The Airpulse A80 are a smart set of desktop/bookshelf speakers that offer competent performance at a price that comes in below the higher-end competition. Displaying good detail and a pleasing general sound profile, they’re well-suited to a variety of music genres and will fit into most setups with ease. But with disappointing bass reproduction and no particular strengths on which to stand, they don’t do enough to justify the price leap beyond lower-end units on the market.
- Smart design
- Multiple input options
- Decent general performance
- Doesn’t excel in any area
- Disappointing bass reproduction
- It isn’t substantially better than cheaper options
- CabinetIts constructed out of 18mm-thick high-strength MDF
- Ultra-low DSP and amplificationSupports sampling rates up to 192kHz
The pandemic has brought about a lot of change. Compared to the time before it, our lives are significantly different, not least as a result of the amount of time that many of us now spend at home.
Understandably, this has changed attitudes towards home office setups. With so many folk now spending so much time in front of their screens, the desire to upgrade has grown.
Enter the Edifier Airpulse A80, a high-end set of desktop/bookshelf speakers that comes with a host of audio certifications and inputs in tow. Available in interesting colours and finishes, these units promise a substantial upgrade to most existing home setups.
That said, the price of entry is steep. At over £600, the Airpulse A80 speakers are less of an impulse purchase and more of an investment. As such, do they do enough to impress?
The Airpulse A80 speakers are available from Amazon and directly from the manufacturer. They come in two colour options: an electric blue and a walnut finish.
- Constructed from MDF
- Walnut finish or Electric Blue option
- Offers a horn-loaded tweeter
Speaker design is an odd game, for there are two approaches to be taken. Either your design is bold and attention-grabbing, a feature in the room; or, completely the opposite approach is taken, with the end goal to blend into the background.
The Airpulse A80 speakers cater to both sides of the divide with two options available. For those who want something that will stand out, there’s an interesting Electric Blue option, and for the rest there’s a classy walnut finish.
Both will fit well into most spaces, especially onto a desk or shelves as might be expected. At 14 x 25x 22cm, the speakers have some presence but are light and petite enough that they don’t draw too much attention. Covered in 18mm-thick MDF, they also feel as though they’ll survive a few knocks.
A pleasant inclusion is a horn-loaded ribbon tweeter, which is a feature usually only found on higher-end units – this is no doubt an advantage of Edifier’s mature supply chain. Rounding things out are a 4.5-inch magnesium ferrite aluminium cone mid-woofer and a 11.5cm driver, and a sub-woofer, while the right unit acts as the controller.
Unfortunately, both units are connected by a 6ft optical cable. This is quite thick and difficult to hide. As such, those looking for the ‘cleanest’ set-up will need to jump through a few extra hoops to get their desired look.
In all, these are smart-looking speakers that should fit into most spaces with relative ease. There’s no design aspect of the A80s that will spark conversation, but these are well-thought-out and mature in their appearance regardless.
- Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
- Multiple input options
- Hi-Res certified
It isn’t enough for speakers to be versatile from a design perspective, they also need to offer a variety of connectivity options. Nowadays, even more high-end options focused solely on high-definition audio reproduction need to offer at least the ability to connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone.
Luckily, the Airpulse A80 is well-equipped on this front, covering a glut of inputs and formats with the hope of fitting in anywhere. They offer AUX, RCA, USB, an optical input and support for Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX, meaning these will fit well into any desk set-up, as well as under a TV or on a bookshelf.
We did experience some jitters with the USB connectivity, although this may be down to the computer in question rather than the speakers themselves.
The Airpulse A80s are also “Hi-Res certified”, with an amplification chip from Texas Instruments inside that sports digital sampling rates of up to 192kHz. This latter part promises the ability to handle high-fidelity files with ease, above and beyond CD-quality, with a frequency range of 52Hz-40KHz.
Also included with the speakers is a small infrared remote to control inputs and volume, plus a host of cables and accessories.
I found the remote didn’t function well without a direct line of sight to the speakers, but in general the units were responsive to quick changes in volume and input. The inclusion of the various input accessories is welcome, too, negating the need for a post-purchase shopping spree.
- Generally decent quality
- Good detail reproduction
- Bass lacks energy
Sound quality is, of course, the metric by which speakers live and die, being their entire raison d’etre. And the Airpulse A80s come with a host of specifications and certifications that mean, on paper at least, they should achieve something close to remarkable.
The reality is a little more prosaic, of course. The Airpulse A80s are a good-sounding set of speakers, but they do not challenge the very best.
Detail is a definite strong suit from the offset. Complex orchestral tracks sound precise while at the same time having enough space to breathe. Focus is on the trebles by default, and we found that although the bass was there, it lacked energy compared to what might be expected.
As such, punk, EDM and the like aren’t represented with the attack required to really come alive. For most use cases the sound quality of the Airpulse A80s will not disappoint overly, but it they don’t excite in the way that might be expected for the price point.
Of course, this is with music in mind of course, since these are desktop as well as bookshelf speakers it would be remiss to avoid any mention of other use cases.
Although these won’t replace a dedicated surround sound setup, they’re more than capable of driving a good movie experience, with their sound easily filling a large living room. Action movies are of course done a disservice by the relatively disappointing bass, but other genres, such as drama, fare far better. These are also decent speakers for general desktop use, including gaming.
Should you buy it?
You are looking for a smart-looking desktop speaker The Airpulse look good and they’re small enough to fit on desktops without taking up too much space.
You listen mainly to bass-heavy genres Bass lacks energy, so if that’s what you’re after then there are better alternatives out there.
New speakers, not least good new speakers, are a significant investment. High-end options from the likes of KEF will stretch budgets into the thousands, and it’s against these players that the Airpulse A80s hope to stand.
With good looks, a solid array of connectivity options and a generally classy feel, they’re certainly ready to sit almost anywhere in any room without issue. But with slightly below par sound quality they fail the most important test against their more accomplished (and expensive) rivals.
For anyone looking to go high-end without spending more than £/$1000 these will serve well, but for those with the budget simply looking for a saving, these aren’t a true high-end replacement.
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How we test
All the cables and connections you need come with the speaker.