Archeer WJ-C1 Review – Not Quite A Star

Introduction – 

Archeer return with another astonishingly affordable Bluetooth speaker whose approachable aesthetic caters towards the younger buyers out there. And yet again, Archeer persist with overly complex designations; WJ-C1 doesn’t roll off the tongue with ease, I would like to see some creative product names in the future. What does impress is the speaker’s surprisingly rich feature list and intuitive controls, both culminating to create quite an appealing package. Of course physical design aside, the function of a Bluetooth speaker remains to playback audio and despite the WJ-C1’s very economical $9.99 USD asking price on Amazon, I would still expect a modest performance. Let’s see if Archeer’s latest speaker honours the impressive performance offered by their other budget speakers.

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Archeer very much for providing me with a review sample of the QJ-C1 in exchange for my honest opinion. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the product free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible.

 

Accessories –

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The WJ-C1 comes packaged within a small cardboard box with a render of the speaker on the front, specs on the side and operating instructions on the rear. I wish Archeer would have included a dedicated manual with the speaker, as the controls are a hard to navigate at first, but deciphering the rear is a simple affair.

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Opening up the box reveals the speaker within a plastic bag, a micro-b charging cable and matching colour lanyard to hang the speaker and prevent drops.

The overall unboxing experience is unremarkable on a whole and pretty similar to Archeer’s other products, I wouldn’t expect more for the price.

 

Design –

The WJ-C1 has a simple design that will no doubt appeal to the younger buyers out there, in-line with the similarly modest price tag.

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The star shaped, smoothly formed design is pleasing to the eye as is the soft-touch matte finish to the hand. The main housing is an inviting white which glows in the hue of the RGB LEDs housed within.

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Unfortunately the plastic used feels a little brittle and the moulding of the main housing is a slightly off with a small and inconsistent seam that runs through the middle. It doesn’t quite match Archeer’s own A106 rugged speaker, but for the price and intended market, the design and build quality is more than adequate.

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In the centre is the grill protecting the upwards firing 40mm speaker driver. It’s a more solid plastic than the rest of the chassis and is perfectly formed in a pastel blue, at present no other colours are offered. Perforations line the grill in ascending size from the centre granting a nice visual effect. Quite a strange choice, a “W” logo adorns the centre, perhaps indicative of the model number rather than the Archeer brand? I’m not too sure. One thing to note is that the speaker is quite light, hopefully indicative of resistance to drops.

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Running over the physical features of the speaker, the right side reveals the micro sd card slot whilst the top left corner is outfit with a slot for the installation of a hand strap. The sd slot is spring loaded for easy removal but the plastic surrounding the slot was malformed on my unit.

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The speaker has a rubber base that provides some grip and stability when seated on a surface, it also prevents the speaker from rattling when playing at higher volumes. The base doubles as a control pad, containing the various controls arranged in a simple grid. Of note, the buttons don’t protrude to prevent accidental presses. Each button has a double function, the first activated by a regular press and the second by holding the button. Having the buttons on the bottom of the speaker is a little inconvenient but keeps the look more consistent, especially with the internal lighting, most aspects can simply be controlled by the source device anyway. A conventional micro-b charging port lies in the centre next to the charging LED.

The WJ-C1 is a nice, fun speaker that definitely holds appeal to certain audiences. Kids will love the simple look and pastel colour scheme along with features such as the glowing body. The small dimensions are ideal for portability as is the ability to attach a wrist strap. The inclusion of a micro sd slot is pretty neat for younger children who might not have a Bluetooth enabled device. Archeer have told me that he $9.99 price is temporary and whilst the original price is listed at $40, I suspect the speaker will rise to around $20. At that price the flaws in the build quality are small enough to be excused and the added features over other similarly priced speakers may justify the price. Personally, I find the build quality to be very disappointing given that Archeer’s own A106 had an essentially flawless build for just $22 even if it lacked coloured LEDs and a micro sd card slot.

 

Usage –

The RGB LED system in the WJ-C1 is no doubt one of it’s most defining features. From power on, the speaker illuminates with a soft glow that radiates very evenly across the white body, it’s a nice effect. The speaker automatically cycles through the colour palette but can be manually set to a certain colour using the secondary function of the play/pause button. The lights aren’t super bright, they won’t act as a room light for instance, but I could see the speaker acting as a suitable night or atmosphere light.

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Onto the controls, the buttons have no definition besides the printed icons on the rubber base but they have a clicky press and work reliably enough. On the bottom is the power/mode button and at the top is a play/pause button that can be held to toggle the light function should you want to save some battery. The left and right buttons skip tracks but can be held to adjust the internal volume of the speaker.

The Bluetooth function is pretty standard but only remembers one device, if you want to pair another you’ll have to reset the speaker. Archeer don’t specify the Bluetooth protocol but connection was reliable during my testing even if range was pretty average, stretching across just 1 room (double brick walls) before audio became intermittent. The controls worked reliably too with skip functionality working with my HTC, iPod Touch and Windows laptop using Foobar. The same applies when using the speaker for micro sd playback. I didn’t detect any difference in sound quality and controls were similarly responsive. Upon inserting a card, the speaker automatically switched to SD playback but can be toggled using the mode button. Through the micro sd slot, I tested the following files:

  • MP3 (320kbps)
  • FLAC (16 bit 44.1khz)
  • M4a (256kbps)
  • WAV (1411 kbps)

The speaker played the WAV and MP3 fine but didn’t recognize the FLAC or M4a. It’s a little disappointing that the M4a didn’t play but I suppose basic MP3 and WAV support is fine.

 

Sound –

The sound quality aspect is definitely a lot more polarizing and it’s pretty clear that tonality and quality weren’t given too much thought during the design process. From perusing the spec sheet, I wouldn’t expect the 3w 40mm speaker in the WJ-C1 to sound particularly stellar and like the aforementioned A106, the WJ-C1 has a pretty lean sound with minimal bass and a generally brighter tonal balance. However with no rugged features, and no waterproofing, the WJ-C1 doesn’t have as much excuse to sound this mediocre, in fact my HTC 10, albeit above average for a smartphone, sounds almost as good quality wise. I’ve attached links to some audio recordings from the WJ-C1, HTC 10 and Envaya Mini below from my Blue Snowball so you can compare.

HTC 10  –  WJ-C1  –  Envaya Mini

Song: Act of God (Robotaki Remix)

Now from my more subjective listening, I can’t recommend the WJ-C1 for any discerning listener. The WJ-C1 essentially sounds like a decent laptop speaker with just a little more low end and treble detail but a similar lack of bass body and midrange warmth. Sub-bass and mid-bass are mostly non-existant whilst upper bass sits behind the lower midrange. Mids are better and generally well portrayed with decent balance. Lower mids are clear if slightly thin whilst upper mids have above average clarity without being harsh, sibilant or hollow. Vocals sound pleasing as do certain kinds of music and the richer mastering of modern pop is well suited towards the WJ-C1’s lean lower end response. The treble response is also pretty good just rolling off at the top. Otherwise quantity is neutral and high notes don’t sound too raspy. Detail retrieval is also better than anything you would fine built into a laptop or smartphone.

Being a mono speaker, there’s no soundstage and minimal instrument separation. Only adding fuel to the fire, maximum volume is very poor for a Bluetooth speaker, the WJ-C1 gets perhaps 10% louder than my 14″ ultrabook which is unsatisfactory for outdoor use but enough for almost any home environment; it’s louder than just about any smartphone. The A106, although offering a sound that is just slightly better, at least offered a lot more volume which I could vouch for; the WJ-C1’s sound really doesn’t have any redeeming features besides vocal discern-ability which is above average on account of the clear midrange.

 

Verdict – 

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As you can probably tell already, the WJ-C1 is quite a disappointing product. The design is nice as is the implementation of a few other features uncommon on even premium speakers. But mediocre build quality in addition to below average sound quality paint a grim picture for Archeer’s newest portable speaker. The fun features and looks are thoughtful and I understand that the speaker isn’t intended for the highly critical audiophile audience, but rather something for parents to stuff their children’s stocking with in the upcoming holidays. But even then, just marketing a product towards a less critical crowd doesn’t make the speaker’s physical and sonic shortcomings acceptable.

Accessories – 7/10, Enough for the price, quality of accessories is good.

Design – 7/10, Pleasing design with a lot of features for the price. LEDs are well implemented and lighting effects look great. Controls work well, sd slot functions simply and supports majority of popular codecs. Bluetooth is reliable but range is poor. Build quality still leaves a lot to be desired.

Bass – 2/10, Essentially non-existant, what is there is barely more extended than the in-built speakers on most portable devices.

Mids – 4.5/10, Clear, slightly bright mids, lower midrange is too thin for my liking. Fine for vocals but doesn’t flatter many genres of music.

Highs – 4/10, Reasonably extended with average detailing and shimmer. Rolled off at the top and slightly thinner body can sound raspy with certain songs.

Value – 7/10, At the current $10 asking price, the speaker is still a decent buy on the lighting and micro sd support alone, it’s also hard to find a Bluetooth speaker for such a low price. At any high price, say $20, these features start to become more prevalent and competitors offer superior audio quality as well.

Overall – 4.5/10, I can’t discount the fact that products like this still hold a place in the portable speaker market but it certainly has no place on my recommendation list. Your $20 is best spent on Archeer’s own A106 or Xiaomi’s brilliant Bluetooth speaker, which offers much more volume and far more low end kick for just $10 more. The WJ-C1 favours features and design over both build and audio quality, it’s a great speaker at the current $10 asking price but for upwards of $20, the market is too saturated with more competitive offerings.

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