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When I handed off Fluance's Fi30 Bluetooth speaker to our photographer, Sarah Tew, to shoot product images for the site, she looked at it and said: "Didn't I shoot this before?"
"No," I said. "You shot the one with the iPod/iPhone dock. This one's a wireless speaker."
Fluance, an online direct-to-consumer Canadian company, is known for serving up excellent performing speaker for modest prices. And that earlier iPod/iPhone speaker, the
Our photographer wasn't wrong. It looks similar to the new Fi30, featuring the same medium-density fiberboard cabinet and a high-gloss black or white finish. (In the fall, it will also come in a bamboo version, which looks like the swankiest of the bunch). But this is a smaller speaker, and has two drivers instead of four, and leaves off such extras as a remote and LCD screen on the front.
Despite those difference, the Fi30 still sounds excellent for its modest price point ($149.99), measuring up well against Bluetooth speakers that cost twice as much or even more. It doesn't have a battery-powered option, which limits its portability, but if that isn't a priority, it's a great deal at $149.99.
Design and Features
While the the Fi30 is smaller than FiSDK500, measuring 16.5 inches by 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches (420x140x140 mm) and weighing 8.3 pounds (3.8 kg), it's bigger than your average Bluetooth speaker. Sleek, the Fi30 is not, but it is distinctive, and when it comes to sound quality, size still matters.
In our review of the the FiSDK500, we noted how impressed we were that had stereo 0.6-inch (15mm) soft dome tweeters mounted in the center of 5-inch (127mm) woven fiberglass woofers. You just don't see "two-way" tweeter and woofer iPod speakers for $200, and they usually have much smaller drivers.
The Fi30 doesn't have the same speaker architecture. It has 3-inch (76mm) woven fiberglass woofers with butyl rubber surrounds and tuned rear port bass reflex design (there are no tweeters mounted in the middle of the woofers). The integrated amp also has less power -- it's rated at 6 watts per channel rather than 10 watts.
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.