By Don Lindich
Week 26, 2016
Q. In past columns you have spoken highly of the OontZ Angle 3XL and Fluance Fi50 Bluetooth speakers. Does the Oontz take the crown for the best under $200, or do you still rate the Fluance higher? This would be for indoor listening.
-Charles M., South Bend, Indiana
A. Though both have good sound and can fill a mid-sized room with lively music, the speakers are very different and do not compete in the same market segments.
The $129 OontZ Angle 3XL can be powered by a wall adapter or its built-in rechargeable battery. It is very portable and can be taken anywhere. The Angle 3XL also makes a great television speaker and can be used in pairs in right/left stereo mode or to play the same sound in a different room.
The $199 Fluance Fi50 is a larger music system that does not have a battery and must be plugged into the wall. The sound is richer, louder and more dynamic than the OontZ, and the bass is deeper as well. The real wood finish and modern design is very attractive, but it is much too large and heavy to be considered a portable device.
I recently tested a speaker that is priced between the two and definitely belongs on your shopping list. The Kicker Amphitheater Bluetooth 2 lists for $199 but can readily be found online for only $149. It’s an excellent combination of looks, functionality and good sound.
The Amphitheater plays quite loudly without distorting and the bass is satisfyingly deep. The listening experience is similar to the Fluance, though there are sonic differences. The Fluance does have pleasing warmth to the sound that the Kicker lacks, while the Amphitheater sounds a bit more clean and detailed. Suffice it to say that performance is excellent for the price. A remote is included and Kicker’s KickStart app will allow you to customize the sound with its 8-band equalizer.
I seldom write about wireless speakers priced over $500 because I rarely find the performance justifies the price premium over an excellent $200 or $300 model. That may be changing with what could very well be the very best system on the market, the new AxiomAir ($799) from highly regarded Canadian speaker manufacturer Axiom Audio.
The multiroom-capable AxiomAir uses WiFi rather than Bluetooth to preserve sound quality and plays high resolution 24/192 music files without compression. It can create its own WiFi hotspot and with the AxiomAir app you can control multiple speakers with one phone or tablet. Unlike most other premium music systems, you can make the AxiomAir battery-powered with an optional lithium ion battery ($115.)
The AxiomAir is manufactured in North America in Axiom’s Dwight, Ontario factory and is available in 143 custom wood finishes. It has 150 real (not exaggerated for advertising purposes) watts of power and uses speaker drivers similar to those used in Axiom’s critically acclaimed bookshelf and tower speakers. If you want something really super and can afford the asking price, the specifications, features, flexibility and promise of superior sound may make this one really worth the money. I will be giving the AxiomAir a listen soon and given its heritage, I doubt I will be disappointed. There is an excellent video about the system at Axiom’s website and if the AxiomAir sounds intriguing, I encourage you to check it out.