Bookshelf/desktop active speaker. Bluetooth. From this century. Not just this century, but this decade.
If you have read any of my Exit To Vintage Street columns, you’ll know this is not my jam. If I could live in my mid-century, basement listening room 24/7, surrounded by wood panelling and shag carpet, with sound emanating from pre-1980, full-sized audio components I’d be a happy man.
Sadly, there are bills to pay and records to be purchased, and not much work would get done down there. So Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 4:30, I retreat to my home office upstairs. A converted spare bedroom with no room for a full-sized audio system, but still a desire to have something playing in the background. What to do?
Enter the Edifier R1700BTs.
Edifier makes a variety of audio output devices, including headphones and speakers. Speakers range from small desktop computer speakers at $30/pair to the flagship $2,100 Airpulse A300PRO (with horn-loaded ribbon tweeter, cherry wood finish, and more inputs than you can shake a stick at).
What’s in the Box?
The $180 R1700BTs active speakers sit somewhere near the middle of Edifier’s bookshelf speaker line-up. Small for a bookshelf and big for a desktop, they stand 10 inches tall, 6 inches wide and just under 8 inches deep.
The front-ported cabinets feature a 3/4-inch soft dome tweeter and 4-inch woofer, an internal amplifier that output 15 watts per channel, with 52Hz to 20kHz frequency response.
The cabinets are made from MDF wood with a walnut-vinyl finish (designed to prevent resonance) and feature removable grille covers.
Sound controls, inputs and outputs are found on the right speaker. Dials on the side panel allow bass, treble, and volume adjustment; pressing the volume dial toggles between inputs. The controls are recessed into the speaker body, and are hidden when viewing from the front and won’t snag on anything by accident.
Input is via RCA (two Line-In inputs on the back of the speaker) or Bluetooth V5.0. Connection to the passive left speaker is via a supplied 4-pin speaker cable. There’s also a sub-out (via 3.5mm jack) that automatically detects a subwoofer and activates the digital crossover.
Finally, a wireless remote allows for volume adjustment, mute/unmute, input switch, and soundfield extension control. The soundfield extension (or “Soundfield Spatializer”) simulates a larger soundstage, creating a more spacious sound by optimizing each channel, sending out opposite signals to eliminate mutual interference and improve separation.
I’ve used the Edifier R1700BT speakers in a variety of settings in the 6 months I’ve had them; as TV speakers (instead of a soundbar), as travel speakers on weekend getaways, and in my home office. I’ve also tried them briefly in my living room and basement music area in place of my regular, full-sized systems.
While fine for low level background music in a larger room, there is a lack of bass, fullness, and room-filling energy; sound is rather thin and directional, and my experiments in such spaces were of only limited duration. The “spatializer” setting improves body and dynamics a bit, but not enough to be truly satisfying.
As TV speakers replacing the built-in sound output on our 55-inch Sharp, they did a fine job, adding depth and dynamics to the viewing experience. We’re not big home theatre buffs (no surround system here), but the R1700BTs gave satisfactory two-channel sound improvements, and I can imagine adding a sub to the mix would be even more impressive.
As travel speakers, they’re excellent. I’ve kept the original box and inserts, and packing and set-up of the two speakers, speaker connection cable, power cable and remote control takes just minutes on either end of the car ride. Bluetooth connection is solid, and in no time we can have music running from a phone or laptop. Sound quality is dependent on room size, but hotel stays don’t see me doing a lot of focused listening (and to be honest, we’re not staying in cavernous suites when we head to the mountains for a few nights).
Where the R1700BTs powered speakers really shine is in a small space like a home office in a near field setup. The front surface of each speaker is sloped backwards and drivers are slightly up-facing, which is perfect for placement on a desk near the listener on either side of a monitor.
My home office desk is on the small side, with multiple monitors and a laptop stand taking up most useable space, so I have the speakers on a tall boy to the right of my desk, about 5 feet away from me as I work. This is not ideal as the speakers are above where I’m sitting, and I miss out on the stereo effect, but sound quality is still very satisfactory.
If I had to gripe about the R1700BTs, it would be about the lack of USB input (my preference would be to connect my laptop that way rather than Bluetooth), and a very long cable to connect the left and right speakers (it would be nice to include a short cable as well for desktop/near-field use).
I listen to a lot of subdued, instrumental classical chamber music and small-group jazz while I work. Highs and midrange are delivered with nice clarity and definition; the soft-dome tweeter does a really nice job delivering glassy, bright piano, plucky, twangy guitar, shimmery high hats and snares, and textured brass and strings.
I wouldn’t call bass abundant, but it’s not totally lacking either, particularly when the speakers are placed within a few inches of a wall. The lower midrange and upper bass are satisfying but can get a bit muddy if there’s a lot going on, and there’s no sub-bass to speak of, though that’s not surprising with just a 4-inch woofer. Those into gaming (or small-room dance parties) can make use of the sub-out capabilities to solve that problem.
The Edifier R1700BTs are versatile little speakers that shine in small spaces. The overall sound quality is more than acceptable for an office, near-field gaming or TV setup, with or without a sub. They’re easy to pack and install, and don’t take up too much space making them a great solution for a road-trip hotel sound system together with phone or laptop (via Bluetooth) or other audio source (via line in).
- Sound quality is good in small spaces, especially with “spacializer” engaged.
- Look better and feel more substantial than traditional “computer speakers.”
- Multiple inputs for versatility, and ability to add a sub.
- Bit lacking in bass, and sound thin in large spaces.
- No USB input (Bluetooth only for PC use).
- Speaker connector cable is too long.
Where to buy: $179.99 at Amazon | edifier-online.com