BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

Buy it at Amazon: BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]

Takeaway: Great fidelity, clarity, and sparkling in mid/upper registers but lacks heavy bass and limited volume/focal range. SAVE 10% with exclusive promo codes below!

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BenQ is known to most as a video projector company, but their line of audio devices with unique technology is not to be dismissed out-of-hand. They're following up on their first electrostatic Bluetooth speaker, the treVolo released in 2014, new, even smaller model, the treVolo S. They also have an updated version of the original, the treVolo 2.

In the box you'll receive the speaker, a power adapter base, a US outlet plug, a microfiber drawstring bag, and a quick start manual. You'll first need to assemble the power adapter by sliding the swappable plug into the adapter base, making sure the tab end goes in first. It should click into place. The cord on the adapter is 5 ft long and the connector is a standard microUSB. The speaker itself is pretty hefty, weighing in at 2.25 lbs. It measures 6" x 3.75" x 2.5" when folded up. The sides of the speaker open up 90 degrees to reveal the amplifier panels at a full width of 8.5".

On the bottom of the speaker is a thick rubber base at a slightly upward angle with four rounded corner feet which isolate the speaker from table vibrations and keep it from sliding around. On the back is the microUSB charging port and line-in port. On the top of the speaker are the controls: an NFC pairing area, Play/Pause, mode, volume keys, Bluetooth pairing, and power button. To charge the internal Li-ion battery, plug the adapter into the USB port; the LED light will be red while the speaker is charging and shuts off when the battery is full. Because the unit has an internal battery, it does not need to be plugged in to operate. On battery power can play continuously up to 18 hours, depending on volume level, though in our test it lasted beyond that to nearly 20 hours of use.

What's the difference between an electrostatic speaker and a traditional electromagnetic speaker? Well for one, the size. These speaker drivers are super thin, only 1/4", which is only possible by using an ultra thin film diaphragm sandwiched between the metal grills which vibrates to generate sound. This technology allows the speakers to reproduce sound accurately and cleanly with the mid to high frequency ranges projecting uniformly across the entire surface of the speaker. As a result, the sound has minimal distortion and is very realistic and crisp sounding. Compared to the 10% distortion rate of traditional speakers, the distortion rate of these speakers is less than 1%. It also performs very well and remains balanced at lower volumes, perfect for listeners who want to add some music to quiet spaces or just have some ambient noise in a relaxing environment. But don't be fooled, the speaker is able to produce louder volumes, certainly enough to fill a small room.

Although you get great fidelity in the mid and upper ranges, since the displacement of the ultrathin diaphragm is correspondingly small, electrostatic drivers often struggle to produce low frequencies which is why there are dual 12W subwoofers on the front and two low frequency passive radiators on the sides to balance the sound from treble to bass. The panels' flat design tends to focus directly in front of the speaker and at the height of the speaker, often described as "beamy" by critics of electrostatic speakers. Large electrostatic floor speakers usually address this by making their panels curved, but on the treVolo S you can widen the sound stage by switching to 3D mode. Just press the mode key and the power LED will flash green about 7 times. There is a difference in the sound; there's a bit more depth, resonance, and bass response making the sound less flat. When exiting 3D mode, the LED will flash red.

The other thing you'll notice projection wise is that the sound radiates both from the front and back of the panels. Though if you're off to the sides, you'll notice a drop-off in sound (which helps to limit the amount of side-wall reflections that could muddy the sound quality). There are three methods of input for the speaker: Bluetooth, Aux-in, and USB. When multiple inputs are used the speaker chooses them by highest priority, starting with USB, then Aux-in, followed by Bluetooth.

The last feature I'll mention but couldn't test is that you can pair to a second treVolo S for true stereo playback. Simply press and hold the Bluetooth and mode keys and the speaker will search for a second unit. On the second unit, press and hold the Bluetooth and volume up key to complete the connections. The BenQ audio app will also walk you through those steps as well as allow you to monitor the battery life and toggle 3D mode on and off, though you don't really need the app to perform any of those actions. Curiously, the app lacks any other useful functions, for example, WiFi audio streaming or volume control.

For a small portable Bluetooth speaker, the treVolo S has a beautiful design, decent volume range, and plenty of detail and fidelity especially in the mid and upper ranges making it great for vocal, classical, and instrumental music; but it lacks a fuller bass response for folks who love heavy beats or club music and who need louder volumes to fill larger spaces. Its built-in battery makes it suitable for travel, if you don't mind the extra weight, but the sound stage can be somewhat flat and narrow given the directional nature of its projection. But as long as you can set the speaker at the right height and point it directly at the listener, you'll find the listening experience to be quite pleasant and satisfying overall.

Buy it at Amazon: BenQ treVolo S Electrostatic Portable Bluetooth Speaker [Affiliate Link]

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