Since 1999, Canadian audio firm Fluance has constructed a fame for high-performance, high-value passive audio system, turntables, and what it calls “music systems”—self-powered Bluetooth audio system. Last yr, I reviewed the Fluance Fi20, a small, transportable Bluetooth speaker with 360-degree sound radiation and distinctive styling, however its wealthy sound was marred by overblown and bloated bass.
When the Fluance Ai60 appeared at my door, I used to be happy to see that the bundle features a pair of bookshelf audio system with a extra typical 2-way design whereas retaining the self-contained nature of a so-called music system. It’s not transportable just like the Fi20, nevertheless it sounds orders of magnitude higher.
This assessment is a part of TechHive’s protection of the best Bluetooth speakers, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you must contemplate when purchasing.
Each Ai60 speaker measures 13.1 x 7.8 x 9.2 inches (HxWxD), and the pair weighs a complete of 29.3 kilos. The proper speaker homes all of the electronics—energy provide, energy amp, DAC, Bluetooth transceiver, and many others.—whereas the left speaker is solely passive. You join the 2 audio system’ binding posts with the included 8-foot, 18-gauge cable, or you need to use one other speaker cable in the event you want.
Each speaker is a 2-way design with a 1-inch silk-dome, ferrofluid-cooled tweeter in a shallow waveguide and a 6.5-inch woven glass-fiber composite woofer with butyl rubber surrounds, each in a sealed acoustic-suspension cupboard. (The otherwise similar Ai40 has a 5-inch woofer.) The frequency response is specified from 35Hz to 20kHz (±3 dB) with helpful output beneath 35Hz (see Fig. 1) and a THD (complete harmonic distortion) of <0.3%, although no frequency or vary is famous.
The Ai60’s frequency response is kind of spectacular, extending from 35Hz to 20kHz (±3 dB).
The specs seek advice from the frequency response as “DSP Virtual Sound.” When I requested what meaning, the corporate replied, “We use psychoacoustics to calculate precise harmonics that are related to the fundamental tones of sound. When these harmonics are combined, it creates the effect of lower, deeper frequencies. This is one of the ways we utilize our DSP.” I’m undecided what calculations they’re speaking about, for the reason that harmonics are already current within the sound.
The class-D energy amp in the appropriate speaker delivers a complete of 100 watts RMS steady energy—50W to every speaker. A Cirrus Logic CS8416 DAC does the digital-to-analog conversion, and 18-gauge inside wiring is claimed to cut back sign degradation inside the speaker.
The major enter is Bluetooth 4.2 with assist for the aptX codec in addition to the A2DP and AVRCP profiles. The bodily inputs on the appropriate speaker embrace TosLink digital optical (which helps PCM solely, not Dolby Digital or DTS bitstreams), Micro USB, and a pair of line-level RCA L/R analog connectors. (To use the Ai60 with a turntable, as proven in most of the firm’s promo photographs, you want a phono preamp, which might be an exterior system or constructed into the turntable, together with an RCA-to-RCA cable.) In addition to the binding posts, the appropriate speaker additionally sports activities a subwoofer output in case you need to add a sub to the system. The system doesn’t play audio by way of Wi-Fi.
A multifunction knob on the entrance of the appropriate speaker turns the facility on and off and adjusts the amount. Pushing the button cycles by way of the inputs, that are indicated by a multicolored LED subsequent to it. On the again of the appropriate speaker, a button initiates Bluetooth pairing.
The included distant is kind of easy. It affords separate buttons for energy on/off, mute, enter choice, LED brightness, treble up/down, and bass up/down. In addition, there’s a play/pause button that additionally resets Bluetooth pairing, and a hoop round that button gives quantity up/down and track-skip ahead/again.
One level in regards to the bass and treble controls. They provide six steps of minimize or increase, however there is no such thing as a visible indication of the setting besides once you attain the utmost or minimal setting (the LED flashes pink twice), and once you attain the 0 setting (the LED flashes the source-indicator colour twice). I want the Ai60 had an app that allowed extra correct visible suggestions on these EQ settings. Also, I believe that the steps are in dB, however this isn’t specified.
If you want to make use of voice management, you’ll be able to pair the Ai60 with an Amazon Alexa system or a Google Home system by way of a Google Chromecast Audio. The included handbook says nothing about this; to find out how, go to Fluance’s YouTube channel and search for the video on establishing the Ai40 (the smaller sibling of the Ai60) with Chromecast, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa.
I positioned the Ai60 audio system on high of my most important audio system in the main bedroom, utilizing the primary audio system as stands, and I toed within the Ai60s to type an equilateral triangle with my head within the listening place. As I linked the audio system’ binding posts with the included cable, I seen that the posts on the energetic speaker are simply above the AC energy connector and just under the subwoofer output. Since I wasn’t utilizing a sub, I linked the cable from above the posts to keep away from routing the cable close to the AC energy cable.
As ordinary, I used the Tidal Master library from my iPhone XS because the supply materials. I began with “Enigma” from Lady Gaga’s new album Chromatica. The general sound was wonderful, with nice imaging and super-clean vocals. The bass was deep and highly effective—maybe a bit overemphasized, so I turned down the bass management a few clicks from 0.The bass was much more pronounced on “Look Long” from the album of the identical identify by Indigo Girls. This observe begins with a great deal of bass, which was overwhelming on the Ai60, so I turned down it one other click on. The bass nonetheless sounded a bit vague, which, primarily based on different tracks I listened to, was in all probability within the combine. The vocals, guitars, and drums have been all clear and well-defined, with simply the barest trace of midrange deficiency.
Staying within the folkish area, I listened to “Time is on My Side” from All Wood and Stones II by John Batdorf and James Lee Stanley. This is one among my favourite albums these days, that includes tunes from the Rolling Stones’ catalog creatively reimagined by the singer/songwriter duo. Also, that is the one observe I performed that’s not from Tidal’s Master library—it’s designated as “HiFi”—however the recording high quality is excellent nonetheless. On the Ai60, the sound was clear and open with wonderful vocals and guitars. The deep bass was fairly spectacular, although maybe only a contact overblown.
Turning to jazz, I performed “Tour of Fourths” from Joined on the Hip by Bob James and Kirk Whalum with full large band, which was recorded in 1996 and remastered in 2019. As I had come to anticipate, the Ai60 exhibited a super-clear and open sound with a wonderful, extremely cohesive soundfield and very good imaging. The low bass was fairly spectacular—not overblown on this case—and the highs have been glowing clear. Each instrument and part was artfully rendered.
For some orchestral music, I listened to the fourth motion (March to the Scaffold) of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique as carried out by the Munich Philharmonic below the route of Sergiu Celibidache. I’m fairly aware of this piece, having performed the bass trombone and tuba elements with a number of completely different orchestras. It has a large dynamic vary, which the Ai60 rendered with aplomb—the quiet sections have been delicate, whereas the loud passages have been full and wealthy with no congestion. All devices and sections sounded nice—I particularly cherished the blasting pedal tones from the bass trombone!
Finally, I cued up “A New Home” from the soundtrack album for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. As earlier than, the Ai60 sounded good and clear with good dynamic vary and clearly rendered devices. The bass was deep and nicely balanced.
Comparison with KEF LSX
The solely comparable product I had readily available for comparability was a pair of KEF LSX Bluetooth speakers, which I reviewed in June 2019. Those audio system are about half the scale of the Ai60s, they’re ported somewhat than sealed, and so they use a coaxial driver—a 0.75-inch aluminum-dome tweeter on the middle of a 4.5-inch magnesium/aluminum alloy-cone woofer. The frequency response is specified from 54, 59, or 69Hz (relying on the Bass Extension setting within the accompanying app) to 28kHz (±3 dB).
Speaking of the app, it gives rather more management over the tonality of the LSX than the straightforward bass/treble controls of the Ai60. In addition, each LSX audio system are wi-fi with no cable required between them, which suggests they need to each be plugged into an AC energy outlet. Another distinction is that the LSX can straight stream music from on-line suppliers Tidal and Spotify in addition to native NAS drives or computer systems by way of DLNA and AirPlay 2 over your house’s Wi-Fi community; the Ai60 has no Wi-Fi capabilities. Perhaps most significantly, the LSX system prices about 4 occasions as a lot because the Ai60.
I positioned the LSX audio system on high of the Ai60s on the similar toe-in angle, and I set the Bass Extension to its Enhanced setting to achieve 54Hz, although that’s nonetheless half an octave larger than the Ai60’s 35Hz. In addition, I made positive the opposite controls have been tweaked to optimize its efficiency in that room. Thanks to Tidal’s person interface, I used to be capable of simply swap between them throughout every observe.
Overall, the LSX sounded nice however considerably smaller than the Ai60, and the bass was not as deep or pronounced, which isn’t shocking. Its sound was usually smoother and richer as nicely. It had a barely veiled high quality on the Berlioz, and the vocals have been a bit extra up entrance on the Indigo Girls tune. I famous a really barely closed-in decrease midrange on the Lady Gaga observe, however I’m positive it could solely be obvious in a direct A/B comparability corresponding to I carried out
After my expertise with the Fi20, I wasn’t anticipating to be all that impressed with the Ai60. But after listening to it for some time, my perspective did a 180—I used to be blown away! The sound is clear and open with glowing highs, clear midrange, and surprisingly deep, highly effective bass. At occasions, the midrange appeared only a tad poor, however not all the time. The soundstage is cohesive, although it doesn’t prolong past the cupboards, and the imaging is excellent.
Overall, the KEF LSX sounds smoother and richer than the Ai60, and it gives rather more tonal management from its app. But it doesn’t dig practically as deep, and it was ever-so-slightly veiled on some tracks. Plus, the Ai60 is twice as large because the LSX, so in the event you want small audio system to take a seat close to a pc, the KEF is a greater match.
At a penny lower than $300, the Fluance Ai60 is a stupendous discount. If you need one thing a bit smaller, you could possibly go for the Ai40 with a 5-inch woofer and 70W amp for $100 much less; it’s spec’d to achieve all the way down to 40Hz, which remains to be fairly good. But when you’ve got room for these audio system, I doubt you’ll discover higher sound from Bluetooth audio system for much less.