Design & Hardware
It’s crafted from aluminum housing and feels sturdy enough to be run over by a truck and since it’s made of metal it looks stylish enough to blend into your living-room. It’s not the lightest portable speaker around at 750 grams, or 1.65 pounds, it’s also not small enough to fit in your pocket but easily in your purse or backpack.
It’s got a retro high-tech look with the large metal speaker grill and visible drivers. The shape is also curved a little so the speaker face pops out a tad with a convex curve. And, our favorite feature of them all the customizable LEDs that line the edges of the speaker.
On the back of the device is another speaker grill that covers what looks like the subwoofer. The back of the speaker has a few different touch controls. There’s power, Bluetooth/source select, light control, and you can slide the touch buttons to control volume. The touch controls look nice and work well and never missed.
If you’re looking for portable speaker options, there are no track control buttons and we are also missing a built-in microphone for phone calls or voice activation.
In terms of connectivity, there is Bluetooth as well as an auxiliary jack that supports analog or S/PDIF digital inputs. We have a charging port that’s magnetic, and proprietary, there is no micro-USB charging so forget plugging it into you portable charger if you’re running low on juice while you’re out. If we had to take a guess as to why that is, it’s likely because the AiFi requires a lot of power to push out such serious audio. We also found it a bit of a pain to have to plug in each speaker when we have it in the soundbar set up, this leads to a lot of cable clutter. A daisy chain for power would have been very cool, but this isn’t an insignificant ask.
There are a few subtle design elements that enable aiFi speakers to be stacked on top of each other or side-by-side. There are indentations on the top of the speaker sized perfectly to fit the rubber feet on the bottom of the speaker. On the side, there are metal “aiFi coins” that magnetically fill an indentation. Removing one coin lets another speaker’s coin fill the indentation creating a magnetic connection between the two speakers. There is a definite snap when you put them in place.
The data transfer happens through the “wavedots” on the top, sides, and bottom. The signal is proprietary signal sent between the speakers which allows them to customize the music coming out of each speaker for optimum performance. This is where the Ai comes in, if your speakers are stacked versus in a soundbar setup, the configuration of the audio will need to change.
We are big fans of the full, clear and loud sound of the aiFi speaker as a solo speaker and paired. Alone the sound is full and loud and more than enough for a bedroom or on a picnic. There is bass and treble and the sound is full and not hollow tinny in the slightest. There is also no distortion when you push it to the highest volume, which I found to be far too loud if you’re sitting right in front of it. This is a great sign if you’re looking for something to bring out onto the patio in the backyard.
Ideally, if I were heading outside I would love to have two to create a surround sound type feel. It would be cool if you could pair them up to play the same music and have them in different corners of the deck or room. This might not be necessary since they are loud enough and since you can configure their setup you have different options for how you fill the space with sound.
Pairing the speakers is easy, just stack it on top, or side-by-side. It really is that easy. The LEDs change to the same color letting you know they are paired, but if you have music playing you will definitely notice. Stack as many as you want and aiFi will intelligently decide how to best play your audio.
We had a 3 speaker set up which created a sound bar that was capable of emulating surround sound. Stack them you’ll get a speaker tower. The wider your build, the wider and more dispersed your audio becomes. This makes it a great solution to fill a room with sound with more ambient sound. If you were having a party you might want to stack them to create a more directional sound where as if you were just hanging out at home or watching a movie you might want something more casual and immersive.
By itself the A1-1 has decent lows, if you’re playing a bass heavy song you’ll miss the air moving “thump” that you might expect.
Most genre’s of music come out beautifully in the mids, podcasts have clear and present vocals.
Highs actually sound pretty great. even at higher volumes, there is no distortion.
aiFi expect you can get 8-12 hours of battery life at decent volumes at a party I got a full 8 hours playing music over Bluetooth, I expect with a cable connection at lower volumes I could see 12 hours. The standby time is also excellent if I’m just listening to music before work I only have to charge up once a week.
One aiFi will run you $299, for a solo portable speaker, this is expensive considering that it is missing USB charging to keep you powered while on the go. However, as a trio, it’s not a bad deal a $1000 soundbar that is competitive in sound to non-portable at home solutions is actually a good deal.