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Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: poised, informative stereo speakers with detail and dynamism in equal measure
11:00 am | July 1, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Comments: Off

Monitor Audio Studio 89: Two minute review

Back in the day, ‘Studio’ was Monitor Audio’s most expensive, most aspirational range of loudspeakers. And now the name is back, with an ‘89’ attached for good measure, in a loudspeaker the company reckons is more ‘Formula 1’ than ‘sports car’.

It’s a distinctive looker, that’s for sure – whether or not you find the proportions attractive is one thing, but there’s no denying the gloss-black cabinet with its vertical, copper-colored driver array is dramatic. Bolt the speakers to the matching stands (if you don’t mind the extra outlay) and the look is coherent and, to me at least, striking.

Using driver and crossover technology originally developed for a loudspeaker that costs $92K / £70K per pair is pretty promising, too – and the way it’s been deployed shows similarly little inclination to compromise. Heck, even the speaker terminals on the rear of the cabinets are rhodium-plated and quite extravagantly shaped. 

How does this more affordable option stack up against the best stereo speakers on the market? Well, the star-rating above is a good start isn't it? But let's delve into the nuts and bolts of the thing – and also, of course, the sound. 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Price and release date

  • Released July 1, 2024
  • $2,500 / £2,000 / AU$4,000

The Monitor Audio Studio 89 are available now, and in the United Kingdom they’re yours for £2,000 a pair. In the United States they go for $2,500, while in Australia the asking price is AU$4,000. 

When you consider that Monitor Audio is perhaps most-noted of late for releasing a $92K Hyphn proposition (once called the Concept 50, initially unveiled at High End Munich 2022), it's affordable territory.

That’s just for the speakers though, you understand – if you fancy the bespoke stands too (and they have a lot to recommend them beyond a harmonious aesthetic) you’re looking at an additional $625 / £500 / AU$1,000.

The majority of this test is conducted with the Studio 89 bolted to their matching stands – but not entirely. I also positioned the speakers on my reference Atacama Moseco 6 stands, where they are perfectly happy (although don’t look quite as swish). This review, then, is purely an appraisal of the loudspeakers and the loudspeakers only.  

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Features

  • MPD III tweeter; 2 x 108mm RDT III mid/bass driver
  • Rear-facing bass reflex slots
  • 48Hz - 60kHz frequency response

These are passive loudspeakers, of course, and consequently ‘features’ are fairly thin on the ground. What features the Studio 89 have, though, are thoroughly researched and thoughtfully applied.

The front baffle of the speaker, for instance, is a slice of aluminium that’s isolated from the main body of the cabinet by a dense layer of foam. The baffle and the drive units it houses are then secured using ‘through-both’ technology running from the rear of the drivers to the rear of the cabinet. The intention is to create a very rigid cabinet structure in which the drive units can operate in isolation – and consequently offer cleaner and less coloured sound. The fact that this methodology means there are no visible fixings or screw-heads doesn’t do the look of the Studio 89 any harm, either.

The drive units themselves are arranged vertically – a couple of 108mm RDT III mid/bass drivers are positioned with an MPD III tweeter between them. This ‘MTM’ (mid/tweeter/mid) arrangement, says Monitor Audio, offers the advantage of large sound dispersion thanks to its ‘vertical symmetry’.

The RDT III mid/bass drivers are the latest refinement of the ‘C-CAM’ technology Monitor Audio has been enamoured of for years now. A combination of three very thin layers of ceramic-coated aluminium/magnesium, carbon weave and Nomex honeycomb core combine to produce a light, responsive driver that’s positioned ahead of a powerful motor system that uses a magnet that’s larger than the cone itself. 

The MPD III tweeter, meanwhile, uses its low-mass diaphragm pleats a bit like an accordion for smooth and rapid high-frequency response. Its square radiating area is designed for equal directivity both horizontally and vertically. Its carefully designed waveguide contributes to its directivity and soundstaging abilities, too – and the fact that it looks quite dramatic doesn’t do any harm, either.

Underpinning this driver array, sonically speaking, are a couple of narrow velocity ports positioned at the top and the bottom of the rear of each cabinet. The relatively large port area keeps both internal pressure and airflow within the cabinet balanced, and reduces turbulences – with the result, says Monitor Audio, that airflow is smooth and bass response is significant.

Elsewhere, the crossover that delivers the electrical signals to the drivers is a careful new design that uses polypropylene and polyester capacitors. Along with air-core and low-loss laminated steel-core inductors, the design is intended for optimal signal transfer and minimal distortion. Chunky rhodium-plated, precision-machined speaker terminals complete the impression of some thoroughly uncompromised engineering.      

Features score: 5/5

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Sound quality

  • Poised and informative sound
  • Detail and dynamism in equal measure
  • Express rhythms expertly

There are plenty of loudspeakers that can peer deep into a mix and return with every scrap of information that’s in there. There are plenty of loudspeakers that can entertain with the vigorous nature of their presentation. Loudspeaker that can do both, though, are in rather more short supply. So it’s nice to be able to add the Studio 89 to the list.

What’s perhaps most immediately enjoyable about the way the Monitor Audio sound is how much they seem to be enjoying themselves. When playing an uncomplicatedly good-time recording like You! Me! Dancing! By Los Campesinos! there’s proper energy and vitality to the presentation, a sense of engagement that’s by no means a given no matter how much you spend on your speakers.

But this is not at the expense of insight. The Studio 89 create a large, well-organised soundstage that allows even a rather compressed and hazy mix like this one to stretch out and give each individual element a bt of space in which to operate. Detail levels are high at every turn, and the Monitor Audio manage to put even the most fleeting, transient occurrences into convincing context. Without making any part of the recording sound remote or estranged, the Studio 89 makes it easy to identify individual stands - yet the unity and togetherness of its presentation gives a genuine sensation of ‘performance’.

Something a bit less headrush-y and a bit more considered – Bad Kingdom by Moderat, say – allows the Studio 89 to demonstrate a nicely neutral tonal balance and extremely smooth integration of the frequency range. The handover between drivers is imperceptible, and no part of the frequency range is unduly underplayed or overstated. Low frequencies are deep, properly varied and textured, and controlled to the extent that rhythmic expression is never in doubt and momentum levels are always high. The opposite end of the scale is bright and substantial, so treble sounds shine without veering anywhere near hardness. And in between, the midrange is open and eloquent to the point that vocalists of all types, all techniques, all characters and all emotional states, are able to communicate fully.

Dynamic headroom is considerable, so big shifts in volume and/or intensity are tracked faithfully. And the less obvious, but no less crucial, dynamics of harmonic variation are given just the right amount of emphasis too. No matter how spare or how complex a recording, the Monitor Audio exercise authority over it.

About the only area in which the Syudio 89 might conceivably be described as ‘deficient’ is where simple attack is concerned. There’s nothing matter-of-fact about the way these speakers deliver a recording, you understand – but there are some alternative designs that have greater bite and assertiveness. But the more I think about it, the more I’d describe this as a ‘trait’ rather than a ‘deficiency’. If you’re one of those listeners who likes maximum drive and attack, you may find the judicious and balanced nature of the presentation here to be just slightly on the tentative side. The rest of us, though, will just admire what a thoroughly convincing sound is available.   

Sound quality score: 5/5

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Design

  • Gloss black finish
  • 340 x 157 x 361mm (HxWxD)
  • 7.6kg (each)

There’s a disproportionately tall, thin elephant in the room where the design of the Monitor Audio Studio 89 is concerned – so I may as well get right to it. At 340 x 157 x 361mm (HxWxD) these are, without doubt, quite strangely proportioned loudspeakers. Seen from dead ahead they look quite tall and thin, because they are. But move around them and you realise they’re even deeper than they are tall. It’s an unusual effect, and it makes the bespoke stands Monitor Audio has developed for use with these speakers seem more like an essential than an option.

Rather gawky proportions aside, though, these are beautifully finished and quite good-looking speakers. The driver arrangement in the aluminium front baffle somehow makes them look rather startled, but the gloss black finish (your only option) is lustrous and deep – and it contrasts nicely with the copper/bronze color of the mid/bass drivers. The little badges that wrap around the bottom of each speaker, with their none-more-80s Ford Sierra typeface, are nicely judged too.

Design score: 4.5/5

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Value

The usual caveats apply here, of course – you should really only consider the Studio 89 if you’re going to use them in a similarly expensive and capable system, and you are almost certain to have to find the money for the matching stands. But as long as you can live with these Ts & Cs, there’s no denying the value for money these speakers represent both as objects and, most importantly, where the sound they make is concerned.

Value score: 5/5 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Should you buy them?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

You like a sound with its eyes out on stalks
They’re an assertive listen without doubt, but it’s equally true to say that some alternative designs will attack a recording even more readily. 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Also consider

You have a lot of choice, from a lot of very well-regarded manufacturers, if you have this sort of money to spend on a pair of compact passive loudspeakers. 

The R3 Meta by KEF, for instance, are maybe $120 cheaper than the Studio 89 – and while they don’t look as dramatic, they certainly have plenty to recommend them where sound quality is concerned. 

Or you may decide to chuck even more money at it and check out the 705 S3 by Bowers & Wilkins – there’s nothing retro about they way they look, and the stands will cost you even more money than the Monitor Audio equivalent – but if you’ve the readies, these speakers are among the most rewarding around. 

(And if you've not? It's perhaps worth giving the B&W 600 Series a look). 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: How I tested

  • Using the extra-cost stands – and using my stands
  • Connected to a Naim Uniti Nova, listening to Qobuz and Tidal tracks
  • Also hooked up a Rega Apollo for CDs; Cambridge Audio/Clearaudio for vinyl

My time listening to the Monitor Audio Studio 89 was split pretty much 50/50 between their being bolted to their bespoke, quite expensive, stands and sitting on more affordable (but eminently capable) Atacama Moseco 6 alternatives. 

They were powered by a Naim Uniti Nova streamer/amplifier capable of twisting out 70 watts of power per channel. As it’s a streamer as well as an amplifier, I used the Naim for listening to Qobuz and TIDAL. 

I used a Rega Apollo for listening to compact discs, and both Cambridge Audio Alva TT v2 and Clearaudio Concept turntables for vinyl listening. 

The speakers stayed in my listening space for the entirety of the test – the space is nothing esoteric, it’s fairly ordinary (although not especially reflective) room that works very well for my purposes. And I listened to a great many different recordings via these different sources, of a great many genres and from a wide range of eras.  

Edifier QR65 review: great-looking powered stereo speakers – but perhaps not for your desktop
5:30 pm | June 29, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Edifier QR65: Two-minute review

It's easy to assume that your desktop computer just needs cheap and cheery monitor speakers so you can hear your email chimes or the sound of the YouTube videos you watch when you're pretending to work, but the Edifier QR65 make a good case as to why you should stretch upwards into the realm of the best stereo speakers.

The QR65 are the newest speakers from Chinese audio company Edifier, which sells plenty of other desktop and monitor speakers for gaming, studios or just general computer use. These new models are classed as part of its 'Wireless Speakers' line-up but it also calls them 'Desktop Active Monitors' so they're clearly designed for desktop use.

I wouldn't recommend buying them solely for desktop use, though, because the Edifier QR65 function much better as multi-media speakers.

The Edifier QR65 are mid-range speakers and the sound fits; it's pretty good, with thumping bass and clear treble, even if the maximum volume won't exactly rock the house (unless you have a small house).

There are a fair few connection options too, as you can connect via USB (that's for the desktop connection) as well as wired and Bluetooth audio, so the speakers really do work for multi-media enjoyment.

And while I'm listing positives, I want to touch on the look of the speakers: they're fashionable and good-looking, even though they have LED lights which will raise red flags for audiophiles (and red LEDs for everyone else).

Then onto the... not 'bad', per se, just 'annoying' bits. While the QR65 have an app for control on your phone, they don't on PC, which feels like an odd omission given that these are meant to be desktop speakers. They also don't turn off or on with your computer, so you have to keep manually turning them on and off when you want to use them or contend with their LEDs lighting up your room all day and night.

Because of these two hurdles I ended up preferring to stream music over Bluetooth during the testing period, rather than testing them alongside my Windows PC.

Edifier QR65 review: Price and release date

The Edifier QR65 on a white background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Announced in April 2024
  • Mid-range at $369.99 / £329.99 / AU$449

Edifier announced the QR65 in April 2024, to join its busy range of audio products. 

The Edifier QR65 cost $369.99 / £329.99 / AU$449, and they’re generally considered to be towards the low end when it comes to desktop speakers. Sure, you can find Amazon cheapie options for a tenth of the price, but you can also find many options for ten times that cost (or more, see the KEF LS50 Wireless II). They’re also snugly in the middle of the options on our list of the best computer speakers

Another thing this price puts the Edifier QR65 roughly in the middle of? Edifier’s range of speakers – Edifier has a lot of speakers in many categories such as bookshelf, computer or studio speakers, and the QR65 are actually part of its wireless speaker range, despite being designed to work with desktops.

If you want to see what else is at this price range, specifically when it comes to dual-speaker desktop set-ups, then the Kanto Ora4, FiiO SP3 and Audioengine HD3 all hover roughly at this price point. 

Edifier QR65 review: Specs

Edifier QR65 review: Features

The Edifier QR65 on a white background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Phone app, but no PC one
  • LED lights with customizable effects
  • Audio cable, USB and Bluetooth connections

If you’re connecting the QR65 to your smartphone, you’ll need to download the Edifier ConneX app to control them. Not Edifier Connect, nor Edifier Home, nor Edifier Enhance, and I had to deploy the trial and error approach when working out which app to use, which was an annoying waste of 10 minutes. Sure, Edifier isn’t the only tech company which refuses to consolidate its apps, but that doesn’t excuse it.

ConneX lets you change the EQ of music, customize the light effects and change the audio codec of streamed music, amongst a few select extras. You can certainly use the QR65 without it, but there’s no harm in exploring these extra features.

So what about if you’re using these desktop speakers while paired to a desktop PC or Mac? Well then you’re out of luck, because there’s no app support when you’ve got the QR65 hooked up to your computer by Bluetooth. You can use the dial to change the light effects a little but there are no EQ options, and if you want to turn up the volume, you’ll have to reach over to the speaker and turn up the dial manually (if you’re already at 100% PC volume, that is).

That’s why I said in the introduction that these speakers fare better as general multimedia speakers than desktop-exclusive ones; if you only use these connected to a computer, you’re going to miss a few features. The exception is if you connect the speakers to your computer and your phone, which lets you use the latter to equalize and change light effects, but that’s a lot of faff.

One other thing to bear in mind when using the Edifiers as your desktop speakers is that they don’t turn off or on with your computer – you’ll need to remember to separately turn them off or on, which is something I was constantly forgetting.

The other form of connectivity is via audio cable, with RCA plugging into the speakers and a 3.5mm jack to connect to your phone, MP3 player or other device. Pretty straightforward. Talking of connectivity, there’s actually a Sub Out port in one of the speakers that you could use to connect to an external subwoofer if you want more bass than the Xtreme Bass Series. I don’t see most people needing this, but it’s a nice optional extra.

  • Features score: 3.5/5

Edifier QR65 review: Design

The Edifier QR65 on a white background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Two good-looking rectangles
  • Stands included in box
  • Dials and ports in one speaker

The Edifier QR65 consists of two fairly large speakers, with one measuring 13 x 21.3 x 21.2 cm and the other a touch bigger due to it having extra dials and ports. This latter is the ‘active speaker’ which you use to control the music and connect to power and inputs/outputs, while the former is the ‘passive speaker’ which only has a port to connect it to the active speaker. Yes, they're actually 'powered' speakers even if they're listed as 'active', since the amplification is squirrelled into one of the boxes. 

Setting up the Edifier is a little bit of a faff but once you’ve connected the active speaker to power, the passive speaker and your PC (via USB-A cables), Bluetooth device (via Bluetooth, obviously) or other audio device (via ports in the back and an included cable), and also directed the speakers towards you (using included stands, which sit at a 10-degree angle) you’re ready to go.

As well as the aforementioned ports, there are three charging ports which you can use to power up other devices (one USB-A and two USB-C) which is a handy extra feature.

On the right side of the active speaker is a button and two dials. The button is to switch between inputs (each press toggles you between Bluetooth, USB and Line In) and to turn off the speakers by pressing and holding. I ended up leaving them on though, to save myself the journey of going into my computer settings to change the active output.

Then onto the two dials: the first is for volume which is pretty self explanatory, though pressing it also pauses or plays music. The lower dial is for changing the light patterns of the speakers: turning it increases or lowers the brightness, and pressing it toggles between various patterns for the lights to display.

Oh, did I not mention the lights around the front of each speaker? That’s because of the (earned) stigma around LED lights in speakers, with many audiophiles assuming that they incur noise and indicate a probably bad-sounding product. That’s not a wrong assumption, but it’s not applicable in this situation, as the sound quality section describes. Saying that, I’m not sure the LED lights add much to the QR65, beyond the novelty factor. 

I’m a big fan of the white version of the speakers I tested (there’s also a black version but it’s a little more bland, in my opinion). The clean-looking shell contrasts with the silver dials and the black front in what is a fairly minimalist boxy look (apart from the LEDs). If you’re a Mac user who insists on having a fashionable svelte desktop, these could well fit into your set-up better than most rival options.

  • Design score: 4/5

Edifier QR65 review: Sound quality

The Edifier QR65 on a white background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Full sound with lots of bass
  • Lots of codecs and Hi-Res certifications
  • Max volume could be louder for certain use cases

Each unit of the Edifier QR65 consists of a 1.25-inch dome tweeter and a 2.75-inch mid-low driver, and together they provide a nice warm sound.

When listening to music, you’re getting a sound that’s nice and bassy, though that’s not to say you’ll struggle to hear treble sounds. That’s not quite true of the mids, which do fall through the cracks a little bit, as does sub-bass. But that’s why you can plug a subwoofer into the speakers!

Playing games, the full-bodied sound works well for creating a layered soundstage – I could hear the background hum of cities and the echo of damp dungeons all around me. 

The bassy emphasis was more noticeably when watching TV or movies, as it meant voices occasionally sounded a little low and muffled – they’d often blend into the rest of the mix a little, and I lost a few lines of dialogue in shows as a result. 

If you’re using the Edifier QR65 as your PC speakers, you’ll find the 70W power output more than adequate. I played PC games with them and even at medium volumes, I was surrounded by sound – the shriek of an enemy behind me in Lords of the Fallen nearly gave me a heart attack when I thought it was something behind me in real life!

That’s not quite the case if you’re using these as general media speakers, as even at their maximum volume the QR65’s sound didn’t fill my living room – I wouldn’t recommend buying these in lieu of a TV soundbar or a set of tower speakers for your hi-fi system.

Depending on your audio input, you can enjoy listening with LDAC codecs, Hi-Res Audio or Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification, and that all means that you can enjoy great-sounding music whether you’re using Bluetooth 5.3 to connect your smartphone, are plugging in an aux-cord or have plugged the Edifiers into your computer.

  • Sound quality: 4/5

Edifier QR65 review: Value

The Edifier QR65 on a white background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Good value for money as a multimedia option
  • … but they definitely aren't for everyone

You're emphatically getting your money's worth with these Edifiers. They look good, provide decent music quality, all things considered, and do work well as jack-of-all-trades options for desktop, Bluetooth and wired audio.

However, if you just want any old speakers for your desktop, these are overkill. For workplace computers or on devices you won't use for multimedia entertainment, you don't need speakers that cost this much. If that's all you need, you might try looking for inexpensive speakers that cost a third (or less). 

  • Value: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Edifier QR65?

Buy them if…

Don’t buy them if…

Edifier QR65 review: Also consider

How I tested the Edifier QR65

The Edifier QR65 on a white background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for over two weeks
  • Tested at home connected to phone and computer

The testing process of the Edifier QR65 was just over two weeks. 

About half of the testing process was done with the speakers connected to my Android phone via wired and Bluetooth audio, for music streaming. I streamed from Spotify, YouTube and briefly from Netflix during this time.

For the other half I connected the speakers to my custom-built Windows PC using the USB port, and used it for watching movies and TV shows and playing video games on my computer.

I've been reviewing devices for TechRadar for over five years now, a time which has seen my test speakers, headphones, earbuds and gaming peripherals, including a previous gadget from Edifier.

  • First reviewed in June 2024
Klipsch The Three Plus review: more than the sum of its parts
1:00 pm | May 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Klipsch The Three Plus: One-minute review

The Klipsch The Three Plus is a slightly awkwardly named wireless speaker with ambition. Despite being the rough size and price of some of the best wireless speakers and looking quite like a wireless speaker too, The Three Plus is, in fact, an all-in-one audio system. An all-in-one system with quite impressive functionality and specification, what’s more.

A selection of wired and wireless connection options means the Klipsch can support quite an array of sources, up to and including a turntable. It’s able to deal with fairly hi-res content without alarms (as long as it’s via an appropriate source). It’s a good-looking, well-made and quite tactile device, and it’s happy to sit more-or-less anywhere that it’s not too boxed in. It’s even got a pretty decent control app.

And in almost every circumstance, it’s an enjoyably upfront and lively listen. Detail levels are fairly high, determination to attack a tune from the bottom up is obvious – but the Klipsch is not blunt or lacking in finesse. Heard through any of its inputs other than the phono stage, it confidently combines attack with dexterity. The phono stage itself, though, is not the most accomplished when it comes to drive or detail retrieval – which means it’s a ‘nice to have’ rather than your go-to input. Anyone after a single-box system to accompany their turntable might have to save up for just a little longer… 

Klipsch The Three Plus on a gray table

Q Acoustics' music system know-how, all the way to the floor…  (Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus: Price and release date

  • $399 / £379 / AU$529
  • Announced September 25, 2023

The Klipsch The Three Plus is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it’s priced at £379. In the United States it sells for $399, while in Australia the going rate is AU$529. They were first announced on September 25, 2023.

On one hand, in terms of form and function there’s a lot of stuff here for that money here. On the other hand, the Klipsch is attempting to muscle in on territory already hotly contested by brands as credible as Denon, Panasonic and Ruark (to name just three). There’s only one way to find out if The Three Plus makes any sense or not…

Klipsch the Three Plus on white background, in a kitchen

(Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Features

  • 120 watts of power
  • 2 x 57mm full-range drivers, 1 x 133mm subwoofer, 2 x 133mm passive radiators
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC and AAC codec compatibility

On the outside, The Three Plus might seem to be featureless at first glance. The extraordinarily brief control interface on its top surface, which consists of an ‘input selection’ button and little coloured confirmatory LED light plus a nicely tactile volume control wheel, is pretty much your lot — until you look at the back of the box.

Here’s where your physical inputs live. There’s a digital optical input (good for resolutions of up to 24bit/96kHz), a stereo RCA input that’s switchable between line-level and phono level (so the Klipsch is ready to deal with a turntable if you so desire) and a USB-C input that lets smartphones, thumb-drives, PMPs and what-have-you join your system. The socket can be used for reverse charging, and Klipsch specifically suggests it’s capable of powering a WiiM Mini in order to facilitate network streaming too.

Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, is handled by Bluetooth in 5.3 guise – it’s compatible with SBC and AAC codecs. And the Bluetooth chipset Klipsch has deployed means The Three Plus features ‘Broadcast’ mode – which means the speaker can transmit (as well as receive) Bluetooth information. Transmissions are limited to mono, true, but as many as 10 ‘Broadcast’-enabled speakers can receive and play the signal; the scope for a simple, and extensive, multi-speaker system is obvious. Bear in mind the speaker(s) receiving the signal cannot broadcast it any further, so the range of your system will depend entirely on the primary speaker.       

Once your audio information is on board, the digital stuff is pored over by a digital-to-analogue converter that can definitely deal with 24bit/96kHz content – whether or not it needs to downscale this resolution of content is a question Klipsch seems unwilling to answer. The analogue stuff, of course, needs no such attention. Once it’s in the analogue domain, it’s amplified by an all-in total of 120 watts of Class D power before delivery to what Klipsch describes as a 2.1-channel speaker driver array. This consists of a couple of 57mm full-range drivers, bolstered by a 133mm subwoofer that’s supported by a pair of 133mm passive radiators. 

Features score: 5/5

Klipsch the Three Plus from above

(Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Sound quality

  • Assertive, upfront and enjoyable sound
  • Maintains its sonic characteristics in most circumstances
  • Considers ‘loud’ to be a total virtue

Quite a lot of this review is spent discussing how usefully compact and elegant a device the Klipsch The Three Plus is. But now the talk turns to sound quality – and it’s safe to say there’s nothing compact or especially elegant about the way it sounds. This is a big, bold-sounding device, and while it’s not lacking the poise that might make the description ‘inelegant’ seem appropriate, I get the strong impression that decorum is not uppermost in its mind.

With one notable exception, The Three Plus maintains its attitude across any of its inputs. No matter if you’re streaming a FLAC of John Cale’s Fear is a Man’s Best Friend via Tidal, listening to a 24bit/96kHz file of Weyes Blood’s And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow via the USB-C input or a CD of Double Drums by Peace Orchestra, the Klipsch is consistent. It came to get down, and it wants to take you with it.

The easiest way to create an impression of sonic ‘excitement’ is via the lower frequencies, of course, and the Klipsch is far from shy here. Bass presence is considerable – but it’s properly controlled and carries a lot of information regarding the details of tone and texture, so The Three Plus stops short of being a blunt instrument. If it’s frankly unlikely punch you want from your unassuming little tabletop device, though, you came to the right place. The Klipsch absolutely motors through low-frequency stuff, keeping momentum levels high and rhythms on the front foot.

The midrange just about manages to keep its head above water, though, and here just as elsewhere The Three Plus extracts a very worthwhile amount of detail. It’s able to grant vocalists the emotional weight and character they require, and it’s actually quite communicative. The presentation is spacious enough to allow the midrange to operate without too much hassle from the bottom end and, while there’s a fairly obvious point-source of sound, the Klipsch never sounds crowded.

Integration through the frequency range is good, and at the top end there’s just about enough bite and shine to balance out the enthusiasm of the bottom end. Tonality is on the warm side of neutral, but not fatally so – and despite the number of drivers and radiators at work here, there’s very agreeable togetherness and singularity about the way The Three Plus presents even quite complex recordings.

The Klipsch is one of those devices that sounds quite loud even when it’s playing quite quietly – its upfront attitude and generally assertive nature are always apparent. But there’s still a fair amount of dynamic headroom available, even if it doesn’t so much go from ‘quiet’ to ‘loud’ but rather from ‘loud’ to ‘louder still’. Even at quite oppressive volume, though, it’s quite composed and doesn’t sound stressed.

The one outlier here is the phono stage. A vinyl alternative of Fear is a Man’s Best Friend lacks a fair bit of the streamed version’s drive and attack – it’s strangely matter-of-fact and lacking both dynamism and insight by comparison. It’s by no means a disaster, the phono stage here. But it doesn’t take all that much of a listen to establish that it’s the input through which The Three Plus sounds least confident and least engaging.

Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Klipsch the Three Plus closeup

(Image credit: Future)

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Design

  • 178 x 355 x 213mm (HxWxD)
  • Walnut or matte black real wood veneer finishes
  • 4.8kg

Obviously you’ll make your own mind up about the way The Three Plus looks – but for my money, the combination of a surface that’s covered in a real wood veneer (matte black as well as the walnut of my review sample is available), acoustic cloth tightly wrapped around all four sides, and a little metal strip housing the product’s few physical controls is very nice indeed. The Klipsch, I reckon, looks and feels like a premium item.

At 178 x 355 x 213mm (HxWxD) it’s nicely proportioned, and can be as discreet just as readily as it can be a feature of your decor. Despite the way its drivers and passive radiators are arranged, it’s relaxed about positioning (up to a point – it won’t thank you for being slotted into a space where it’s boxed in on all sides). And the standard of build and finish is certainly up to the sort of  level the asking price demands.

Obviously, if you want to exploit its wider connectivity rather than just use it as a Bluetooth speaker, you’ll need to give it a bit of room – all its physical connections are at the rear, after all. Other than these practical considerations, though, the design of the Klipsch is as accommodating and as gratifying as can be.

Design score: 5/5

Klipsch triptych of the app screen grabs

(Image credit: Klipsch)

Klipsch The Three Plus: Usability and setup

  • Klipsch ‘Connect’ control app
  • A (very) few physical controls
  • Self-contained simplicity

It’s difficult to know how the Klipsch The Three Plus could be any friendlier or more straightforward. As long as you take a moment’s care when positioning it (make sure surfaces to the left and right aren’t too close), it’s an absolute piece of cake to live with.

You can control volume using the wheel on the top of the cabinet, and you can cycle through your input options here too. Otherwise, it’s all about the Klipsch ‘Connect’ control app that’s free for iOS and Android. The app is clean and logical, reasonably responsive and useful – here’s where you can check for updates, control playback, select input, fiddle with a three-band EQ (and its five presets) and deploy ‘night mode’ (in order to squash dynamic range and subdue low-frequency response).

Usability and setup score: 5/5 

Klipsch The Three Plus: Value

Obviously there are the few little issues with ultimate sound quality, but taken on the whole it’s difficult to argue with the value that’s on offer here. Consider the quality of build and finish of The Three Plus, its decorative nature, its extended functionality and its generally very agreeable sound – and then consider how much Klipsch is asking.

Value score: 4.5/5

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Should you buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Klipsch The Three Plus review: Also consider

Klipsch The Three Plus review: How I tested

  • Tested every available input
  • Played all sorts of music and different file types
  • Tried it out in a range of locations

I tested the Klipsch The Three Plus over the course of a working week, and listened to it pretty much all day every day. I positioned it on an equipment rack, on a bookshelf and on a chest of drawers. I used each of its physical inputs at some point (to listen to a turntable, a CD player and a portable music player) as well as connecting a smartphone and the same portable music player via Bluetooth. I played all sorts of music, and in terms of digital audio I listened to many different types and sizes of file. I listened to it at big volumes, and as quietly as it is prepared to go (which is not, as I mentioned, perhaps as quiet as it might be).

Audio Pro C20 review: a wireless speaker that offers even more, and sounds even better
1:30 pm | March 9, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Audio Pro C20: Two minute review

The Audio Pro C20 has a lot of connectivity options. As anyone familiar with the category of best wireless speakers knows, a box of drivers that's able to harness your home's Wi-Fi network can offer superior sound to that afforded by a Bluetooth connection, whether music is accessed via Google Cast, Apple's AirPlay, 'connected' services such as Tidal Connect (which actually lets you stream losslessly in 24-bit hi-res, where AirPlay taps out at 16-bit CD quality) or a dedicated multi-room app such as the Audio Pro Control app. And the Audio Pro C20 offers all of this. 

But just quickly, let's explain why Audio Pro's latest wireless speaker is worth your time from a technical perspective. First off, pinging music over Bluetooth from phone to speaker incurs compression. Wi-Fi's higher bandwidth means you can listen in (very) high resolution, up to 24-bit/192kHz. Now, a Wi-Fi enabled speaker accesses your chosen tunes from the internet (or local drive connected to it) rather than from your phone itself – and if you walk into another room or take a call, as long as you stay within range of your Wi-Fi router, the music keeps playing.

Why explain this in the intro to a product review? Because Audio Pro gets it. The Swedish company's been in the game for 40 years and the firm gets that we want more than one open gate leading to our music. Also, we now have plenty of kit we'd like to physically connect our shiny new speaker to, if possible (and thank you very much in advance). So, on top of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, Audio Pro has added to the sizeable C20 a compelling array of ports on the back: an RCA in (for turntables with an RIAA amp), a phono MM in (for moving-magnet cartridge decks without a phono stage), an RCA sub out (if you wanted to connect a dedicated subwoofer to it), a Toslink Optical in (for CD players or budget soundbars, say) and the arguably the biggest draw of the lot – an HDMI ARC in, so it can go straight into your TV and challenge some of the best soundbars. So long as it'll fit beneath it without obscuring the screen, that is. 

Audio Pro C20 on a table, with a mug of coffee and a smartphone beside it

The grille attaches easily with magnets and offers clean lines, if you want those…  (Image credit: Future)

What you need to know is this: this thing sounds fantastic, offering clarity, depth, excitement and finesse, even at higher volumes. The control app is easy to navigate and corrals all of your chosen music streaming services – but of course, you could go into each app on your phone and click the little Google cast or AirPlay icon to see the C20 ready to connect.

Audio Pro calls the C20 the complete solution for music and TV and it's hard to argue. It's also hard to imagine a home interior, color scheme or decor style that the Audio Pro C20 couldn't be friends with – and the grille can remain on or easily be whipped off, if you prefer to see its three talented drivers.

The metal top plate adds an extra touch of class and the buttons click nicely, in a build that feels both reverent to traditional techniques and yet strikingly modern. 

The fact that it comes from a long line of hits means it doesn't come cheap though. I've written odes to Audio Pro's beautiful speakers and I helped review the slightly smaller Audio Pro Addon C10 MkII for TechRadar's sister site, What Hi-Fi?, so I can personally vouch the five-star rating there (and the multiple awards it subsequently gained), although I fear those likely didn't do much to keep prices low. 

In summary, it's chic, it's unique and it's (virtually) the complete package. Why virtually? If you wanted a 3.5mm in for your headphones (or 4.4mm, 6.35mm, or XLR), you won't find it – you'd have to go the the FiiO R9 for that. The C20 is for the enjoyment of shared music. And what an experience that is. 

Audio Pro C20 review: Price and release date

  • Unveiled January 8, 2024, shipping from March 2024
  • $550 / £450 / €550 (around AU$820)

The Audio Pro C20 is available for pre-order now, and ships from March 2024. In the US, it costs $550 and in the UK, it'll set you back £450, hardly a trifling sum, whatever whistles and bells it sports. 

That said, the competition here isn't much more affordable. Yes, the Q Acoustics M40 HD is (excellent and) a music system squirrelled into a set of speakers, but as far as wireless connectivity goes, it's a Bluetooth only one. Then, there's the fantastic FiiO R9, with all of the connectivity and hi-res wireless streaming smarts you could wish for, as long as you'll provide your own speakers or headphones. 

Sonus Faber and Naim also offer similar solutions – see the Naim Mu-so Qb, a 2019 release which doesn't boast an HDMI ARC input, support, or the Sonus Faber Omnia, which does – but while the former is now available for similar money to the C20, the latter is a lot more expensive… 

Audio Pro C20 from the back, showing the ports

Audio Pro sports so many connections, it advises you on which to use for different kinds of turntable…  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20 review: Specs

Audio Pro C20 review: Features

  • Built in RIAA amplifier
  • Google Cast, Apple AirPlay and Audio Pro's own multi-room audio option

By adding a phono stage to its latest masterwork, Audio Pro C20 can be plugged straight into your devoid-of-phono turntable (as long as it sports a moving magnet cartridge), allowing you to simply power it on, select 'phono' on the Audio Pro's top plate, lower that needle and get into the groove. Got one of the best turntables with an RIAA amp inbuilt? That's OK too, there's a separate RCA line in for you too. 

Of course, this is Audio Pro, so the new C20 also features the winning multi-room option triumvirate that the company introduced with the 2021-release Addon C10 MkII: AirPlay 2, Google Cast, plus its own multi-room audio capability. You also get Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth (v5.0) and HDMI ARC – so you can hook it straight up to your TV. 

Thanks to a combination of these these things, you can also re-stream music (including vinyl from your turntable) to other Audio Pro speakers you may have collected from its A, C, or D-series, in a wireless multi-room system around your home (and you don't even have to start making holes in your walls).

The C20 also offers the option of connecting an external subwoofer via its sub-out (the company would direct you to its own Audio Pro SW-5 or SW10) enabling you to enhance the C20's bass performance even further, should you wish – although I didn't find this necessary. 

Finally, two C20’s can be set-up as a stereo pair using the Audio Pro app, or even via Apple Airplay 2. I think you'll agree, that's a lot of options. If you want a 3.5mm headphone jack, you won't find it… but do you really? 

Features score: 5/5

Audio Pro C20 top-plate closeup, with a hand pressing one of the buttons

That's a lot of options – and six presets  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20 review: Sound quality

  • Clarity, neutrality and detail in spades
  • Ample bass clout without muddying the soundstage
  • Not an omnidirectional solution

Simply put, the Audio Pro C20 sounds very good indeed, whether physically hooked up to your TV or turntable, or when commanded to play music by your phone. You might anticipate having to make a compromise when buying a jack-of-all-trades box – a minor hit on sound in return for something that works with everything – but not so here. 

Coheed and Cambria's In Keeping Secrets of the Silent Earth: 3 accessed on Tidal Connect is a raucous proggy album and the C20 never shies away from any of it, serving indomitable energy across the frequencies in a cohesive but rigorously regimented mix. 

Given delicate string progressions such as Joni Mitchell's A Case of You, Mitchell's textured vocal soars above her dynamically agile and three-dimensional Appalachian dulcimer (and James Taylor's emotive acoustic guitar) where each musical passage is given enough space to have the necessary impact the track. 

When handling TV content, the C20 is an easy (easy!) step up from anything my Sony TV's speakers can do, opening out the sound and offering that extra ounce of detail through intakes of breath and clacks of high-heeled shoes on cobbles in Shetland

It's not a Dolby Atmos solution, of course, and the sound isn't particularly omnidirectional (owing to the C20's design), but there's a wide soundstage here nonetheless. 

However I listened to it across the course of my testing, the C20 continued to delight and entertain with its myriad connectivity perks, ease of use and gifted audio chops. 

Sound quality score: 5/5

Audio Pro C20 on a wooden table, with a smartphone to show scale

The remote certainly adds value – although volume adjustment is a slightly blunt affair  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20: Design

  • 2x 30W and 1x 130W digital class D amplifiers
  • Removable grille
  • Choice of three finishes

The Audio Pro C20 is available in Soft Satin White, Stylish Grey or Classic Black. The woven fabric front is fixed to the C20 by magnets and can be easily removed, giving the option of two very different looks, depending on your favored aesthetic. 

I like to take off the grille off to better hear (and observe) Audio Pro's iconic eyes-and-nose style driver configuration, as seen in the brand's beloved T3+, C5 MkII and C10 MkII, for starters. Here, you get two 30W and one 130W Digital Class D amplifiers, powering the C20's dual 1-inch tweeters and a 6.5-inch woofer.

At 41cm across,19.6cm high and 22cm deep (and weighing in at 6.2kg, which roughly the same as a gallon of paint), the C20 is a substantial thing and while it fits under my wall-mounted TV just fine, those thinking of using it as a soundbar will need to think about that height. 

My 'Stylish Grey' sample is just that. The gold-tone top plate (with solo LEDs to denote which source you're using as well as lights around the six preset buttons) also helps and while the gold accent on the grille is gone (as seen on the C10 MkII) I don't miss it. Do I miss Audio Pro's glorious rock 'n' roll leather handle? A little, but I also concede that this isn't  proposition is not meant to be especially portable. 

It's always been hard to find fault with Audio Pro's build quality, and the C20 is no exception. 

Design score: 4.5/5

Audio Pro C20 on a TV stand, with a Sony TV in the background, connected via HDMI ARC

You need a bit of clearance, but it works with my TV (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20 review: Usability and setup

  • Simple, app-guided setup
  • App can handle your music – or not
  • No supplied remote

After powering the speaker on (in case it needs to be mentioned, the C20 needs to be plugged in to power at all times), you're quickly guided to the Audio Pro companion app, which will add the C20 to your Wi-FI network and generally do the rest. During my time with it, it neither crashed nor tripped up even momentarily. 

On the app, the 'Browse' tab (which seeks to keep your music all in one place) will open Apple Music natively through 'open on Apple Music' if using an iOS device, but third-party streaming services (such as Tidal) will require you to login again if going this route. You can also select the C20's source here, whether that's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, phono, line in (I hooked it up to the FiiO R9 before setting it up and it did a fantastic job), optical or TV. 

The central 'Device' tab in the app is meant to organise your speakers rather than your music, so here you can name your speaker, (either the model, or its placement in your home, such as 'kitchen') and with the C20 there's a three-band EQ tab for bass, treble and subwoofer out. 

The third and final 'Settings' tab basically lets you choose which services are displayed on 'Browse', as well as an FAQ section and details on the app version you're running. 

Audio Pro hasn't supplied a dedicated remote control in the box (although if you're using the HDMI ARC to your TV, you can just use your TV's remote for volume) and honestly, I don't miss it, because the app does the heavy lifting – or of course, you can use the premium top plate. 

Usability and setup score: 5/5 

Audio Pro C20 app, three screen-grabs on gray background

Audio Pro's companion app makes it really easy to group your music and your wireless speakers for multi-room audio  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20: Value

Obviously, if you don't have the expendable income to afford such a speaker, it doesn't matter how good it is – you won't be buying it. 

That said, Sonus Faber will offer you something with a similar spec sheet that's double the price, while Naim has an older option that offers less in terms of connectivity, but sounds excellent, for similar money (see below for a comparison of these products). 

My advice? You will not be disappointed with the sound-per-pound value here. 

Value score: 4.5/5 

Audio Pro C20 review: Should you buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Audio Pro C20: Also consider

Audio Pro C20 review: How I tested

  • Tested across seven days 
  • Used as a TV soundbar, wireless speaker, wired to the FiiO R9, wired to a turntable and as a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker
  • Listened to a variety of music; watched three episodes of an action-packed TV show

When testing the Audio Pro C20, the only connection I didn’t use was the subwoofer out – because honestly, I really like Audio Pro's tuning within its speakers and never felt the need to try to augment the low end. 

The analogue inputs accommodated both pre-amplified and non-amplified turntables, the digital optical was used for a CD player, the line in for FiiO R9 (as a source device), my TV was hooked up to it… and, of course, Bluetooth and my home Wi-Fi network were handy for using it with my iPhone. 

And then it's the usual: listening to lots of familiar music from my reference playlist, (as well as three episodes of Shetland on TV, which I'm really into and highly recommend – yes, I know I'm late to that particular party) at a variety of volume levels, for the duration of my testing. 

As a brief aside, I removed the grilles for the duration of my testing – it's what I always do whenever possible. Why? The fewer physical obstructions between you and your music, the better… 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: a splendid all-in-one speaker system, down to the ground
1:00 pm | March 2, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Comments: Off

Q Acoustics M40 HD: Two minute review

Understandably emboldened by the success of its wireless-system-in-a-pair-of-speakers M20 HD, Q Acoustics is back with a bigger, floorstanding version. But everything’s relative, of course – and while the M40 HD is a wireless-system-in-a-pair-of-floorstanding-speakers, (so not exactly unlike some of the best wireless speakers we've tested, but not altogether the same either) it’s a lot more compact than you might be expecting. This means it’s ideal for those customers who either don’t have much space to spare, or are unwilling to fill their spare space with great big speakers and h-fi separates.

Specification, with one or two exceptions, is very good – there are wired and wireless connectivity options, and hi-res audio capability through both the digital optical and USB-B inputs. 200 watts of power should be more than enough for most people (and most neighbours). The M40 HD represents the most affordable product so far to feature the new Q Acoustics Continuous Curved Cone (C3) driver. And aptX HD and aptX Adaptive are always welcome where Bluetooth connectivity is concerned. So while some users might hanker after some wi-fi action or a control app, there’s more than enough here to be getting on with.

As far as sound quality is concerned, there is plenty to enjoy here. The M40 HD is a perky, punchy and articulate listen, and as long as you don’t position it too close to a rear surface it’s nicely balanced too. Its sound is consistent no matter which of its inputs you use, and there doesn’t seem to be a type or source of music it doesn’t get along with. So if it’s a big sound from a less-than-big system you’re after, you need to give this Q Acoustics a listen pronto. 

A closeup of the Q Acoustics M40 HD grille and emblem

Q Acoustics' music system know-how, all the way to the floor…  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Price and release date

  • Released February 15, 2024
  • $999 / £749 / AU$1,999

The Q Acoustics M40 HD wireless music streaming system is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it’s priced at £749. In the United States you should expect to pay $999, while in Australia the going rate is AU$1999.

That Q Acoustics knows exactly what it’s doing where products like this are concerned isn’t really up for question. But then neither is the fact that the M40 HD faces well-regarded competition – the likes of KEF, Klipsch and Triangle (to name but three) have fairly similar systems with which to tempt you. Q Acoustics, though, has a fairly obvious point of difference…

Q Acoustics M40 HD speaker rear view, showing the inputs

The M40 HD is arguably as beautiful from the back as it is when staring at the grille  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Features

  • 2 x 100W of power
  • Wired and wireless connectivity
  • 24-bit/192kHz hi-res compatibility

Each M40 HD loudspeaker features a decoupled tweeter positioned above two Continuous Curved Cone (C³) mid/bass drivers of the type first encountered in the company’s more expensive (and lately award-winning) 5000 series. Each has a bass reflex port towards the bottom of the rear of the cabinet, to help with low-frequency presence and punch. After that, though, they become slightly different.

In the case of the ‘secondary speaker’, the only other feature is a pair of speaker-cable binding posts just beneath that reflex port. The ‘primary’ speaker, by way of contrast, has plenty more going on.

As well as speaker binding posts, the ‘primary’ speaker has an output for mains power on its rear plate. It also has a pair of stereo RCA analogue inputs, a 3.5mm auxiliary sockets, and inputs for digital optical and USB-B - these last two are able to digital with incoming digital audio files of up to 24bit/192kHz resolution. There’s a switch to let the speaker know if it’s occupying the left or right position in the set-up, and whether it’s in free space, against a wall or in a corner. And there’s a pre-out for a subwoofer for the truly antisocial among us.

Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, is strictly via Bluetooth. It’s the 5.0 variation, with SBC, AAC, aptX HD and Low Latency codec compatibility. Some wi-fi connectivity would be nice, sure, but it seems safe to assume that Q Acoustics has balanced the feature-set against the eventual price and come up with a balance it’s pleased with.

The ‘primary’ speaker also takes care of amplifying both speakers (these are 'powered', rather than truly 'active' beasts). It features two Class D blocks of amplification, each of 100 watts. The M40 HD is supplied with a length of cable to connect the two speakers together – this, along with a connection to mains power, is the only wiring this wireless system requires.

Features score: 4.5/5

Q Acoustics M40 HD close-up on the top plate

They're still quite svelte, despite being obviously taller than Q Acoustics' bookshelf offerings  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Sound quality

  • Energy and dynamism to spare 
  • Strikes a nice balance between ‘insight’ and ‘entertainment’ 
  • A moment’s care with positioning is required

It becomes apparent after next-to-no listening that the Q Acoustics M40 HD prefer to be out in just a little open space, not hard against a rear wall, and toed in just a little towards your listening position. They don’t throw in the towel if some or all of this is not possible in your space, you understand – but like all of us, they have their preferences.

And when they’re positioned just so, and are connected via Bluetooth to a Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphone using the aptX HD codec, and are playing a TIDAL-derived file of Grace Jones’ Pull Up to the Bumper, they’re an uncomplicatedly enjoyable listen. There are plenty of specific areas of music-making that are deserving of mention, but what’s most immediately evident is how engaging and upfront a listen the M40 HD is. This system sounds very much like it enjoys your favourite music almost as much as you do.

At every point in the frequency range, detail levels are impressively high and integration is smooth. The low frequencies are deep, nicely textured and enjoy proper control at the attack of notes or hits – and this straight-edged lead-in means the rhythm of the Grace Jones tunes is expressed confidently and positively. All the momentum the recording needs is available. And at the opposite end of the frequency range, there’s an enjoyable amount of bite and attack – but although treble sounds have plenty of shine, they’re also substantial. Which means the top end never gets out of hand, even if you decide to deploy every one of those 200 watts of Class D power that are available.

In between, there’s a stack of space in which La Jones can operate, a pocket in which the vocal is delivered with all of its attitude and character intact. Despite the spacious nature of the M40 HD presentation, though, each element of the recording is tightly integrated - so there’s never a suggestion of remoteness or isolation. The Q Acoustics system gives a good impression of ‘performance’, providing a great sensation of commonality and unity even if it’s playing very complex, element-heavy recordings.

Switching to a 24bit/192kHz Qobuz file of Curtis Mayfield’s (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go served to the M40 HD via its USB-B socket allows the system to demonstrate its prowess where soundstaging and dynamics are concerned. The presentation is wide and deep, with more than enough room for each strand of the recording to do its thing without being impacted on from elsewhere - and when Curtis and his band turn the wick up, the Q Acoustics tracks changes in intensity (as well as simple volume) faithfully. It’s an expressive, open listen overall, with a stack of pertinent observations to make - but most of all, it’s an energetic and entertaining listen.

In ultimate terms its tonality is on the warm-ish side of neutral, but that’s a trait rather than an outright flaw. And it’s safe to say the system doesn’t need all that much encouragement to overstate the lowest frequencies a little - so not only should you be reasonably careful about positioning, you might want to think about deploying the port bungs that are supplied. Other than this, though, it’s hard to find fault with the M40 HD’s presentation.   

Sound quality score: 5/5

Q Acoustics' M40 HD remote control on top of the unit

The remote certainly adds value – although volume adjustment is a slightly blunt affair  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Design

  • 710 x 250 x 296mm (HxWxD)
  • Point-to-point cabinet bracing
  • Choice of three finishes

It may not be immediately apparent from the pictures, but each M40 HD speaker is 710 x 250 x 296mm (HxWxD) including the little stabilisers at the back of the cabinet – and, as such, is to my knowledge unique in the current marketplace. Floorstanding speakers, whether passive or powered, are without exception quite a bit taller than this and so Q Acoustics has a unique offering here. Whether that’s ‘unique in a good way’ or not entirely depends on you – personally, I can easily imagine that a speaker of these dimensions will find favour with any number of customers who fancy some full-on audio performance without full-on speakers delivering it.  

Other than the rather startling dimensions, it’s Q Acoustics design business as usual here – which is, broadly speaking, a good thing. The cabinet is vinyl-wrapped MDF (available in white or black in addition to the walnut of my review sample), and features the established and extremely successful point-to-point bracing technology that Q Acoustics has been perfecting for a while now. Each cabinet also has a Helmholtz Pressure Equaliser to reduce internal pressure and further reduce unwanted internal vibrations. 

As with the M20 HD, each grille is fixed and cannot be removed. That’s a bit of a pity in aesthetic terms, if for no other reason that the C³ driver is quite a good-looking piece of technology (as long as you bear in mind that everything’s relative). Q Acoustics, though, makes a strong argument that fixing the grille in place allows its structure, particularly around the drivers, to be minimised – which reduces sonic reflections. And given that I can’t take the grilles off and find out for myself, I’m not really in any position to argue.  

Design score: 5/5

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Usability and setup

  • Remote control handset
  • A few simple controls
  • Simple and quick to set up

On the top of the ‘primary’ speaker there are three little buttons. There’s a ‘volume up’ and a ‘volume down’ button, and the third takes care of ‘power on/off’, input selection and Bluetooth pairing. 

These functions are duplicated on the remote control handset that’s supplied with the M40 HD. In addition, you get a ‘mute’ button and the ability to skip forwards or backwards through your streamed content. Apart from the fact that the volume adjustment is a slightly blunt instrument, it’s a perfectly serviceable little device.

Setting up the M40 HD couldn’t really be much simpler. There are stabilisers and spikes to be attached to the bottom of each speaker, and they must be connected using the supplied length of speaker cable. After that, plug the ‘primary’ speaker into the mains, and once you’ve told it what’s what as regards its position in your room, you’re good to go. 

Usability and setup score: 5/5 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Value

Whether or not these speakers are the right sort of size for your environment, there’s no denying the quality of their construction and finish. Add in specification that’s well up to snuff and sound quality that justifies the outlay every time, and the Q Acoustics M40 HD represents unarguable value for money.

Value score: 5/5 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Should you buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Also consider

Where their configuration is concerned, the Q Acoustics M40 HD are currently number one in a field of one – almost every price- and function-comparable alternative is a pair of standmounting speakers. So while the more expensive KEF LSX II LT is better-specified in some ways, it doesn’t have a hope of delivering the sheer scale of sound the M40 HD can muster – and neither can the similarly talented (but similarly bijou) KEF LS50 Wireless II. But if everything except the price is appealing about the M40 HD, then check out their smaller, more affordable but similarly high-achieving Q Acoustics M20 HD siblings. 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: How I tested

  • Standing in free(ish) space
  • Using every available input
  • Lots of music over a fair amount of time

The only connection I didn’t use was the subwoofer pre-out – because, quite frankly, the M40 HD sounds hefty enough by itself (especially if you position it too close to a rear surface, where the reflex ports can get a bit pushy). But the analogue inputs accommodate a pre-amplified turntable, the digital optical was used for a CD player, the USB-B connected the system to a laptop… and, of course, Bluetooth was handy for use with a smartphone. And then it was really just a case of listening to lots of familiar music, at a variety of volume levels, for as long as I thought I could get away with it… 

Sonus faber Duetto Review: incredible sound, spotty performance
6:00 pm | January 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: , , | Comments: Off


The best wireless speakers can be the audiophile’s soundbar, wrapping all the inputs, amplification, and streaming tech you need into a standalone, high-performance audio solution. Sonus faber’s dashingly elegant Duetto speakers check off those boxes in style, offering brilliantly clear and robust sound quality alongside convenient wireless streaming and plenty of ways to connect.

The design is cutting-edge, right down to the wireless connection between the speakers, but as is surprisingly common with audiophile brands, the execution isn’t always as intuitive or reliable as you’d expect from a luxury product. Over the course of my Duetto review, I experienced multiple tech issues, from setup hiccups to spotty HDMI ARC communication. The speakers add to those issues with some awkward design quirks and control options.

The Duetto easily rank among the most transparent, dynamic, and just plain stylish powered bookshelf speakers I’ve evaluated. If you’re willing to gamble on their tech, which may improve over time with software updates, they could be worth considering for those seeking an all-in-one best stereo speakers option that’s as beautiful as it is sonically striking. Otherwise, there are more stalwart options out there. 

sonus faber duetto closeup on stand

(Image credit: Future)

SONUS FABER DUETTO REVIEW: Price & release date

  • Released October 2023
  • Priced at $3,999 / £3,490

The Sonus faber Duetto speakers were released in October 2023 and are available in over 50 countries worldwide through authorized dealers. At the time of this review, the U.S. price for the Sonus faber Duetto was $3,999. 


sonus faber duetto bottom ports

Hardwired connection options include HDMI eARC, optical digital, and MM phono inputs (Image credit: Future)


  • Powered wireless speakers connected over UWB
  • Phono, optical, and HDMI ARC/eARC inputs
  • Webpage for control; setup via AirPlay, Google Home, or Ethernet

Among their many intriguing features, maybe the most unique is how these high-resolution wireless speakers connect to one another. 

Like most powered/active speakers, the Duetto pair comprises a primary speaker that houses onboard controls and inputs and a secondary speaker that receives audio from its partner. Unlike other such wireless systems, the two speakers aren’t connected via a data cable or Wi-Fi, relying instead on a relatively new wireless protocol called UWB (Ultra wideband). UWB uses radio waves for some distinct advantages over alternatives, including much lower latency than Bluetooth LE and virtually zero signal interference when compared to Wi-Fi frequencies.

Each of the Duetto speakers is internally powered by potent custom amplifiers, including a 100 watt Class A/B amplifier for each tweeter and a Class-D amplifier claimed to produce a whopping 250 watts for each 5.25-inch woofer. You can choose which speaker is the left or right, depending on the room layout. The two-way speakers utilize internal DSP (digital signal processing) with a crossover set at 1.9 kHz. Their total frequency response is a claimed 37Hz-30kHz, and they reach deep into that low end with authority.

On the primary speaker’s supple leather topside, you’ll find lighted “Senso” touch keys that let you tap your way through playback, volume, and input control. It’s a slick design, but it takes a while to master the functions without the familiar playback symbols you’ll find on most wireless speakers. You’ll also need to memorize the different colors flashing across the speaker’s front LED display bar (seven in all) for each input – the price you pay for style.

Style also takes precedence for the Duetto’s physical input hub. Inputs include Ethernet, RCA line-in (with an available built-in phono pre for a turntable), optical digital, subwoofer out, and HDMI ARC/eARC, all stuffed into a small cubby beneath the primary speaker. This allows for clean lines across the speaker’s elegantly industrial backside., but it can be confounding for usability, requiring an awkward balancing act anytime you need to swap cables or access the Duetto’s reset or speaker pairing keys. Simply moving those keys to the back would be helpful.

Awkward is the operative word for my Duetto setup experience, starting with pairing the speakers together once you’ve powered them on. This requires digging through your tangle of wires under the main speaker’s base, finding the tiny pairing button next to the equally tiny reset button and holding it for five seconds, then dashing to the other speaker to do the same within 30 seconds. The first time I must have failed to hold the button long enough, forcing a retry.

Next, since Sonus faber (oddly) doesn’t include a dedicated app for setup or control, you’ll need to use either AirPlay setup or the Google Home app to connect to Wi-Fi. My first review sample, a previously used model, refused to connect to my network multiple times. Once I finally did get the speakers to play, they sputtered offline again and eventually got stuck in a power-cycle feedback loop as I tried to reset them.

A second review pair connected without incident via AirPlay, but I did experience some hiccups in which the speakers stopped responding to Spotify, forcing me to reset them or reconnect. On another occasion, the left speaker suddenly stopped playing, forcing another power down. Most notably, after testing them over a few weeks, the Duetto started having HDMI ARC connection issues. It seems to be a CEC communication problem, where the speakers don’t always power on and/or connect when I turn on the TV, sometimes forcing me to connect manually or, again, power cycle them. While I can usually get them working, the issue was persistent through multiple HDMI cables, multiple TV settings, and even multiple TVs.

The Duetto’s reliance on a webpage for online controls is also less convenient than speakers with a dedicated app. The webpage provides some useful features like the ability to configure HDMI switching, adapt the bass for near-wall setup and turn it down in quiet moments via the “Loudness Maximiser.” But it’s missing options like a multi-band EQ or inputs selection. You’ll need to bookmark it in your browser or rely on the physical manual’s QR code for access. A real app appears to be coming, which would be a big help for usability if and when it arrives.

  • Features score: 3/5

Sonus faber duetto speakers on stands in living room

Screenshots of the BluOS app used to control streaming and speaker setup (Image credit: Future)


  • Sensitive, transparent, and dynamic sound
  • Dimensional and precise soundstage
  • Powerful and clear bass response

Listening to the Duetto is not a passive experience, it’s an event. Their nuanced sound signature is as sensitive as it is powerful, diving deep into the core of each instrument, vocal, or effect and raising it to the surface to be exposed in the light of day. Poorer mixes and low-resolution tracks have nowhere to hide from these sonic magnifiers. Yet their smooth and sweet sound signature is remarkably forgiving, with a warm and present midrange, fluid and vividly responsive treble that’s forward but never sharp, and shockingly thunderous bass.

You’ll have no trouble enjoying compressed audio over Spotify Connect, even finding yourself distracted from other tasks by the Duetto’s knack for detail and definition. But you’ll spark more joy by using a source more worthy of their pedigree – this is a pair of $4,000 speakers after all. 

I started my evaluation in earnest pairing the Duetto with a new Technics SL1500-C turntable and a reprint of Dave Bruebeck’s classic album “Take Five” fresh out of the wrapper. And what a listen it was. I’ve heard some very good speakers in my day, and I was still taken off guard by just how fabulously the Duetto reproduced this iconic album. You know you’re onto something when your notes include phrases like “a joyous celebration of life and art.”

There’s not an instrument these speakers don’t know how to elevate. The breathy buzz of the sax in “Strange Meadow Lark” was so close I could almost feel it against my neck. The papery texture of the drums in the titular track revealed each of Joe Morello’s minute wrist adjustments in mellow-gold microtones. Even the warm gunk in the diaphragms of those ‘50s microphones seemed to glow through the tweeters as bass strings rattled and Brubeck’s creamy piano spun up and down the right side. The voluminous soundstage rises to near three-dimensionality in such moments, with instruments seeming to reach out and curve around your face.

The soundstage was similarly enveloping with TV and movies, even when dialing up seemingly basic fare like a rewatch of “Christmas Vacation” over the holidays. The Duetto built a cavern of spacious sound here, and was especially adept at reconstructing minute details like a TV in another room. The guttural roar of Eddie’s RV as he fired it up to kidnap Clark’s boss had me looking outside, while the rocket-like bombast of Santa’s plastic reindeer as they’re launched into orbit at the movie’s conclusion seemed to rumble the whole front of the room. The sound was so expansive it felt like a Dolby Atmos mix, all from a compressed stream over stereo speakers.

As I listened on, I was constantly surprised by the Duetto’s transparency, from whistling high-frequency synthesizers to the painstaking reconstruction of every mix or soundstage as if laid out before me. Still, the Duetto’s oak-like bass response is their most striking sonic trait. As noted, they’re rated down to 37Hz, and I’ll be damned if they don’t get close. Adding a sub will clear up some room in the upper register and provide more control, but it’s otherwise unnecessary given the Duetto’s powerful punch. Bass is almost too powerful in some tracks, even after being tamed in the settings, which was why I sometimes wished for better EQ.

EQ or not, I won’t raise any official complaints about the Duetto’s sound. If it weren’t for the technical mishaps I encountered, I’d likely be considering throwing down the cash to grab them myself. They offer among the most impressive sonic performances I’ve ever heard in a pair of bookshelves. Even as I write this review, I’m finding new ways to be impressed, engaged, and elated by their skills.

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

sonus faber duetto top surface

The lighted “Senso” touch keys on the speaker's leather-wrapped top surface that let you tap your way through playback, volume, and input control (Image credit: Future)


  • Relatively compact, fully wireless bookshelf design
  • Dashingly elegant, minimalist aesthetic in black or walnut
  • Inconvenient inputs and control layout

At just over 13 inches tall and 11 inches deep, the Duetto are easy to place on most speaker stands and longer consoles. Sonus faber also offers custom Duetto stands at a lofty $749. The speakers are unflinchingly gorgeous and well-built, from their perfectly matched, lute-shaped cabinets to their leather tops and hefty metal heat sinks. They’re among the only speakers I’ve seen that look as good with their acoustic screens on as off. The lack of any visible physical connections along or between the two speakers makes for a squeaky-clean aesthetic.

As noted above, it also makes basic things like swapping in a new device or re-pairing the speakers in the event of a reset or connection issue inconvenient, with everything confined beneath the primary speaker. Even the slick remote feels overengineered, requiring a lockpick’s touch to open the battery slot via a tiny hole at the back.

At least some of these decisions feel like form over function. It all works fine if you only need to set the speakers up once and don’t plan on adding any new gear later, but it makes everything more of a hassle when something changes or goes wrong.

  • Design score: 3/5


  • Audiophile sound performance with a price to match
  • Loads of inputs and connection options
  • Reliability and convenience take a backseat to aesthetics

The Sonus faber Duetto are among the priciest wireless bookshelf speakers I’ve encountered, with the sound to back it up. Their design is as stunning as it is unassuming, matching elegance with minimalism to striking effect. The inclusion of multiple inputs, including a built-in pre-amp for vinyl playback and HDMI ARC/eARC makes them a versatile and comprehensive sound solution.

However, you can find similar models, including hi-fi options like KEF’s LS50 Wireless II, for thousands less. In my experience, KEF’s design and tech are also more reliable and intuitive. The Duetto’s sound performance sets them apart nearly as distinctly as their price point, but their reliability issues and sometimes awkward design elements keep them from being as attractive as more affordable competitors.

  • Value score: 2.5/5

sonus faber duetto in living room with TV

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the SONUS FABER DUETTO?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…


sonus faber duetto in living room with TV

(Image credit: Future)


  • Tested with both compressed lossy and hi-res lossless streaming services, including Spotify Connect and Amazon Music
  • Tested with high-resolution analog and TV sound sources across a wide range of content, from jazz and hip-hop to sitcoms, dramas, and action films
  • Tested two pairs over several weeks with dozens of hours of listening time

I used the Sonus faber Duetto as my primary sound source over multiple weeks of testing and across a wide variety of source material, from compressed audio tracks over Wi-Fi to high-quality vinyl albums and a wide array of TV shows and films. Source devices included Technics SL1500-C direct drive turntable and Ortofon Red cartridge, as well as multiple TV models from TCL, Samsung, and LG.

I compared the speakers to several alternatives, including my reference KEF LSX wireless speakers, and traditional wired speakers from Focal, Bowers & Wilkins, and others connected to a Naim Uniti network amplifier.

You can read TechRadar's review guarantee here.

  • First reviewed: January 2024
PSB Alpha iQ speakers review: an all-in-one wireless hi-fi wonder
11:00 pm | December 17, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

PSB Alpha iQ: One-minute review

The Alpha iQ from Canada’s PSB Speakers is the company’s first active-streaming model: a very compact bookshelf design that nevertheless produces superb sound with surprising dynamic and bass abilities. Like other examples of the best wireless speakers, On-board Wi-Fi, USB, and aptx HD Bluetooth give users plenty of streaming options, and it uses the BluOS ecosystem for multiroom playback and control. 

The BluOS Controller iOS/Android app (MacOS and Windows versions are also available) used by the Alpha iQ is highly capable but occasionally quirky to navigate, though AirPlay and Roon (the Alpha iQ is “Roon Ready”) provide further streaming options. The iQ also has a turntable-ready phono input and an HDMI eARC port for the best TVs, so connection flexibility here is excellent.

Listeners who value accurate, true-to-life musical sound will be well pleased, though those seeking maximum head-bang-per-buck may be disappointed. Nonetheless, the Alpha iQs are more than ready to fill any up to solidly medium-sized room with convincing levels of lifelike musical sound. 

PSB Alpha iQ wireless speakers

(Image credit: Future)

PSB Alpha iQ review: Price & release date

  • Released September 2022
  • Priced at $1,299 / £1,099

The PSB Alpha iQ was released in September 2022 and is available in the US, UK, Europe and directly from the PSB Speakers website. At the time this review posted, the price for the Alpha iQ had dropped to $999 in the US. 

PSB Alpha iQ review: Specs

PSB Alpha iQ wireless speakers back views

Hardwired connection options include HDMI eARC, MM phono, 3.5mm analog and a subwoofer output (Image credit: Future)

PSB Alpha iQ review: Features

  • Powered speaker pair
  • HDMI eARC and phono inputs
  • BluOS app used for setup and control

The Alpha iQ’s two speakers are not identical, though each builds in a pair of amplifiers, of 30 and 60 watts respectively, for the tweeter and woofer. But the “secondary” speaker has no rear-panel features at all beyond an IEC power-cord socket and a pinhole reset-button access. All connections are on the main speaker, which can be assigned left or right status at setup, while the secondary speaker receives a digital signal wirelessly from its mate. (I could not find official word on the Alpha iQ’s internal or inter-speaker resolution, but believe it to be 24-bit/192 kHz.) The crossovers, driver EQ, and smart limiting are DSP-based. 

Inputs on the main speaker include HDMI eARC, phono (moving-magnet cartridges only), an optical digital audio port, and a 3.5-inch stereo minijack input. Other connections include a subwoofer output, Ethernet network port, a USB port, and an AC power input.

A small play/pause/skip touch-panel is handsomely set into the main speaker’s top panel. No remote control is provided, as it is presumed that the BluOS app will serve as the primary user interface. This puts the BluOS app, which bakes in access to every major streaming service (and quite a few more) and is also required for installation and setup, front and center.

The new BluOS 4.0 app that’s used for streaming and control of the Alpha iQs proved a very worthwhile update – really, an overall re-design. Where I found the previous BluOS version to be occasionally confusing, and needlessly (I thought) complicated, 4.0 proved simpler, smoother, and altogether more logically laid out and organized.

That said, this is a review of the Alpha iQ speakers not of the BluOS app, so I’ll be brief. The new BluOS app’s Home Screen shows your most-used sources or services, recent stations, and a quintet of icons across the bottom to select Favorites, Music (streaming services, inputs, or network “shares”), Players (you might have multiple BluSound speakers or components in different rooms), and a Search panel.

Navigation is fairly straightforward – much more so, in my view, than the earlier versions of the app. A “now playing” bar across the bottom, which shows the current player, track and scrolling title data, a mini album-art panel, and play/pause and volume buttons. This last is a two-step process; you must first touch the Volume icon, which switches to a volume slider that you can then adjust.

  • Features score: 5/5

PSB Alpha iQ wireless speakers app screens

Screenshots of the BluOS app used to control streaming and speaker setup (Image credit: Future)

PSB Alpha iQ review: Sound quality

  • Natural sound balance
  • Stable and precise stereo imaging
  • Finite level and bass extension

The PSB Alpha iQs scored highly when it came to sound quality. Both male and female vocals were consistently natural and projected well out into the listening space. The little Alphas also went to about 45 Hz or so with honest tonality and definition. For example, on a track like Bonnie Bramlett’s rendition of the standard “Cry Me a River,” the low “F” in the bass guitar (about 44 Hz) was solid, but the low “C” below it was audibly a bit lighter when compared directly to a much larger, fuller-range speaker. 

Classical chamber music and small-combo jazz were unmitigated delights, and even orchestral recordings (Stravinsky) and reference-grade rock (Steely Dan) sounded suitably big, balanced, and impressively detailed and defined, with tight, stable stereo imaging, and plenty of output. Volume, however, was finite: when asked for more, the Alpha iQs simply failed to increase loudness, while their onboard “smart” limiting and equalization forestalled any audible distortion.

Connecting a powered subwoofer to the Alpha iQ's sub output automatically applies a high-pass filter at 80 Hz, which achieves two advantages. First, it extends system response downwards to the capability of the sub; second, it removes the burden of reproducing deep bass from the little Alpha iQs, yielding a significant gain in overall clean level. 

With my everyday subwoofer connected, the Alpha iQs became the crux of a full-range, full-level system, one that proved entirely capable of delivering a big, demanding recording like Charles Ives’ “A Concord Symphony” (the “Concord” piano sonata brilliantly orchestrated by the late Henry Brant) with visceral impact, breadth, and deep, reverberant, symphonic-bass-drum thwacks.

Imaging was fairly “tight.” By that I mean it didn’t expand much beyond the speakers or deliver an exaggerated illusion of front-to-back depth, but it was very precise in locating instruments and voices on the soundstage, and in projecting centered voices or soloists well out into the room. 

Partly inspired by this trait, I tried the Alpha iQs for a bit as desktop speakers. Despite the fact that they’re a little big for such deployment, they sounded terrific up close this way, with generally fine accuracy and a more dramatic, close-in stereo effect. But the PSBs suffered a bit from a more blousy mid-bass and slightly congested vocal range, likely due to sonic reflections from the desk and computer monitor screen surfaces. The lack of any DSP equalization for such placement, as many similar designs incorporate, was a missed opportunity here.

I briefly used the HDMI eARC input to confirm operation with my Sony OLED TV, which worked as expected. I also spun a few LPs from my classic Rega Planar turntable with its equally classic Shure V-15III moving magnet cartridge doing the honors, and this sounded as excellent as I expected. And as already mentioned, connecting my compact sub to the Alpha iQ’s subwoofer output transformed the little PSBs into a full-blown, full-range, high-end experience.

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

PSB Alpha iQ wireless speakers close up of top surface

Top panel controls for volume adjustment (Image credit: Future)

PSB Alpha iQ review: Design

  • Compact bookshelf design
  • Blue, orange, yellow, black or white matte lacquer finishes
  • 2-way “tweeter under” configuration

The PSB Alpha iQ speakers are compact-bookshelf size and borderline small enough for desktop use. They are available in blue, orange, yellow, black or white matte lacquer finishes. My black pair showed first-rate fit and finish and attention to detail. 

The Alpha iQs have an unusual, “tweeter-under” design, meant to be located “upside-down” with the 4-inch woofer above the 0,75-inch tweeter to direct the “in-phase lobe” (i.e. the best-balanced sound) to the listener’s ears. With a multi-color LED integrated into the tweeter, and slim bright-work accent rings around each driver, it’s a very handsome rig. The cabinets are vented by rear-panel ports (the rear panel and front baffle are aluminum, while speaker’s top, bottom, and sides are the usual MDF wood-composite). 

  • Design score: 4/5

PSB Alpha iQ review: Value

  • Pricier than similar options
  • Can accommodate both analog and streamed sources
  • Added value if already in BluOS ecosystem

The PSB Alpha iQs are relatively pricey compared to similar options such as the SVS Prime Wireless Pro ($899.99) and Elac Debut ConneX ($399.98). Both the PSB and SVS feature an array of digital and analog inputs for connecting external sources, including HDMI ARC for a TV connection, and the SVS also features DTS Play-Fi for high-res multiroom streaming.

Where the PSB shows its value is in its excellent BluOS streaming and control app, wide-ranging connectivity, and great overall sound quality. The compact wireless streaming speakers category is a competitive one, however, with basic streaming-only options from brands like Sonos and Apple eating up much of the pie, so the ultimate value of the Alpha iQs will primarily lie in how sold you are on the BluOS app and ecosystem.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

PSB Alpha iQ wireless speakers on table with turntable

(Image credit: PSB)

Should you buy the PSB Alpha iQ?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

PSB Alpha iQ review: Also consider

PSB Alpha iQ wireless speakers

(Image credit: Future)

PSB Alpha iQ review: How I tested

  • Tested with music streamed via BluOS app from Qobuz, Tidal and other services
  • Auditioned in same studio as several compared speakers and in “desktop audio” setup
  • Tested over several weeks, listened to for more than 20 hours hours total

I had the PSB iQ pair for well over a month, and used them for casual music and TV audio for a week-plus before critical auditions. I played music via BluOS from Qobuz, Tidal, Apple Music/Classical, and my own local music file library, including both high-resolution and standard-rez/lossless sources. I also (briefly) streamed via Bluetooth from my iPhone XS and (also briefly) LPs from a decades-old but still-capable Rega Planar turntable.

I had several active and passive speakers, including my long-term Energy Veritas 2.2 monitors, SVS Prime Wireless, and KEF LS-60 in the same studio for direct comparison.

You can read TechRadar's review guarantee here.

  • First reviewed: December 2023
Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) review
2:55 pm | July 2, 2020

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Comments: Off

Editor's Note

• Original review date: June 2020
• Launch price: $250 / £200 (approx. AU$360)
• Regular price now: $220 / £170

Update: February 2024. The Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Gen 2 is still a hit with us on TechRadar despite its age – it's still the speaker I personally use and prefer among the best Bluetooth speakers. My strong recommendation for it comes partly because, even though it was pricey to start with and the official price has actually risen to $299 / £259 / AU$600, but it's regularly available for much less than that – it just won't always be discounted in every color. The quality of the sound balance and detail is a clear step up over the likes of the Sonos Roam, for not necessarily a lot more money – and the battery life is better, too. The sound is less bouncy and party-focused, so consider this the music-lover's choice, and it holds up in that regard to this day. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen): Two-minute review

Bang and Olufsen has a strong reputation, so much so that even those who don't know much about speakers know that it's a good brand to purchase from. Back in 2016, it launched its smallest and most affordable Bluetooth speaker, the Beosound A1, and now we've reached the second generation edition of the same speaker. 

At a glance, you'd think you were holding the same portable speaker as before with only some minor visual changes, but underneath the hood, there are some hefty improvements that make this an appealing package for most. 

Crucially, there's Alexa support here – something that's quite unusual for a Bluetooth only speaker. More on how that works without Wi-Fi later, but it's certainly an interesting twist on the smart speaker

Elsewhere, one of the delights about the B&O Beosound A1 is its looks. It looks gorgeous and would easily slot into any home, while also being very easy to move between rooms because, ultimately, it's made to be moved around. 

Fortunately, it's not style over substance either, with the B&O Beosound A1 delivering fantastic audio quality, with a consistently crisp sound. Whether you're listening to the latest from The Weeknd or Billie Eilish, or listening to some classical music, the Beosound A1 simply sounds great. You'll be impressed at how every instrument stands out, even if the soundstage of this mini speaker shines best in a smaller room than some beefier-looking specimens. 

Ultimately, we were impressed with the B&O Beosound A1. A marked improvement over its predecessor, there's better battery life, and waterproofing, although we're not so sure how much we'd like to take it outside the home. Alexa support is a bit poor for reasons we'll go into in our full review below, but the Beosound A1 is still a fine example of why Bang & Olufsen's good reputation precedes it.

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen): Price & release date

  • Costs $250 / £200 (around AU$360)
  • Launched on May 14, 2020
  • Two colors available

Launched on May 14, 2020, the B&O Beosound A1 comes with a recommended retail price of $250 / £200. That works out at around AU$360, though we're still waiting on official Australian pricing.

Don't expect discounts just yet as it's a brand new device. Be careful to look out for whether you're buying a first or second generation unit as there are considerable discounts for the former now, but you'll miss out on some key features. 

Two colors are available - Black Anthracite and Grey Mist. Both look pretty stylish and the kind of thing you could easily slip into your living room setup. 

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen): Design

  • Stylish design
  • Waterproof
  • Awkward buttons

B&O usually do a good job of designing attractive speakers and that's certainly the case here. With a metallic casing, the B&O Beosound A1 is a circular disc of a device being a little slimmer and lighter than its first generation predecessor. 

Attached to one side is a leather carrying strap with a Bang and Olufsen adorned toggle for adjustments. It makes it easy to grab as well as hook onto things for safety when on the move. 

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

It all looks suitably classy, which means we would hate to chip it or damage it accidentally. While the IP67 certified waterproofing of the B&O Beosound A1 makes it suitable for outdoor use, we're not convinced we'd fancy its chances on a muddy hike. This is a waterproof speaker to leave by the pool rather than take anywhere off the beaten path. 

All the controls are around the outside of the speaker. There are buttons for power, Bluetooth, microphone, as well as volume, along with a USB-C charging port too. 

Annoyingly, the buttons aren't raised or tactile in any way. That means they look great but if you're fumbling in the dark to adjust something, you won't be able to see what you're doing. 

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen): Audio performance

  • Crisp sound 
  • Relatively small soundstage
  • Stereo pairing support

The revamped B&O Beosound A1 has a 3.5-inch woofer along with a 0.6-inch tweeter, and it's powered by two 30W Class D amplifiers. As well as that, the grille has a slightly different hole pattern to its predecessor. 

OK, so we're not sure if that makes a huge difference to the sound, but the rest of the specs bode well for a strong audio performance. It also now supports Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive codec, although bear in mind that your smartphone might not. 

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Bang & Olufsen recommends the speaker for small social gatherings, offices or mid-sized rooms, and that sounds about right to us. Its soundstage is suitably impressive in a relatively small room, delivering the sense of 360 degrees of music. Go outside or into a much larger room however, and you'll realize that size does matter – or at least you'll wish you had two of these. Back to the living room and the B&O Beosound A1 sounds a delight. 

It's consistently crisp. We found ourselves enjoying our favorite songs as if we were listening to them for the first time. Tracks like The Weeknd's Blinding Light sound exciting, punchy and energetic, with the likes of Childish Gambino's Feels Like Summer sounding smooth and detailed. 

That trend continued with older hits like The Beach Boys' God Only Knows, with each instrument sounding distinctive and sharp. In reassuring contrast, Yaeji's Raingurl sounded surprisingly thumpy in the bass frequencies, but in a good way that makes you want to at least tap to the beat. Simply put, everything sounded devoid of grain or harshness, with a strong, powerful performance. 

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The soundstage could maybe feel a bit wider, but you'll only really notice this in a large space. In the bathroom, bedroom, or a medium sized living room, the B&O Beosound A1 easily captures your attention. 

We can only imagine pairing it up with a second device for stereo sound would counteract these soundstage issues very well.

It's always satisfying feeling like you're rediscovering music with a new speaker and the B&O Beosound A1 has that sense of delight to it. 

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen): Battery life & connectivity

  • 18 hours of battery life
  • Bluetooth 5.1 
  • USB-C charging

The B&O Beosound A1 supports Bluetooth 5.1 which is immediately welcome, thanks to further pairing distances, which are sure to come in handy if you've got a big room or outdoor space for using it in. 

Bluetooth 5.1 also allows for better battery life with B&O claiming 18 hours of playback at a "typical" volume, with even more possible at a lower volume. 

In our tests, we found that about right although mileage definitely varies when you increase the sound to very high levels. Still, that's not bad at all and it recharges quickly too, thanks to the USB-C connectivity. 

Don't expect anything more complicated than the USB-C port. There's no place for a 3.5mm AUX-in port, for instance. That keeps the B&O Beosound A1 sleek and minimalist, but you might find yourself wishing for an extra option for connectivity, particularly if you prefer the stability of wired playback. 

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen): Alexa support & app

  • Alexa depends on your smartphone's Wi-Fi
  • Can control your smart home devices
  • B&O app comes with an equalizer

Perhaps the biggest feature here is the aforementioned Alexa support, despite the Beosound A1 being a solely Bluetooth-connected speaker. 

B&O states it's a world first for a Bluetooth speaker to offer Alexa without Wi-Fi support. Of course, it does still rely on Wi-Fi (rather than magic, we assume) but that comes via the smartphone that you have connected to the speaker. 

It's simple enough to set up but it's flawed. Besides the obvious drawbacks to needing to keep the speaker within range of the phone (although Bluetooth 5.1 helps there), it's a little slower than a direct response. 

We also found that despite the three-microphone array, the B&O Beosound A1 isn't always the most responsive to the 'Alexa' wake word. This isn't a speaker to buy if Alexa support is vital, but it's a neat bonus, and it means that it can double up as a smart speaker you can use to control your smart home devices

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The B&O Beosound A1 ties into the B&O app fairly well. You can adjust volume, switch Alexa support on or off, as well as tweak listening modes via an equalizer. 

This means even if you're not technically minded, you can still immediately notice the difference between presets like Ambient, Party, and Speaker. It's possible to customize these too ,to get the sound just how you like it. There's also the option to pair two A1 speakers together for stereo sound, although you can't do this with an older first generation device, sadly. 

Should I buy the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)

beosound a1

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

First reviewed: June 2020

Creative Pebble Plus review
2:51 am | April 27, 2019

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Comments: Off

Editor's Note

• Original review date: April 2022
• Still on sale
• Launch price: $40 / £40 / AU$99.95
• Official price now: $44.99 / £38.99 / AU$69.95

Update: February 2024. Two years on from when we first reviewed them, the Creative Pebble Plus remain our pick for the best budget computer speakers. The price has dropped a little bit in most markets, making these great value speakers even better buys. Their stylish and unobtrusive design means they can sit on even a small desk and not get in the way. They look great, and they sound brilliant as well. Unlike many other cheap computer speakers, the Creative Pebble Plus come with a subwoofer for extra bass. Even in 2024, few competitors at this price point do that, which is why we still heartily recommend them today.

Unlike picking out a new surround system that requires a bit of research and planning, upgrading to the best computer speakers is pretty easy. But, for the budget-conscious, it's now even easier thanks to the new Creative Pebble Plus. 

For around the cost of a dinner, Creative is underselling and overdelivering with these criminally cheap 2.1 stereo speakers that cost just $40 (around £30, AU$50). 

Who doesn’t like a good bargain? We certainly do, and we think you’ll feel the same way about this combination of stereo speakers and sub. 


One thing that's surprising, especially at this price point, is that the speakers actually come with a subwoofer (hence the “Plus” in the product’s moniker). There is a Creative Pebble, but for an extra $5, you get the woofer.

Now, the sub could be a bit sturdier and feels a little light, but there is a 4-inch driver inside angled downwards capable of pumping out 4-watts of bass. Other than a single connector in the back, there’s nothing actionable on the sub itself, but the simplicity is expected at this price point. 

The other thing you'll notice is the slight slant of the speakers themselves, a relatively minor, yet still significant move. Often times, computer speakers either face straight ahead or offer only a slight angle. Here, both speakers have been set to about a 45-degree angle, pointing them towards your ears when sitting down. Not only does this give the Pebble Plus a more unique look, but it helps with sound quality, too.

In terms of connections, you get the audio connector for the sub, plus a 3.5mm Aux-In and USB plug. The Pebble Plus has no AC adapter, so it won’t take up a space on a power outlet or power bar, and instead draws power from USB.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar


The good news is that setup is fairly simple considering how few wires there are connected to the speakers... but the bad news is that all the cables run through the right speaker, making it a little challenging for us to lay things out in a neat way - this isn’t one of those 2.1 systems that enables you to be all that creative on the display side of things.

One of the cords you'll need to worry about is USB, which is needed for power. You can obviously plug it into your PC, but a nearby USB port on a power bar served the same purpose. The cables are quite long, and we tried to maintain their bundled state (out of the box) as much as possible. 

Keep in mind that you don’t get any wireless capabilities here, so forget Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Chromecast or any other protocol that saves you from wires. They won’t work here. 

The right speaker does have a gain switch underneath and volume dial at the front. We tried different configurations to gauge performance but, truth be told, volume level was a far more important factor in sound quality.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar


What we mean there is that these speakers, like most other cheap speakers, had an obvious tipping point before distortion set in. It did vary, depending on the track we played, but be prepared to hear it if you go all-out.

For example, Blame It by Jamie Foxx was one of those tracks where we could discern muddier mids, and found similar examples with other R&B and hip hop tracks. The bass does sound more distorted when the song itself has heavy bass in it, but the real sacrifice here is in the mids, and to a lesser extent, the highs.

When we played Def Leppard’s Hysteria album, we noted a nice, balanced sound signature. It didn’t replicate what something 10 times the price would produce, but we never expected that anyway. What was surprising was that complex tracks didn’t sound like a muffled set of instruments. Pianos, saxophones, guitars — they all had some life to them. Such was the case when we played the Battlefield V and Battlefield I soundtracks, along with a number of movie scores done by the late John Barry. 

Movies and games offer similar results. Gamers won’t find much to be impressed with here, though that’s hardly the crowd Creative is angling for. Movies and shows, or simply browsing through an array of YouTube clips, we came away hearing a relatively crisp level of sound.

The thing about these speakers is they do have a sweet spot: For instance, if your computer is angled on a desk rather than facing you head on, you’re better off positioning the speakers to face you on from the computer on one end, and toward where you sit facing forward on the other. We don’t know for sure, but we suspect this is one reason why the cables are unusually long. 

Image Credit: Creative

Image Credit: Creative

Final verdict

Going in with measured expectations, we came away feeling good about the overall value of these 2.1 computer speakers. There are Bluetooth speakers that cost much more than this, and don’t offer stereo sound - this setup does, and while they don't stand-up to a Hi-Fi setup, their performance is better than the price would indicate. 

It's also worth pointing out that because there's a very minor difference in price between the Creative Pebble and Creative Pebble Plus, we would suggest ignoring the basic 2.0 Pebble speakers and going for the Plus version - the subwoofer is absolutely worth plunking down an extra bit of coin.

All things considered, if you're on a budget, yet really want better computer sound, you will get more than your money’s worth with the Pebble Plus.