Offering a range of features within a meaty and weighty cabinet, Paul Rigby powers up
Powered speakers? I haven’t found too many gems out there to be honest. Some of you will be familiar with my review of the very nice Triangle Elaras, then there were the Kanto YU4s, which had their hits and misses, the disappointing Airpulse A80 speakers finally the equally disappointing Mitchell Ustream Ones.
Every time I touch on powered speakers though, someone out there will mention Edifier. And if you look around Amazon, Edifier is all over that retailer. Yet, Edifier is a powered speaker outfit I’ve yet to tackle and because I always take note of my dearest readers, I dutifully had a chat with said Edifier.
Thing is, Edifier told me that they had a pair of their new S1000W powered stand-mount speakers to hand and would I fancy reviewing those? I did and so I am.
THE SPEAKERS – INSIDE & OUT
So what do we have here? The S1000W speakers are the wireless version of the standard S1000 Mk.IIs and offer a master-slave powered pair connected together with a cable terminated by DIN plugs and run by an included a rather stylish remote control or app downloaded from the usual app stores for iOS and Android.
The speakers themselves sit at a sloped angle to the listener no doubt to help the timing of the drivers to hit the human ear at just the right moment. Supporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v5.0 that reportedly supports up to aptX but no aptX HD or LDAC I’m afraid, the S1000W speakers also supports Apple AirPlay 2, voice control services from Apple and Amazon plus Internet Services such as Spotify and TIDAL Connect at up to 24bit/192kHz.
Driven by a 120W, Class D amplifier with a Texas Instruments DSP within, the front of the speakers offer a 140mm (5.5”) mid-bass unit and a 25mm (1”) titanium dome tweeter above. Also at the front is a remote sensor and a multi-coloured light feedback that tells you what source you’re using.
The only slight downside with this feedback light is that, for example, optical and coax both shine red while the two available RCA port pairings are both coloured green. To differentiate, the S1000Ws briefly flashes those coloured lights. So when you select optical, the red light flashes red once and the coax flashed red twice. Even so, during the hurly burly of daily use, it is possible to miss the brief flashing and then wonder what you’ve just selected. I would have preferred a more obviously labelled connection response.
On the rear of the speakers are bass reflex ports but on the master speaker are three other impressive chunky knobs: volume plus treble and bass tone controls. There are two pairs of RCAs – awelcome move if you want to hook up a turntable and a CD player together, for example. You also get optical and coax.
SANS PHONO AMP
I have heard complaints around the Internet that there’s no built-in phono amp for turntable use but I’m in favour of its exclusion. Sound quality will be much improved using an external phono amplifier. If you’re bothering to play vinyl in the first place then give the format some respect. If you do, it will reward you in spades.
That is, if I’m spending £400 on a pair of powered speakers then I don’t want that sound quality compromised in any way. There are cheaper powered speaker alternatives with a phono amplifier built in, if sound is not that important. The Kantos I mentioned above being on one of those.
Spanning 198 x 345 x 295mm or around 8 x 14 x 12in…ish, I was most surprised by the sheer weight of these speakers. I’m talking about just under 17kg all in, that’s around 36 pounds. For their size, these are heavy speakers. No doubt the wooden flanks to the cabinets help on that score.
The front of the speakers have floating grill which I removed during the review. The grills are relatively tough to remove though, those grill plugs are a tight fit.
Oh and two items that are oft ignored on powered speakers? I would have liked to have seen an IEC-terminated power cable to give you the option to upgrade from the basic, cheap as chips black lead instead of the figure-of-eight model used here. And yes upgrading the power cable does make a difference.
On the other hand, I quite like the feet underneath each speaker which slightly elevates the cabinet and provides a measure of isolation. Nice one, Edifier.
So, now we’ve got to the ‘bottom’ of these speakers in feature terms (yes Madam, this is comedy gold), how do they sound?
I started with my ageing Astell&Kern AK120 DAP, connected via optical and played Bob Marley’s Is This Love at 24bit/96kHz.
Vs KANTO YU4
The YU4s are priced around £100 less than the S1000Ws and have long been seen as a good balance in terms of performance and price in powered speaker terms. Is it worth upgrading to the S1000W speakers or buying the latter from the off if your looking for your first powered pair?
The problem with the YU4s, even at £300, is that they live in the midrange. Bass is fair. Upper mids are fair. Treble is…ok. The midrange is impressive. For the price? That’s fine and dandy.
Not so for the more expensive the S1000W speakers which enjoy a far wider dynamic range. Treble on the S1000Ws no longer fizzes like the YU4s, there’s a real delicacy from the S1000W treble. Upper mids from the Edifiers have an impressive dynamic reach and bass? I was most impressed by the bass which was deep, almost growling and very solid. Yes, the Edifiers are more expensive than the Kantos but really, in bass terms alone, the S1000Ws blow away and pulverise the YU4s. They turn the YU4s into a speaker smoothie.
Actually, in all areas of the sonic spectrum, the S1000Ws are superior.
VS XTZ TUNE 4
No-one talks about these powered speakers from the Swedish outfit, that also feature a sloped front. They are favourites of mine. They represent some of the most cultured powered designs I’ve heard for a long time. Hence, this similarly-priced pairing offers a real test.
The Tune 4s offer great midrange focus and precision, more so than the S1000Ws, with a 3D effect around the stereo image and excellent bass but the S1000Ws provide more impressive bass, a larger and wider soundstage, slightly better treble and more connectivity features. So even my beloved Tune 4s had to fight for their lives to stay in the game here.
BLUEOOTH & Wi-Fi
Bluetooth was a little odd on via my Astell&Kern Kann Alpha because I couldn’t connect to the reported supported aptX codec, only AAC. AAC did sound decent via the Edifiers, considering the basic codec quality. I’m not blaming Edifier for this. It might have been a ‘me’ thing.
The entire point of the S1000W is the built-in Wi-Fi feature. I downloaded the Edifier Home app, connected it to my home network and updated the firmware before testing. I was impressed with the vocal prompts throughout this process.
I then played Panda Bear & Sonic Boom’s 60s retro track, Go On via YouTube Music and was impressed by the lively, open soundstage from the track. Sure, there was a solid state hardening around the midrange but this is down to the music service. The Edifier made the best of the data it received.
Changing to Amazon Music I played Survivor’s Eye of The Tiger which – for some odd reason – gave me the urge to run up and down the stairs of my house punching the air as I went. Most odd.
Once that was out of my system, I was more impressed with this service as a delivery system as it was more neutral than I expected.
The drums, from the Edifiers, sitting on the stereo image, were large and powerful with big splashy cymbals drowning the central stereo image in a glorious fashion. The reverb from drum hits emphasised the space around the midrange while the lead vocal was impressively focused in its delivery.
Turning to the RCA inputs, I grabbed my Rega RP3 turntable, I plugged that into a Pro-Ject Phono Box and plugged that into the S1000W speakers.
I tried a spot of harmony, playing The King Singer’s Song And Dance Man plus Pantomime from the 1975 Keep Changing album from EMI.
Via the RP3, there wasn’t quite the same extended upper midrange that you may hear from a separates system. Let’s not forget that a powered set up is a compromise after all.
Even so, for a powered set up, I was very impressed. The overall sound was as balanced as I’ve heard from a powered set up at this price point which, in itself, is a sign that Edifier has got the design right. Bass set itself up as a solid anchor, a foundation for the midrange and treble which provided enough detail and information to delight the ear.
Sometimes you go into a review with a general idea of what the sound might be. You pick up a few clues from the specs and the product itself even before you turn it on.
The Edifier S1000W power speakers were an exception. I didn’t expect to hear the generally balanced and neutral delivery with enough dynamic reach around the upper mids and fragility in the treble to give you the information you need partnered with some seriously impressive bass.
It’s early days yet but look, for me at any rate, the S1000W powered speakers may very well be the surprise package of 2023.
EDIFIER S1000W POWERED SPEAKERS
GOOD: meaty bass, dynamic reach, fine treble performance, feature set
BAD: Bluetooth codec niggles, connection responses