Fluance Fi50 review: A premium-sounding Bluetooth speaker for an affordable price

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MSRP: $199.99

The Good The affordable Fluance Fi50 delivers high-quality sound from a retro-styled Bluetooth speaker which is solidly built with a medium-density fiberboard cabinet and a two-way driver design with a tweeter mounted in the center of a 5-inch woofer. Equipped with a 40-watt amplifier, it plays loudly without distorting, has an integrated LED and touch controls, as well as a USB port for charging smartphones and tablets.

The Bad No battery-powered option; no speakerphone capabilities.

The Bottom Line While it may not be a truly portable wireless speaker, the beefy Flaunce Fi50 delivers excellent sound quality for $200.

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8.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 9
  • Value 9

"Fluance" isn't exactly a household name, but the online direct-to-consumer Canadian company has been a recent favorite of audio aficionados for serving up excellent performing speakers for modest prices. The Fi50 ($200) is the company's second wireless Bluetooth speaker and like its predecessor, the Fi30 ($150), it's one of the best sounding wireless speakers you can buy for the money with one caveat: it has to be plugged into a power outlet and doesn't run off an internal rechargeable battery. Call it a "luggable" more than a portable.

It looks similar to the Fi30, features the same medium-density fiberboard cabinet and comes in three different color options. But it's significantly bigger and heftier than the Fi30, weighing in at 13.4 pounds or 6.1 kg (the Fi30 weighs 8.3 pounds or 3.8 kg) and it doesn't have a handle, so it's a little cumbersome to move around from room to room.

The Fi50 adds an LED display, has a more powerful 40W amplifier, and improved drivers and tweeters. Sarah Tew/CNET

This new model adds an LED display (the no-frills Fi30 had nothing), has a much larger, 40-watt amplifier, better drivers and tweeters and an equalizer that lets you adjust treble and bass via the touch controls on top of the speaker. Those touch controls also include volume up/down buttons but no pause/play button.

That LED display can be dimmed or even completely turned off so it doesn't bother you when you sleep. I like the look of the speaker, though its somewhat retro design may not appeal to everyone. The black ash version Fluance sent me to review wouldn't be my first color choice; I'd probably go for the white version with bamboo (there's also a black option with walnut trim).

The speaker does have to be plugged in; there's no battery option. Sarah Tew/CNET

On the back of the speaker you'll find an audio input for connecting non-Bluetooth devices, a USB input for charging smartphones and tablets, and a physical power switch. Although I was only mildly annoyed that I had to reach around to the back of the speaker to turn it on and off, others may find it more of a nuisance.

I'm more of a fan of rubber feet, but Fluance does include a set of screw-in metal cleats as a style element. You can opt to go with rubber pads instead, but the spikes will work well on softer surfaces.

It's worth mentioning that the speaker uses the older Bluetooth 2.1 standard (though I had no problem connecting) and offers AptX streaming for devices that support the feature. AptX is supposed to make Bluetooth audio sound better, although it's debatable how much of an impact it has on sound quality.

The back of the speaker. Sarah Tew/CNET

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