Now these are smart. A pair of three-way active speakers shaped like spinnakers, with Bluetooth 2.1 support so you can use them without wires. I think wireless is the future of home audio, so high quality devices like this catch my interest. You come home, pull out your smartphone, press play and sweet music fills the living room.
The e30s have a wireless controller too, a bulbous device which gives out an other-worldly red glow from its base. Twist to set the volume, tap the top to turn on or switch input. Is this all you need?
Here is a closer look. Each speaker stands around just over 400mm high. At the base they are about the size of a CD (remember them?), tapering to a point at the top. The speaker units are of plastic construction, mostly covered with acoustically transparent cloth, and with an aluminium protrusion at the base to give additional stability and a way of tidying the cables.
The right-hand speaker is the master, and has four connections:
- Power in
- Combined analogue/digital input
- Subwoofer out
- Connector for left-hand speaker
Internally, there are three drivers in each speaker, comprising a silk-dome tweeter, a 70mm mid-range unit, and a 116mm woofer. There appear to be six channels of amplification, one for each driver, rated at 10w RMS for the tweeter, 10w for the mid-range, and 25w for the bass, quoted per channel. Frequency response is quoted at 68Hz-20KHz +/- 3dB; good for speakers of this size, though for faithful low-frequency reproduction you will need to use that subwoofer connection.
Modes of operation
The Spinnakers are pretty flexible when it comes to connections. The analogue input is a standard 3.5mm jack which you can connect to any external player, such as a computer, an iPod, an Airport Express, or a CD player. This input doubles as an optical digital input, which I tested at 16/44 (standard CD resolution) without any issues. Alternatively you can use Bluetooth, with support for A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), which means that most modern tablets or smartphones will be able to play audio to the speakers. No worries about dock connector types or Apple’s proprietary AirPlay wireless system.
A possible scenario then is to have the speakers permanently wired to a computer or another source such as a Squeezebox or Sonos unit. Then you can use Bluetooth for convenience, and the wired source for best quality.
An obvious position for the speakers is either side of a desktop computer, but they are good enough to sit in the living room too, particularly when boosted with a subwoofer.
After unpacking the speakers, the first task is to charge the wireless controller using the supplied USB cable. Next, connect the power, connect the speakers to each other, and optionally connect to a wired source.
This task is more awkward than it should be, since there is limited space in the base of the speaker and you have the bend the cable back firmly in order to align each plug with its socket. Next, you have to feed the cables through channels in the base of the unit in order to stand the speaker up without it rocking.
I found the cable tended to come away from the channels easily if you move the speaker so it is all a bit fiddly.
Next, find the controller and turn the speakers on by holding down its central button. The controller works as follows:
- Press and hold top button to turn on, cycle between inputs, or turn off.
- Tap top button to mute/unmute audio
- Rotate controller to change volume
- Hold down button and rotate controller to skip track back or next
The current status is shown by a light at the top of the right-hand speaker, which shows off for off, blue for Bluetooth, green for analogue wired input, and red for optical digital input.
Bluetooth pairing is rather simple. Switch to the Bluetooth input, then search for a Bluetooth device on the unit you want to connect. Select the Edifier and you are done. To connect a different device, repeat.
The sound is impressive, especially if you listen in the sweet spot in the centre with the speakers in front of you. The quality is rich and refined, especially with a wired connection, but also enjoyable via Bluetooth. They also go loud, not enough for parties or to annoy the neighbours perhaps, but plenty loud enough for most listening. To put some numbers on that, I measured over 85 dB without any obvious distortion. Bass is a little lightweight, but not so much as to spoil enjoyment.
I tried attaching a subwoofer which rounded out the sound nicely. The subwoofer output covers the range 20Hz – 100Hz and is pre-filtered. One note of caution is that the the output socket has a narrow entrance and I had to try a couple of different cables before finding one that fitted properly; the ill-fitting cable rewarded me with a horrible noise.
If I put on an audiophile hat I can find fault with the sound. It is slightly sibilant, especially via Bluetooth. There is some smearing of detail compared to a high-end system, and a slight boxiness to the sound. Vocals are not quite as natural. But here I am comparing to a system that is many times the size and price. In context, the e30’s sound fine and I doubt any purchaser will be unhappy with the sound.
There are a few issues with the Spinnakers. The worst flaw is the way the cabling is handled, awkward to fit, and tricky to press firmly enough into the holders to prevent a slight rockiness in the right-hand speaker which cannot be good for the sound.
Next, I don’t much like the way the status light works. It is not that easy to see from a distance. A status light on the controller rather than on the speaker would be welcome.
Another factor, not an annoyance exactly, is that the speakers are on the large side for a desktop – and the manual recommends having them 1 meter away from a monitor or TV set – but they are on the small side when placed on the floor.
Despite a few nits, I like these speakers for their stylish appearance, high sound quality, and flexible connections. The price may seem high, but bear in mind that you are getting amplification as well as loudspeakers, and sound that is well beyond most powered speakers. Set these up on a table, place a tablet in between, and you have a rich audio and video experience. I also like the idea of using these for a living room system, if they suit your decor.
A subwoofer is not essential but takes the sound to another level, provided of course that the sub is of equal or better quality than the Spinnakers.