We’ve been on a Bluetooth speaker reviewing tear over the last several days, covering dozens of new models that are all being released in time for the 2012-2013 holiday season. Two days ago, we looked at small portable all-in-one speakers; yesterday, we covered several distinctive designs that did more than just stream music, and today, we’re looking at three “new” models that add Bluetooth wireless streaming to previously-released wired, multi-component speakers. In the middle of the pack price-wise is Edifier’s Prisma BT e3350BT ($129), which has evolved from the same-priced Prisma e3350. Since Prisma is first and foremost a set of computer speakers, with iOS wireless compatibility as an afterthought, we’re not going to dive too deeply into it, but this model may appeal to some users looking for multi-component Mac or PC speakers and the ability to quickly play music from Bluetooth devices.
Unlike JBL and Harman/Kardon, which added Bluetooth functionality to earlier speaker designs at higher prices, Edifier’s pitch with Prisma BT is effectively to replace an earlier non-Bluetooth model with something better, while closing out the prior versions at lower prices. Like the original Prisma, Prisma BT includes two satellite speakers that have 0.75” tweeters and 2.75” midrange drivers inside, along with a large standalone subwoofer containing a 5” speaker, and a wired remote control volume knob. The theme is apparently supposed to be “pyramid-shaped,” and though there are clearly Egyptian influences in the design, the Prisma speakers lean futuristic and alien like JBL’s famous Creature line of speakers, with a wider range of colors. Prisma BT is offered currently in white, black, silver, burnt gold, or gem blue plastics, each with black fabric speaker grilles and accents; the plastic-matched wired remote always has a silver swirled metal volume knob, with a blue and red illuminated ring to indicate wired or wireless audio sources.
Edifier’s Bluetooth 2.1 interface is similar to the one JBL used for Jembe. Once the system is turned on—pressing the large top power button on the subwoofer—red lights appear around the power button and remote volume knob, the system becomes discoverable by Bluetooth devices, and then both lights switch to blue after effortless pairing. At that point, whenever a Bluetooth device is connected, Prisma BT streams from that device preferentially rather than sharing its speakers between wired and wireless audio sources; Prisma BT only starts playing the wired audio port’s signal if the wireless connection is stopped. While Prisma BT does a much better job of flawlessly streaming Bluetooth audio than Jembe, the fact that you have to choose audio sources in this manner may bother some users; an optional input select button or source merger feature would have been a good addition.
Audio performance is in the “solidly very good” rather than “great” category. While the satellites could conceivably have been tuned to provide sharper treble or cleaner midrange, they’re about par for the $100-$150 2.1-channel price point, as is the subwoofer, which has a side-mounted dial to adjust the bass level from non-existent to “present but not overbearing.” Edifier deserves credit for not allowing either the subwoofer or the aggregate volume level of Prisma BT to reach levels where distortion can destroy the quality of the music you’re playing—a very real issue and tendency for most 2.1-channel speakers we’ve tested at this price point—though that decision comes with the consequences that Prisma BT lacks for the deep bass growl or brain-shaking volume levels you might hear from cheaper speakers. Instead, it produces relatively balanced but not particularly standout sound.
Prisma BT’s biggest issue isn’t surprising given the multimedia-inspired form factor, and that’s the presence of plenty of cabling: between the two hugely separable satellites, the subwoofer, the wall power adapter, and the remote control, all connected with black wires, there’s no way this system can really be thought of as “wireless,” a problem exacerbated by the placement of volume, power, and subwoofer controls in three separate locations. Edifier tries to ease things by putting both satellites on a single connector, the remote on its own DB-9-style port on the subwoofer’s back, and the power on a tug-resistant L connector alongside them, but there’s no getting away from having a bunch of different objects and cables floating around your desk with Prisma BT. Anyone going into this purchase is likely to understand that up front, and perhaps even appreciate all of the location versatility the multiple components bring, but apart from added stereo separation, the aggregate performance Prisma BT offers isn’t much better than the best-developed all-in-one audio systems we’ve tested at around the $150 price point.
That having been said, Prisma BT is a very good multimedia speaker, given the aggressive $129 price point. Edifier’s industrial and speaker design is several years old, but they’re still a better combination than many other 2.1-channel audio systems we’ve tested, and though Prisma BT’s input switching interface could use a little work, it’s otherwise a solid performer in either wired or Bluetooth wireless mode. Prisma BT is worthy of our B+ rating and strong general recommendation.
Company and Price
Model: Prisma BT
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touch 2G/3G/4G