Sond Audio 50w Bluetooth 2.1 Channel SpeakerPlatforms: Android
It always seems to be the case that an as-of-yet unheard of brand of audio equipment can go one of two ways; either it’s spectacularly pants or it’s so high-end it’s locked behind walls of fashionable exclusivity. Interestingly, Sond Audio fit into neither category.
The EMBW-13Y31 speaker is a hefty beast - larger than most one-piece bluetooth speaker systems. We haven’t tried anything from Sond Audio before, but word has it that the build quality on some of their previous systems hasn’t been amazing. Luckily, this unit immediately feels great - heavy, tactile and sturdily constructed. The curved design is striking - while it might not sit subtly in front of your TV (at 500mm wide), it sure as hell won’t look bad wherever it does end up.
In fact, it errs so far towards the large size that it almost feels too cumbersome for something like music streaming, a facility for which it is evidently geared towards. However, this is where the easy-to-use Bluetooth and NFC connectivity reap rewards. Despite coming with a basic manual detailing the connection process, we found it intuitive to set up. Simply turning on the system will allow it to appear as a Bluetooth device - one simple button press and the speaker is paired. With a 10m range, it will accommodate standard use in most homes and comes with a few nifty tricks as part of the package.
First of these is the less-than-passive connectivity, made convenient with a small and admittedly cheap feeling remote. While it looks fine - curved and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand - it doesn’t reach the sturdiness of the speaker itself, constructed as it is from plastic that has plenty of give to it. The buttons are also small and comparatively fiddly - a world away from the soft-touch button strip on top of the base unit.
However, the remote allows you to do all the standard functions (turn the device on, change modes) as well as skip tracks and even reject calls, given this will likely be connected to a phone. The silver ring on the centre of the remote also controls volume, but doesn’t look nearly as sleek as it sounds.
The main system thankfully makes up for this with the symmetrical design (there’s a subwoofer outlet at the back with a pair filled in to its right) and monolithic speaker grill at the front. One slight detraction was the Sond Audio sticker on the front - the decal had peeled off during transit and refused to remain stuck on. It’s a minor detail, but anyone with a penchant for labels might find the front panel rather empty without it, not to mention that it shouldn’t really have detached anyway.
The ‘pilot light’, a colour-changing LED below the speaker, is a rather swish detail. Red means off, green means bluetooth connection and green/blue indicates a direct USB input. It serves as a subtle but straightforward visual cue. Speaking of inputs, the aforementioned USB input allows a USB device - loaded with mp3s and wav files only - to play directly from a memory stick or such. It can also be used to charge devices, although pesky Apple restrictions means it doesn’t work with that brand of device. A typical 3.5mm audio jack (and included 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable) allows for direct playback from most audio devices; this will also be the best input for any use as a TV speaker. A longer cable would be recommended - the one included is far too short for anything but portable devices, secreted behind the speaker.
In terms of audio quality, the EMBW-13Y31 packs a punch with two 10w speakers and a 30w subwoofer. Music and movie functions change the dispersal of the sound - the movie setting has a greater cone of sound, helping accentuate the separation between the channels. While the bass is more than competent, it can overwhelm the higher frequencies a little, especially as they can come across as a little unclear at times. However, this is a minor quibble. For the price, the sound quality is some of the best you can encounter - it’s rich, room-filling and yet intimate. We tested with everything from bombastic film scores through gentle guitar-lead American folk by way of Solar Fields’ all-encompassing ambient electronica. All sounded fantastic - although there was minor distortion when we pushed it to high volume levels. Unless you plan on being evicted, you won’t have a problem.
As a package, Sond Audio have created a good-looking, effortlessly competent system that would sit proudly in any modern household. It’s by no means top end but neither does it come with a boutique price-tag. For shy under £100 currently at Ebuyer, you get a well-rounded set-up that is convenient, easy to use and has the build quality to last. If you’re looking for something to give your music that bit more oomph, or a basic 2.1 home theater setup that’s easy to connect you’d not go wrong in getting this.