It can be hard to find a rational reason to purchase a set of bookshelf speakers when there are so many fantastic computer speakers out there that offer more features and similar sound quality for the same price. With the R1280T, I found myself conflicted about its role in the speaker ecosystem. While it was a well performing, nicely designed speaker system, it’s price/performance ratio didn`t hold up particularly well when compared to something like the Logitech Z623.
But then comes the R1700BT, the next step up from the R1280T that sits roughly in the middle of Edifier’s bookshelf speaker line-up. With a significant bump in onpaper specs in addition to wireless connectivity and other small tweaks that improve usability, the R1700’s are as functional as any computer speaker whilst offering the nuanced look and sound of a typical bookshelf speaker. All this comes with just a $50 price bump. Keep reading to see whether Edifier’s promises live up during prolonged real life usage.
I would like to thank Edifier very much for providing me with a loaner unit of the R1700BT. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and I will be as objective as possible in my evaluation of the product.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
With Edifier’s typical packaging design, the R1700BT’s are well showcased by large renders on the front and sides with specs and features lining the rear.
The speakers come with a few cables to take advantage of the speakers dual wired inputs; An RCA to RCA cable for use with PCs, an RCA to 3.5mm cable, interconnect cable and wireless remote.
Unfortunately, the RCA cables are still as primitive as those included with the R1280T with little in the way of strain relief or shielding.
The remote follows a similar story with a more simplistic design that feels mushy but functions perfectly fine. The IR remote once again has to be pointed at the receiver on the right speaker in order to function unlike Bluetooth remotes included with other speakers. The interconnect cable is now of a proprietary 4 prong design.
R1280T (left) – R1700BT (right)
It`s much thicker and of higher quality than that included with typical Bookshelf speakers which is convenient though the use of such a connector will limit placement. Overall it’s a more modest setup that’s very similar to that on the R1280T. The cables and remote will do but hardly flatter with their performance.
The R1700BT is a Bluetooth enabled, active bookshelf speaker with a very mature design that outclasses the vast majority of similarly priced speakers, whether bookshelf or computer. It`s with the R1700BT that consumers can start to see the attention to design that Edifier is known for, in fact, the R1700BT might be the most handsome speaker in Edifier’s entire bookshelf speaker line-up.
The wonderful Walnut housings find striking synergy with the textured black MDF that runs through the middle, contrasting nicely to a more contemporary Apple setup or perfectly complimenting a more classic wood setup. Subtle touches such as the slight angling of the Walnut panels at the bottom and rounded off edges at the top contrast to the sharp lines of the MDF, enhancing the overall look. Although the walnut is actually vinyl, not real wood, it still possesses a relatively solid feel in the hand with an authentic texture that represents a large step up from the lower end R1280T. Real or not, it also looks stunning in person.
The sloping of the housings (~10-degrees) angle the drivers directly at the listener, resulting in a clearer midrange and high end response when placed on a desk. This makes them a solid PC speaker, omitting the use of a stand; they`re also a lot less placement sensitive than most speakers out there. They`re similar in size to the R1280T but have a slightly larger footprint as they slope backwards (154mm×254mm×214mm). They`re still modestly thin and will fit on most desks and pretty much any shelf.
As with the R1280T’s, I prefer the sound and looks of the speaker without their fabric covers through the design of the covers on the R1700BT’s is a lot nicer. Removing the covers produces slightly more treble clarity and a slightly brighter sound overall. The attachment mechanism is quite robust with rounded metal prongs that smoothly attach to the covers as opposed to the plastic nubs on the R1280T. Given the exposed tweeter, it would be a good idea to keep the covers on when not in use to prevent accidental damage.
Onto the interfaces, the R1700BT’s carry the typical Edifier layout that will no doubt be familiar to returning customers. Edifier house the controls and receiver for the IR remote on the right speaker, though I would still prefer for the controls to be located on the right side of the left speaker.
The three dials lie within a nice countersunk panel and feel much nicer than the plastic ones on the R1280T. They`re now of a chamfered aluminium variety with a concentric texture that really catches light in a striking fashion. Bass and treble controls operate in a similar fashion to other bookshelf speakers, offering 6dB of adjustment in either direction whilst the volume control is a digital clicker rather than an analogue pot to coincide with the controls on the wireless remote. A status LED lies beneath the hardware controls though it is often hard to see as it faces away from the user.
The inputs are located on the rear of the right speaker as is the power plug. Edifier has moved to a proprietary 4 prong interconnect cable over the traditional wire of the R1280T. Whilst it does result in a potentially more reliable connection, this does limit placement to some extent (cable is 3m long), not such a big deal for Edifier’s computer speakers but for a bookshelf speaker this may be more problematic. As with the R1280T, users will find two wired RCA inputs, one for AUX and one presumably to connect to a desktop computer.
The wireless remote, whilst of similar quality to the more budget R1280T remote, offers a few extra functions that make usage very simple. In addition to the usual mute and volume controls, the remote has two additional buttons allowing users to toggle between Bluetooth and line-in connections. The status LED next to the controls changes colour to display these various modes:
– Green to indicate a line-in connection
– Blue to indicate that the speakers are in Bluetooth mode.
– The LED flashes the corresponding colour when the speakers are muted.
The R1700BT uses Edifier’s usual Bluetooth system that I find to work very well. When powered on, whether in Bluetooth mode or line-in, the speakers automatically enter pairing mode. This makes connecting to multiple devices very simple as the speakers don`t bias the last connected device. It`s worth noting that when the paired device will remain paired even when the speaker is set to line-in, meaning the speakers can easily be both wired to a desktop setup and wirelessly streaming from a phone. Pairing was quick and simple and the connection was stable throughout my testing. Edifier doesn`t specify which Bluetooth standard the speakers use, but they had a relatively low latency and quality was mostly comparable to a wired connection, I`m assuming BT 4.0 or 2.0+EDR. Range was also particularly good, perhaps due to those wooden housings, stretching through 3 and a half rooms (double brick) before signal became intermittent. For comparison, the Edifier Spinnaker’s had about the same wireless range whilst the Luna Eclipses began to cut out around 2 rooms.
There are no audio cues to denote connection, though I mostly find them obtrusive. Users will have to navigate purely through the source device. It would perhaps have been beneficial for the status LED display connection as it simply glows blue both when connected and when in pairing mode. Otherwise, the R1700BT provide an intuitive and streamlined experience.
The R1700BT’s carry a typical two driver setup that surmounts to a total 66W RMS of output power, 50% more than the R1280T. Whilst numbers are one thing, the real life performance benefits are also immediately noticeable, not just in maximum volume but also in bass depth and power. Whilst they’re still not on the level of something like the Spinnaker or a home theatre system for that matter, there`s more than enough power for movies and games.
One particularly notable feature is the 19mm eagle eye tweeter that promises oodles of clarity and detail. Edifier’s higher end speakers have never struggled with their midrange and high-frequency performances, though the same cannot be said about the Edifier’s lower priced model, the R1280T. Luckily, the R1700BT’s perhaps through superior tuning, that eagle eye tweeter or a combination of both, manages to alleviate all qualms I had.
The R1700BT’s sport a very nice sound that retains modest balance on the smoother, lusher side of neutral. That being said, they are much clearer and more detailed than the R1280T. This is perhaps due to the inclusion of Edifier’s signature DSP and Dynamic Range Control. As always, Edifier are tasteful in their digital correction with only subtle processing that enhances response whilst retaining a natural sound. The R1700BT`s in particular seem to be well considered as the MP700 Rave and Luna Eclipses could sound slightly artificial at times.
With the inclusion of Edifier’s DSP, I do notice a bit more soundstage than conventional 2.0 speakers and the midrange has a lot of space which aids instrument separation. Imaging is also spot on with a strong centre image, often spoiled by digital processing. The treble extension offered by those eagle eye tweeters attributes to an airy sound that exacerbates the sense of space and prevents congestion.
The inbuilt amplifier is of good but not exceptional quality. Maximum volume will fill a medium room but may struggle above that. Edifier’s DRC technology starts to round off the bass and treble at high volumes to prevent clipping resulting in a more congested sound above ~%85 volume. Whilst the full range/woofer driver is silent, the tweeter does have a noticeable hiss. The hiss increases with volume and as you increase the treble dial, also decreasing when both are turned down. With the dial set to neutral, hiss was only evident around 20cm from the speaker and luckily, is easily masked when music is playing.
In terms of tuning, I feel pretty similarly about the low-end response on the R1700BT as with the R1280T. Being a bookshelf speaker, they possess the same kind of room-filling bass response that it perhaps a little loose for near field listening but well suited for filling a larger space. Bass is still on the slower, looser side, similar to the R1280T, but is considerably more extended. It`s still not as extended as either the Edifier Luna Eclipse or Spinnaker but the R1700BT’s are also much cheaper with less total output power. As such, bass notes have thump but lack a bit of the subsequent kick associated with more powerful systems.
The bass isn`t the tightest out there either. The R1700BT`s do have considerable bloat to the low end which somewhat dissipates the further you move away from the speakers but they still lack the definition of speakers such as Edifier’s own Spinnaker. Despite this, bass notes have good amounts of texture and the mid-bass isn`t overly inflated. Upper bass, like the R1280T is a bit more tasteful than the lower and mid bass frequencies, avoiding midrange spillage whilst adding just enough warmth.
With the front facing bass port, the speakers aren`t placement sensitive at all which is a huge benefit as the speakers don’t become muddier when placed in front of a wall. Bass controls can alleviate bloat to an extent and, with the increased bass extension, do add somewhat to the sub-bass as well. They don`t change the character of the bass, it never becomes any tighter, but users can gain just a little extra definition or slam for various purposes.
The midrange is an appreciable step up from the R1280T with an extra layer of detail and crispness. Vocals, in particular, are much clearer. Mids have pretty spot on body with none of the veil that affected Edifier’s lower end models. Lower mids, in particular, have a much cleaner sound and are in better balance with the bass response. Male vocals have an ideal sense of body, neither coming off as thin or thick with great intelligibility.
The upper mids are also much improved with more clarity and a smoother tone on a whole. The upper midrange is less peaky with better layering to backing instruments. Female vocals are a little thin for my liking but otherwise have a nice presence and plenty of definition. Acoustic songs sound accurate with a great sense of detail and pleasing timbre. The midrange is still slightly darker than neutral, preventing fatigue during longer listening sessions but retaining enough excitability for genres such as rock.
Treble is perhaps most improved with the eagle eye tweeter really enhancing the extension and quality of the high end. But even in isolation, the high-frequency response of the R1700BT`s is very nice, perhaps slightly thinner than neutral but still notably resolving. The pristine treble response enhances the R1700BT’s versatility with other genres. Whilst the R1280T was inherently limited by treble extension, the R1700BT’s much higher quality tweeter responds much better to the inbuilt controls allowing users to enjoy a wider variety of sound signatures. The treble performance is very impressive for the asking price of the R1700BT`s.
The R1700BT’s retail for $229 but can commonly be found for just under $200, making them $50 dearer than the R1280T. But for just $50 Edifier provide the option to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth, over 50% more output power and a much nicer walnut styled build. Given that the next model in Edifier’s bookshelf speaker line is a significant price jump, the R1700BT represents the sweet spot in Edifier’s more budget orientated product line-up with more features and immediately improved performance over cheaper models.
Even compared to more expensive computer speakers, the R1700BT impresses particularly through its handsome design, resolving treble and smooth, clean midrange. Unfortunately, the bass performance is not such a significant step up, remaining slightly muddy and bloated in comparison to similarly priced computer speakers. The addition of bass and treble controls allow users to achieve a more desirable sound, enhancing the versatility of the speakers for movies and games. If you like a lush yet clear sound with a little extra bass body and treble sparkle then the Edifier R1700BT’s are sure to impress with both looks and sound.
Accessories – 5.5/10, Cheap cables and remote, work but static and pop are not ideal. Interconnect cable is high in quality but limits placement.
Design – 8.5/10, Angled at the user with well-weighted controls. Beautiful imitation walnut housings. Status LED effectively displays source but does not denote connection status over Bluetooth. No obtrusive audio cues. The R1700BT’s look and feel stunning.
Bass – 6.75/10, Still a bit bloated but has good extension. Bass controls allow users to alter sub and mid bass to an appreciable extent. Missing definition compared the Luna Eclipse.
Mids – 7.5/10, Clean, clear midrange works perfectly for all genres of music. Nice sense of body with no veil. Great sense of detailing and separation.
Highs – 8/10, Resolving treble response, also has very good extension. Slightly thin body but never sibilant. Slight hiss from amp, increases as treble dial increases.
Verdict – 8.25/10, The R1700BT is a great buy that combines a timeless design with a soothing sound. The addition of Bluetooth makes them very versatile and a lot more convenient when placed on a shelf. Bass and treble controls are much more effective than those on the R1280T with the R1700’s more extended sound. They offer plenty of volume and power to fill a medium-sized room with rich sound. Bass is slightly bloated and accessories are mediocre in quality. If you’re looking for a cheap active bookshelf speaker with wireless capabilities look no further but if you’re looking for a well performing, eye-catching computer speaker, the R1700BT’s might just earn a spot on your watch list.