Bluedio AS Bluetooth & Wi-Fi Speaker Review by mark2410
Thanks to Bluedio for the sample.
TLDR? Try here http://www.head-fi.org/t/818977/bluedio-as-bluetooth-wi-fi-speaker-review-by-mark2410#post_12833829
First Impressions: Right, you may be thinking didn’t I already review this? Well no I didn’t. I reviewed the AS-BT. The difference is that this one has WiFi, the BT one doesn’t, it only has Bluetooth, this one has both. Yeah I get the naming is slightly confusing but that’s just how it is. Now as these two products are mostly identical a fair chunk of this review will be a copy paste as things like the audio quality I expect to be identical. Of course if it isn’t then I won’t do that and will have to do it all again but hey, they are supposed to be basically the same thing, this just with WiFi stuff too.
Visually everything looks exactly the same, I mean exactly. Getting into it still all looks the same, even down to that curious map of the world in written names thing. I am still not particularly sure I like that look, now I shall grant that the podcast guys all seem to think it’s rather cool looking but I remain unconvinced. I think I’d rather it was all black or maybe a dark matte grey perhaps. Anyway its looks are what they are and let’s be honest, you shouldn’t be buying or not buying a speaker based on its looks. Anyway…. Let’s fire the thing up, I really want to play with the Wi-Fi side of it.
Now seeing as this is acoustically identical to the AS-BT the audio stuff I’m going copy paste across, it’s literally the exact same so seems silly not to. Where there any differences, basically in the connectivity and operation, I’ll make clear to point them out.
Source: Mostly my computer, running win 10 using DLNA and Airplay, mostly Airplay.
Lows: Normally these of speakers do all they can to whack up the bass, mostly a mid/bass hump that tries to punch with all its might and has nothing much else. That’s just physics, a little driver can’t move the same quantity of air as a big driver. These don’t seem to do that though, they are trying to me acoustically accurate. Thus I find that it’s rather well suited to more natural sounding music, acoustic, simple type stuff. Where there isn’t really any artificial deep lows going on. So it’s not trying to produce things that it’s ill-suited to. It’s so unexpected, I find myself thinking they actually might benefit from a little bass boost button. Though if they did, I’d probably think it all a mid bass hump. These just are just much more polite in their bass reproduction. Trying to stay true to the track and not turn it into a mid bass mess. It is not going to appeal most to those who are more likely to buy this sort of product but to a more audiophile crowd. I mean it’s obviously not audiophile grade sound but its balance and competence for something small, that you can throw in your carry-on luggage, lol that you can strap to your belt. Something you could kick off your shoes in your soulless hotel room and slap on a little Norah, Susan Wong, the Krall woman, Puddles Pitty Party etc etc and like it, actually enjoy it.
Quantity wise, there isn’t gobs of bass, certainly not deep bass. They are great for deep vocals and deep cello notes but it clings to being tonally accurate as it goes down rather than rising up to keep the volume output going. Firing up “Your Father And I” and the bass, well it tries and I really wouldn’t fault the quality but the quantity just can’t keep up. It doesn’t even try to keep up. If you’re looking for big thumping chavtastic bass you’re not going to find it here. This is acoustic, lithe and graceful lowers.
Mids: The easy bit for speaker to get right and they do really really well. There is a great tonality to them that just so long as you’re a bit off that treble axis, the mids are really good. You keep to very vocal centric music (which I’m rather happy to anyway) then these do a really very pleasing rendition. Des’ree, Tori, Norah, all sound excellent for suck a little and cheap thing. There is a bit of a preference to lady’s vocals ranges but male vocals sound rather great too. Again this isn’t going to be your Hi-Fi but for something you can throw in a bag and use in a hotel room, you could survive with this. Mids are light, flowing and ever so slightly smoothed. They still retain a very fluid sense, flowing, light and unencumbered with they’re not attempting to produce a massive mid/bass hump the vocals can get on with being great vocals.
I’m pretty pleased with the quantity, though you should note that they can feel a little middy. I’m absolutely fine with that but be aware, in speaker terms these are aiming for what is more akin to an Etymotic like balance than a Beats one.
Highs: If you get them dead on axis then the treble is just too much. Though with their design they are a pretty directional so unless you pointing it at your face then you’ll be off axis anyway. Then the treble tames in quantity rather nicely and gives a more natural sounding level. There is a bit of an inclination though to spit out a lot of treble. Time and again I’m drawn to very vocal centric music. High quality recordings, acoustic stuff like that of Susan Wong sounds delicate and highly pleasing. Owl City’s electronica and treble extravaganza that is “Cave In” and the treble is exploding all over the place. Dear god you get that on axis, in your face and the treble is ear ravaging, very sharp and cutting. There is just too much but off axis, say as you wander round the room it’s much more appealing.
Its treble quality is pretty good. There is a lot of highly emphasised detail but personally I feel it could be toned down a bit, relax and mellow. It’s certainly a very exciting and attention seeking treble.
Soundstage: It is okay. Nothing very special, with its rather mid and treble centric sound it does have a degree of directionality. It’s a pretty small speaker and it pretty much always sounds like a pretty small speaker. You make a small thing and you give up stereo separation and space.
Dynamics: In the mids, there was a great deal of scope to really crank the volume out yet it’s not what its naturally inclined to do. It’s not a behemoth that will shrink to nothing and then come roaring forth. Its little drivers are far more concerned with being acoustically good rather than being a beast with great dynamics.
Power: Its headline output can be quite noticeable. Certainly if you want to blast out sound and upset the other hotel room guests you absolutely can. However I don’t think you’ll want to. Where the AS-BT shines is in its realistic vocal expression and to turn it up louder than the level it was originally sung, it just feels wrong.
Battery Life: The spec say 5 hours, though I’m sure I got about 6 and half from it. Which is odd as you don’t normally get more than the quoted but hey. It seemed to go on for ages though maybe I just wasn’t playing it loud enough?
Build and Durability: The thing certainly feels solid. The buttons on the top though, hmm they jiggle a little bit but I don’t really mind. I don’t get what the blank panel on the top is for though, why has it a little screen protector bit of plastic over it? The grills on the front and back are both metal and feel very solid. The whole thing feels pretty sturdy, certainly I couldn’t make the body flex any, the grills wouldn’t flex either. Not to the point I got uncomfortable trying to bend it. With that rather nice case I would (fingers crossed) hope it should survive going through the abuse that airport luggage gets with ease.
Phone Use: While I called out and I could hear the other party super well, they said I sounded rather distant. They could hear me okay ish but to stop being misheard I had to raise my voice a little. Still its primary function isn’t to be a speaker phone. I’ve also no idea where exactly the mic is on it.
Connectivity: So this is where things get different. You see the difference between the AS and the lesser AS-BT is that while the later has Bluetooth, this has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Yey!!! Okay the Wi-Fi stuff isn’t perfect, it’s a little slow. Setting it up I was expecting modes to change more or less instantly and they don’t, even once the indicator lights say it’s now in whatever mode, give it a min or two to actually be in that mode. This gave such a mountain of ball ache when trying to set it up I was ready for throwing it out the window at one point, after setting it up, changing the Wi-Fi to password protected point and then it wouldn’t reset and wipe. I was getting VERY frustrated. However the ever so pleasant people at Bluedio made me a little video and so I did everything at a much more leisurely pace, boom it worked fine. So please, go slow and be patient with setting it up. Once it was all done and on my home network Itunes picked it up and so did windows media player DLNA with its “Cast To Device” showing the speaker. Now in fairness the cast to thing, I’ve pretty much never used and it was a little temperamental. Sending a new track worked but it wouldn’t seeming let me add things. I don’t know why but really does anyone use it anyway?
While I can say with confidence I’m not an apple fanboy but they do for the most part really got Airplay right, it is rather reliable and almost always works as advertised. I did on more than one occasion found the AS would seem to go on a go slow or something and not want to connect and its indicator lights are infuriatingly vague. I feel inclined to leave the thing plugged in constantly so I never have to turn it off and deal with it reconnecting at its own highly leisurely pace. Once connected over Airplay and it seemed to work great. Still while China has got making hardware down the same cannot be said of software.
Wi-Fi Repeater: Yeah so this is a wtf topic, I get that but you know I figure that it’s such a bizarre feature for something like this to have it deserves its own topic. You see the AS with its Wi-Fi stuff isn’t just so that it can do DLNA and Airplay it also acts as a Wi-Fi repeater. Sometimes they get called Wi-Fi “Boosters” while it connects to your normal Wi-Fi base station and it then rebroadcasts so devices can connect to it and its then forwards on to your router, thus it lets devices that are further away still connect to your internet connection. Seriously, I mean how freakin’ cool is that!?!?!? Given its price you could buy it almost just for that and tbh it’s potentially such a massively handy feature I look at the AS and think who would ever buy the AS-BT when you get this for just a fiver more?
Value: Well when I looked at the AS-BT I wondered why you’d buy it over this Wi-Fi enabled one and that holds true. Looking at Amazon UK right now, this is £50 while the Bluetooth only version is £46, that 4 pounds difference, I mean if you don’t really think you’ll every use the Wi-Fi repeating or maybe even the Airplay functionality, at just 4 quid more you’d be a fool to buy the Bluetooth only one. Hell you can easily pay £50 for a repeater alone never mind one that is a portable speaker too, and a portable speaker with a battery pack so you can use anywhere to boot. While the speaker itself may not be the world’s greatest, I mean I’ve got some big Yamaha thing here that knocks spots off it but it’s not battery capable and costs very considerably more. I can just see this being the perfect holiday speaker. You set your mobile to Wi-Fi hotspot, pair this to it over Wi-Fi and then it becomes your router and speaker all in one. Basically the myriad functionality this has got easily makes it excellent value for money.
Conclusion: So acoustically it’s pretty good, quite grown up sounding and pleasing, not to mention it can belt its little heart of when you push it. It’s fun. Though for me the Wi-Fi stuff is what makes it. While it’s a little slow and temperamental in its setup its use in Airplay is great. I’m not the biggest fan in the world of Itunes but Airplay works really well and I find its inclusion to be most pleasing. Now I’m no Airplay fanatic so I’m just looking at John Lewis’s website and their compendium of Airplay enabled speaker’s starts price wise with the B&O Z2 at £170. While I expect the Z2 to sound better (it had bloody better at that price) you could buy 3 of these and still have £20 left. Not to mention the AS is properly portable, with its internal battery you could use it in a tent which I personally know of no other Airplay devices that can do that. (Though I’ve never really looked for one.)
So while I found the AS like its near twin to be pretty good sounding, being rather more composed and grown up than you would really expect from a cheap portable speaker, the star of the show is that Wi-Fi stuff. Yeah yeah Bluetooth is nice too but you can get it from tons of stuff, the Airplay functionality is awesomely good value. I mean this would be perfect for use on holiday, camping, in the bathroom. You wouldn’t want something expensive in any of those environments because they will eventually kill any device but it is cheap enough you won’t be too upset when it does. Plus I don’t know about you but I am in the habit of listening to podcasts when I’m in the shower. I’m not a bath taker but if you are, this just screams perfect doesn’t it, hot bath while you listen to a podcast or some gently soothing music???
So should you/ would I buy one? Well acoustically while this product is nice, the Wi-Fi stuff is icing, you know, really good mascarpone icing, not that horrible buttercream icing stuff you get. Acoustically it’s a rather mature product that is so unlike the majority of smaller items that try to fart out as much bass as possible, at any acoustic cost. This is much more of a purist product and as such I rather like it. It can’t compete in terms or scale and grandeur with bigger things but it shares a tonal signature that is so much more in line with what an audiophile would expect from a speaker. This just happens to be a little, wireless and portable speaker. It’s nice, I like it and its functionality makes it utterly superb value for money. Love that Wi-Fi functionality to bits!!!