Can a pair of $380 powered speakers even be called “hi-fi”? At the risk of audiophile opprobrium, ASHLEY KRAMER fights for his right to say so.
The first time I encountered any Edifier products was way back in 2006, when I’d first started working for the now defunct Tone magazine. The company’s products were mostly small iPod docks (remember them?), and computer speaker systems.
That was also the last time I encountered any Edifier products! The brand’s presence in New Zealand seemed to fade, or perhaps it just dropped below my personal tech radar, but over the last few years, I’ve been aware that Edifier has become quite well known for its speaker systems.
The company’s range of products has become huge, covering everything from headphones to 5.1 surround sound systems, but my focus was quite specific – speakers all the way. In a strange but fortuitous coincidence, I happened to be contemplating buying a small set of Bluetooth capable speakers at the exact same time that a press release from Edifier’s PR company popped into Editor Steel’s inbox.
Of course, I jumped at the chance to review the very speakers I’d been researching online. It didn’t take long for a set of the second from the top of the range Edifier R2000DB model to arrive.
Best described as a compact, Bluetooth compatible speaker system, the R2000DB’s definitely tick the compact box. At only 174×289×252mm (W x H x D), they’re barely taller than a magazine, and narrower to boot. This makes them ideal for desktop placement (assuming you’ve got a decent sized desk), or for use alongside a TV as an alternative to a sound bar. The review set was mounted on lightweight stands and set up as hi-fi speakers.
Regardless of where they’re located, the R2000DB’s look good. No, make that great. The styling and quality of finish are well ahead of what I’d been expecting at the price point. The glossy curved side panels are nicely matched by the textured finish on the front, top and rear surfaces, while the angled-back design adds a touch of elegance. The styling works with or without the grilles – of course, I ran them without but noticed no sonic issues whatsoever when they were in place.
Just like many similar speakers, the amplifier, inputs and controls are on the back of one speaker, with a cable running to the second passive speaker. In a nod to higher quality and potentially better fidelity, the connection between the speakers isn’t just the usual el-cheapo spring clips intended for thin speaker wire. Instead, Edifier supplies a thick cable with dedicated connectors on both ends. Front mounted controls total exactly zero (bar an indicator light) – the action is all round the back, or preferably through the small remote control, which you would lose at your peril. While the speakers can theoretically be operated via the rear controls, life is dramatically easier if you use the remote.
There were no functionality or connectivity issues during the review period. In fact, the only glitch I can pick is the remote control – it’s far too easy to lose, and the function keys could be marked more clearly. However, this is by no means an uncommon problem with small remotes, so the speakers aren’t being marked down for this.
The amplifier module’s power is quoted at 36W per channel for the woofer and 24W per channel for the tweeter, which should in theory be more than ample. The woofer is a 5-inch unit that’s apparently constructed of aluminium alloy, but bizarrely, it looks and feels just like a polypropylene material. The tweeter is a 1-inch silk dome unit.
That’s not a lot of woofer area, and with the small cabinet and its inherent low internal volume, it’s logical to expect a desktop-sized sound, with not too much low end. Fairly substantial bass reflex ports are mounted on the back panel, which combined with the claimed frequency range of 55Hz-20KHz(±3db) led me to expect what bass there was to be loose and boomy.
These expectations simply didn’t eventuate, and again, the R2000DB’s delivered far more than anticipated. There’s actually heaps of low end here, and that 55Hz figure is not only believable but the bass output is actually well balanced and relatively tight. It’s adjustable too, which is very useful for speakers that could be sited anywhere from a TV cabinet to a table in the middle of a room. For the review, the speakers were sited close to a wall. With the rear bass control set to one click below the middle (or ‘normal’) setting, the balance was spot on, with no booming or bass-related boundary interactions, at least in this specific room.
So for compact speakers, there’s a genuinely surprising amount of bass, enough to make even tracks from the likes of Massive Attack sound right. No, it’s not subwoofer-level, nor is it even close to what you’d get from a much bigger set of speakers but damn, it just sounds good!
The rest of the frequencies are as enjoyable as the lower octaves. For the review, after a short time spent experimenting, the treble control was left untouched. The soft tweeter does an impeccable job of bringing the high end to life, and it integrates well with the woofer’s contributions. Careful listening revealed no obvious suck-outs or major peaks, which contributes in a big way to the smooth sound and overall impression of sonic quality.
Basically, the Edifiers never disappointed despite being used for hundreds of hours of listening, covering everything from background music to focused listening while discovering new artists and tracks.
Sources included Bluetooth from phone and computer, as well as files served from phone and iPod Classic via the RCA Aux input (I never had the opportunity to try the optical input). Of course, those files varied wildly from low-res YouTube videos to CD-quality, but regardless of what was being played, I never leaped for the remote to turn down the levels, or for the bass knob to bring the low end under control.
More importantly, I never felt as if I was missing out on a great deal of the hi-fi experience. Now, that might sound odd given that we’re talking about sub-$400 speakers here. I own power cables that cost more than these things, and I’ve heard speakers that cost around 800 times the asking price of the Edifiers (work that out!), so I understand that hi-fi can cost exactly what you want to pay for it, even if that’s as much as a luxury car. In this case, it’s safe to say that these are hi-fi speakers – they’re clear, detailed, deep and punchy enough to serve perfectly well as a music playback system that creates enjoyable moments, which is the very definition of hi-fi. The fidelity is high enough to tick that box. Improvement is of course easy. Grabbing a NAD D3020 integrated amplifier and a set of Cambridge Audio’s Aero 2 speakers will see substantial increases in audio quality at every level but the price tag is so much higher, even though the NAD/CA combination is still very much considered budget hi-fi. Basically, these speakers offer astonishing bang for your bucks!
So to summarise, there’s no way to replicate this setup with separate components. Between the looks, sound quality and source flexibility, why would you even try? For a pair of very nicely priced powered speakers, there’s no evidence whatsoever that any corners have been cut. It’s quite the opposite in fact – Edifier’s engineers have made some very cunning judgment calls here, allocating the parts budget about as effectively as I’ve ever heard (or seen) at this level.
I like the R2000DB’s enough that I’ll either buy the review pair, or just order a set of my own, which is of course the strongest recommendation I can give. ASHLEY KRAMER
Edifier speakers are available exclusively at EB Games, Mighty Ape and PB Tech.