The Fluance Ai40 5" Powered Bookshelf Speakers will make you a believer in Bluetooth
While the Fluance Ai40 5" Powered Bookshelf Speakers aren't marketed exclusively as a pair of Bluetooth speakers, offering such a functionality in a large bookshelf speaker format is certainly one of the hallmark features of the device. Fluance isn't looking to deliver a portable speaker solution with the Ai40, rather it's poised these to be the ultimate set of speakers to fill the entertainment shelves in your home.
Flaunce sells the Ai40 5" Powered Bookshelf Speakers for $199, and ships them in two colors: a dark brown Walnut color or our review unit, Black Ash. These are a 2-way, 2-driver bookshelf speaker system with integrated class D 70 watts amplifier. Up front, you'll find a pair of components. The topmost one is a 1-inch silk-soft dome tweeter, which is Ferrofluid-cooled, and below it is a large 5-inch woven glass fiber composite woofer driver with butyl rubber surrounds for padding. A small knob can be found on the active speaker, which is the right speaker, which will turn to adjust volume and click in to switch between Bluetooth and wired input. This knob is a digital one which turns infinitely and doesn't have a visual volume indicator, so you'll need to just listen in for the volume level or control it via your phone.
A small LED next to the knob will light up blue for Bluetooth input, and yellow for wired input. The red color is used for a number of things, including showing solid red when the speaker is in standby mode, flashing when muted, and flashing in different pairs for bass and treble control. Along the back of the active (right) speaker is a pair of RCA inputs (white and yellow), and the left speaker output via two standard binding post wire connectors. Fluance includes a 6-foot speaker wire in the box, with black and white markers for polarity, as well as a 19V 3.15A power connector cable and brick. On the back, you'll also find a small Bluetooth pairing button for quick pairing with new devices.
The passive (left) speaker only features the two speaker binding post wire inputs, no other ports or buttons of any kind. Both speakers are solid wood paneling on all sides except for the front, weighing 15.1 lbs and measuring in at 10.9 inches high, 6.5 inches wide and 7.6 inches deep. Four rubber feet keep them in place, and bottom weight-distribution help keeps them from tipping over. A 6-foot RCA audio cable is also included in the box, as well as a handy remote for controlling from across the room, as well as opening up additional functionality that's not available with just the small knob on the front of the speakers.
This remote has controls for raising or lowering both treble and bass, with +5/-5 variables for each. The LED can be dimmed or completely turned off via the half-moon icon, and source can be changed with the arrow button next to that. Play/pause is supported for Bluetooth inputs, as well as skipping and going back a track via the buttons in the middle. Volume controls, as well as mute, are also present, and a handy standby power button is found on the top left. This remote is powered by a pair of AAA batteries, which are also included in the box.
Historically, I haven't been the biggest fan of Bluetooth as a way of delivering high-quality audio. Over the years, however, Bluetooth has turned into the defacto standard for wireless audio, and that began with the introduction of high-quality codecs like aptX. Fluance utilizes this aptX codec to deliver very high-quality audio over Bluetooth at a bitrate of 352 kbps. For reference, that's higher than the maximum MP3 bitrate of 320 kbps, meaning most folks will likely get the absolute maximum streaming quality out of these speakers via services like Spotify or Google Play Music by selecting the highest quality streaming in the app's options.
As someone who had yet to find a Bluetooth speaker I was truly pleased with, I was more than surprised to hear the stunning quality that comes from these speakers. The quality that can be delivered via aptX is well beyond my expectations for these drivers, and they only get better with age too. There's a break-in period of about 10-12 hours thanks to the Butyl rubber coating around the drivers, and you'll find better bass response the more you use the speakers, as the rubber coating loosens and stretches, giving the drivers a larger range of movement.
The woofers on these speakers are simply incredible and together sound like a high-quality sub-woofer used on a quality home theater system, delivering not only deep bass that you can feel from across the room but with a response time that doesn't sound like they're lagging on songs that feature fast beats. The frequency range of 40Hz – 20KHz is simply incredible, and with tight bass timings and great highs, there's really nothing more than can be asked of a speaker. I was absolutely blown away by the quality, and I found myself enjoying my favorite songs over and over again on a system that's unbelievably well-balanced out of the box.
These speakers work as a suitable replacement for a soundbar on a TV, but there's a catch. If your TV or A/V receiver don't support Bluetooth audio output, they'll need to at least have the white and yellow RCA cables for output. If either relies on optical TOSLINK for delivery of audio, you'll be out of luck with this particular model. Fluance sells a similar set with optical input, but those are more expensive. The range and quality of audio are more than capable of delivering a solid experience comparable to a standard soundbar, but won't provide the virtual surround options of soundbars with Atmos and other virtual surround functions.
These are by far the best Bluetooth speakers I've ever used, and easily worth the $199 asking price if you're looking to add a pair of speakers anywhere in your home. Bluetooth aptX support means they not only are easy to set up and stream to, but also deliver unbelievable audio quality that any modern smartphone can take advantage of. If you're looking for a pair of speakers that will bring your music to life like none other in this price range, and even plenty above its price point, look no further. These are as good as it gets.