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Edifier EsienaBT Bluetooth speaker dock review

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod, iPod Accessories, iPod Docks and Speakers, iPod touch, Reviews

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Provides: 2.0 channel audio via Bluetooth, USB, SD card, 30-pin Dock connector, or USB
Developer: Edifier
Price: $300
Availability: Now

Appletell has reviewed several of Edifier’s Bluetooth audio offerings, including the Spinnaker ($300) and Bric ($100). The EsienaBT (or the IF360BT for you model number types), sits at the higher end of Edifier’s lineup at $300 and features a wide variety of input choices. This speaker can play music from virtually any device, making it ideal for multiplatform households or offices: it can connect via 30-pin Dock connector Apple devices (iPhones/iPods without a Lightning connector), any Bluetooth device from Android devices to computers, MP3 or WMA files from a USB drive or SD card, or virtually any audio device via either a standard 1/8″ auxiliary jack or L/R RCA inputs.

Features

The EsienaBT is really a Swiss army knife; although the BT designation marks this as primarily a Bluetooth speaker system, the truth is you can jack just about any source of audio from the last 30 years into these speakers (many Sony Disman/Walkman models included a 1/8″ headphone jack to RCA L/R cable, so you can even dust off some of your cassettes!). The Dock on top of the Esiena is protected when not in use by a folding plastic flap, and accommodates any iPod/iPhone with a 30-pin Dock connector. 2012 iPhones and iPods with Lightning connectors are not dockable, though these models can be paired via Bluetooth and can obviously be connected by an auxiliary cable as well.

The Esiena features an FM radio with up to nine presets, as well as an alarm that allows for up to five presets. The snooze feature lets you grab up to 30 minutes of extra shut eye in 10-minute intervals, while the sleep timer lets you set up to an hour and a half of listening time to send you off to sleep. The alarm will play the last used audio source (except Bluetooth), or will fire up the first FM preset station if that audio source is not available. The alarm can be set from the remote (great for programming a wakeup time without getting out of bed), but snoozing/disabling the alarm uses the buttons on top of the unit, requiring you to get out of bed.  These buttons spring to life nicely with red backlighting

Quality

What the EsienaBT possesses in sheer connectivity, it is sadly lacking in build quality. The main touch-sensitive, scroll-wheel volume controller is solid and works quite well (and will make anyone who owned an iPod back in the day instantly nostalgic), but the touch sensitive audio control wheel takes a concerted effort to use.  Response is sometimes erratic, requiring multiple taps, and during the review period both button panels came undone exposing the touch sensitive pads underneath, while a small strip of stabilizer foam near the iPod dock came loose immediately upon first use. The remote, while solid, has silkscreened control markings that are dark grey on black plastic, requiring very bright but indirect light to see (otherwise the glare renders them invisible). A petty annoyance yes, but at the $300 mark a certain level of quality is definitely to be expected.

Edifier’s sound quality is impressive, and the Esiena is a solid but not superlative offering. Edifier has included their EILC™ (Edifier Intelligent Loudness Control) system, which squashes virtually all distortion no matter what you are listening at any volume. Unfortunately, for its size (roughly 15″ x 6″ x 9″), the Esiena does not seem to put out much more sound than its smaller Bric cousin, which is only 5″ x 4″ x 11″. The Esiena is $200 more expensive than the Bric, yet the drivers are only 0.25″ bigger. Bass is tight and benefits from the reflex ports on either side of the Esiena (something lacking on the Bric), while the speakers out front produce mids and highs that are accurate if a bit flat. The sound is very warm, almost like a wooden cabinet speaker despite the Esiena’s all-plastic construction, and at maximum volume the speakers can fill a medium sized room (though not to a level you’ll need to shout over).

The Verdict

The Esiena’s biggest strength is its dizzying array of connection options. If you are looking to accommodate a broad range of music inputs, from SD cards to Bluetooth streaming smartphones to an iPod Shuffle, the Esiena can handle each with aplomb (though you can easily accommodate a broad range of devices with a simple auxiliary jack, which most speaker docks have). For a dance studio, art space, classroom, or other public space where input-handling versatility trumps build quality and sound output, the $300 price tag may be justified. If you’re looking at spending 300 dollars on a bookshelf speaker system with built-in Bluetooth, however, there is quite a bit of competition, including the Geneva Model S that Appletell reviewed last year.

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