A few months ago, we wrote about one of the craziest speaker systems we’ve ever reviewed — the Fluance Fi70. Once we got that 90-pound, six-driver Bluetooth behemoth into our apartment — somehow, without injuring ourselves — we were impressed not only by its room-shaking bass, but also its stylish finish. This week, we’re looking at Fluance’s new, much more reasonably-sized powered speaker set — the Ai40. Apart from being about a million times more practical than the Fi70, the Ai40 perform extremely well for speakers at this price.
Before we talk specs, let’s get out of the way that the Ai40, in the “Lucky Bamboo” colorway, are extremely attractive speakers. We usually opt for black speakers to match all of the other components in our listening area, but the natural bamboo finish of the Ai40 that we were sent, paired with white baffles, added some contrast that we didn’t know we wanted. The Ai40 is also available in black ash and walnut finishes — choose carefully, because no grilles are included, so you’ll be running these guys naked. The Ai40’s cabinets are made of standard MDF and sealed, at 10.9 x 6.5 x 7.6 inches, are a fairly standard size for bookshelf speakers, and weigh just over 15 pounds.
Each speaker features a one-inch silk soft-dome ferrofluid-cooled tweeter and a five-inch woven glass fiber woofer — a relatively popular pairing, as far as we’ve seen — with a claimed frequency response of 40-20 kHz. The Ai40 are active; on the left speaker is a 70-watt (35-watt per channel) Class-D amplifier with an analog (RCA) input and Bluetooth (SBC, aptX). As Apple Music users, we wish there was AAC support on the wireless side of the Ai40, but otherwise we are totally fine with this level of connectivity on a $200 active speaker. On the front of the left speaker is a small knob that handles volume, power, and source selection, a small indicator LED, and an infrared receiver to work with the Ai40’s full-function remote control.
Using the Ai40 was extremely easy — setup was simple with the included speaker wire, and functions like pairing and volume control are simple with the included remote. Even the LED can be dimmed and toggled remotely. We wish we had seen a setup like this on Shinola’s Bookshelf Speakers; the ability to control all the important functions of this active speaker remotely and from the front really makes a difference. Their sound is impressive, both over RCA using our test gear and over Bluetooth. A surprising quantity of clean low-end comes out of these speakers — at one point, we had to lean over to make sure our subwoofer (crossed at 80 Hz) wasn’t helping.
The Ai40 sound very good: we heard a surprisingly neutral sound signature most of the time and very good imaging. We know that, in addition to its phase-coherent crossover and driver waveguides, Fluance has some DSP going on inside the Ai40. This mix works extremely well for the Ai40, as they seem to extract tremendous low-end from these not-at-all-large woofers, and sound clean and distortion-free in multiple listening positions. This was a rare enough occurrence that tone controls are available from the remote. Overall, we very much like Fluance’s Ai40. Although they might not have as many input options as we’ve seen with some other higher-priced speakers, these small, stylish speakers over-deliver for their price.
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