Bluetooth speakers come and go here at Techaeris and we’ve had our fair share of ones we really loved. So when we were given the opportunity at CES2017 to check out a new Bluetooth speaker that offered something “different.” We jumped at the chance and walked away nothing short of impressed. The aiFi Ai-1 speakers are truly something unique that we haven’t seen or heard before and if we had seen these before our Best of CES 2017 pick deadline, we would have included them on that list. For now, the aiFi Ai-1 speakers will have to enjoy a 2017 Techaeris Top Pick award. So read on for our full review of the aiFi Ai-1 speakers and find out why they’re one of our Top Picks!
The aiFi speakers have the following features and specifications:
- Aluminum and Värmland steel construction
- 15W 48mm long throw custom-made drivers
- Rechargeable Li-ion battery
- Magnetic power supply
- Pro grade analog Line-In and combined S/PDIF optical input up to 96kHz/24bit
- apt-X enabled
- Auto-sensing 96-240V/12V 3.0A power adapter
- Dual Kensington lock slots
What’s In The Box
- aiFi Ai-1 speaker
- Power supply
- Carrying pouch
- 2 aiFi coins
The looks and design of the aiFi Ai-1 Bluetooth speaker is very pleasing to the eye with nice subtle curves and premium materials. The entire chassis is made from high-quality aluminum and the front grill is made from Värmland steel. The speaker is small but has a very solid weight to it and the entire build quality is just top notch. On either side of the speaker, you have the aiFi coin resting spot, which is used to align your speakers in the sideways position. Around the back, you’ll find the combined 3.5mm AUX/Optical S/PDIF jack and the dual Kensington locks. The back also houses all of your controls, which are touch and not buttons, in case you keep pushing and wondering why you get no tactile feedback (like I did).
The addition of mood lighting is a nice touch as well, you can program the lighting in the app or from the button on the back. There’s a wide variety of colors to choose from and you can dim the lights or turn them off altogether, in case you’re not the flashy type. Overall the design is very appealing, it’s not gaudy or overdone, it’s subtle and tasteful with a hint of flair.
Ease of Use
Setting up these speakers via Bluetooth is just as simple as any other speaker so that shouldn’t be a problem for most. Once you are connected to one or more speakers you can start using them to your heart’s content. We could stop there, and most other speakers would just stop there, but the aiFi A-1 speakers have a few more tricks up their sleeve. These speakers are stackable and the sound they produce is scalable so this provides a few different ways you can use these bad boys.
Of course, you can connect to one speaker and just use it as one speaker for one device, but sometimes you need two or more speakers depending on the situation and aiFi allows you to be flexible. If you have another aiFi speaker you can easily turn it on and stack it on top of the first speaker or on the side of the first speaker and the two will automatically pair and create one speaker together. The beauty of this is that the sound is scalable, meaning you get more sound output with two or more speakers but the volume still remains the same.
For example, if you have one speaker with a volume output of 2 and you add two more speakers, the volume output remains at 2 but the sound grows in depth when adding those additional speakers. aiFi uses what they call “WaveDot Communications Technology” which distributes the sound across however many speakers you stack. Working together, the aiFi speakers calculate and decide how to best shape the optimal soundscape for your environment.
The aiFi A-1 speakers also come with an app which you can use to control the speakers remotely but you don’t need it as the controls are also on the back. The buttons are, top to bottom, volume, source select/Bluetooth and Light control. Volume is controlled by swiping up or down across all three buttons, it’s like a touchpad on the back and works very well.
If I had a major gripe for ease of use with these speakers it’s the proprietary magnetic charging cable. It reminds me of a chunky Apple MagSafe power cable and I love the idea of having that breakaway functionality but I found the power cable can too easily be popped off due to the way the power cable sits. The good news and bad news is, you can use aiFi’s power link short cords to daisy chain your speakers together through one power supply. Why is that bad news? Well, those do not come in the box but will need to be purchased separately.
This is what matters at the end of the day. One aiFi speaker really does sound amazing on its own and is perfect for a small room or personal use. Stack another one in there and you have some seriously good sound to enjoy with the family. Adding a third aiFi Ai-1 speaker essentially makes the whole thing into a soundbar that rivals many other soundbars I’ve used in the past. Stacking three units together basically gives you that center, left and right channel which is perfect for movie consumption and media along those lines.
But that’s not the end of the sound or stackability options. From what aiFi representatives told us at CES 2017, you could conceivably stack these speakers endlessly and build a wall of sound. At the CES 2017 demo the company had a small wall of speakers stacked for us to listen to and the sound was absolutely mind blowing. Overall the sound is super-premium and stands its ground against other well known high-end brands.
aiFi says you should be able to get 8-hours of battery life on one speaker and I found that to be a good estimate. I got just over 8-hours at about 50% volume, your results will vary depending on volume and the Bluetooth connection to the device.
These speakers are probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea with the $299.00USD price tag and that’s perfectly fine, but a high price doesn’t mean there’s no value here. These things sound great and when you stack them in groups of three you really unlock their true sound potential. There are surround sound systems on the market that can run well over $1000USD and are not portable. With these, you can literally use three to replace your sound system and then take them on the go wherever you want to take them. You can pair each speaker to a different device and they can be used separately and then returned to their soundbar configuration for your living room surround. While I do think aiFi could have included the power link cord in the box, the price and value for these Bluetooth speakers are really great.
The aiFi Ai-1 speakers are really unique with their adaptive and scalable sound stacking system and you really see the potential if you buy three or more of these. Yes, they’re pricey but so are other high-end audio products that don’t deliver some of the unique features of the Ai-1. I used the 3 review units together to act as a soundbar and was more than pleased with their performance and potential to be used as a replacement for your huge surround system.