Every now and then you get a product that tells you you've missed something for a long time. This can be an upgrade to a new 4K monitor, a change to an SSD or, in today's case, a change to real premium speakers.
While high-end speakers may not be practical or worthwhile for everyone, for those with a sophisticated ear and deep pockets, they can make all the difference in the world. Some time ago we tested the AudioEngine A5 + Wireless and although they were a great set of speakers, like all audiophile devices, you can always spend more and gain quality.
Today I'm going to test the AirPulse A300 from Edifier. Priced at $ 1,100, this two-channel bookcase speaker rack is aimed at more demanding users and is at the forefront of Edifier speakers. Let's see if they're worth that price and what you'll get if you level up.
The A300 was developed by the famous audio engineer Phil Jones. They have 6.5-inch woofers with 65 mm ribbon tweeters and a variety of analog and digital inputs. The ribbon tweeters are an interesting feature, so I'll take a moment to explain how they work and why they're common in high-end audio equipment.
Conventional loudspeakers pulsate a cone with electromagnets depending on the music. Band tweeters differ in almost every way. The sound is generated by vibrating a piece of thin plastic film with a microscopic coating of aluminum vapor. These stripes are not physically held in place like tweeters, which allows for a higher degree of movement. Instead, they are suspended in a magnetic field. They are also up to 10x lighter, which means that the resistance to movement is lower compared to a conventional tweeter.
Tapes may sound superior, but they're not perfect. Since they are extremely light and have no normal voice coil, their internal resistance is very low. This makes driving difficult without a specially developed amplifier. Because they are so small, they cannot move a lot of air either, which means that they are only effective at high frequencies. To compensate, a longer range woofer is required. Still, tweeters are a significant upgrade. However, due to their high cost, they can only be found on very expensive systems.
Back to the A300: the speakers themselves measure 225mm x 385mm x 340mm and together weigh 53 pounds. They have a total output power of 160 W, divided into 70 W for each woofer and 10 W for each tweeter. The amplifier has an SNR of 90 dB (A) and the entire system has a frequency response of 40 to 40 kHz. I'll go into frequency response later.
The loudspeakers are made of 25 mm MDF and have cherry veneer. They're only available in this finish, but I think it looks good, so I'm not worried. These speakers don't come with a front page either, but I think most people who spend that kind of money on a number of speakers want to show them off.
If we move backwards, we will find an air inlet on both speakers for improved bass reproduction. The right speaker has all the connections and circuits, while the left speaker is passively connected with a single cable. To connect the two, there is a 16ft connection cable. It looks like a MIDI connector, but these certainly can't deliver 80W, so your mileage may vary if you want to replace it. I would have liked to see a standard plug like conventional banana plugs here. This also means that you may not be able to install it in the wall as I don't think the included cable is certified.
On the back we find many inputs, including balanced XLR, RCA, USB, coax and optical inputs. The A300 also has a built-in Bluetooth receiver for wireless playback. For those interested in the technical details of the speakers, use the PCM9211 digital audio transceiver and the TAS5756M class D amplifier. The rear also has volume controls as well as low and high frequency EQ settings. I always prefer the volume control to be in the front, as this makes it much easier to find. I found that the bass and treble adjustments didn't do too much because they only allow up to 3 dB adjustments.
These speakers are terrible fingerprint magnets. Therefore, make sure you wear white gloves during installation. Also included in the scope of delivery are the very thick connection cable, a remote control, an optical cable, an instruction manual, a high-quality cinch cable with gold-plated connectors and a cinch to 1/8 "adapter.
In a seemingly minor mishap with our test device, we received the user manual for the A100 instead of the A300. The remote control was also a little disappointing. It looks chic, but is actually made of cheap plastic and feels weak. Given the price of these speakers, I would have preferred a metal design.
The speakers have four rubber feet at the bottom. Depending on your setup, you may want to place these speakers on a stand. They sound best when placed at ear level. So if you don't have a stand, you can place a wedge in front to tilt it up slightly. Edifier also leaves a speaker for the A300, which sells for $ 200.
Now to the sound quality … The assessment of the audio quality is always difficult due to its subjective nature. I don't currently have speakers with similar prices that I could compare the A300 to, so I compared them to the Audioengine A5 +, which happens to be highly regarded $ 500 speakers. Here are my impressions of what you get when you push the price level up a level or two.
Let's start with an objective analysis thanks to our friends at miniDSP. An important feature of a speaker or headphone system is the accuracy of the sound reproduction. This is called frequency response and should ideally be very flat. That is, the sound coming from the speaker exactly matches the signal that goes into it. To test this, play a known audio signal through the speaker and measure the amplitude of the emerging signal. To do this exactly, you need a special measurement microphone that has been calibrated to ensure that it itself has a perfectly flat frequency response. I used the Room EQ Wizard (REW) to generate the frequency sweep and to perform the analysis and UMIK-1 from miniDSP as my measurement microphone.
This first diagram shows the frequency response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The A300 is not designed to drop below 40 Hz, so immersion can be ignored. The human ear can only hear up to 20 kHz on average, so results above this range also do not matter. I measured with a signal of 80 dB and placed the microphone 1 foot from the speaker. This resulted in a very flat response. There is a slight rise in lows and a small drop to the upper end of the spectrum, but overall I'm impressed. If you find that the bottom end is too high or the top end is missing, the speakers have low and high EQ knobs.
Next we look at the crossover between the tweeter (blue) and the woofer (green). I made this measurement by placing the microphone 1/2 "away from the drivers and running through the sweep to find out in which area the driver is most active. This measurement is not as accurate as the full-spectrum Sweep because there is always something between the two drivers no matter how close you place the microphone, but we can see that for the A300 this point is around 2 kHz.
For comparison, the AudioEngine A5 + had a full-range frequency range that was not quite as flat. There was a much stronger cut at all frequencies above 1 kHz, but remained somewhat narrower at lower frequencies.
As expected, it was a pleasure to hear the AirPulse A300 and I was sad to see her leave after the evaluation phase. Describing a number of speakers alone doesn't mean much. I will therefore compare it again with the A5 + to show how much you can get for an additional $ 500. Before I say anything, keep in mind that the A5 + itself is an outstanding pair of speakers and this is a one-sided comparison. These results do nothing for the A5 +, they only contribute to the quality of the A300.
To do these tests, I heard the same music on both speakers at the same volume and DAC. I used an audio switcher to perform A / B tests during the songs and was able to distinguish them after just a few minutes of listening.
Although both speakers have very wide sound levels, I found that the A300 was more vivid and clear. The A5 + was generally good for left, right, and center positioning, but in between, some details were lost. The sound stage of the A300 was more coherent from left to right and a little wider. Thanks to the ribbon tweeters, the high end also sparkled. Cymbal hits had an extra glimmer that was lost on the A5 +. I also noticed that the A300 had more definition and differentiation between guitars and drums than the A5 +. This is difficult to achieve because the middle frequency range in rock and pop music is often very crowded. Both speakers can be painfully loud and provide slightly room-filling sound.
When it comes to vocals, the A5 + highlighted them a bit better in terms of volume, but the A300 was much clearer. In the end, I slightly adjusted the A300's high EQ to compensate for this and was very happy. The A300's woofer is a larger speaker, so it naturally sounded better than the A5 + in the lower range. Both were equally powerful on bass drum hits, but lower frequencies between 50 Hz and 200 Hz were noticeably mushier on the A5 +. Overall, the A5 + sounded milder than the A300, which was clear and crisp even in the upper area. I would say the A300 sounded more like stepping into a soft sound bubble than hearing two separate speakers.
Finally, it's hard not to be impressed by the sound quality of the AirPulse A300. However, if you spend more than $ 1,000 on a pair of speakers, anything else would be a disappointment.
Although the jump from $ 500 speakers to $ 1,100 speakers was very noticeable, there are sure to be more than $ 5,000 speakers that still make the A300 sound awful. You can keep increasing the price, including some speakers in the 6-digit range. How do you know when is enough? To get the best out of high quality speakers like this, you need high quality inputs. I'm not talking about $ 400 power cords or gold-plated USB cables. I mean lossless high bit rate audio. If you buy these speakers just to listen to YouTube music videos, you're wasting your money. These speakers make low quality recordings sound really bad and bring out the details in high quality.
However, the AirPulse A300 are not perfect. You need a stand for this and the one Edifier sells costs an additional $ 200. Another complaint I had is the non-standard connection between the two speakers. While it's probably fine for most setups, this may mean that these speakers aren't an option for larger, more common ones. The included remote control also feels like a toy.
It's hard to give the speakers an objective rating and a final recommendation, but thankfully, Edifier offers a 30-day return policy if you don't like them, so you can try them out if they're within your budget. So if you've had some nice speakers in the past and want an upgrade, you won't be disappointed with the AirPulse A300.
If possible, I would recommend finding a couple in a home theater store and planning a listening session to make sure they're right for you. The price is high, but this is a case where you definitely get what you paid for.