anything about them and others think that the question is absurd because the only logical answer is that a stereo system consists of a pair of speakers. However, those who have some kind of a stereo system know that they are much more complicated than it seems.

Of course, the speakers are the integral parts of any audio system but they are commonly considered the only part of the system. After all, they are the most obvious parts that everyone sees and the parts where the music is coming from. Well, this is not entirely true because stereo systems consist of at least three parts that have a great impact on the quality of the sound.

If you are interested in this topic or you want to buy a stereo system for your home, stay with us and you will find out all the basic things every future stereo system owner should know before making the actual purchase.

Why Stereo and Not Mono?

As you could conclude from the introduction, in every stereo system you will find a pair of matching speakers. Stereo is considered better than mono because two speakers offer a better listening experience – most audio recordings are actually 2-channel recordings and the best way to deliver that kind of audio to two human ears is using two-channel speaker system (2 speakers). Stereo is always better than mono because one speaker can never deliver as vivid, realistic and natural sound as two speakers can. With a pair of speakers, you are one step closer to listening to a live performance at your own home. With 2 high-end speakers, you can hear almost every instrument and experience a three-dimensional sound stage but also be able to hear everything that the musician wanted you to hear.

The Basic Parts of Stereo Systems

Stereo systems consist of several components that you can buy separately or pre-packed depending on your needs, taste, and budget. If you’re not an audiophile, you can settle for a smaller and cheaper system that will also be able to deliver high-quality audio.

No matter how much they cost, they all should consist of a stereo receiver/amplifier, a pair of matching speakers, and at least one music source. Besides that, there is one thing you should also consider when buying a stereo system – the acoustic properties of the room where the system is going to be placed are very important, but most of us tend to neglect this fact.

Audio sources (players, tuners, online music)

Source components are more important than you would ever think because the final product (sound quality) depends on them a lot. The sources of audio content are numerous and they can be differently categorized. For example, you can use an external source (a CD/DVD player, a turntable or a receiver with a built-in AM/FM tuner) or you can choose to stream the music from your phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. Also, the source components can be grouped as digital or analog sources. CD/DVD players would belong to the first group while phonographs and turntables would be considered analog components.

People usually think that the source is not as important as the speakers but speakers can’t make miracles if you’re playing a poor-quality track. CD players are usually considered the best sources but if the CD quality is poor, you can’t do much to fix the final product. However, they are less complicated than tuners and turntables so we will consider them relevant.

Every CD player consists of a transport component that drives the disc, DAC (digital-analog converter) that converts the digital signal (the bits) into analog, and an amplifier.

However, many people think that CDs belong to the past and that’s why we have to consider online sources, as you can play the music directly from the Internet or you can download it to your phone/iPod/PC storage. It is very important to mention that MP3 files (or any other lossy file format) can’t offer high-quality audio no matter how much you try. On the other hand, you can always download some of the lossless files (such as FLAC and ALAC). This will definitely help if you want high-quality audio.

Amplifiers

When it comes to amplifiers, they can be divided in two groups – standard stereo receivers and integrated receivers. Any standard/traditional stereo receiver contains at least a radio tuner, a pre-amplifier (that receives the signal from the source and adjusts it so that a power amplifier can recognize it), the power amplifier (which accepts the signal sent from the pre-amplifier and adjusts it in order to drive the speakers) and, in some cases, a phono pre-amplifier (that recognizes and receives very low-level signals).

Pre-amplifier is the first component that receives the signal coming from the source and transforms it to the level where the power amplifier can recognize and receive it. This component is very important because it enables the user to control the volume, switch between the source components and control the gain stage. People usually don’t consider pre-amps very important but they are the components that enable the power amp (as well as the speakers) to perform much better, usually improving the bass or resolution. This component passes a very small signal to the power amp but all the distortions and imperfections that it doesn’t solve are re-amplified by the power amplifier and as a result, we get distorted sound. This is why a high-quality pre-amp is the very important part of every stereo system.

The power amplifier is usually the most respected amplifier component because it receives the signals from the pre-amp and uses them to drive the speakers. During the process, it controls the signal accuracy and eliminates the imperfections and distortions. You can find different kinds of amplifiers on the market but there’s a great difference between consumer and high-end amps. Quality amplifiers don’t have to produce 5000 W. High-end amplifiers can produce 30 or even 10 W but when they are matched with a great pair of speakers, the produced power won’t affect the final result in a negative way. It is actually all about the current. The amplifier modulates the current running through the system and eliminates the imperfections. Quality amplifiers tend to deliver much more current than consumer amps and enable better speaker control during the process.

Phono pre-amplifiers aren’t mandatory parts, but you can find them in some amplifiers. Their task is to recognize and receive extremely low-level signals and amplify them to the level where the pre-amplifier can receive them for further processing. You may not need them when playing music from CD players but they do a very important job when the music is played from turntables. Also, these components are just a box without any visible controls (control buttons) such as volume or power on/off switches but they help control the gain.

Integrated amplifiers are similar to receivers but they don’t have AM/FM tuners. They can be as large as standard receivers and they also have all the parts placed inside one box.

Stereo speakers

Some people consider speakers the least important part of the system while the others say they are the most important and that everything depends on them. We will agree that they are very important but they are also ‘’the most passive component’’ and they can’t make your music sound amazing if all the other components are bad.

You can find different speakers on the market. They come in all shapes and sizes, and their prices vary as well. Basically, everybody can find something that suits his/her needs but the crucial thing is to combine the speakers with the rest of the system and also find the perfect placement for them.

The main task of the speaker is to convert the electrical signal sent from an amplifier and deliver the acoustic energy that we hear as sound/music. The most common mistake is buying small speakers and expecting them to deliver big and powerful sound. This cannot be achieved because small speakers can’t deliver the full spectrum of music, especially the bass tones because powerful bass requires large cabinets made of rigid materials. Today, we tend to pack everything into a small box but you have to be aware of the fact that these boxes deliver “small” sound.

There are two options when buying a pair of speakers – wired and wireless. If you prefer a more convenient solution and wire-free environment, you should go wireless. Some manufacturers enable you to pair two of the same speakers into a system where one of them will play the left and the other will play the right channel. Honestly, the sound quality won’t be the same as it is with wired speakers but it won’t be bad at all, especially with high-end wireless speakers.

Also, if you don’t a pre-packed stereo system, we advise you to carefully consider the characteristics of all the components and match the amplifier and the speakers correctly, especially in terms of wattage.

Acoustic properties of the room

In the end, we would like to say a few words about the ignored factor (acoustic properties of the room) that significantly affects the audio quality of the played music. People usually don’t think about it and place their speakers wherever they find some available space, but those who pay more attention to details know how important the speaker placement is and how it can change the sound.

If you have a large home speaker system (6 or more parts), it can be kind of difficult to place them. However, a pair of stereo speakers can be easily placed so you should try to meet the basic requirements of speaker placement.

By this, we mean that you (the listener) and your speakers should form a triangle and that your position shall be that “sweet spot” that enables you to hear the best of the music played. Also, you may need to change your furniture arrangements in order to make the perfect balance between the elements that reflect the sound (bare walls and floor, glass doors or windows, etc.) and those that absorb it (carpets, curtains, sofas, etc.).

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