Review: Edifier 2.1-Channel Speaker System Offers Affordable Soundbar Alternative
Bluetooth speakers are all the rage now for the convenience, portability and good sound many produce for not a lot of money.
The problem is, while the sound quality may be sufficient for casual, informal listening on a deck or patio, they tend to lack that oomph delivered by a good quality pair of book shelf speakers and a well balanced subwoofer.
Enter Edifier with its recently released S350DB 2.1-channel Active Speaker system containing a subwoofer and a pair of 2-way satellite bookshelf speakers.
This ensemble is positioned as a high quality PC speaker system, with connectivity options extending its versatility for use with smartphones, tablets and even television source devices, providing a very nice compact speaker system that rivals the sound of some of the best 2.1 or even 3.1 soundbars.
The S350DB provides a sophisticated mid-fi sound with powerful bass, nice bright top-end and a respectable mid-range that in a TV set up,exhibits remarkably distinct channel separation. This creates the sensation of rich, clear center channel dialog, bringing a very good upgrade to even the best built-in TV speaker system.
What’s more, ringing in at $249.99 retail for the Edifier S350DB package, this is a great value, compared with many 3.1-channel soundbars in this class, while offering a significant improvement in music reproduction over most of the popular soundbar brands and models.
The drawback is that for TV use, it will be difficult to connect more than one or two source devices at time, as the unit doesn’t support HDMI inputs, and only offers one optical input, meaning a second device would need to connect via a coaxial digital in or via analog RCA jacks.
The Edifier S350DB has a substantial high-quality look and feel for a PC speaker system in this price range. Each of the components in the three-piece speaker package is wrapped on five sides in a dark cherry wood veneer, accenting the flat-black metal face plate with beveled edges.
These don’t feel like inexpensive speakers. Each component has good heft to help keep it firmly seated when placed on a tabletop or floor with minimal vibration.
In the two bookshelf satellite speakers the faceplate holds a titanium dome tweeter measuring three-quarters or an inch on top and a 3-inch diameter concave conical midrange/woofer with a convex center crown that pushes out sound with minimal distortion at normal listening volumes. Each bookshelf unit measures 8.5 (tall) x 5 (wide) x 6.25 inches deep.
None of the speakers are covered with a grille.
The 8-inch subwoofer is mounted on the front of the unit, which measures 11.5 (tall) x 10.5 (wide) x 12.25 inches (deep), and has considerable weight for its size. A bass reflex port is positioned on the side panel, helping the subwoofer produce deceptively deep booming bass, which is especially effective with movies and video games. The vibration from the roar of the jet engines upon take off in the opening sequences of Top Gun could be experience both audibly and physically, with only slight discernible distortion at the loudest peaks.
For music, the sub opened up the sound stage nicely for a widely dispersed presentation that nicely reproduced the echo of Fillmore East concert hall on the Allman Brothers’ classic first live album.
One of the strengths of the S350DB is its ample selection of connectivity options, both wired and wireless. For those who want a powerful set of speakers that can be easily carried from room to room to deck, the S350DB includes Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. An iOS or Android smartphone or tablet can be easily paired with the system to listen to music with a total of 150-watts output.
The subwoofer also has an assortment of inputs for various source devices, like media streaming adapters, cable and satellite TV boxes, Blu-ray and DVD players, even VCRs and cassette decks. The input selection includes two sets of RCA stereo inputs (one for PC one for AUX), a digital optical input and a digital coaxial input.
The bookshelf speakers connect to the subwoofer via an RS-232 tether from the right-channel active speaker and a multipin cable to left channel. Unfortunately, the speakers don’t support HDMI or HDMI ARC inputs, limiting connectivity with some video equipment.
The Edifer S350DB has both a remote control and on-speaker knob control. The right bookshelf speaker carries three knobs for volume, bass and treble. It also carries a white LED power indicator on the front faceplate, directly below the midrange driver.
The wireless remote control has an unique circular puck design with center-located buttons for source inputs, power, Bluetooth pairing, volume, and playback controls.
As stated, the Edifier S350DB Active Speaker provides excellent all-around performance for movie/TV listening, video gaming and especially music reporduction. The system’s built-in amp provides ample power to drive the speakers so that dialog is clear and understandable event at low volumes. The system is also equipped with digital signal processing for clarity and presence.
Most genres of music are handled well with only some harder edged rock selections producing any ear fatigue at louder volumes. The speakers do an exceptional job with selections that have a lot of midrange, like Miles Davis’ biting trumpet bursts on Autumn Leaves from Cannonball Adderly’s brillant Something Else album. This helps the speakers provide clear and standardized levels when processing digital signals.
Listening to the Edifier S350DB Active Speaker system with Bluetooth, it’s hard to believe this is only a $250 package. The system produces room filling sound, can be easily carried to a deck or family room to quickly set up a clean, dynamic and relatively loud speaker system for parties. That said, despite the Bluetooth linking to a smartphone, it isn’t exactly wireless. You’ll need to plug the subwoofer into a power outlet, and the two bookshelf units connect to the subwoofer hub with a pair of pretty thick round black cables, each measuring eight feet long.
The speakers also aren’t water resistant, so it’s not a good idea to put them where they might get splashed or rained on. But the Edifier S350DB will make a great match to an executive shelf system or to a desktop or laptop PC. It’s also a great alternative to a soundbar, with enough beef for an enveloping video game experience.
We therefore award the Edifier S350DB 4.5 out of 5 hearts.
The Edifier S350DB used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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