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Edifier Spinnaker Bluetooth Speakers Review

Date: October 5, 2012
Author(s): Jamie Fletcher

It’s been a long time since we reviewed anything from Edifier, but with the recent release of the Spinnaker speakers, they were hard to resist. We decided to grab the bull by the horns and take them for a spin. With an eye-catching design, puns out of the way and wireless to boot, will these speakers catch your ear as well as your eyes?



Introduction

Wireless speaker systems are one of those things that all of us have craved at some point in time; getting rid of all those tripping hazards snaking over surfaces and floors that get knotted up in some unfathomable way.

Edifier may not be as well known as some of the big names in audio, but it’s been producing a number of speaker systems for years now, some of which provide a very compelling and competitive edge over those offered by its competitors, such as Logitech. It’s been a long time since we reviewed anything by the company, so let’s see what it’s been up to.

The Spinnaker speakers are definitely a uniquely styled set. The name comes from the spinnaker sail, which works like a parachute that fills up with wind, rather than having the wind blow across it. This gives it a distinct horn-like appearance. This is not to say that the Spinnaker speakers are filled with hot air (though they do get rather warm), it’s just a name-sake for the shape.

Edifier Spinnaker Speakers

The Spinnaker will take audio input from multiple sources, including Bluetooth over A2DP, optical and an auxiliary 3.5 mm jack, so there are plenty of connectivity options. The optical and jack connections use a shared port, so you cannot use them at the same time. There is also a priority system where Bluetooth comes first and foremost. This I will go into a little later on.

Edifier Spinnaker SpeakersEdifier Spinnaker Speakers

There is a novel aluminum, domed, wireless remote included with the package. It’s battery-powered with a micro USB socket for recharging. This does mean you need either a PC of some kind or a compatible phone charger. The remote can adjust volume, mute, switch input and supports the AVRCP Bluetooth profile for simple navigation between tracks, but cannot pause or stop.

The following table will show you the complete feature list and specifications of the Spinnaker speakers. In the manual and on the website, there is no information given as to the capabilities of the optical input, so I quickly asked Edifier to fill in the blanks.

THD + N (testing level):10%
Signal to noise ratio:≥90dBA
Frequency response:68Hz – 20kHz ±3dB on reference axis
Frequency range:50Hz – 23kHz ±10dB
Crossover frequencies:135Hz -10dB
Distortion:0.5% ≤0
Input sensitivity:800mV ±50mV
Audio input:Bluetooth, Optical, Auxiliary
Bluetooth input:Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, A2DP & AVRCP Profiles
Optical input:S/PDIF 44.1KHz/48KHz/96KHz, 16-bit & 24-bit
Audio output:Bass expansion for outboard subwoofer
Adjustment:Wireless remote control
Power supply:Input 100V-240V AC, Output 20V/60W DC
Speaker unit:Treble: 19mm silk dome, Magnetically shielded, 4Ω
Midrange: 2¾ inch (70mm), Magnetically shielded, 4Ω
Bass: 4 inch (116mm), Magnetically shielded, 6Ω
Dimension:140mm x 413mm x 189mm (W x H x D)
Weight:4.3Kg (net) | 5.3Kg (gross)
Total power output (RMS):10W x 2 +10W x 2 + 25W x 2 (90W Total)

Edit: Originally left out of this review until I had heard back from Edifier, I questioned them regarding the total power rating and the DC supply unit. These speakers have a total power RMS of 90W, but the DC supply says 60W. Checking the physical unit, it is rated to 20V 2.75A, which is 55W. A speaker system is unlikely to ever draw its full RMS value, since music is dynamic and so too would be the power (bass frequencies requiring the most). I contacted Edifier regarding the power discrepancy, and this was its answer:

“The Spinnaker RMS is a sum of all channel output, the correct way of express [sic] should be, 2x10W(Tweeter)+2x10W(midrange)+2x25W(sub), totally 90W. Since the three channels are mapped to different frequency range, they cannot be measured at the same time.

Power rating of the power supply is normally smaller than the actually power output capability, 1.5 times ~ 2 times smaller normally. Since music power is not constant output power, a tested rating of 55W is enough.”

When going through the speaker specifications, there is one thing that will stand out, if you know what you’re looking for. It has a frequency response range of 68Hz – 20kHz ±3dB. When compared to a lot of other speakers, this all seems rather poor, as quite often the bass frequency range can be as low as 20-25 Hz. The difference here is that the speakers have been rated to within ±3 dB, meaning its frequency response is very linear within this range. This is also why the Spinnaker set has two frequency ranges in its specification, the second being rated to 10 dB.

Another point of interest is that the speakers are triple amplified with a digital crossover (6 channels in total for stereo); the tweeter, mid and bass ranges are on three distinct channels. A point of contention would be that the bass frequencies are handled by a 4 inch speaker, this immediately puts the speakers as a near-field set and also explains the fairly high cut-off point for the bass frequency range. The good news, though, is that you can hook up a separate Sub-woofer due to the inclusion of a dedicated sub connection (which has to be self-powered). This has a cut-off frequency of 100Hz to 20Hz. With a dedicated sub connected, you can then use the speakers as a more traditional home theatre setup.

Each tower houses a Silk Dome Tweeter, Midrange Driver, and a Woofer. Power output RMS is 10W for each Tweeter and each Mid, with 25W to each Woofer. Total output is 90W RMS. For a $350 set of speakers, this power level may be a little low, but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter, the Spinnakers can get seriously loud and without any perceivable distortion.

Edifier Spinnaker Speakers

While the sub drivers are only 4", they can still pump out a fair bit of bass, even if it does have a fairly audible resonant peak in the 80Hz range (you can feel the speakers vibrate the desk more in this range). The subs are also downward facing and this does lead to some rattling in the desk or floor . The feet are well padded, but could do with a little extra, especially when the cables are taken into consideration.

Edifier Spinnaker Speakers

Speaking of cables, to accommodate this three channel crossover, the left and right speakers are not hooked up in the usual manner. Much like the Corsair SP2500 did, a more unconventional connection had to be used in something not too dissimilar to a 6-pin PCIe power cable. While the SP2500 used a standard 4-pin ATX cable where a replacement could be made or bought if necessary, the Spinnaker’s do not use standard parts, so a replacement cable is not easy to come by. At some point, additional cables will be made available as accessories, including a longer 3m cable, rather than the included 1.5m; this will then give you some play for a home theatre setup (when available).

Edifier Spinnaker Speakers

To keep the aesthetics as clean as possible, all cables are handled in the underside of the right speaker, and I must say, it gets very crowded and extremely tight when trying to fit them all, especially the 6-pin. Since the speakers will work with Bluetooth, only two cables are required, power and left channel connection. No speaker will ever truly be wireless, but at least cables can be kept to a minimum.

While experimenting with the various options, the Spinnaker speakers prioritize Bluetooth over all other connections. This is useful for mobile devices, since then there are no options to fiddle with thereafter to get things working. Problems did arise with this regarding Windows. By default, Windows uses an auto-discovery feature to keep track of any devices that may be nearby; when it comes to the Spinnakers, this discovery will force the speakers to switch to Bluetooth, regardless of any current input source. Using the Spinnaker remote to switch inputs works fine, but Windows discovery will kick in every 30-90 seconds, depending on settings, switching inputs each time. For sanity’s sake, it’s best to disable auto-discovery, at least for Bluetooth audio on Windows if you plan to use multiple inputs.

Testing, Final Thoughts

Audio quality was definitely at the forefront of the Spinnaker design. Triple amplified digital crossovers are not cheap to implement, but it certainly makes a difference to the soundstage. Separating frequency bands means that there is less distortion as a result of the speakers trying to produce frequencies they were not designed for (it’s very difficult to get a 4" speaker to produce high frequencies reliably and to keep them balanced). The result is equal clarity in all frequency ranges without certain bands becoming muddy, washed-out or over-emphasized (maintaining that ±3dB – for the most part).

Surprisingly, for a 4" woofer, bass performance was exceptional, even if a little too pronounced. This is quite noticeable at lower volumes as the higher mid and treble struggle to overcome the strong bass. As volume is increased to average listening levels, it all balances out quite well. With that in mind, these speakers are best placed at least a meter away. Moving into the sub levels, then things become quite muddy with very little difference in tone; kick drums all merge together with no definitive thud, and this is reflected in the frequency response. If you want low end bass, you’ll need to use the dedicated sub-output port.

The rounded face of the speakers does mean pinpointing the direction of the cones is a little difficult, since you cannot see them, so setting up for accurate stereo separation is equally tricky and will require a little bit of a trial.

Optical input does introduce its quirks. System volume will not always have an effect and the speakers will have its own independent volume level – which leads into the second issue. The Spinnakers have no memory between power cycles, so it defaults to a particular volume level – that just so happens to be quite loud. This can be very startling and certainly woke me up in the morning (and probably the neighbors).

This is also when a mild oversight rears its head – there is no way to tell how loud the speakers are as there is no visual indicator on either the speakers or the remote to show you the current volume setting. The remote flashes when changing volume or tracks via Bluetooth, but offers no other information.

Testing

With much of the physicalities exposed, it’s time for some discerning listening. To be clear, I’m not one to list every song and artist I play through these speakers (there are simply too many). I listen to whatever mood takes me, encompassing a wide range of genres from classical, jazz, rock, industrial, power metal and almost anything in between. I prefer a more analytical approach to audio than trying to describe nuance with flowery words to a sense that is impossible to adequately express in a meaningful manner. Sound is subjective and as always, if you are interested in a set of speakers, listen to them first before committing, especially when dealing with $300+ price range. With that said, I will express strengths and weaknesses of the soundstage.

Going through either optical or AUX jack inputs, sound quality is extremely pleasing and I do need to stress the clarity offered as a result of the crossover, much to the same effect as the Corsair SP2500. It’s very hard to overstate the difference crossovers can make, with much of the clarity being in the upper ranges. Cymbal strikes are concise and sharp, and reverb from live recordings are pushed into the room, really opening up an ambience that is often lost with speakers. As described earlier in the review, some of the bass frequencies can be a little over-powering, with that strong resonance in the 80Hz range.

When listening to vocals and the low-mid range, the resonance can be somewhat distracting. Since this is an artifact of the speaker design, it’s not something easily corrected with EQ adjustments. This range is rather small though and it’s only certain specifically tuned harmonics that can play on this resonance (deep male voices and a guttural distorted electric guitar). Past this and everything responds well. It would be worth figuring out a dedicated sub-woofer, as deep bass is completely lost on the 4" woofers. Edifier does need to be commended with its honest range specifications. Overall, music is well balanced with the only complaint being the resonance. Definitely an enjoyable experience and I do need to re-emphasise the clarity from the tweeter.

Unfortunately, the clarity that is inherently present evaporates when using Bluetooth. This is not the fault of the speakers, but of Bluetooth itself. Despite the use of a high bit-rate codec (360kbps+), some fidelity is lost in transmission. The fact it’s noticeable is a testament to the speakers reproductive capabilities. This is not to say that Bluetooth sounds terrible, it’s just not the same as with a dedicated wired input. For mobile devices though, this should be more than adequate. Comparing these speakers to one of these ubiquitous ‘docks’ would just be insulting, but this is to be expected in this price range.

Edifier Spinnaker Speakers

Final Thoughts

So how to wrap this up? There is no denying the quality of the audio and the shape is certainly unique, but there are still a couple issues to contend with. No visual indicator for volume and no memory for last volume level means that turning the speakers off for the night could lead to a very startling awakening in the morning. The proprietary cable used to connect both speakers could also introduce a point of contention with limited availability of a replacement or longer cable. Bluetooth may not be quite up to par with a wired connection, but it’s quality is still excellent and a far cry from wireless of old.

There were no audible tell-tale signs of noise at various volumes, everything is isolated well, no hiss and such. The triple crossover does wonders for fidelity, with this again not introducing any kind of noise (often common with digital crossovers). The Bluetooth priority system does make connecting mobile devices easier, just be sure to check for auto-discovery issues as I did.

Recommending these mainly comes down to personal preference given the price-range, and the shape won’t be for everyone. If you are looking for a pair of eye-catching, high audio quality wireless speakers, the Spinnakers would certainly fulfil that role. The Spinnakers are available from the Apple store and other retailers for around $350 or £320.

Pros

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