Audio solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking at the latest Bluetooth speaker, the perfect soundbar for your entertainment centre or audio amplifier to get the best out of your sound system, there are options out there for everyone. We have checked out new brands in 2021, like Klipsch and JBL, while keeping an eye on our past favourites like Bluesound, and we can’t wait to see what 2022 brings.
Here are CGMs nominees for Best Audio Solution 2021/22:
Writer: Brendan Frye
The company has positioned the Bluesound Powernode to be the centre of your entertainment experience, and the new features and upgrades help with this. Moving away from the 50 Watts of power for external speakers in the last iterations, the device now delivers 80 watts. This allows for more variety in speakers, giving buyers the freedom to choose what sound fits their needs. They have also reportedly used the same power stage seen in the integrated amplifier NAD C368, a much more expensive offering, making the Powernode a fantastic choice for value and performance.
Bluesound also makes it possible to control your system with Google Assistant as well as Amazon Alexa. While not a massive difference over many of the competing brands—many are adding or are looking to add to it—it is long overdue in the high-end audio space and helps set the Powernode as part of a whole home smart experience that is welcome for a system at this price point.
The Bluesound Powernode (N330) is a worthy upgrade and a great addition to any audio setup.
Writer: Ridge Harripersad
The Tronsmart Studio Bluetooth Speaker contains two unique features I was impressed with when reading and hearing it: Soundpulse and TuneConn Technology. Soundpulse is an awesome setting in the Tronsmart App, which balances the audio levels, delivering a great balance of bass and vocals. I would never have expected this speaker to do that! The TuneConn Technology is a feature that supposedly allows up to 100 of the Studio Speakers to synchronize together through Bluetooth. Essentially, the more, the merrier.
If you need a speaker to play music for some ambiance, or you’re throwing a medium-sized indoor party, this thing will deliver. It might be possible to throw a rager party if you use the TuneConn Tech and sync a few more Tronsmart Studio speakers together, but you didn’t hear that advice from me.
The Tronsmart Soundpulse Technology puts the Tronsmart Studio Bluetooth Speaker on a competitive level with bigger, well-known name brands as it showcases great sound quality at a fair price.
Writer: Brendan Frye
The PowerNode 2i is a relatively compact little box, especially compared to receivers of old. But even with its size, it offers a 32-bit/384kHz DAC and is able to play all high-resolution streaming formats—even the elusive MQA, making Tidal a much more exciting proposition. Granted, the selection of high-res music is still limited. There are plenty of tracks from Vinyl that have made their way, and they sound phenomenal. But if you exclusively like modern music, the choices are a bit more slim. It is growing steadily, but be aware, you may not be able to listen to all the top-40s when you first set this little box up.
Over the course of my time with the PowerNode 2i, it quickly became the heart of my audio experience. It fit seamlessly into my current speaker setup, and thanks to the HybridDigital amplifier, that can pump out 60 watts per-channel into 8 ohms; you should have no issues hooking your favourite speakers up and getting things moving with relative ease.
The Bluesound Powernode 2i delivers an unparalleled audio fidelity experience that has no equal in the price or feature set.
Writer: Brendan Frye
Few speakers come along that equal the style or sound quality of The Fives from Klipsch. There are countless speakers and soundbars that hit the market every month. They all offer a wide range of features and price points, but even with this vast assortment of options, most will ultimately fall flat. Many try to do too much, or simply can’t do the one task I expect from a speaker—sound good. Plugging in Klipsch’s The Fives, I expected this outcome, boy was I mistaken.
The sound produced by The Fives feels like a blend between the scale of what many American audio companies try to create and the European more nuanced soundscape. It brings forward a complex wall of sound, while never losing the subtle detail you could miss on other, less refined brands. It is hard to say if Klipsch has completely refined this audio approach just yet, but during testing, I was impressed by just how versatile these speakers were, moving from complex audio to movies without making many sacrifices in the process.
The classic styling and simple controls with The Fives mask a modern speaker that would make any audio or TV setup sound amazing.
JBL Pulse 4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Winner, Best Audio Solution 2021)
Writer: Dayna Eileen
This speaker is definitely not the lightest portable speaker on the market. It’s actually a little on the heavier side if you ask me, at 2.78lbs—which would have been a bit of a complaint until I got to know the big guy better. The Pulse 4 features an IPX7 waterproof design, a stunning LED light show, a battery that will last all night long and a literal woofer at the bottom pumping out sound like I’ve never heard. It would be hard to fit all that into a dainty speaker that you can pop into your purse—and let’s be clear, I still pop this into my purse, it just weighs me down a little.
The most important thing about a portable speaker is the sound, obviously. The speaker has an output of 20 watts, but what I love about it is the way they designed the woofer, placing it on the bottom with a little lift around the rim of the speaker allowing any sound and bass being pumped out to echo off the surface, putting more power behind the audio. When I first turned it on and connected it to my phone via Bluetooth—which was seamless by the way—the volume was extremely low on the device, and I was shocked by how loud it still sounded. My kids actually decided to turn it up as loud as they could for fun, and it blew us away.
The JBL Pulse 4 Portable Bluetooth speaker carries a steep price tag, but after using it, I’m going back to buy another.