In an age where everyone wants wireless everything, we're slowly seeing more traditional products integrate Bluetooth and Wi-Fi into their feature repertoire, particularly since the start of the smartphone revolution. Today, we're talking about speakers. Specifically, some pretty crazy looking ones called the Spinnakers, made by a company called Edifier.
I reviewed Edifier's Prisma 2.1 BT speaker system in August, and was thoroughly impressed with what $130 got you in terms of raw sound. The Spinnakers, though, are a tad pricier. And, by a tad, I mean a little less than three times as much, at $350 ($330 on Amazon). But on first use, it's pretty obvious where your money is going - toward even better sound.
The Spinnakers do everything they say on the box, and present a rather compelling argument that a Bluetooth-enabled speaker system need not be saddled with an inflated price, useless gimmicks, or stripped of normally expected features.
- What is it? A wired, powered 2.0 speaker system with Bluetooth connectivity and a wireless remote control.
- How much is it? $350 ($330 on Amazon).
- What's in the box? The speakers, power cord/brick, auxiliary 3.5mm stereo cord, optical audio cord, remote control.
- What's so special about it? They're really, really awesome speakers that have Bluetooth connectivity, along with 3.5mm stereo and optical audio inputs. They also look totally ridiculous.
- Do I want it? If you're looking for a chic speaker setup with real sound street cred, and demand Bluetooth as a connectivity option, the Spinnakers are one of your few options. Luckily, they really do fill the role quite well - so, if you're looking for something like this, then yes, you should buy them.
- Sound: Listen, I have a giant pair of Klipsch bookshelf speakers I bought a few years ago and use as part of my desktop PC's entertainment setup. They sound great, and get stupidly loud. I also paid a fair amount of money for them - and they don't do wireless (hell, I had to cut my own speaker wire and buy a stereo receiver). The Spinnakers, at a moderate volume, sound almost as good as those do. They are a tad bass-heavy, and less "warm" sounding, but most people will probably like that. Each of the satellites packs a 25 watt subwoofer, a 10 watt midwoofer, and a 10 watt tweeter. That's a total output of 90W for the whole system, which is extremely impressive given this is a 2.0 system. However, if that's not enough, you can hook up an external sub if you want, via a port on the active speaker. Anyway, the point is this: you really feel like you're getting over $300 of sound out of the Spinnakers. They sound truly fantastic - I was absolutely floored. There is almost no distortion at maximum volume, and what little of it there is stems from the subwoofers, which have a tendency to rattle their plastic enclosures when pushed to the limit. Treble and midrange, though, are absolutely pristine. And if you want a detailed audio evaluation, just check out Sound And Vision's rave review.
- Design: Love it or hate it, the Spinnakers look like no other speakers on the planet. The seem like something you would find in an Ikea model room, or a really upscale, super-modern hotel. They ooze edginess. Personally, I'm not a huge fan, but I can see how the styling would be really appealing to some folks.
- Connectivity: Aside from RCA cables, you get all the connection options you'd probably want for pumping sound into the Spinnakers: Bluetooth, 3.5mm stereo, and optical. Bluetooth reception is great, and I've had zero problems with it. I tested the 3.5mm stereo in, and that sounds fantastic as well.
- Remote: The little remote control... nipple thingy ... works really well. I've not had it go out of range, and it does what it says: turns the speakers on and off, adjusts the volume, and mutes them. It's intuitive, simple, and it has a microUSB rechargeable lithium ion battery. The only gripe I have is that the rubber bottom doesn't stick to surfaces well enough, so I usually just end up picking it up.
The Not So Good
- Design: The look isn't for everyone. I think that one explains itself.
- Price: At well over $300, these are an investment. You have to want a new speaker setup to justify the Spinnakers, and that's not a purchase decision you'll take lightly. You're going to have to live with these things.
- Setup: Notice how the active speaker has all those little ports (see below) with wire guides along the bottom? They are a god damn nightmare to plug in. Then again, that's something you'll be doing once in a great while, so it's not the end of the world. But hey, it's a thought. Another drawback: the two satellites connect via what seems to be a Molex power cable, meaning you can't really set them further apart than the length of that cable (unless you can find a substitute), and that kind of sucks.
- Quality: Don't get me wrong, the Spinnakers do not seem cheaply built. But looking at two of the Amazon reviews suggests there may be some quality control issues. If you do buy, buy from somewhere with a good return policy. That goes for any consumer electronic, though. In a month of use (I've been putting off this review), mine have experienced zero issues.
So, you're probably saying at this point "yeah, they sound good, but why do I want a $350 set of speakers with Bluetooth?" Think of it this way: if you want Bluetooth-friendly sound, ask yourself if portability is really a concern. If you absolutely must have something you can take with you in order to justify spending this much, alright, these clearly aren't for you. But if you don't need a portable speaker, the Spinnakers absolutely demolish everything else in the Bluetooth audio segment. SoundLink, Big Jambox, you name it - these will sound better. A lot better. I'm not sure how much I can emphasize the limitations of a portable speaker - it's an issue of power, acoustics, and space. A wired speaker system avoids so many of those engineering problems, and the Spinnakers illustrate that point beautifully.
As someone who loves good sound, I'm glad to see there's a company like Edifier out there concerned not just with the sonic side of the equation, but in integrating the tools we increasingly use for music and video into its products. I've loved my time with the Spinnakers, and I wholeheartedly recommend them.