Audio firm Bluesound makes quite a lot of wi-fi audio system and stereo elements. However the firm sees itself extra as a music platform for audiophiles than a speaker producer, because it has all the time proudly targeted on hello-res, lossless playback. Somewhat than solely counting on Bluetooth (which compresses your audio information to ease wi-fi transmission and may degrade the sound high quality of your music), Bluesound emphasizes its potential to transmit excessive-decision audio information over Wi-Fi with out compressing them.
Even within the excessive-res streaming realm, there’s loads of competitors: Sonos, DTS Play-Fi, AirPlay. We gave Bluesound’s Pulse 2 ($seven hundred) and Pulse Flex ($300) wi-fi audio system a spin to see how they stacked up.
The bigger of the 2 models, the Pulse 2, is a related stereo speaker with two tweeters and a single woofer. It throws an enormous sound (it is powered by an eighty-watt amp) and is comparatively sizable for a wi-fi speaker system. To its credit score, it blends into the background very properly for a bigger-sized participant. It is also nicely-designed and seems properly-constructed. The on-product management buttons, likewise, are cleanly stylized and intuitive.
The Pulse 2 sounds excellent, though not nice. It presents tight bass and good readability and separation up and down the vary at decrease volumes. However like numerous audio system in its class, it suffers from muddiness at larger volumes—crank it up and the bass begins to overwhelm issues. This was obvious whereas streaming each lossless and compressed audio information, and it stored me from eager to push the quantity previous about 50 %. Whereas this is not a problem remoted to only the Pulse 2 or Bluesound itself, you anticipate a bit extra for the $seven hundred worth.
The Pulse Flex, which has the smaller type issue of a standard bookshelf speaker, prices $300. It enjoys the identical easy design requirements because the Pulse 2 and appears simply as neat and clear. (There is a third Pulse speaker, the $500 Mini, that sits in the midst of the lineup, however I solely examined the 2.)
Just like the Pulse 2, the Flex additionally a nicely-constructed product. The Flex’s sound, nevertheless, does not match that of its bigger sibling. The Flex’s bass is noticeably missing, even at greater volumes. Coupled with the truth that the Flex is a mono speaker, its sound is considerably flat when performed by itself.
However that is not likely what the Flex is for. When the Pulse 2 and Flex are enjoying on the similar time, they sound very dynamic collectively. The bass on the Pulse 2 compensates for the thinness of the Flex, whereas the Flex provides a extra immersive feeling to the room at a comparatively lower cost. You need the totally different items of a multi-unit streaming system to go with one another. Though the audio system have noticeable limitations on their very own, for those who’re making an attempt to fill an enormous area with hello-res music, the combo will get the job finished.
The Bluesound Pulse 2 wi-fi speaker. That is the bigger of the 2 we reviewed.
Like most of its rivals, Bluesound requires that you simply obtain a proprietary app that works as a distant for its system and audio system. As soon as the app is up and operating, and your system is absolutely configured, the whole lot works effective. It isn’t good—there are nonetheless a few bugs, and never each use case is completely intuitive, however this is not uncommon. It is easy to get the hold of it and be in your approach.
It is the establishing of the system, nevertheless, that is the onerous half.
The fast-begin information lead me down two lifeless ends earlier than I obtained the Pulse 2 related to my Wi-Fi community. Its directions have been actually incorrect, sending me to an internet site to seek out the subsequent steps, however the place no subsequent steps have been listed. And as soon as I obtained the app put in on my telephone (just because I knew there needed to be one, so I searched the App Retailer for it) including the 2 audio system was convoluted, requiring me to hitch the every of the audio system’ scorching spot networks with my telephone with a purpose to sync the app and the 2 audio system collectively.
Connecting my NAS-based mostly music library was additionally difficult, with the library setup requiring some again-and-forth with tech help. The app’s Bluetooth setup processes led to the speaker returning an error code fairly than enjoying music. Outdoors the system’s constructed-in radio stations (which all labored out of the field and sounded nice), nothing functioned the best way it was imagined to on the primary attempt. And it wasn’t only one factor. A mixture of deceptive directions, a posh setup course of, a pair bugs, and a few auto-updating and in-app library cataloging that floor issues to a halt a number of occasions all through the method all contributed to the challenges.
To its credit score, Bluesound’s tech help staff was useful, persistent and responsive, however this was the primary time I wanted to contact tech help for an audio system setup in years.
And whereas the Bluesound system helps a number of on-line music providers like Spotify, and a number of hello-decision providers like Tidal, the shortage of Apple, Google and Pandora integration are potential limiting elements for non-hello-res junkies.
6/10—Robust audio and design, however the audio system are remarkably difficult to get going.
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