IKEA Swedens its product line with a Bluetooth speaker
By Jim Bray
One may not think of IKEA as a place to shop for audio equipment, but the Swedish company best known for its furniture is throwing caution to the wind and introducing a new Bluetooth speaker system anyway.
It's the ENEBY line of speakers which, as of the August 1 kick off in Canada, consists of two models, both of which are available for under $100 CAD. The smaller of the two (called the 20x20) includes the capability for wireless power as well as wireless tunes – as long as you buy the optional ($20) battery pack for it.
Since IKEA is about the last company I expected to offer a speaker system, I jumped at the chance to review one, and the company was kind enough to send me the larger of the systems, the 30x30 ($99 CAD) to try out. Both models are available in either black or white (my sample is black), feature what at least one other reviewer seems to judge as attractive styling, and will probably look really at home on that IKEA stand you may have sweated over when you brought it home and had to put it together.
Another plus: you don't have to assemble the ENEBY!
Another option: the larger, 30x30 speaker can also be had with a $10 stand to make sure it stays put when the tunes start a-rockin'.
You can also remove the speakers' grilles so you can impress your friends with their tiny little drivers. Okay, tiny little drivers is actually a plus if you're talking about reproducing high frequency sounds – the tweeters are the smallest of the drivers in a speaker cabinet – but in this case the woofers (the large drivers that handle the low frequencies) are about the size of many speakers' midrange drivers. At least there are two of them in the 30x30 system, helping to enhance the bass performance.
The tweeters are one inch soft dome units, and the 30x30's woofers measure four inches each. Also helping enhance the bass is a bass reflex port on the back, which in this instance also doubles as a handy grab handle. The 20x20, by the way, has a single, 3.2 inch woofer.
Since the ENEBYs are Bluetooth speakers, you can connect your smart phone, computer, or whatever Bluetooth source you might have, wirelessly. Not that this is unique; after all most Bluetooth speakers offer exactly that functionality. So, what makes IKEA's different?
Not sure I can answer that: the 30x30 isn't particularly portable, since you need access to a power outlet, and in listening to the speaker side by side with my little Bose Soundlink Mini there's no comparison at all (the Bose beats the pants off it, and is portable to boot). On the other hand, the ENEBY is about half the price of the Bose, so that's definitely worth something.
Setting up and using the speaker is child's play. Pairing your smart device is straightforward, and IKEA says you can sync up to eight devices, which is pretty darn flexible. The speaker also has a 3.5 mm auxiliary jack on the back by which you can "hardwire" a source device. This is especially handy if you're an audiophile, since Bluetooth is often not considered an audiophile-quality method of listening to your tunes. The downside to that is you need to have your source device close enough for the cord to reach.
On the other hand, the auxiliary input also means you can hook in music sources that aren't Bluetooth-enabled, which is an extra bit of flexibility.
There's only one control on the ENEBY, a little knob that protrudes through the grille, and you use it not only for pairing, but for cranking the volume up or down. You also use this control for adjusting the equalization, to tweak the audio output to your room.
Unfortunately, there is no way to skip forward or backward through tracks, which I think is an unfortunate oversight. On the other hand, the abovementioned Bose doesn't do that, either, so IKEA is by no means unique here.
You might have to play with the system a bit to get onto how the control works, but it's pretty straightforward on the whole, and a little LED in the middle of the knob will tell you what you're doing with the thing. For example, if you want to tweak the bass, you hold the knob down for three seconds, at which time the LED flashes slowly. Adjustment is a simple up or down via the knob. Ditto for the treble: after the bass adjustment you press the knob once more and the LED will flash quickly, after which you do the same up/down adjustment before pressing the knob once more to get out of the settings area.
IKEA says the 30x30's amplifier puts out 42 watts (this is basically a mono speaker, with no provision built in to pair them up for stereo), which might sound pretty minimal but which is more than adequate for this application.
I consider myself an audiophile and I have to admit I was underwhelmed by the ENEBY's performance. Oh, it works just fine, and as advertised, but as I mentioned above, it isn't in the same league as some other Bluetooth speakers I've tried. In fact, my initial listening tests left me extremely underwhelmed, but after some tweaking and subsequent listening I more or less made peace with the speaker..
You can also crank the ENEBY and it'll accommodate you happily, without distortion, which is nice.
So, while it isn't really an audiophile speaker, it does have its uses: for example, it could be ideal in such applications as a house party, where you want tunes in various locations around the house, thanks to its decent Bluetooth range: I live in a typical suburban four level split, and had no issues at all with the ENEBY 30x30 dropping the signal anywhere in Chateau Bray.
The bottom line for IKEA's ENEBY 30x30 is that, while audiophiles will probably find them lacking, more casual listeners who like speakers that disappear visually into the wall unit while still offering good convenience and reasonable audio quality will undoubtedly find them to be more than adequate.
That means there's probably a broad audience for the ENEBY.
Copyright 2018 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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