Fluance Fi30 Bluetooth speaker review: Best sound for your Bluetooth buck

This new wireless model also has virtually no buttons (just an on/off switch and Bluetooth reset button on the back). There's no pause/play, mute, or transport controls. You'll have to control everything through your mobile device, which is fine, but I just thought I'd point out that the speaker is pretty no-frills. However, it does offer AptX streaming for devices that support the feature (Samsung's newest Galaxy models, for instance). AptX is supposed to make Bluetooth audio sound better, but the difference -- if you can hear it -- is relatively small.

One noteworthy touch worth highlighting is the hardwired AC power cord. Most powered speakers come with an external, wall-wart power supply, but Fi30 power supply is in the unit, and it has a simple power cord that terminates in a two-prong plug.

In terms of connectivity, you get an audio input -- a cable is included -- for connecting non-Bluetooth devices (this could potentially be used as a speaker for your TV, but it's obviously not slim like your typical sound bar). And there's a USB port for charging smartphones and tablets. That USB connector is the only item that really qualifies as a bonus feature -- and yes, it boasts a 2.1-amp output, so it will charge iPads and tablets quickly, not via the slow trickle charge of lesser-powered USB ports. It's good to have, particularly on a speaker like this that will most likely sit in a room and not move around too much (you can move it from room-to-room easily enough, but it's not nearly as mobile as the huge number of tiny portable Bluetooth speakers on the market).

The speaker can remember up to eight devices once you've paired with them, and I had no trouble switching between an iPhone 5S and a Samsung Galaxy S4, which I used for testing the AptX capabilities with a set of lossless tracks. (Note: I didn't feel AptX made a significant difference).

I preferred the speaker in white, but later in the year it will come in a bamboo version as well for the same price. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
When talking about Bluetooth speakers, particularly smaller ones, I may praise the product for its sound quality, but I typically couch that praise in a disclaimer that the speaker does have its limitations and critical listeners won't be all that impressed. The Fi30 also has its limitations (you can't expect the world from a $150 speaker), but it's definitely a more capable speaker that offers richer sound than the vast majority of Bluetooth speakers in this price class. (I haven't tested them all, so I can't say that it sounds better than everything out there.)

The nice thing about the Fi30 is that it sounds like a "real" speaker. True, because the drivers are so close together, if you listen from a distance of more than 3 to 6 feet away, you won't get much stereo effect. However, as with the FiSDK500, listening close up, the stereo imaging is surprisingly good. There's a nice sense of spatial depth, and image focus is pretty good.

The speaker may not have as much volume and overall punch as the FiSDK500, but it plays pretty loudly and offers a similar sound profile, with bass that's strong but never overdone (it helps to place the speaker near a wall to get some reflection and improve bass response).

There's a little treble push, but unlike a lot of these Bluetooth speakers that have a harsh edge to them, particularly at higher volumes, but the Fi30 plays clean and is nicely detailed with a fairly warm vibe, particularly in the midrange where speaker is arguably at its strongest. It can fill small- to medium-size rooms with sound, but doesn't quite cut it for a larger room (it would be fine for background music, just don't expect room-filling sound).

It doesn't have the bass and treble controls that the FiSDK500 has (you'll have to tweak those through your mobile device), but Fluance appears to have gone the route of Bose, offering simplified playback with fixed settings on the speaker that optimizes the sound output so you get little or no distortion, even at higher volumes.

Conclusion
The Fluance Fi30's design -- large but minimalist -- isn't for everyone, particularly if you're looking for a smaller wireless speaker that's truly portable and has a battery-powered option. But for those in search of the best sound for their Bluetooth buck, the Fi30 is hard to beat at only $149.99.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy See all prices

Fluance Fi30 High Performance Bluetooth Wood Speaker System (white)

Part Number: Fi30w Released: Mar 26, 2014
MSRP: $149.99 Low Price: $149.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar 26, 2014
  • Wireless Technology Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
    Bluetooth
  • Connectivity Technology Bluetooth
    Wireless
  • Speaker Type AirPlay/Bluetooth