There are party speakers to turn up over the crinkle of bagged wine being passed around the room, and then there are party speakers to turn up over the tinkle of ice in glasses of scotch. Blue Aura’s WS80i speakers are the latter type of party speakers — the classy kind. They come dressed for the part in stitched black leather, which feels oh-so-nice to touch.
Here’s what makes this Blue Aura WS80i sound system special: it broadcasts audio from your portable audio device over its own wireless network and through the speakers. All you need to do is power the transmitter and the speakers, and you’ve got networked audio. There are actually three color coded channels, so you could easily set up the system in different rooms. It’s about as easy as a multi-room home audio system could be.
Let’s start with connecting just one pair of speakers. Step one is to take your mini-doughnut sized wireless audio transmitter and plug it in. Here the options have already begun, but options don’t have to mean complication. You can power the transmitter with a regular plug or via USB — my only design complaint with the entire system is that there is almost no slack in this cord: you’ve only got five inches to work with between the transmitter and the power source; however, the cord does fit nicely into a groove around the transmitter for easy storage. You then connect to your audio source with the USB, or via the two included cables: line out RCA, or the 3.5mm cable for a device with a headphone jack. Plug your speakers into the wall anywhere in your house and boom, your music is coming out of them.
One small note for you would-be entertainers. If you’re using a phone as the music source, when you get a call, the music will stop and the audio from the call comes through the speakers — so you’ll probably want to unplug the phone before you pick up.
As for the specs, the wireless audio transmitter has an operating frequency of 2.4GHz, an audio latency (delay) of just 18MS, an audio sampling rating of 48kHz and a frequency response of 20Hz-22KHz. All this meaning that the sound makes it from your device to your speakers without any noticeable loss of quality and without interference from other wireless networks.
The transmitter is actually quite simple to use, with one large button in the middle and one LED light. Hit the button and the light cycles from red to blue to green. The colors represent the three wireless networks. The “station” button on the remote control allows you to cycle through the colors on a light on the speaker itself, discretely under the grill. Match the color on the transmitter with the color on the speaker and your home audio network is all set up.
With one pair of speakers, you can buy multiple transmitters for $99 each and connect one to each device in the room. For example, a computer could be set on the blue network, an MP3 player or phone on the green network, and a TV on the red network. You just need to use the remote to cycle through the colors on the speaker to match the device you are using. Or you can add as many speakers as you want to the system as long as they are within wireless range of the transmitter, which is about 25 meters, but with a 50 meter line of sight. The remote is set up to control three zones independently.
The speakers are active speakers — the amplifier is built-in, which means no need to add equipment as you place them around the house. This also means that each speaker has to be powered, so be prepared to run your extension cords. With no need to run cables from every device to your speaker and then out to an external amplifier, I think this is a more than fair trade.
Highs are delivered by 1-inch 8 OHM ferrofluid-cooled soft dome, while the lows are powered by a 4.5-inch paper cone that performs admirably. The frequency range of the speakers is from 45Hz to 22kHz so your highs are well covered.
Overall the Blue Aura WS80i speakers look fantastic right out of the box, and the performance doesn’t disappoint. You pay a solid price — the WS80i is available for $599 from Amazon.com or the Blue Aura website — but you’re paying for quality, convenience, and versatility.
Whatever your home audio needs may be, these speakers can probably provide the solution. If you purchase a set and a couple of transmitters, you’ll be glad you did, and maybe develop a taste for a good scotch. Actually, I seem to have worked up quite the thirst writing this. I think I’ll head home to listen to some music and have a taste right now — excuse me.