Edifier — whose name we assume comes from the word “edify”, or “to improve someone morally or intellectually” — has a wide offering of speakers and other audio gear, but are best known for their bookshelf and desktop speakers. For our first review of Edifier’s desktop speakers, the company sent us their new active, Hi-Res certified bookshelf set, the S880DB. Though they are naturally limited by their size, we’re impressed with their sound and functionality.
The S880DB are small even by bookshelf speaker standards — at only 5.4 x 6.6 x9.1 inches, they fit easily on a desk. The rear-ported cabinets have a finish far more presentable than your average black speaker, with a white baffle and light bamboo-like sides similar to the Fluance Ai40 we tested a few weeks ago. Around the back of the left speaker is a panel amplifier with lots of connectivity — two analog inputs (labeled “AUX” and “PC”), a optical input, a coaxial input, a USB input, and a multi-function knob that handles power, input selection, volume, and Bluetooth 4.1 pairing. The S880DB’s digital inputs support resolution up to 24 bit/192 kHz, which is completely reasonable. There are also treble and bass tone controls, though we prefer to leave those alone.
Everything works perfectly, but there’s more — it’s almost as Edifier had listened to our wishlist from prior active speaker reviews — in addition to the functionality located on the rear of the speaker, the S880DB features a small unobtrusive display on the front of the right speaker indicating which input is selected, and an infrared remote control with buttons for power, volume, source selection, track controls (USB/Bluetooth inputs only) and four pre-defined EQ settings. Though the remote can be cumbersome to use in the dark (its circular shape makes it difficult to orient), it’s an extremely welcome feature at this price point. We also like that the S880DB’s Bluetooth disconnects from the phone when other sources are selected; other speakers we’ve tested have entirely hijacked our iPhone’s audio while paired. Also nice is that the S880DB ships with cables for almost all its inputs (no coaxial digital cable). The S880DB’s speaker interconnect cable uses five-pin connectors which are clean but uncommon — this might be frustrating if it ever breaks or you want to use a different length cable.
Each of the S880DB’s speakers features one 19mm titanium-laminate tweeter and a 94mm “metal diaphragm” midrange driver with a claimed frequency response of 55Hz to 20KHz. These are paired to an amplifier capable of 32W peak, 12W RMS per channel. We tested the S880DB with a wide range of music, movies, and TV in a medium-size room, both up close and on a couch on the far side of the room. The S880DB produces clear, detailed sound, but physics wins in the end — their relatively small midrange/bass drivers just can’t extend to low frequencies the way a larger cone could.
The four EQ modes available via the remote each had an appreciable effect on the S880DB’s sound, though the Dynamic, Vocal, and Classic settings weren’t to our preference — for example, the “Dynamic” setting mimics a more V-shaped sound signature that we often hear from consumer speakers. Our preference is usually to hear the speaker instead of the EQ, so we did the majority of our listening on “Monitor” for the flattest possible response. The listening experience of the S880DB is similar to that of Apple’s own EarPods — good sound, but lacking in bass extension, so you may find yourself turning up the volume to bring up the low-end detail, then turning it down when overwhelmed by the mids and highs. We think a slightly larger midrange/woofer could have made a huge positive difference for the SD800B.
We’ve had a number of active speakers in for review over the past several months, each one more impressive than the last. The Edifier SD800B has some of the best connectivity and features we’ve tested in an active speaker this year, though their small size does limit their frequency reproduction and produces a smallish, directional image. That said, it’s clear that the SD800B was never intended to fill a concert hall — these are space-saving speakers intended for desktop use. If you’re looking for a speaker upgrade and yours is a near-field setup without a lot of ambient noise, we think the Edifier SD800B is an excellent choice.
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