- Great build
- Extremely simple to use
- Brittle sound
- Review Price: £39.99
- 4 1.25in drivers
- USB powered
- 3.5mm auxiliary input
- Metal construction
- Bass port
The Edifier Soundbar plugs into a laptop’s USB port, taking over from the internal speakers and sucking out a small 500mA charge from the battery in the process. Behind its grille are four 1.25in speakers – two for each of stereo’s channels. They may be dinky, but they can push out a lot more volume than any laptop speaker we’ve heard.
The unit’s first impressions are great. For a £40 gadget, the build of the soundbar is excellent. Its body is a curved wedge of metal, with an equally-tough metal speaker grille on the front. The sides are plastic, but it’s a hefty – although not all that heavy – stick that feels as though it could take some punishment. A bit like a nu-wave Cluedo murder weapon.
The miniUSB connector sits on the left edge of the bar, next to the 3.5mm jack input. The jack isn’t required if you’re using a PC, but it allows you to connect the Edifier Soundbar to other sources, such as a MP3 or CD player. You’ll still need a USB port to power the speakers though.
On the other edge is the device’s one control button. This changes volume, but it’s not the rotary dial you might assume. Instead, quick taps on this button turn the volume up, while an extended press turns the volume down.
The Edifier Soundbar is designed to sit in the space between the keyboard and the screen. As such, it won’t be able to fit happily onto most netbooks but has no problems with laptops of 13in screens and above. As long as there’s a gap of around 4.5cm for the bar to sit in, you’ll be fine. Alternatively, you can place it in front of the laptop, but this is not hugely comfortable if you’re going to type on the laptop’s keyboard at the same time.
There’s also the question of colour. Not all laptops are black, but masses of them are – and this makes the Edifier Soundbar stick out a little too much for our liking. We don’t know of any plans to ship out an all-black edition of this speaker system, but it strikes us as a good idea.
The Edifier Soundbar certainly supplies more volume than built-in laptop speakers, but the tonal quality is still unmistakably that of a very small speaker. It struggles to create much bass, and upping the volume too far gets abrasive on the ears.
It’s not all bad though, as the soundbar does give music and speech more body and presence than standard laptop speakers. Unfortunately though, the sound quality doesn’t quite match up to the impressive design and build quality. These failings are not down to the USB-powered nature of this set either, as demonstrated by the QSB Soundscience speakers. The QSBs use balanced modal radiator speakers – which supply the bass and full-blooded detail that this soundbar lacks. They do however cost twice the price of the Edifier.
You need to assess your expectations and see if the Edifier Soundbar’s capabilities match up. It’s strong, it’s convenient and very portable – as long as you’re carrying a bag. It also comes with its own faux-velvet sheath too. However, the sound quality is unlikely to blow you away. Potential volume output increases a lot from the laptop standard, but audio fidelity will remain in the same league unless your laptop has particularly poor internal speakers.
We may have bigged-up the housing’s swish design, but it’s not optimal for sound quality either. The edge shape only angles the speakers’ trajectory very slightly, so that sound is aimed towards your chest rather than head. The sonic effects of this are increased by the speakers’ tiny size. The sound is smooth and fuller-bodied when the soundbar is tilted up further – but short of sticking a blob of blu-tac under each edge end there’s no way to get the speakers aligned this way.
Its compromised performance leaves the Edifier Soundbar as a competent “hotel room” gadget. It’s convenient but won’t turn your laptop into a lounge-worthy hi-fi. Do we have any right to expect more for £40? Better sound quality can be found if you’re willing to trade off the USB charging or the all-in-one form factor – which spoil the portability factor somewhat.
Made largely out of metal, the USB-powered Edifier Soundbar speaker is ready for a life on the road. However, relying on tiny 1.25in speakers, sound quality is less than stellar. These tiny drivers can’t create much bass and their tone becomes a little harsh when the volume is upped.
Audiophiles would be better off spending more or looking for a traditional powered set of portable speakers, but there’s no denying the flexibility and convenience for the laptop-lugging classes.
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