Sound Days #7: 2019’s best wireless and multi-room speakers

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The 7th edition of the Sound Days show held on May 18 and 19 at the Carreau du Temple in Paris was an unmissable event for all music lovers who wanted to discover the newest turntables, DAPs, headphones and earphones. This seventh edition also gave visitors the opportunity to explore the latest technologies in audio streaming. Consequently, dematerialized music was showcased via the best current wireless speakers and multi-room hi-fi systems. Here are some of the key models that could be tried during the show.

The Sound Days show was the perfect opportunity to discover the best and latest wireless, multi-room, smart and Bluetooth speakers.

Sound Days #7: wireless and multi-room speakers

Let’s start with Bowers & Wilkins who presented its brand-new multi-room range, B&W Formation. This series features streaming technology allowing wireless transmission of audio streams up to 24-bit/96kHz. This system is supplemented by a wide range of connectivity options, including a network connection via Ethernet or WiFi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Roon and Bluetooth transmission supporting aptX HD, AAC, and SBC codecs. It was possible to listen to the B&W Formation Duo active compact speakers, the B&W Formation Bar soundbar, the B&W Formation Wedge wireless speaker, the B&W Formation Bass subwoofer and the B&W Formation Audio network receiver. The latter is designed to stream wired sources to the different speakers in the range. Here, it was used with an Elipson Omega 100 turntable.

The American manufacturer Harman Kardon was also at the show with its new Harman Kardon Citation multi-room range which is comprised of several compact speakers, a soundbar, surround speakers, a subwoofer and floorstanding speakers. All of the speakers are compatible with WiFi, Bluetooth and Chromecast Built-in and integrate Google’s voice assistant to allow users to control music playback and all of their smart devices. This series’ main advantage is that it offers a completely wireless system in which each speaker can be used either individually or simultaneously as part of a multi-room configuration in order to achieve stereo pairing, or even to create a wireless 5.1 home theater system. The brand also presented its Harman Kardon Allure and Harman Kardon Allure Portable wireless smart speakers.

The Swedish brand Audio Pro also attended the Sound Days with its two new wireless speakers, the Audio Pro A40 and Audio Pro A10, two 2-way models delivering  220 and 52 watts respectively, that are compatible with WiFi, Bluetooth and AirPlay and can be added to a multi-room system with other Audio Pro speakers. Some of these other speakers were exhibited, notably the Audio Pro Addon BT T20 floorstanding speakers, the Audio Pro Addon BT C5A compact speaker and the Audio Pro Drumfire 2.1 speaker which is comprised of a subwoofer and a 2-way speaker. A review of the Audio Pro Dumfire speaker is available on our blog.

The iconic French hi-fi brand Elipson did us the honor of giving us a sneak peek at its brand-new wireless speaker, the Elipson W35. Using the same spherical design as the legendary Elipson speakers from the 40s or the more recent Elipson Planet L and Planet M, this wireless speaker features a WiFi module to stream music and access different online music services such as Spotify, Tidal and Napster, as well as internet radio stations via TuneIn. Inside this imposing 35cm speaker are two mid-bass drivers, each paired with a 1” tweeter and placed on either side of the speaker to ensure stereo restitution. This ensemble provides a powerful 350 watts RMS amplification and a wide soundstage. Naturally, Bluetooth aptX HD transmission is supported to easily stream music from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Two analog inputs, one mini-jack and one optical, allow you to connect a CD player, DAP or HD television, for example. Compatible with multi-room connectivity, multiple Elipson W35 speakers can be integrated into a group to create a stereo pair or play the same music in different rooms. The speakers are controlled via a dedicated Elipson app. The Elipson W35 will be available this fall for the sum of €800.

Staying in the domain of wireless and multi-room speakers, the British manufacturer KEF was present to showcase the different models that have conquered the hearts of many audiophiles. Consequently, it was possible to see the iconic and multi award-winning LSX Wireless (4” driver) and LS50 Wireless (5” driver), two Bluetooth speakers compatible with aptX, DLNA, Spotify Connect, Tidal and WiFi. These speakers were displayed beside the brand’s passive speakers, the KEF R3, KEF R11, KEF R7 and the KEF Blade, emblazoned with the British flag.

It is impossible to talk about wireless speakers without mentioning Devialet. The manufacturer was present at the show with its Devialet Gold Phantom and Devialet Gold Phantom Opéra de Paris speakers, as well as the Devialet Phantom Reactor 600, the most compact iteration in the Phantom range. This particular model was mounted onto a stand and paired with a second speaker for a stereo effect. The brand also had its high-end Devialet Expert 130 Pro amplifier on display.

Finally, Technics presented its Technics Ottava S SC-C50 wireless speaker, a 3.1 channel model that includes two 2½” woofers for the low-mids, three ½” tweeters for the highs and a 5” woofer for the lows. The drivers are arranged in an arch inside a fiberglass cabinet to ensure a wide sound dispersion and to avoid any vibration. Technics also presented its new SC-C30 speaker, a more compact version of the SC-C50. This new model will be available at the end of the year.

Sound Days #7: portable Bluetooth speakers

There was also a horde of portable Bluetooth speakers on display at the Sound Days show, starting with JBL, a major player in this domain, whose Pulse 3, Xtreme 2, CLIP 3, GO 2, Flip 4, Soundgear and Boombox portable Bluetooth speakers were available to listen to. The brand also presented its newest party speaker, the JBL PartyBox 1000. A worthy successor to the PartyBox 200 and 300, it preserves the main characteristics of these models but features a bigger enclosure that houses multiple transducers and a powerful 1100W amplifier. Designed for parties, it features lighting and a panel of mixing effects on the top. The JBL PartyBox 1000 will be released this summer.

JBL wasn’t the only brand to showcase its portable Bluetooth speakers: the Swedish manufacturer Audio Pro’s Audio Pro Addon BT C3, Audio Pro Addon BT T5 and Audio Pro Addon BT T3 portable Bluetooth speakers were displayed alongside its multi-room speakers. The Audio Pro Addon BT T3 incorporates 25W class D digital amplifier to power two ¾” tweeters and a long throw 3½” mid-bass driver loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure. This model also provides a generous 30 hours of battery life.

The American manufacturer Klipsch displayed its latest portable Bluetooth speaker, the Klipsch Heritage The Groove. Inspired by the Klipsch The One and Klipsch The Three speakers, this new model has a very similar design, but is much smaller to ensure greater portability. Naturally, The Groove’s bigger cousins, the Klipsch The One and the second generation Klipsch The Three were also present.

In parallel to the Elipson W35, the French brand also chose to present its Elipson Lenny portable Bluetooth speaker. This speaker features a 2 x 10 watt amplifier driving two 2½” full-range drivers. These drivers are complemented by a 4” passive driver which acts as a resonator and reproduces low frequencies for a balanced sound.

The Elipson Lenny Bluetooth speaker provides a powerful and detailed restitution.

In addition to its DAPs and headphones, Sony also had its new portable Bluetooth speakers on show: the Sony SRS-XB22 and Sony SRS-XB32, two SBC/AAC/LDAC compatible models that are also waterproof and dustproof. These Sony SRS speakers stand out mainly due to their battery life and power. The SRS-XB22 provides 12 hours of battery life and features two 1¾” drivers with mica reinforced cellular cones combined with two passive radiators. The SRS-BX32, however, provides 24 hours of battery life and boasts two 2” drivers that are also paired with two passive radiators.


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