Peachtree Audio's Deepblue ($400 street) may seem like a curiously named device given IBM's famous chess-playing supercomputer, but it's a fitting moniker: this is a Bluetooth speaker that makes exceptionally deep bass.
The performance shouldn't be surprising once you look at the specs, which boast a 240-watt amplifier and a jumbo (by Bluetooth standards) 6.5-inch woofer. It all adds up to big, aggressive sound that's particularly fantastic with heavier rock tunes, delivering more low end than any other shelf system I can recall. On the flip side, that rough-and-tumble feel is all over the Deepblue; it's not a pretty-looking speaker, and the controls could certainly be better.
The Deepblue may not have that furniture-quality design (a la the Samsung DA-E750) that you'd want to feature in your living room, but if you're looking for a high-performance Bluetooth speaker that knows how to rock, it's tough to beat.
Design: Beautiful only on the inside
Given that Peachtree is known for its beautifully designed amps, the Deepblue looks shockingly generic. The black plastic cabinet feels like it belongs on a cheaper product, and the gray speaker grille doesn't do much to distinguish it, either. Next to the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 and Klipsch KMC 3, the Deepblue easily looks the least distinguished.
The top has a glossy finish and features the Deepblue's three buttons: power, volume up, and volume down. I'm all for minimalism when it comes to controls, but here the controls are a bit too pared down; Bose's SoundLink Mini is a good example of a Bluetooth speaker with just the right number of buttons.
For example, Bluetooth pairing is done, counterintuitively, by holding down the power button and waiting for the tiny blue light on the front to blink. The light is pretty much the only visual feedback you get, which can be a particular pain with bass control, where it would be really nice to know if you're at +3 or -2. Similarly, sometimes the volume level can be confusing; your smartphone may be maxed out and the Deepblue can still sound soft because the volume on the unit itself isn't cranked. You get used to its quirks, eventually.
The remote gives you more control over the Deepblue, although its basic grid of buttons isn't a great layout. Granted, you'll be using a smartphone or tablet to do the vast majority of controlling on the Deepblue, so the subpar clicker isn't that much of a drawback.
Features: Big drivers and Bluetooth
If the outside seems like an afterthought, that's because it appears that Peachtree has put all its effort on designing the Deepblue's guts. It's surprisingly heavy, coming in at just over 16 pounds. That's generally a good sign as far as sound quality goes (more on that later), but it solidifies the Deepblue as largely a one-room device. There's no handle or built-in battery that would imply portability, which makes the Deepblue seem like it's meant to be placed in one room and left there.
Behind the grille are quite a few drivers for a single-enclosure device: two 1-inch tweeters, two 3-inch midrange drivers, and the 6.5-inch woofer. It's a lot of speakerage even compared with the well-equipped Klipsch KMC 3, which sports a pair of 2-inch drivers and a 5.5-inch woofer.
Getting audio to the Deepblue is done almost entirely via Bluetooth. It can stream audio from any Bluetooth device, which includes most smartphones, tablets, and laptops these days. There's no indication that it takes advantage of the newer, better-sounding aptX codec, which is unfortunate now that more devices are starting to support it, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
Aside from Bluetooth, the only other way to get audio to the Deepblue is the analog minijack port on the back. That should be enough for your audio input needs, but it would have been nice if there were a USB port on the back for charging devices as well.
Sound quality: Rock-'n'-roll soul
Every Bluetooth speaker claims to offer incredible sound quality for its size, but for once the hype is actually right. Peachtree's Deepblue sounds much larger than its size, especially with its exceptionally deep bass. This thing can go low, sounding more like a full-range speaker than most Bluetooth systems.
I had the Deepblue set up directly next to the Klipsch KMC 3 ($400) and the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 ($400), using Bluetooth for the KMC 3 and Deepblue and AirPlay for the Z2. I started off with one of my favorite deep bass tracks, Black Sabbath's "Hand of Doom," and the Peachtree easily did the best job with Geezer Butler's menacing opening bass line, plus it played the loudest. The KMC 3 was certainly respectable, but couldn't go quite as low as the Deepblue, although it fared better as the track wore on. The Z2 had a much more midrange-y sound that wasn't objectionable, but couldn't deliver the power of the other two systems.
The Deepblue continued to shine on James Brown's "Sex Machine" record. Bootsy Collins' bass sounded fantastically booming on "Give It Up Or Turnit Loose" via the Deepblue, making the whole track pop, with neither competing system really coming close. But playing a bunch of bass-heavy tracks is kind of a softball in this lineup, so I decided to switch it up with Real Estate's jangly indie rock record "Days." This was a tougher call, with the Z2 offering up more detail on the swooshy guitars, and the KMC 3 having the most balanced sound overall. The Deepblue didn't sound bad, but I reached for the remote to bump the bass down a couple notches, as it was overwhelming on this track.
I finished up with Bill Evans' "Conversations with Myself." The Z2 focus on midrange brought out more detail again, but the Deepblue's range produced a much fuller sound overall. Listening to the length of the album did reveal the sometimes harsh quality on the Deepblue, which can get tiring in long listening sessions. That edge works great for more-aggressive tunes, but it's not a great choice if you're looking for background music.
There are, of course, limitations inherent in the tabletop speaker design. As CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg has pointed out, separate powered speakers, like Audioengine's 5+, easily trump the Deepblue when it comes to audio fidelity, plus you can pair them up with an inexpensive Bluetooth adapter for wireless functionality. If you're an audiophile and can fit dedicated speakers, they're a better value, but the Deepblue is meant for locations where space is at a premium.
Conclusion: If you like your music loud...
Peachtree Audio's Deepblue offers undeniably impressive performance from a compact speaker, although its ho-hum design will limit its appeal.