BenQ is the latest company to try its hand at making portable, Bluetooth speakers – but its effort is different. This design incorporates electrostatic technology, more commonly seen in high-end speakers, and is known to produce very detailed sound.
It's this use of electrostatic speakers that also goes some way to explain the treVolo's unusual look. This is a well-featured portable speaker, too: it uses the aptX audio standard, and includes speakerphone support, USB audio input and can last up to 12 hours on a full charge. It doesn’t quite do enough to justify the £230/€329 asking price, but it’s worth considering if you'd like more detail from your portable speaker.
In a world of anonymous blocks and cubes, the BenQ treVolo stands out. The two electrostatic panels that fold outwards and the imposing metal front with its grid of holes make it look fun and unusual.
Build quality is excellent, too: the treVolo feels rock-solid. However, it isn’t the most "portable" of portable speakers – it weighs 1.2kg, which is more than some laptops and would be about the same as lugging around a large dictionary.
There’s ample physical connections if you’d rather not use Bluetooth, including micro-USB, a 3.5 line-in and even a 3.5mm line-out that lets you connect an external speaker and use the treVolo as a Bluetooth bridge.
All the controls sit on the top, including a slightly confusing Mode button. It actually switches between three different EQ settings: red for "warm" with more bass; blue for "vivid" and a stronger mid-range; and green for normal. We’re not sure BenQ should have bothered with this since you’ll quickly forget it’s there, plus the benefits are subtle.
The built-in battery claims up to 12 hours of use, although in our time with the product we'd say eight to ten hours is more accurate. This is still pretty good, though – it will certainly last a whole day before a recharge is needed.
With portable Bluetooth speakers, there's always some level of compromise. In the treVolo’s case, it’s excellent detail against slightly restrained bass.
This speaker really is exceptionally detailed for a Bluetooth unit. Music that benefits from great detail, such as jazz and piano, sounds fantastic. The treVolo can fill a room pretty well, too, in part thanks to the fact that electrostatic speakers send sound both forwards and backwards.
But this isn’t an especially versatile Bluetooth speaker. It struggles with more popular styles of music, such as guitar-led indie and rock, and to a lesser extent bass-heavy hip-hop and dance tracks.
The bass can sound a little clipped and restrained, which works well in some contexts but not for music with a big bass beat.
But it’s indie and rock that really suffer. The treVolo seems incapable of dealing with so many competing sounds. The result is a harsh, incoherent mess – indie tracks often sound like they’ve been fired through a long tube.
This seems to be down to the dynamic system designed to prevent distortion. And while distortion certainly isn't a problem, which is a plus point, the price you pay is inconsistent sound. One track can sound beautifully detailed, crisp and rich; the next can sound incoherent and annoying.
This lack of versatility is a serious problem, unless you plan to avoid the pop, indie and rock music that expose the treVolo's weakness.
The treVolo is worth considering if you want a portable speaker for less popular styles of music. While the excellent detail it offers can’t be matched by many at this price, the treVolo is neither cheap nor great value.
And that’s the problem. This is an expensive Bluetooth speaker, and its struggle with indie and rock music mean it doesn't offer the kind of versatility you'd expect at this price. It’s also rather heavy – it’s transportable rather than truly portable to our minds.
SEE ALSO: 10 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers
An innovative Bluetooth speaker that offers detailed sound, but there are more versatile speakers available for the price.