You have heard of True Wireless earphones; almost every brand offers a pair. Now it is time for true wireless speakers; as the name suggests, the speakers are not physically wired up to each other but connect via Bluetooth for their stereo connection.
Unlike the TWS earphone counterpart, there are still some wires; you have to power them after all, so each speaker has its own power supply. Alternative options, such as the Edifier R2000DB, have one powered speaker with a thick cable joining the speakers providing both power and audio.
So, depending on your intended layout, the benefit of TWS speakers could be significant or limited.
There are a few competing options on the market, more than I was aware of, but the range of options is still very limited. In particular, reasonably priced good speakers seem to be few and far between, which helps the uStream One stand out from the crowd.
Mitchell Acoustics uStream One Bluetooth Speakers -…
- PREMIUM STEREO SOUND WITH NO WIRES! – uStream One…
- STREAM MUSIC FROM ANY BLUETHOOTH DEVICE – Pair…
- OUTSTANDING CLARITY AND BASS – Hear every note…
- DUAL RCA INPUTS: 2 x RCA analog inputs for…
- Rated output: 35W woofer x 2, 15W tweeter x 2 W, 1 kHz,0.5 % THD (IEC) per unit
- Dynamic Power: 100W for the pair together
- THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): < 0.5% at 1W 1KHz
- Impedance: 8 ohms
- Frequency Response Range: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Signal to Noise Ratio: > 70dB
- Amplifier: Class D Texas Instruments
- Bluetooth Chipset: Action Technology Version 5.0 with True Wireless Links
- OPTICAL x 1 (Rear)
- RCA L/R
- 3.5mm jack x 1
- USB x 1
- Speaker Drivers: 106mm bass driver, 38mm treble driver
- Diaphragm: Magnesium Alloy bass driver
- Voice Coil: Proprietary design voice coil with 20oz (566g) neodymium magnet
- Dimensions: (W x H x D) 150mm x 237mm x 230 mm
- Weight: 3.3 kg each speaker
Set up is quite straight forward; you plug both speakers in, flip the switch on the back and press the power button on the top (or on the remote). They didn’t pair up automatically at first. Instead, I had to press the TWS button, hardly difficult, though. In subsequent uses, they did auto pair, so this could have been user error.
On both speakers, you have the same ports, so you don’t have to have all your devices when the left or right speaker is. You have optical, 3.5mm aux in, RCA input and USB. Then, of course, Bluetooth, which appears to be 5.0 with the standard codecs rather than the more advanced aptX we see occasionally.
The USB port did not function as I thought it would. I thought it might work a bit like a DAC acting as a high bandwidth digital input alternative to optical. However, this is for mass storage only. This feels a little old fashioned, as I can’t remember the last time I transferred MP3s to a device to play music.
Testing in different environments yielded some different results.
In my office, I had some issues. The left speaker would occasionally drop out slightly, or popping/crackling would occur. Switching to the RCA/Line in/Optical inputs, the problem didn’t occur, so it seems to be a connectivity issue when the Bluetooth is on between the speakers and my phone.
I have three monitors, two computers, a laptop and various other tech strewn around the room, so I suspect there is some electrical interference with the Bluetooth connection. I sometimes have similar issues with my Jabra Elite 85t earphones.
I suspect my office environment is anomalous to normal users, so I won’t criticise the speakers too much for not maintaining performance but warn users that connectivity issues are a possibility.
No audio from one speaker
I also had some issues getting audio to come out of both speakers when using RCA and Aux. This seemed to be a result of my using the controls on the speaker itself. Selecting RCA as the input only gave me audio on one speaker. Even if I matched the selection on the other speaker, I still got no audio. However, when I switch to using the remote, switched off the speakers and back on, the problem resolved itself.
Once I resolved the issues, they worked very well in my office. Thanks to the wireless connection, I was able to place these a bit further apart on speaker stands at the appropriate height for where I sit; this significantly improved the stereo separation and soundstage compared to my normal speakers, which sit to the left and right of my monitor.
Moving these into my living room, which is a little more spacious and with less electrical interference, the problems did appear to go away. This set up also benefited from the true wireless nature; plugging in each speaker and connecting them wirelessly is much more convenient than running a cable the full width of my room.
Audio quality is thankfully fantastic; they are easily the best sounding bookshelf speakers I have reviewed (though also the most expensive). As you might expect, these sound best when you don’t use Bluetooth, a decent DAC outputting to RCA sounded much better, though that can’t match the convenience of Bluetooth.
They offer a high level of details across the frequencies with superb separation and precision.
Mid-range is rich and warm, helping to add to the clarity and detail
Highs are also impressive, I tend to be quite sensitive to treble, and many speakers can sound harsh, especially at higher volumes. Listing to Moldy Peaches, an anti-folk group, both the higher-pitched female vocals and guitar sound excellent. Similarly, the scratching female vocals from Deceptacon by Le Tigre sounding pleasant and energetic rather than shrill.
The bass is excellent, I have often found cheaper bookshelf options feel a bit off, they either lack the bass, or it feels like they are trying to overcompensate. These sound just right; bass kicks in with pleasantly deep lows as and when it should, and it doesn’t leak into the other frequencies. Run the Jewels is always my go-to group for something bassy, and these handled the tracks with ease.
They handle higher volumes well, too, much better than you would expect from the moderately sized boxes.
Overall, with these set up properly with decent spacing, it really brought audio alive for me, I have become a little bored with listening to Spotify/Tidal all day while I work recently, but these reinvigorated my interest in all my playlists.
Price and Alternative Options
The Mitchell Acoustics uStream One costs £499.00 from Amazon.
As for alternative options, it really depends on what appeals to you about these speakers.
If it is the convenience of stereo sound without a physical connection between the two speakers, then two Sonos One’s paired will do the trick (or the 2x Five’s if you are flush with cash). Music streaming options are (arguably) superior on these, but they lack all the other physical inputs.
Alternatively, similar products would be:
Ruark Audio MR1 MKII for £329 are smaller speakers and lack a USB port but offer aptX Bluetooth,
The KEF LSX Wireless Bookshelf Speakers are twice the price as these but offer the same wire-free connectivity but the added bonus of WiFi/Ethernet allowing Spotify/Tidal with an App. They seem to be regarded as the gold standard for wireless bookshelf speakers, but obviously, the massive price difference makes them a different class of product.
For active bookshelf speakers with Bluetooth connectivity (but the speakers wired together), the world is your oyster. There are dozens if not hundreds of options at price points well above and well below these. The Edifier R2000DB speakers were excellent and very highly regarded among users and critics alike.
The Mitchell Acoustics uStream One is an excellent choice for anyone specifically looking for wireless connectivity between the speakers. While the wireless connectivity may be the selling point of these, it was the overall sound quality that won me over to them.
While I have no used the alternative options listed above, the uStream One fit nicely between the Ruark Audio MR1 MKII, offering a larger speaker with more powerful output while being considerably cheaper than the best in class, KEF LSX.
I did experience a few quirks with the speakers, which appears to be a result of that wireless speaker connection. So it is perhaps worth considering how much you really need the wireless connectivity vs a more traditional solution.
Mitchell Acoustics uStream One Bluetooth Speakers Review
Posted by Mighty Gadget Blog: UK Technology News and Reviews