Review : 5 wireless speakers

Just as easy - just better

In a wireless world it is easy to get lost in one-box solutions. But it's just as easy with two speakers — and offers much better sound.

Budget-friendly bookshelf speakers have gone from selling like hot cakes to becoming a shadow of themselves. This is despite the fact that they have possibly never produced better sound for the money than right now. Instead, people want to have them wireless, with their mobile phone as the audio source.
For this same reason, one-box solutions have become popular. Both affordable Bluetooth speakers, but also multi-room speakers where Sonos dominates with steep competition from Heos, Bluesound etc.
But if you want the best sound, one speaker is not enough. Two is much more than double that of one in this context, because the sound is suddenly unfolded in the space between the speakers. And a proper stereo perspective is invaluable when immersing oneself in the music.

Stereo speakers with Bluetooth
A good solution is to connect a pair of good bookshelf speakers to an amplifier that receives the sound wirelessly from a mobile phone. But it is even more convenient to build the wireless receiver and the amplification into the actual speakers. And it is such speakers we are looking at this time around. All have remote control, so you can control them right from the couch.
All the speakers in this test have additional analogue audio input, many have turntable input, and all have optical digital input. If you connect the TV, you will be amazed at how much better sound is from the flat screen! For many, this could be a better solution than a sound board, because it gives you rich noise without the need of a subwoofer. The best also have an outrageously better conveyance of music, than any sound board we have heard so far.

Five hundred euro
We’ve been looking at speakers around the magical 5,000 kroner mark, and in this price range, a compromise has usually been made so that all electronics are placed in one speaker, which is further connected to the other with a perfectly ordinary speaker cable. This applies to all the speakers in this test.
We’ve found five exciting candidates. Klipsch have expanded their active speaker series, and one of our all-time favourites R-15PM has gotten a little brother. R-14PM is very compact and fits most bookshelves. We also have System Audio Saxo 3 Active, which has succeeded Saxo 1 Active – a former favourite within the class as well. Triangle is a renowned French speaker manufacturer, and we are excited to see how Elara LN01A performs.
The outsiders this time are Argon Alto 5 Active and Ruark MR1 MK2. Argon because it cost half as much as the most expensive and thus it is by far the cheapest speaker pair. Ruark because it is the absolute smallest speaker pair. I wonder if the physical dimensions may raise some challenges for the sound?

This is how we tested
All the speakers have several different inputs, both with and without cable. We’ve put focus on the performance of wireless speakers, and we’ve used Bluetooth. This is because we reckon this is what the majority will spend most of the time doing. The audio source was iPhone X with the music app Tidal, which offers music of CD quality.

Argon Alto 5 Active

A total bargain of a price

The cheapest speakers of the test are certainly nothing to scorn at. Argon Active 5 actually plays impressively well!

Our verdict

The Argon speakers have a distinct, airy and rich sound, which can certainly be compared to far more expensive competitors.
The speaker cable must be purchased separately.
Type: Wireless stereo speaker 2 x 40 W
Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP aptX
Connections: 2 x optical digital, stereo line-in (L/R RCA), Phono (MM),
Sensitivity: N/A
Frequency response: 55 Hz – 20 kHz (+/- 3 dB)
Dimensions/Weight: 17.8 x 30.0 x 25.0 cm / 4.5 kg
Other: Subwoofer output, Remote control
Website: hifiklubben.no

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Price 2698 £

Argon Audio is the Hi-Fi club’s own budget brand, designed to be an affordable alternative to more expensive brands like Dali and Bowers & Wilkins. And when you see what they’ve accomplished with the new Alto series, you have reason to raise an eyebrow or two.
The Alto 5 Active is Argon’s top model among active speakers, and is also among the larger participants in the test. Here you get a thoroughbred bi-directional speaker with 5 ¼” bass in a spacious cabinet and with good connectivity. The amplifier is mounted in the one speaker, and in Argon’s case, you need to get hold of your own speaker cable, as this is not included in the box. It will be an additional cost, but when the speakers barely cost 2,700 NOK, there is no real reason for complaint. Argon’s own speaker cable at 98 kroner per metre is a good option.
Sound quality
Soundwise, Argon is the big surprise in the test, and we mean that in a positive way. The Alto 5 Active projects a magnificent and detailed soundscape, which is not far behind the more expensive participants! They play open and airily, follow the melody precisely and have a pleasantly warm sound balance.
The synth bass in Ary’s The Sea pounds well, and demonstrates that it is good to have fullness in the speakers – considerably more than the small Klipsch – without the speakers being particularly troubled by the tough bass. We can play loud in our 32 m² test room without distortion, the way a couple of the competitors had a tendency to do.
The demanding Mercedes Sosa – Kyrie sounds absolutely beautiful. The soundscape is broad, distinct, and detailed. The speakers manage to render the reverberation, the depth and scale of the recording, making the piano sound extremely credible and beautiful. Elvira Nikolaisen’s voice also sounds seductively beautiful and intimate. There is always plenty of room between the instruments.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Conclusion
With its balanced and powerful sound, Argon Alto 5 Active manages to engage us. They have plenty of bass and are “omnivores”, in a musical sense of the term – whether it be classical music, acoustic jazz or rhythmic rap on the menu. And best of all is the price!
– I am not in doubt. At under 300 euro, this is a total bargain. Rush out and buy them, Lasse Svendsen advises. Geir and Audun agreel: Argon Alto 5 Active is definitely the best buy in the class!

Lively and practical

Triangle’s wireless speaker is a well constructed and a viable option in this price range.

Our verdict

Compact and nice sounding all-round speakers with a lot of connections and good usability.
No USB input, a lousy remote control and relatively high priced.
Type: Bi-directional active bookcase 2 x 50 W
Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP aptX
Connections: RCA, Aux Analog, Optical, Phono (MM)
Sensitivity: N/A
Frequency response: N/A
Dimensions/Weight: 16.5 x 23.5 x 29.1 cm / 9.5 kg
Colours: Matte black or white
Other: Subwoofer output, Remote control
Website: hifi-freaks.no

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Price 6500 £

The French speakers look good in white, and are not too large to be placed in a bookshelf, but you should perhaps be careful doing that. Let’s get back to it soon. But first: The speakers have everything one needs built-in. Audio inputs for both analogue and digital audio sources, such as the optical input you can use for the TV sound. They also have turntable input, plug and play, as we say, and obviously wireless via Bluetooth.
The speakers connect with an accompanying speaker cable, and can stand on a shelf, on the bookshelf, or on a pair of stands. Everything can be controlled with the provided remote control, which isn’t exactly overflowing with quality, but it works.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Sound
Triangle Elara is a lively speaker with generous amounts of bass, which at times can be overwhelming. Fortunately, youcan adjust the bass and treble and adjust the balance of the sound to the location in the room. This is an advantage, because if you put them against the wall, or in the bookshelf, the bass must be reduced so as not to become bothersome. It then also overshadows midrange and treble, which is quickly drowned in bass. But when the adjustments are done, the balance is good. They may sound somewhat eager in the treble when playing loudly, but they sound clear and open, with a great rendition of vocals and string instruments. They managed very well on the classic track, the choir comes through in the soundscape, and there is plenty of bass here.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Conclusion
Triangle Elara delivers a larger soundscape than most in its field, and sounds compelling when playing classical music. Just make sure not to play too loudly, as the bass may grate. On the Eminem track, the bass punches well, which is relatively well defined, but not particularly deep. The sound balance leans towards warm and there is some emphasis in the midrange. But there’s not much else to say.
They are easy to set up, easy to use, sounds both balanced and vivid, and are equipped with enough inputs to cover the needs of most people.

Klipsch R-14PM

Small powder keg

It does not depend on the size: These dynamic toddlers from Klipsch knockout in the biggest challenges!

Our verdict

The Klipsch speakers create a massive, wonderful and detailed soundscape
Cheap cabinet finish. If you want proper deep bass, you need to pair it with a separate subwoofer.
Type: Wireless stereo speaker 2 x 40 W
Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP aptX
Connections: optical digital, stereo line-in (L/R RCA), turntable (MM), PC USB
Effect: 2 x 35 W
Dimensions/Weight: 14.9 x 24.8 x 19.1 cm / 3.2 kg
Colours: Black vinyl
Other: Subwoofer output, Remote control
Website: mono.no

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Price 4795 £

The small R-14PM are among the smallest models from the Americans, and the fondness for HORN applies as much to these as to other Klipsch speakers. R-14PM uses the patented Tractrix horn together with a 4” bass/midrange, in a tiny bass-reflex enclosure.
Instead of imitation wood, Klipsch opts for a slightly sad and “cheap” vinyl finish on the “cheap” Reference series. All the connections are made in one speaker, while a supplied speaker cable is stretched over to the other. With its own remote control and good connectivity, the R-14PM is excellent as a complete sound system.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Sound quality
They swear by horn-loaded speakers at Klipsch, partly because it increases the efficiency and ability to play loud, clean and clear. And it works, it truly does!
Mathias Eicks’s lovely trumpet rings freshly into the room. And the test panel actually gets a little teary eyed once we play Mercedes Sosa’s emotional Kyrie. The small Klipsch speakers create a massive soundscape and manage to render Mercedes’ broad voice range without adding any “brakes” in the dynamics.
The Eminem classic Without Me, R-14PM shows that they can play loud and clear with no signs of stress. Eminem’s quick and confident lines are hard-hitting just as they should be. The synth bass may seem a little slim at times, but this has a natural explanation.
A small, compact speaker with a 4-inch subwoofer has its physical limits within the bass area. But to our ears, Klipsch has prioritised quite correctly. Instead of “cheating” with the sound y adding excessive bass at low volume, they have made a speaker with the correct sound balance. The R-14PM is also excellent together with an active subwoofer, not least thanks to its own volume controlled sub-output in the back. You get the best combination of them all, since none of the other test participants can match Klipsch’s dynamic qualities in treble and midrange.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Conclusion
The Reference series from Klipsch is one of our favourites among passive speakers, known for its resilient and energetic style of play. And the active version does not bring shame on its roots: Here there is plenty of pep and speed in the midrange and treble, and good cohesion in the sound picture. The bass may seem a bit slim, but those who mount the speakers close to the wall or in a bookshelf will experience a nice bass response. Klipsch R-14PM gave the best sound of the test!

SA saxo 3 active

Sounds fine, but...

SA has fine-tuned its Saxo series, and Saxo 3 Active has received a turntable input.

Our verdict

The bass is surprisingly rich and warm, and the speakers never sound sharp or brash.
Sounds more cautious and laid back than what we are accustomed to from SA, which normally makes very energetic and dynamic speakers.
Type: Two-way active bookshelf 2 x 50 W
Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP aptX AAC
Connections: Aux RCA, Phono (MM), 2 optical
Sensitivity: N/A
Frequency response: 55 Hz – 25 kHz (+/- 3 dB)
Dimensions/weight: 14 x 28 x 21 cm / 7.5 kg
Colours: Matte black or white
Other: Subwoofer output, Adaptive Bass, remote control
Website: swsg.no

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Price 5995 £

SA, or System Audio as we also know, are known for their slim but energetic speakers. The most affordable Saxo series has once again impressed us, with its sparkling dynamics and high fun factor, combined with excellent hi-fi qualities.
Saxo 3 Active succeeds Saxo 1 Active. Upgrades include the so-called adaptive bass feature, which – when activated – adapts the bass to how loud one plays. In practice, it provides fuller sound at low sound levels. In addition, the turntable input is finally in place.
The Bluetooth connection supports better audio with aptX (Android) and AAC (iOS), and if you enable the Autosense feature, the speakers can detect when your phone is in the room, and automatically connect with Bluetooth.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Sound
While the Klipsch R-14PM sounds very energetic, but with a somewhat slim bass, the SA Saxo 3 Active is almost the other way around. It has a very full bass rendition, which gives bass instruments a larger foundation and also adds more depth to the sound. Eminem’s rap classic Without Me sounds as if the bass drum has increased in size, and whereas the vocal tends to have a slightly nasal sound with the Klipsch, it is more restrained with SA.
There is a round, fine sound in the piano in the Jazz song What’s New by Mathias Eick and Elvira Nikolaisen. There is no criticism to be made about the amplitude of the bass. Thus, the adaptive bass rendering is redundant, as there is more than enough fullness in the bass already – even at low volume.
Where it is somewhat lacking is in the upper part of the frequency range. The trumpet sounds a little dark, and Elvira Nikolaisen’s voice is not quite open enough. There’s more focus down in the chest-voice area, and the keystrokes in the piano are not snappy enough.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Conclusion
SA Saxo 3 Active sounds large and lush, with good fullness in the bass. It sounds fine and well-controlled. What we miss is more aggression from the midrange and above. It tends toward being a little cautious; moreover, there is a little too much focus in the bass area compared to the midrange. If one places the speakers in a bookcase, there is even more bass, so these will thrive best on stands.
The speakers do what is expected of a wireless speaker in that price range, but it takes a little more to really grab us. We are looking forward to testing its big brother Saxo 7 Active!

Ruark MR1 Mk2

Slender charmer

The Ruark speakers are both small and versatile, but will come to the most important things shortly.

Our verdict

Sleek design and trustworthy quality with good user-friendliness, relatively rich and warm sound considering size.
No USB or turntable input, some grey sound and anaemic dynamics with limited ability to engage.
Type: Bi-directional active bookcase 2 x 20 W
Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP aptX
Connections: Aux Analog, optical, sub output
Sensitivity/ohm: 88 dB/4 ohm
Frequency response: 42 Hz – 30 kHz ± 3 dB
Dimensions/Weight: 17 x 13 x 13.5 cm / 3.5 kg
Colours: Walnut-veneer or matte light grey
Other: Subwoofer output, Remote control
Website: mono.no

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Price 4995 £

They look better than most speakers in this class. With the slightly rounded sides of the cabinet, the details of the light metal, the elaborate fabric facade, the control dial at the top, and the possibility for proper wood veneer, the Ruark speakers are almost in a class of their own for wireless speakers in stereo. They can even be used with a battery pack, if one needs them to be portable. Because they are small enough for that. They are actually so small that they can easily fit virtually anywhere.
The speakers are also incredibly easy to use. The accompanying remote control is nothing to brag about, but with Bluetooth and a rotate-and-click dial at the top, nothing stands in the way of using the Ruark speakers, even for those with fumble-fingers. They have an analog and an optical audio input, so you are ensured good TV sound, and output for the subwoofer. But no turntable input.

(Photo: Manufacturer)

Sound
As one can see, they are not large, and are therefore suitable on the desk, on the windowsill as well as on the bookshelf. Taking size into consideration, the sound is full and nice. There is naturally not much of either bass or dynamism here, and they don’t play very loudly. Unfortunately, the sound does not particularly enchant us. The midrange is grey and lifeless, and on the classical track the choir simply sounds mushy. The music loses a bit of both the foundation and the sound depth when one switches from e.g. the small System Audio Saxo 5 Active to these, which cost the same.
But everything is relative and if one sits close enough, the sound from the Ruark MR1 Mk2 is better defined. Unfortunately, they are unable to fill the living room properly. The Eminem track sounds anaemic, and the woofer struggles to release enough of the bass in the recording to allow us to be convinced.
Conclusion
The small Ruark speakers sound good enough, but are obviously best suited in smaller rooms and sound better when you have them in front of you on a desk. The physical constraints are noticeable in the bass and the volume. They play neither very loudly nor in a tough manner.
As an additional speaker pair they are nice enough, especially if one doesn’t have much room, but it’s not hard to find better sound for the same price. If you can live with slightly larger speakers.

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