Edifier S1000DB Review – This is Luxury

Introduction –

Testing Edifier’s entire bookshelf speaker line-up has been interesting in that I’ve had a chance to observe the changes between each speaker and the subsequent increases in pricing. So far, every speaker has been a worthy upgrade over its predecessor and the S1000DB exemplifies this premise in both design and feel as Edifier’s current flagship in Asia Pacific. But with the same 120W RMS power output as the R2000DB, the S1000DB represents more refinement over sheer power increase. Do these refinements produce a product that justifies the significantly higher entry price just shy of $700 AUD? Let’s find out.

 

Disclaimer – 

I would like to thank Amber from Edifier very much for providing me with the S1000DB for review. Despite receiving the speaker free of cost, I will be as objective as possible when evaluating the speakers.

 

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.

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Accessories –

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The external packaging has been mixed up to showcase the S1000DB as the top speaker in Edifier’s bookshelf speaker collection. As opposed to the usual gloss two-tone box, the S1000DB comes packaged within an unfinished cardboard box with a simple vector of the S1000DB on the front and some basic specifications on the rear. It’s a clean look that assumes the buyer has researched the model beforehand rather than the more attention grabbing but less refined packaging of lower models.

The actual unboxing is pretty similar to the R2000DB, the cables and remote are on top in a Styrofoam inlet and the speakers are nestled underneath within two soft fabric pouches.

For better or for worse, the cables included are also mostly identical to those included with the R2000DB. The same interconnect cable makes a return, it’s of very high quality with a thick cable terminated with Edifier’s own 6-pin connector.

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The large connector feels sturdy and was reliable in my testing, there were no cut-outs or interference issues.

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Unfortunately, the same RCA cables (RCA-RCA, RCA-3.5mm) make a return too. While they are gold plated and adequately shielded, the feel is still a little cheap considering that the S1000DB is Edifier’s current flagship bookshelf speaker in Australia. That being said, the cables don’t produce too much pop and don’t crackle at all, they are perfectly usable just not of ideal quality. Edifier also include a fiber optic cable to take advantage of the speaker’s optical input, great for TV usage. Quality doesn’t matter so much here since the cable is transmitting a digital signal. I’m not going to be so harsh on the included cables this time due to Edifier’s inclusion of a much higher quality Bluetooth chip that supports apt-x, making wireless usage much more viable.

DSC09988.JPGThe included remote is vastly improved over the gloss plastic ones included with lower models, and is now similar to that included with the Edifier’s image line. The main body is a frosted grey plastic which feels light but well finished with minimal flex. It is also much easier to hold and doesn’t pick up smudges at all. The buttons are rubber and have much better feedback with more travel and tactility. There’s an interesting 4-way rocker with the mute button in the centre. I was hoping for some additional functionality from the left and right buttons but all 4 simply adjust volume. I can only assume it was taken from one of Edifier’s other more feature rich models and the left and right buttons were remapped to volume. The remote has no eQ button like the R2000DB which is a shame given that the S1000DB’s have the same rear-facing controls.

Overall, the unboxing is simple and protective, Edifier include every cable you could possibly require and the new remote is much improved over previous offerings.

 

Design –

At this price, speakers become more than speakers, they become a statement; in innovation, design and/or functionality. Edifier are well aware of this, and while the S1000DB don’t quite look as abstract as speakers from manufacturers such as Bang and Olufson, they have a very refined look that will compliment a wider array of applications; ie you don’t need a designer suite to match these speakers.

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The S1000DB is marketed as a lifestyle studio speaker though it is, at its core, a bookshelf speaker. They are absolutely enormous and are definitely not suited towards computer usage (but will work fine if you have a large enough desk). In addition, the bass port and all of the controls are rear facing, not ideal for those who like to constantly tinker and adjust but fine for static usage in a single room, in a single location. They will comfortably complement a large TV, again, if you have space and do fit nicely onto a nice set of shelves. Their quality feel in the hand is reinforced by their similarly heavyweight at almost 10kg each! You won’t want to move the speakers around too much once they are placed.

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The speakers have a fantastic feel that meets their asking price. Where the R1700BT employed walnut vinyl and the R2000DB a mix of MDF and plastic, the S1000DB’s are almost entirely constructed from solid wood (not specified what type). As a result, they are less prone to scratching and the wooden sides don’t scuff or pick up fingerprints at all. The wooden sides are beautiful to look at though but I’m still not 100% sure about the finish.

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It feels a little overdone and even very slightly plasticky, at least the speakers retain a striking aesthetic and some texture in the hand, but a darker wood with a rawer finish would have been nice for the asking price. Regardless, the corners are all smooth and the main bodies have a nice grain without imperfection or any unsightly filler.

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The centre of the housings are equally solid with a very nice matte finish similar to anodised aluminium. Overall, it’s a look that is far more subtle and refined than the textured MDF/vinyl on Edifier’s lower models, though the matte areas are quite prone to smudging and fingerprints. The bottoms of each speaker have four rubberized feet that prevent the speakers from wandering during high volume playback and prevent scratching either the speakers or the surface they are placed upon. The housings are slightly angled to optimise the internal acoustics and angle the drivers towards the listener when placed on a desk or lower shelf but doesn’t affect the sound too much when placed higher up.

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The speaker covers are also vastly improved over lower models. Not only do they protect the drivers, they also compliment the look of the speakers rather than detracting from it. The unique shape of the frame and transparent mesh draw attention to the 5.5inch woofer and titanium tweeter that lie underneath.

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Metallic edifier logos adorn the covers in a subtle manner. The slightly metallic lustre of the covers contrast to the smooth matte black wood and compliments the silver tweeters. The fabric is also a lot lighter than before and more acoustically transparent as a result. Given that the S1000DB is a slightly brighter speaker, I actually prefer to keep the covers installed.

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Overall, the S1000DB is without a doubt, the nicest speaker in Edifier’s bookshelf speaker line-up, impressive given that all of Edifier’s speakers are already very well presenting. The real wood is a nice feature that I would like to have seen implemented in Edifier’s lower priced speakers, but it’s nice that their flagship is at least comparable to other speakers in its price range. While I would like to see a darker wood with less obtrusive finish, the design is very pleasing for a bookshelf speaker and the sound quality permitted by the culmination of superior acoustics and higher quality drivers is well worth the premium over the R2000DB. The S1000DB isn’t abstract, you’ll have to look at Edifier’s Image range for that, but rather offer a simple and handsome design that really accentuates any setup.

 

Usage –

The interfaces and controls are rear facing, as with the R2000DB. All of the controls are metal with a very solid feel in the hand; they don’t feel as if they will fail anytime soon.

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Edifier provide the user with a digital volume pot (coincides with the IR remote) and two analogue bass and treble dials which both grant 6Db of adjustment in either direction.

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The S1000DB also have copious inputs to allow for multi-device usage. In addition to the Bluetooth 4.1 (apt-x) wireless connection, the speakers have two RCA inputs, an optical input for TV usage and coaxial. The user is easily able to toggle through each source through the included remote. Of note, if the speakers are paired to a device over Bluetooth, it will remain connected when switched over to a different source, allowing for quick and easy switching.

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As usual, Edifier’s Bluetooth system is very simple and intuitive. The speakers never need to go into a pairing mode, they simply connect on a first come, first serve basis. This will be especially handy for users with many wireless players/sources since the speakers don’t bias the last device and is easily paired to new devices. Range was outstanding in my testing, better than the both Spinnakers and Luna Eclipse; the Bluetooth chip seems to be of good quality, better than Edifier’s other speakers and all of my portables at least. I also didn’t experience any interference or severe dropouts in my usage. It’s good to see Edifier supporting apt-x which provides lower latency and CD quality over Bluetooth. I didn’t have any issue with the quality, perhaps bass was slightly sloppier over BT but otherwise, the sound was mostly identical. Latency was certainly much improved, the speakers had no issue keeping up with YouTube videos and streaming films, audio was in sync with barely noticeable delay, much improved over the R2000DB which had prevalent sync issues.

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The right speakers houses both the controls and interfaces, it also contains the receiver for the remote and status LED that denotes the speaker’s function and current source:

  • Red: Optical/Coaxial mode
  • Green: AUX/PC mode
  • Blue: Bluetooth mode
  • Blinks the corresponding colour when mute

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Whilst I would like to see some sort of functionality from the left and right buttons on the remote and perhaps even some remote based eQs, the speakers themselves are easy to operate and are essentially plug and play. Efficient source selection on the much improved remote makes multi-device usage practical and the improved Bluetooth connection enables more versatile applications for computer usage, even when the speakers are placed some distance away on the shelf. Edifier’s Bluetooth pairing system is as effective as always and remains my benchmark for easy multi-device pairing.

 

Sound –

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The S1000DB’s utilise a dual driver setup comprising of a 5.5inch 35W aluminium full-range/woofer driver combined with a 25W titanium tweeter. Both speakers produce a total output of 120W RMS. Those with a keen eye will notice that the S1000DB boasts no more raw power than the R2000DB, however, through the use of larger and higher quality drivers (5.5” vs 5”) and larger housings, the S1000DB achieves considerably more sub-bass extension. This is reflected by Edifier’s quoted FR which has grown to cover from 48Hz – 20KHz and as always, Edifier are quite conservative in their specification.

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The S1000DB’s are an active speaker with in-built amplification. The power supply and amplifier are all built into the right speaker housing with the power cable attached to the rear. I would have liked a longer cable, perhaps a removable 8-pin cable Unfortunately The S1000DB carries the same SNR as Edifier’s lower speakers, >85Db, which is disappointing for a flagship speaker. The same kind of hiss that affected the R1700BT and R2000DB is just as present on the S1000DB, the hiss still increases as the treble dial is turned up.

 

Burn-in:

I’m adding this section because out of the box, I was honestly a little disappointed with the S1000DB. They sounded congested, overly forward and lacking bass slam. This was in immediate comparison to the R2000DB, which I found quite strange, given that the S1000DB had the same power output of 120W RMS combined with larger housings and drivers, I would guess that the S1000DB would at least have more bass impact. While my belief of burn-in on in-ear monitors and headphones is somewhat flaky (I just received a replacement right driver from Shure and it matched perfectly to the left driver which was over 2 years old), the S1000DB proved to me that larger drivers with more mechanical displacement definitely benefit from some level of burn-in. In addition, the S1000DB uses real wood housings, unlike lower models which employ MDF and plastics. As a result, like a nice guitar, the S1000DB should mature and provide a richer tone over time.

After about two weeks of listening, the S1000DB had attained the bass impact of the R2000DB with an extra layer of sub-bass on top. The bright, forward midrange had become more balanced, and the high end had opened up considerably. I experienced similar changes with Edifier’s budget class R1280T but not with the R1700BT or R2000BT since they were ex-demo units that had already been burnt-in. I wish I had taken some recordings of the S1000DB out of the box so that I could compare the sound but unfortunately, I wasn’t expecting such drastic changes. Regardless, I can subjectively conclude that there is was a definite change over time in both tonality and sound quality when using the same source, volume, tracks and placement. The S1000DB now sounds clearly better than the R2000DB and I will be looking forward to further acoustic changes over time.

 

Tonality –

The S1000DB is not a reference monitor in any way, but it isn’t sculpted to the point that versatility is severely hampered. They are an organic speaker that combines a warm, full-bodied low end with a slightly brighter midrange and treble response, though both bass and treble can be adjusted to suit listener’s preference. Bass is mostly linear, resulting in minimal texture loss though sub and lower bass generally have the most emphasis on mid and upper bass being equally raised from neutral but not to the same extent. Mids are just slightly brighter than neutral, granting them with great clarity. This is the biggest departure from Edifier’s house sound as they tend to tune slightly darker midranges. The high-end is similarly tuned to the R2000DB and R1700BT, it’s sparkly, airy and detailed, though now with more body on behalf of that titanium tweeter unit. The speakers aren’t balanced but are equally as exciting as they are lush. They aren’t fatiguing to listen to, despite being on the brighter side and bass is rarely muddy even when the speakers are poorly placed. Tonality is tuned but tasteful like most of Edifier’s other high-end speakers.

R2000DB:

Rocket Man (Elton John)Lithium (Nirvana)Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)

S1000DB:

Rocket Man (Elton John)Lithium (Nirvana)Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)

I have attached some audio samples above (recorded through my Blue Snowball mic). Whilst they are not the most accurate portrayal of the sound quality of the speakers it can give you a general taste of the tonality one could expect. The recordings sounded slightly more hollow and boomy than reality, which is also something to consider.

 

Bass –

Bass is pretty similar in tuning to the R2000DB overall but has more sub-bass quantity and extension. Through the use of larger drivers and housings, the S1000DB achieves almost sub-woofer-like extension and produces visceral impact when reproducing the very lowest notes. I have a 120W 8-inch subwoofer connected to my computer speakers and the S1000DB possesses almost the same level of extension and sub-bass slam in near field, very impressive. So while the S1000DB does not have a sub-woofer output port, there is rarely an instance where I have wanted one. Such a full low-end response really compliments use in larger rooms. The S1000DB easily filled my medium sized TV room with rich sound, only losing a slight amount of sub-bass slam when compared to playback in my smaller bedroom. They actually produced a much more substantial low-end than my 300W Samsung Soundbar + Sub setup either through superior tuning or their much larger housings that enable more air movement.

Otherwise, bass is quite linear but accentuated overall, midbass and upper bass are slightly fuller than neutral and sub/lower-bass can be altered via the rear facing dial. This is more for room correction though there is enough adjustability to suit many listening preferences. One thing that did surprise me was the missing eQs of the R2000DB. Given that the S1000DB is a higher model and has similar rear-facing controls, it would have been nice to have some kind of eQ adjustment on the remote to make things easier. Bass is quite tight and notes have great texture but still miss out on that last bit of definition compared to passive radiator-based speakers (though the S1000DB has far more sub-bass extension than most). Bass doesn’t spill into the midrange when the speakers are placed correctly and still doesn’t sound boomy when space is sparse, such as pictured below in my bedroom. While I would prefer to space the speakers further from the wall and out of the corner, even as it is, the S1000DB’s produce a pleasing sub-bass response and by adjusting the bass dial, bass notes retain plenty of detail. They also sound very full at low volumes; I often leave the speakers playing jazz in the background while I’m working and they produced a much more full-bodied sound at these low volumes than any speaker I’ve heard, especially those that employ passive radiators. Perhaps Edifier has employed some kind of electronic volume compensation, because at higher volumes because the S1000DB’s hardly sound overly bassy but instead retain their richness throughout their volume range.

As a result of their very full, extended low-end, the speakers also excel for gaming and films with their clear mid and higher frequency responses aiding quieter scenes. The low-end response on the S1000DB is certainly very impressive, the have kick and slam when called for, but are also tight enough to convey more subtle details and texture within the bass line. So while the speakers are fuller than neutral, I would consider the low end tuning tasteful and flattering of almost every genre; I’m more forgiving of bass emphasised speakers than headphones so long as the emphasis doesn’t come at the cost of quality.

 

Mids –

The midrange also receives large improvement over the R2000DB, there is a lot more nuance and delicacy to each note and detail. Lower mids are spot on, slightly warm, full-bodied but also extremely clear, Edifier really nail lower midrange tuning in general. Male vocals have great discernibility in movies, videos and games whilst instruments in music have a natural body and timbre. Acoustic sounded full without that muddy character that afflicts some speakers while the gruff tones of your usual hero protagonist in film sounded imposing without losing discernibility.

Moving to the upper mids reveals that the S1000DB is noticeably brighter than the majority of Edifier’s other speakers, though in the grand scheme of things I would hardly call them a bright speaker; rather they are actually closer to neutral when compared to Edifier’s usual darker tuning. Clarity is standout and the upper midrange is very resolving. Detailing is also improved over both the Edifier Spinnakers and R2000DB. The mids are never harsh but can sound slightly overbearing on tracks with a more forward mastering whereas the darker R2000DB didn’t ever suffer from this issue. On the flip side, the S1000DB’s sound consistently clearer and more resolving. They have a more natural body to vocals due to their more linear tuning and also don’t suffer from the same female vocals issues that afflicted the R2000DB. The midrange is a great performer for pretty much any application, some might find it slightly bright at first, but after a bit of adjustment, the S1000DB illuminated the intricacies in media with clarity and composure.

 

Treble –

Treble has been a strong point of Edifier’s speakers since the R1700BT through their unique tweeter drivers than provide insight into the nuances of music and media alike. With the S1000DB, we see a departure from the usual eagle-eye tweeter to a more premium 1” Titanium tweeter unit. The new driver is now larger and more rigid, granting the same kind of resolution as earphones using similar technologies like the Dunu DN2000J. The most impressive aspect of the treble performance is that this detail comes without harshness or fatigue and treble, when the dial is in neutral, isn’t particularly forward in the mix. Since I prefer slightly more crispness to my sound, I raised the dial to +2 of 6 dB of boost, granting a hint of extra detail to the sound. Treble extension is flawless, the very highest notes are portrayed without roll-off and with plenty of texture. Cymbals shimmer with accuracy and avoid that splashy character. The S1000DB is more resolving than the R2000DB, but also has more body and texture, as a result, it also sounds more natural too. The S1000DB provided great insight into the picking during a live performance of Eric Clapton’s Layla, the crispness present is something I rarely even hear from good headphones and earphones. Similarly, when listening to The Who’s Baba O’Rielly, the cymbals in the intro shimmered without becoming splashy and resonated with plenty of air and space. While I can’t say the S1000DB is a huge upgrade over the R2000DB, given that those speakers already have a very accomplished high-end response, I do hear details and intricacies that Edifier’s lower speakers tend to graze over.

 

Verdict – 

While the S1000DB does retail for around $700, it can commonly be found closer to $550, often even cheaper. At that price, it isn’t significantly more expensive than the $400 R2000DB and is appreciably better in almost every way. The S1000DB offers a much more premium feel than any other Edifier bookshelf speaker, though, for the price, the overly finished wood still doesn’t match the premium of some other speakers in this class. The aesthetic design, however, bears no such faults; and the speakers are easily one of the most visually striking among the visually stagnant field of bookshelf speakers. While their large size may be a concern for desk usage, the speakers will still fit on larger tables and sit comfortably on a shelf for which they were intended.

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Edifier were wise to implement an apt-x enabled Bluetooth chipset which not only enhances quality but also vastly improved latency issues, making the speakers much more versatile for films and games. The sound quality, though less about power and more about refinement, produces the resolution and detail that the R2000DB was lacking while simultaneously delivering a smoother midrange experience. While I would still like to see a subwoofer output port for use in larger spaces, the new titanium tweeters provide great insight into higher details while the larger woofer drivers and housings enable an organic, lush and powerful sound even without the use of an external subwoofer.

Accessories – 8.5/10, Interconnect cable is of great quality, cables for all optional inputs are provided. RCA cables could be thicker with better strain relief however, they are gold plated and well shielded in general. The new remote is much improved over lower models.

Design – 9.25/10, With a striking design, the S1000DB is easily the most handsome speaker in Edifier’s lineup. The real wooden housings definitely portray their quality in both aesthetics and weight, howe, er the feel in the hand is diminished by a strong finish. Rear facing controls are of nice quality and the new grills are more acoustically transparent than before.

Bass – 9.5, Very extended with plenty of power. Very well textured with great definition and resolution.

Mids – 9/10, Slightly bright, very insightful and detailed. Great body to vocals, much-improved clarity over lower models.

Highs – 9.25/10, More resolving than the eagle eye tweeter utilised by the R2000Db and R1700BT but without sounding thin or raspy. Treble is nicely extended, textured and detailed.

Verdict – 9/10, While the S1000DB is certainly improved over the R2000DB in almost every way, I do think that this is the least improved model in the entire lineup. That being said, the S1000DB still addresses almost all of my key concerns with the R2000DB, the midrange, the remote and the gloss finish, while compounding on its strengths. Due to its high retail cost, the S1000DB is no doubt, the least popular speaker in Edifier’s lineup, however that does not indicate a weakness of the speaker in any way, rather, due to its unpopularity, the S1000DB has received many price cuts making it very competitively priced. If you are looking to purchase a new speaker around $500, then the S1000DB provides a nice alternative to speakers such as the B&W MM-1 and Audioengine A5 with unique and engaging tuning that does not come at the cost of quality and a striking aesthetic that will surely draw more than a few compliments from guests and relatives.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. m@ says:

    Terrific writeup Ryan. Thanks very much. I am about to pull the trigger on a pair of S1000DBs. Currently see them for about $350 USD on Amazon in the US. Any other speakers you would recommend considering in that price range? My 2 big requirements in addition to being powered and great sound are the apt-X BT and at least one optical input. Seems like this set is perfect for me. Thoughts? Thanks again!

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    1. Ryan Soo says:

      I honestly haven’t heard a whole bunch of computer speakers around the S1000DB’s RRP (I have more experience with lower end pc speakers and home theatre speakers), but I would generally recommend the S1000DB over the similarly priced E235. They are easily a better speaker than something like the Bowers and Wilkins MM-1 and $330 is a great price. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed after a little burn-in!

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