After reviewing the wonderful Audyssey Audio Dock Air speaker and the even better sounding original Audyssey Audio Dock, I had become a bit spoiled by how Audyssey makes my favorite music sound. Their self-amplified speakers are almost unbelievably powerful for their size and make apologies to no one. They are that good. I was all set to review their (then) new passive desktop Media Speakers, when Audyssey released a Bluetooth version. The Audyssey Wireless Speakers are simply a wireless version of their Media Speakers, with the exception of added Bluetooth (of course) and the omission of a digital optical audio input. They are designed to be used as a companion to a laptop or desktop computer, but they are also well suited to fill a bedroom or small apartment with decent sound.
The Wireless Speakers sit on thick, black steel stands and are angled up slightly at the listener, which helps with volume and clarity. A black cloth grille cover contrasts with the stark, white shell, giving the speakers a timeless, modern appearance. Only a single volume knob and headphone jack on the front of the right speaker interrupt the smooth look. It’s nice to be able to control the volume from the front. That’s not as common as you might think.
Setup could not be easier. Connect the speaker to an outlet, then connect the speakers to each other with supplied wire, and that’s it. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “I thought these were wireless speakers?” They technically are because they don’t need to be connected to the audio source. However, since they are separate stereo speakers, they have to be wired to each other.
Setting up the Bluetooth connection is almost as easy. Press a small button on the rear of the right speaker until you hear a beep, then you can pair with any Bluetooth device. I used an iPhone 5, and it instantly found the speakers. There is also an AUX option using a (supplied) wired connection for non-Bluetooth devices, such as an iPod.
I have stated in previous reviews my issues with Bluetooth audio quality – or lack of it, to be precise. I’m happy to say that with the Wireless Speakers, there was only a slight drop in quality between Bluetooth and wired. A wired connection had a a bit more clarity with a lesser tendency to distort when pushed. Plus, there was no decline in volume. Many times, using Bluetooth requires a volume adjustment, but not here. Volume was identical between wired and wireless. Please note that I am using an iPhone as my Bluetooth source. I can’t say if you will get similar results with Android or Windows Phones.
One thing that did not make me happy was the range of the Bluetooth signal. In my house, I have a portable Apple AirPlay-equipped speaker in a sitting room adjacent to our kitchen that sits on an upright piano. When my wife or I are in the kitchen, it’s easy to just activate AirPlay on our iPhones or nearby laptop to stream music. Piece of cake. I had the (not so) bright idea to swap out the AirPlay speaker with the Audyssey Wireless Speakers (I swap speakers around constantly when testing). Big mistake. The advertised range of Bluetooth is 30 feet. Our kitchen was only 20 feet from the Audyssey speakers that were sitting on the piano – not far enough to cause dropouts. Au contraire, the Bluetooth constantly lost its signal. It was maddening. AirPlay has a range of 150 ft. There is just no comparison. That is not Audyssey’s fault; that’s Bluetooth for ya.
However, when the source was closer, Audyssey’s use of Bluetooth sounded quite good. Add to that the stereo you get from separate left and right speakers (unlike their powered speaker docks), and what’s not to like… within 20 ft, anyway.
The Wireless Speakers have quite a few audio enhancements that help them sound richer than one might expect in this size. Audyssey provides their own EQ (equalization) for every speaker model they make, and it holds true here. Since this is Audyssey’s expertise, that’s not surprising. They also have what they call BassXT. Basically, this is more equalization in the bass region with an added passive radiator at the rear of each speaker, which allows air to expand and contract within the speaker itself. In short: more and stronger bass. This “extra” bass is not some muddy digital effect add-on. It’s tight, controlled, and in your face.
For example, the Kaos extended remix of Roxy Music’s “Angel Eyes” thumps and throbs, as sampled harps and finger snaps back up singer Bryan Ferry’s cynical vocals. As good as the Wireless Speakers’ bass is, it never drowns out Phil Manzanera’s acid guitar or Andy Mackay’s occasional sax. That’s exactly how it should sound.
I decided to connect the speakers to a MacPro laptop using an external digital audio converter (DAC). Anita Baker’s classic “Sweet Love” takes on a grainy realism that the DAC provides, and the Wireless Speakers exploit this quite well. However, as good as these speakers sound, the DAC adds just that little extra which can take a song from very good to great.
Strangely, there was a marked difference between Bluetooth and wired on the Ringo Starr song, “It Don’t Come Easy.” When wired, the song had more presence and kick. Plus the bass was cleaner and the playing was less run together. The Bluetooth version wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t as good. This tells me that some recordings may be less forgiving with Bluetooth.
Once again, Audyssey has made some compelling speakers. They are definitely not inexpensive, but there aren’t many speakers available that have the looks, sound, and wireless convenience of the Wireless Speakers.
Keep in mind that Audyssey’s Wireless Speakers are made for desktop use. As you distance yourself from them, some of the speaker’s power and punch is dissipated. Even so, using them for an average-sized room will still garner smiles.