Fluance Fi50: Mid-sized Bluetooth Speaker at a Small Price

Hailing from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, Fluance is a new-enough home-theater speaker company that it isn't yet widely known in the HT community. The company proclaims to “pride [itself] on pushing cutting edge technology to its limits and using high grade parts in the construction of its speaker systems”.. while offering “products at prices well below those of its main competitors.” So when I got to test their newest Bluetooth bookshelf-sized speaker, the Fi50, and saw that it was retailing for around $200, I was curious to see if it would live up to Fluance’s ambitious mission statement.

At $199, the price aspect is there. The Fi50 is a solid mid-sized bookshelf speaker, made of hand-built, internally braced MDF wood with dual ⅗” coaxial mounted silk soft dome ferrofluid (neat!) cooled tweeters and dual 5” woven glass fiber composite woofers with butyl rubber surrounds. With dimensions of about 20” x 6” x 7”, the Fi50 is small enough to perch on a bookshelf or live in a dorm room. But with a claimed 40 Watt output, it’s beefy enough to power a small party.

The front panel has an dimmable LED display, and the touch-sensitive controls on the top are simple and elegant-looking. Music devices are connected through either aptX Bluetooth or a 3.5mm input located in the rear panel. There is a USB port for charging/powering your music device back there as well, but it doesn’t allow for audio playback. One small nuisance: the Fi50 has to be switched on and off via a toggle on the back; which, depending on your setup could be no big deal or somewhat annoying every time you want to power on and off. Fluance provides both rubber stick-on feet or metal spikes that they say help avoid vibration. The spikes look really cool, but the pragmatist in me couldn’t help but imagine the pock marks they’d put in my wood furniture. Again, depending on your space, either a bummer or NBD.

Here’s the best thing though. For $199, the Fi50 sound pretty great. The highs are clear but don’t sizzle, and the bass is surprisingly robust for a speaker of this size. The Fi50 has EQ controls that enable you to toy with the treble and bass. Even when the treble is cranked up, I was impressed that the tweeters didn’t become tinny or piercing. The bass could get blobby and formless when boosted to the max and an already bass-intense song was playing (think Bjork’s “Army of Me” level of intensity). But left alone or slightly increased to a 2 or 1, the bass has presence and depth that’s notable when you consider the Fi50’s size, as well as the price tag. Personally, I didn’t think the EQ needed tweaking; the original tuning sounded rather neutral, and I was content to leave the settings untouched for the majority of my listening session.

The only possible major flaw I experienced in the Fi50 is something that Fluance considers a feature: “Auto-Pairing.” Basically, once you pair your device to the Fi50, any time the Fi50 is on and that device is in range, they connect. If you turn your device off and on again, they reconnect. If you turn the Fi50 off and on again, they reconnect. Same if you leave the Bluetooth range and return. Now, if you hate re-connecting, and always want that device connected to the speaker, this could be seen as a positive.

Or, if you’re like me, and paired your phone, went out for a bit, and forgot the speaker was on, you’ll get startled as heck when you get an email alert blared at you upon your return home to an otherwise silent house. The only way to prevent that from happening is to turn the Fi50 off between uses, which I could see myself forgetting to do regularly.

Also worth noting is that the volume on the Fi50 is independent from your device volume, which means you’ll either need to put the volume on the Fi50 at max and turn your device’s output volume up and down, or you’ll need to get up off the couch if you want to make any adjustments. No biggie, but it’s a small thing that might be problematic depending on the size of the room and your willingness to get up.

Overall, despite these small flaws, the Fi50 is a really great value. The sound quality rivals speakers $100 or more over the Fi50’s $199 retail price, and the sturdy retro design looks more expensive as well. When it comes to the Fi50, Fluance delivered on its promises.

The Fi50 retails for $199, and is available in black ash, natural walnut, and lucky bamboo through www.fluance.com.