By Don Lindich
Week 42, 2015
My wife wants to get me a Bluetooth audio speaker. Have you tested anything lately that you can recommend?
-Bill H., Venetia, PA
It depends on what you are looking for. Here are three winners I have tried recently.
Taking it from the top in terms of price and performance is the Fluance Fi50. This is a full-sized, audiophile quality tabletop music system that must plugged in to the wall. It can fill a fairly big room with warm, clear, lively sound and the coaxial speakers feature dedicated tweeters for better high frequency reproduction. The Fluance Fi50 is my favorite Bluetooth speaker under $200 and looks fantastic too, with its modern design and choice of three real wood finishes. www.fluance.com
Many of the smaller speakers I have been testing are rugged designs that are perfect for an active lifestyle. The two other recommendations fit into this category, starting with the Braven Balance at $129. This mid-sized speaker is IPX7 rated for outdoor use and has a soft rubber material covering most of its surfaces. Six bright, attractive colors are available, and the sound is excellent. www.braven.com
Those looking for something small enough to take absolutely everywhere should consider the Hercules WAE BTP04 Outdoor. This triangular speaker is IP64 splashproof and dustproof and built like a little tank. You can download a WAE app to your smartphone to adjust tone with an equalizer function. It’s only $42 and sold online in many places.
A wise man could make the case to your wife for getting all three. You need the Fluance for home, the Braven for the beach and the Hercules for your backpack or briefcase so you have always have a powerful speakerphone with you.
I may have a few more Bluetooth speaker recommendations around the holiday season, so keep watching this column.
I have a Yamaha A-S301 integrated amplifier and need new bookshelf speakers. Can you recommend anything under $1000 that will still have the “wow” effect compared to my 30 year-old B&W 50bookshelfspeakers?
-Stephan Weingarten, Eagan, MN
My favorite bookshelf speaker selling for under $1,000 (and far beyond that) is the $999 GoldenEar Technology Aon 3. I wrote about this bookshelf speaker a few years ago after I first heard it at the Consumer Electronics Show. It was the best sound at the show and completely smoked some $20,000/pair tower speakers being demoed across the hall. My jaw hit the floor when I heard them, and when the company president told me the price, I ordered a pair on the spot. Then, I bugged them until my own Aon 3s finally showed up at my door. www.goldenear.com.
Anyone looking for something way under $1,000 should check out the A1rx-c from Chane Music and Cinema. Chane loudspeakers, once sold as “Arx” from The Audio Insider, incorporate exotic high-performance technology in plain black boxes. Think of it as getting Ferrari-like parts in a Chevy Cruze body, at a Chevy Cruze price. The $298 A1rx-c is not in the same class as the GoldenEar products, but the sound is tremendously sweet, balanced, and detailed. Pair them with some good electronics and they will make you grin ear to ear. www.chanemusiccinema.com