Peripheral Matters: Edifier R1280DB Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers [Review w/VIDEO!!!]
I've been focused on improving the sound quality of the various media that I have occasion to consume in the 'WERKz this year. Audio. Video. And games. I've never paid that much attention to my speaker setup. But I went ahead and upgraded my soundcards to external DSP's, and, with that move, decided that I should not skimp on the speakers that those cards would be tied to. The most I've ever done was purchased Logitech or some other brand of gaming speakers. And while those are decent solutions, I realized that none of them ever matched up to more audio-conscious solutions from companies that made stereo equipment. I made the first outlay this year for a pair of Vanatoo Transparent One's which I have equipped to my primary gaming PC. For the secondary gaming PC, I wanted to go with something better than the Logitech solutions, but not as expensive as the Vanatoo's. Enter the Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers.
For the basics, please hit up the video above. There I run down the primary specifications and talk about the hardware fit and polish and the design aesthetic of the R1280DB's. With that out of the way, let's talk about the performance under real world conditions. First of all, the Bluetooth is dead simple to use. When I turned on the Bluetooth antenna on my iPad Mini 4, it immediately saw the R1280DB's and connecting was also a snap. Within seconds I was streaming music over to the speakers with no more difficulty that it would have taken to connect the iPad over a wire. Actually, technically, it was easier because the R1280DB's do not have a direct 3.5mm stereo input jack on the rear panel. You could connect using a splitter cable that connects over a 3.5mm jack to most consumer electronics, and splits that output out to left and right channel discrete RCA connections on the terminating end. And I have those cables, but for the average consumer, that might be a bit out of the way.
Overall audio quality on the Edifier's were pretty much what I expected. It was clearer and sharper than the Logitech 5.1 speakers that I also have. I have the Edifiers connected to my secondary gaming PC using an optical cable. When I played back MayDay Parade's Stay, a song I use for audio testing due to its highly variated themes and riffs, the start of the opening piano and vocal solo took me back to my college years. Back then, I would just sit and listen to music from my Yamaha component stereo system and Yamaha bookshelf speakers. The discrete left and right channel were more deeply immersive than a set of gaming speakers, and I caught several piano and string riffs that I normally do not hear when I play this song back over different equipment.
The knock against the Edifier R1280DB's is that the bass can get a good deal muddy at its deepest levels. Levels where the Vanatoo Transparent One's still keep things clean. Compared to those speakers, the discrete audio aperture between the left and right channel is not as wide, the signal-to-noise ratio is not as divergent, and the overall clarity and crispness is not at the same level as the Vanatoo's. Of course, as I mentioned in the video, the Transparent One's cost about five times as much as the R1280DB's.
The average listener will be perfectly fine with the Edifiers. And in fact, in some cases, I prefer the depth of bass offered by the R1280DB's, regardless of some low frequency fuzziness. The Vanatoo's keep things clearer, but it is arguably done at the expense of more window-rattling bass frequencies. I would probably have to say that I would rather throw a party with the Edifier's but would rather sit and listen quietly with a glass of wine to the Transparent One's. And there are a few SKU's in the Edifier line between the R1280DBs and what you would pay for the Transparent One's that I am sure edge closer to the latter's clearer audio.
The Edifier R1280DB's still get a solid nod from me for their beautiful design aesthetic, dead simple Bluetooth connectivity, and solid college dorm level audio performance. They are a solid step up from gaming PC speakers, and I would take these over a PC speaker 5.1 setup any day (other than maybe a set from Klipsch, although those are really hard to find today at any reasonable price as Klipsch no longer manufactures them). The R1280DB's get a knock for lesser connectivity; no 3.5mm stereo input jack, no sub-woofer connection, no USB connection for additional equipment such as a hardware mixer, and no additional output power connection. Those are perks which, admittedly, might require you to pay for a higher-end set of speakers. At this price, though, I would still say that you likely will not have any buyer's remorse, but it would still be a good idea to shop around. The Edifier R1280DB Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers go for about $129.99 on Amazon right now and includes a remote.