Review: Audyssey Wireless Speakers Page 2

Cutting the Cord

Over Bluetooth, overall sonics are quite solid, though you'll find yourself readily able to distinguish between wired and wireless connections pretty easily (I'd have loved to see apt-X on this unit). Wireless audio is noticeably softer, with more limited dynamics and less clarity. But that's par for the course, and in the context of other A2DP devices, the Audysseys sound quite good - but it is worth keeping in mind if you're trying to choose between this model and the older Audyssey Media Speaker with its wired (and excellent-sounding) optical digital connection, and don't necessarily want to spend the extra $50 for the wireless functionality.

The differences were minor, but definitely audible. Over Bluetooth, the chiming guitar intro to Steely Dan's "Josie" (from Aja) sounded a tad grainy and gritty, rather than biting, almost like it ran into interference with the bell tree. Over a wired connection, things sounded as they should.

The Mark Lanegan Band's "Deep Black Vanishing Train" (from the excellent Blues Funeral), with its complex layers of delicate guitars, winds, electronic textures, and very forward baritone male vocals is a challenging mix, and did better over the Audyssey's wired connection than over Bluetooth - the reverberant ambiance gets lost wirelessly, and just seems cloudy instead, while the tune's intentionally distorted passages sounded a little crackly, and bass boomier than it should. Over the wired connection, everything sat in its place in the mix.

That said, I spent many hours listening to audio from my HTC handset via Bluetooth, and enjoyed having the option to do so. Still, when sitting at the computer, I generally chose to run the Audysseys via a wired connection. Having heard some pretty good apt-X implementations for both speakers and headphones (I'm thinking in particular of Creative's ZiiSound line; I'd love to see a higher-quality Bluetooth codec employed in some future version of the Audyssey desktop lineup - I think that'd be an unbeatable product.

Another minor quibble: as set up out of the box, the Wireless Speakers are appreciably louder over Bluetooth than when driven by the line in; I noted this when switching between outputs on both my HTC Amaze handset and my MacBook. Some gain stage tweaking gets this in line, but be careful when you're intiially swapping back and forth, should you be the sort of person who does such things.

Bottom Line

Audyssey has definitely proven itself in the desktop powered speaker arena, and nitpicks aside, the Wireless Speakers are yet another worthy contender from the versatile firm. While I didn't fall in love with its performance by comparison with the excellent sonics I experienced over a wired connection, certainly the Bluetooth receiver is a nice option to have, and it's in tune with the times - the future is wireless, for sure. If your chosen digital source is a smartphone or tablet, these may well be the small speaker for you. If you have a computer as a source, it has an optical output (and you don't mind using it), or if you're using a digital media receiver, set-top box, or game console with optical output, you might want to look at the older Media Speakers instead.

But whichever model you choose, you'll be well serverd. And the Wireless Speakers sound so good wired, you might end up leaving them plugged in, the old-fashioned way. But either way, you'll want to turn them up loud and leave them there for a good long listen.