The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is a larger version of the Bayan Audio Soundbook we reviewed last year. In book terms, it's the size of a large hardback novel and – like the first Soundbook – it's a wireless speaker.
Great design and funky looks make it a pretty desirable music partner, but the price is pretty steep at £250.
The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is a new take on the style of wireless speaker attempted by the Bose Soundlink and Philips Fidelio P9.
It's a speaker that's portable but is big enough to really pump out some serious sound. Our favourite Bayan speakers in the past have offered pretty good bang for your buck, but this time it is competing directly with the big boys – the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 costs £250.
As you'd hope for that price, construction Is excellent. The central speaker unit is armoured with aluminium and the outer 'book cover' parts are tough nylon. It has a fabric-like finish but feels tough as nails. Part of the aluminium case is left exposed to scratching but we wouldn't feel bad about bunging the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 in a rucksack. It's a tough little thing.
The design works wonders in functional terms too. The book cover flips around to act as a stand and it's more-than strong enough to hold the speaker's reasonable circa 1kg weight.
There's a magnet in the cover that keeps it in place when closed, and it even stops audio playback when you snap it shut, meaning you don't really need to turn the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 off. It also automatically reconnects to your phone when opened (if it's available and playing audio), for an extra bit of convenience.
The inner part of the cover is finished in a soft leather-like fabric, and also houses the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3's antenna. Not only is this a wireless speaker, it's a radio too. It's a bit of a pity it's an FM only tuner, though.
You don't get stations like BBC 6 Music with FM, and we didn't find the antenna to be as strong as a good old telescopic aerial. Consequently, the FM radio sounded a bit rubbish on most stations when indoors, but this will depend on the signal in your area. We can't deny the radio has been implemented with real elegance.
To switch between the FM radio, the Bluetooth streaming and the aux input on the back, you press the central power button up top. As with the first Soundbook, an LED display that sits behind the front metal grille tells you which you're connected to.
There are five buttons up top, each a concave little recess that's easily to operate blind. There's also a bright LED indicator below these that tells you the current volume level.
The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 design may not be original, but it is undoubtedly one of this gadget's strongest aspects. It looks good, it feels good and is tough enough to be carried around from beach to barbecue without having to treat the thing like a glass baby.
There are also a few extra ports on its rear – a USB to let you charge your phone using the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3's battery, a 3.5mm aux input and an audio output to let you connect headphones (or another speaker).
The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is a small Bluetooth speaker, and like every speaker of this type, it has to get a bit clever in order to offer decent sound quality. On the Bluetooth side, it has this down. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX support – aptX is a higher-quality Bluetooth audio standard that is really as good as lossless for a speaker such as this.
More important are the speaker drivers. The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 has four 1.5-inch active drivers and a passive radiator. The latter is the safest way to get good bass response from a speaker as thin and small as the Soundbook X3. That said, the one notable small speaker that doesn't use one – the Loewe Speaker 2Go – is perhaps the best we've heard.
Sound quality is generally good. It's meaty, top volume is good, it's not harsh and unlike some speakers with passive radiators, it has been properly designed and the radiator doesn't cause distortion at high volumes (see the Cambridge Audio Minx Go for more on this effect). For casual outdoors listening, or for taking around the house, the Soundbook X3 will absolutely do the trick.
However, some of the sonic shortcomings are a bit tough to accept given the £250 price. While the bass radiator does provide a good amount of low-end bulk, the bass isn't entirely taut and punchy. It's slightly flabby, pulling focus a little too much. As we expect from a speaker of this size, it's also incapable of delivering ultra-low sub bass.
Dynamic range isn't as good as the similarly priced Loewe Speaker 2GO either – that's what makes music sound truly '3D', leaving the Soundbook X3 sound relatively flat. This affects the majority of small wireless speakers, though.
Design-wise, the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is a cracker. It looks cool but not juvenile, uses top-quality materials and offers plenty of little design quirks. This isn't a super-small speaker, but that extra size gets you more volume, more authority and better all-round sound.
However, you need to care a lot about the particular design of the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 for it to make sense as a buy. It's pricey and the combo of small active drivers and a passive radiator is never going to be able to compete with the larger drivers of a more traditional speaker or dock.
Great design and a bunch of thoughtful design features make the Soundbook X3 a solid wireless speaker contender. However, as with many premium wireless speakers, the sound per pound equation is a bit tricky.
Read our Best portable speakers round-up