Even if you never powered up the Edifier Spinnaker stereo speakersystem, it would still leave an impression. It’s one of the more visually striking speaker systems we’ve tested, and you’ll either love or hate the unique look. Design choices aside, the Spinnaker is a wireless Bluetooth system that will make quite an impression on your ears, as well, with a hearty-but-articulate bass response and clear mids and highs. Simply put, it sounds excellent. This is a good thing, too, because there are some design missteps that have nothing to do with the way the set looks. At $349.99 (list), the Spinnaker is pricey, but in addition to its wireless functionality, it can easily be used as a wired system for PCs or televisions. If you have the budget and dig the look, the Spinnaker is unlikely to disappoint.
In the era of Bluetooth boomboxes and iPod docks, it’s refreshing to see a stereo speaker set with separate satellites so you can get a real sense of the stereo image. But what are these things—dual rhinoceros horns? A pair of witch hats designed by Tim Burton? Available in striking red or black, like our review unit, the Spinnaker is a conversation piece, for sure. It looks like a vertical version of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air, only sawed in half, and with sharper points. The cloth grille hides three drivers per speaker: a 10-watt, 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter; a 10-watt, 2.75-inch midrange driver; and a 25-watt, 4-inch woofer. Each driver is individually amplified.
At 16.3 by 5.5 by 7.5 inches each, the speakers are taller than your average Bluetooth or PC pairs. Like many PC speaker systems, one speaker is active (the left speaker) and one is passive, but they’re both the same imposing size.
On the underside of the active speaker is a frustrating recessed connectivity port. The cables provided are difficult to connect because there is so little room in the recessed area for the actual connections, and in order to stand properly, without causing the speaker wobbling, the cables need to be threaded through three guides at the rear of the port. Getting the cables stuffed into the guides is not the simplest or quickest process. Once it’s set up, you never really have to worry about it again, but it is one of the more pesky cable connecting experiences we’ve encountered.
That port houses a 3.5mm aux input, a 3.5mm subwoofer out, the connection for the included power supply, an optical input for digital sound sources, and the connection for the output to the passive speaker. A volume control on the speakers themselves would have been nice—instead, this can only be adjusted on the included remote or your audio source.
At first, the included wireless remote seems pretty cool—it’s dome-shaped, and rechargeable via USB. The top of the dome turns while the base sits flat on a tabletop; Turn it clockwise to raise the volume, counterclockwise to lower it. A button at the top of the remote acts as a Mute button, but there are no playback controls of any sort, which seems odd, given that Bluetooth control over playback is rather common. The real problem here, however, is the recharging process. A USB cable is provided, but that’s it, so you’ll need to recharge using your computer or a wall charger. Surely, a way to charge the remote with the included power supply could have been devised. The Spinnaker supports A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles. Pairing is very easy—just hold down the dome on the remote and connect on your device. The gripes about connectivity may be numerous, but they are generally minor, and once the system is set up, it’s fun to look at, and use.
The Spinnaker can get very loud, as its higher price would suggest. It sounds quite good at both moderate and loud volumes. The volume control on the remote is independent of the sound source’s volume, and when both are at maximum level, there is no real distortion. The problem is that on deep bass tracks, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the speaker housings actually begin to vibrate and rattle. This only occurs at maximum volume, and only on tracks with seriously throbbing low end, but the result is unpleasant nonetheless.
At volume levels below maximum, and with less challenging tracks, the Spinnaker sounds excellent, with robust bass matched with excellent clarity in the mids and highs. It’s ideal for just about any music genre, since the bass is not overly exaggerated, nor is it ignored. You can also connect an external subwoofer, but it’s hardly necessary, unless you are looking for some serious sub-bass rumble.
On instrumental tracks, like John Adams’ modern classical piece, “The Chairman Dances,” the bass frequencies are ideally balanced with the overall response of the system. Lower register strings, brass, and percussion are delivered with a bit of resonance and thunder, but much of what makes them sound powerful comes from the clear attack of the bows, mallets, and growl of the brass that exists in the mids and highs.
Audiophiles might not love the circular design of the speakers, which radiates sound outward at wider angles, rather than a more traditionally directional speaker system, but it’s hard to argue with the overall sound performance. The Spinnaker is equally at home with the deep bass and bright clicks and beeps of Radiohead as it is with the vocal tracks on Bill Callahan’s “Riding for the Feeling,” where his baritone voice is equal parts smooth low end and a more coarse, treble edge.
If you like its unique look, the Edifier Spinnaker delivers quality wireless audio, despite some minor ease-of-use issues. If you want a Bluetooth speaker system, but would rather have it in Apple-compatible dock format, the JBL OnBeat Xtremeis our Editors’ Choice for wireless speakers. There’s also the AirPlay route, Apple’s version of wireless audio, and certain speaker systems like the Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air $259.99 at Amazon and the Altec Lansing InAir 5000 Wireless AirPlay Speakeroffer quality playback, albeit at an even higher price. If none of these wireless speakers are in your budget, and you simply want an interesting-looking pair of wired PC speakers that sound great, the $169.95 Harman Kardon SoundSticks IIIare a classic—and significantly more affordable.