- Luxurious build quality and design
- Terrific sound quality
- Two inputs and wireless upgrade
- Wireless functionality not built in
- Wireless setup a little long winded
- Review Price: £179.00
- 2 x 25W amplifiers
- 3.5mm minijack and aux input
- Multi-function remote control
- Faux leather finish
- Optional WSTxR wireless kit
Like the WS80i, the WS30i active monitors are ideal if you want to upgrade the sound quality of your TV’s stereo speakers without having to invest in an AV amplifier, or if you simply want to listen to music on PCs or portable devices.
The biggest difference between this and the WS80i is that the speakers lack the built-in wireless receivers, which allowed you to beam signals from sources around the house. However, the WS30i can be turned into a wireless system by purchasing the optional WSTxR transmitter and receiver kit, which costs around £65.
Thankfully the WS30i’s build quality is every bit as stunning as the step-up version. It’s clad in a gorgeous soft faux leather finish that not only looks and feels nice to the touch, but also lends remarkable sturdiness to the overall enclosure – plus we love the stitching running along the top. Our speakers came in a cool white finish but they’re also available in black, and at 175mm high they’re a perfect size for shelves, desktops and other tight spaces.
On the back of the left speaker you’ll find an couple of sockets for your external sources. There’s a set of stereo cinch inputs (as well as a stereo to minijack cable in the box), a subwoofer output in case you want to add extra bass oomph, a 3.5mm minijack input and a USB port that powers the WSTxR wireless receiver. There’s a pair of high-quality speaker cable binding posts on the back too, and because the speakers are powered there’s a DC input for the power adapter.
The right speaker only features a pair of binding posts on the back – you simply join the left and right speakers with the supplied cable. That’s a bonus because you only need one adapter to power both, unlike the WS80i which needed a plug socket for each speaker.
There’s a set of stands designed specifically for the WS30i speakers, which will set you back about £68, as well as £20 wall brackets.
The speakers feature a two-way design, with bass reflex cabinets and fully shielded drive units. Inside the left speaker are two 25W class A/B amplifiers which should provide a decent amount of welly when watching movies or blasting out your AC/DC collection. The driver compliment in each speaker is a 3.5in paper cone woofer, with a ¾in soft dome tweeter positioned above it, and between them they achieve a frequency range of 55Hz to 20kHz.
In the box you also get a remote control, which sports a pretty frosted silver finish and nicely-sized rubber buttons – not many of them either. It allows you to control (or mute) the volume, switch between the various wireless ‘zones’ when the WSTxR is connected and switch sources using the ‘Station’ button.
When you toggle through the sources, a light illuminates on the front of the left speaker to indicate which input is in use – red for the 3.5mm input, and blue for the aux input. Simple but effective.
We weren’t supplied with a WSTxR kit to test but from our experience with the WS80i it’s a little fiddly to set up, with a few delays when getting our PC to install the driver for the transmitter and loads of cables and other bits to contend with.
You have to connect the wireless receiver to the left speaker’s USB port as well as the aux/3.5mm input, connect your desired source to the transmitter (which will required a USB power lead if it’s not being connected to a USB source) and then it’s a question getting the LEDs on the transmitter and receivers to match (red, green or blue).
In action the WS30i delivers some very pleasing results. We started with a selection of dance tunes played from our laptop and the first thing to notice is the remarkable depth and punchiness of the sound, imbuing fast, funky basslines and hard kick drums with considerable heft. You can add a subwoofer if you like, but with bass this powerful it might be overegging the cake.
There’s also a lovely crisp quality to the high frequencies, which allows hi-hats to shine through the mix, while vocals enjoy a smooth, prominent character and midrange frequencies don’t get left behind either.
Perhaps it’s not quite as open and textured as some of the dedicated hi-fi and home cinema speakers we’ve tested of late, but at this price it would be unrealistic to expect the highest level of sophistication.
Next we connected the WS30i to a Blu-ray player and let it rip with Hellboy II. They cope admirably with the brutal, frenetic soundtrack, capturing the chaotic energy and dynamism of the scene without losing control or sounding bright.
Big bangs and booms are conveyed with astonishing power, and the whole thing is a thrill ride from start to finish. Obviously you lose a lot of the excitement when listening to movies in stereo rather than surround, but if you’re upgrading from flatpanel TV speakers you won’t believe how much sharper and meatier they sound.
On the whole the WS30i delivers a performance that’ll make your £170 feel like money well spent.
The Blue Aura WS30i offers a remarkably rich and punchy performance with music and movies, plus their gorgeous build quality and stylish design justify the price tag further – and at £180 they’re much more affordable than their wireless stable-mates.
They’re fairly easy to setup too, and with versatile mounting options and provision for two sources it shouldn’t be hard to integrate them into your room. So whatever your audio poison, be it digital music, CDs, Blu-ray discs or DVDs, the WS30i is a terrific choice.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8