With the Bluetooth speaker market at saturation point, you have to do something pretty special to stand out from the crowd – and in the case of London-based Studio19, that involves releasing a tube-shaped portable unit with enough bass to shake the foundations of your very home.
The E500X-EQ comes with Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio and HDMI ARC input, a 8,800mAh rechargeable battery, 3-band graphic equaliser controls and a fancy rings of LED lights around the bottom, making it as much a piece of furniture in your home as it is a device for enjoying your music.
Unfortunately, however, an aesthetic like this doesn't come cheap: You can order the E500X-EQ direct from Studio19's site for £399 (around $500, AU$799). (For those who are nonplussed with the graphic equaliser sliders on the top, there's a touch-control model available for the same price which does away with them entirely.)
In contrast to the many other Bluetooth speakers on the market, the Solo E500X-EQ is designed to be placed on the floor rather than on a sideboard or bookshelf.
Fashioned from premium-feel anodised aluminium, the unit is 55cm high and just shy of 3.5kg in terms of weight. It comes in either 'Space Grey' or plain old Gold, and has a ring of LED lights around the bottom which illuminate the underside the unit thanks to three metal poles, which are fixed to a solid base.
The majority of the unit is metal, but the business end of the device – the top – houses the speaker system. You'll also find a set of graphic equaliser sliders (Bass, Treble and Middle, along with Volume) which allow you to fine-tune the sound. Sadly, despite the fancy chrome finish they're actually made of plastic, and feel quite cheap as a result. Next to these are four buttons – one turns the unit on and off, another toggles the LED lights and a third allows you to select between Bluetooth, HDMI ARC and the 3.5mm audio input. The fourth and final button allows you to select from three EQ presets: Music, Movie and Game.
On the back of the speaker you'll find the USB Type C input for charging, the aforementioned 3.5mm audio input and a 3.5mm audio output, as well as a reset button. There's no charger in the box sadly, just a very short USB Type C cable, so you'll either have to use a USB wall charger (like the one you get with pretty much any phone on the planet) or your TV's USB socket, should it have one.
The 8,800mAh battery gives you around 8 hours of listening time, which means you're not limited to your living room when it comes to enjoying your tunes.
While the E500X-EQ isn't small or light enough to pop in your rucksack, it's not overly heavy, making it relatively easy to move from room to room in your home. It's just as suitable for outdoor use, too, but there's no water resistance of any kind… so you might want to avoid using it outside when there's likely to be wet weather.
The reason the E500X-EQ is so tall is because Studio19 has incorporated its patented 'Dual Pressure Air Compression' (DPAC) super-bass technology; which fancy terminology aside, allows the unit to mimic the deep, booming bass of a traditional subwoofer.
The clever driver configuration – combined with air pressure – enables it to hit some seriously low-end frequencies. At full volume and with the bass slider all the way up to maximum, we were seriously impressed by the sheer amount of boom this relatively small unit was able to muster. Suffice to say, we had to check all loose fittings in the living room afterwards, such was the deep and rich nature of the bass.
Of course, hitting those low notes means little if your speaker lacks range, and thankfully the E500X-EQ doesn't disappoint: High notes are reproduced clearly and powerfully, and the middle range also strikes through the bass-heavy haze without too much trouble.
If we were being really picky then we'd say that Studio19 has perhaps emphasised the low-end a little too much in this product – even with the bass slider turned down to practically nothing, it's still pretty robust – but the ability to adjust the other ends of the audio scale help, and within a few days of use you'll have found the perfect balance for the room (or rooms) you're using it in.
DPAC isn't the only breakthrough being promoted by Studio19 – it also offers 'Enhanced 360° Optimised Sound' so that no matter where you place it, you get the full audio experience. According to the manufacturer, this promises an 'immersive' wall of omnidirectional sound that flows not just left and right but up and down as well, making it seem like you're using more than one speaker.
It's a bold claim that actually holds some weight. There's definitely a lot of nuance to the sound but – depending on where you place it in the room – it's easy enough to tell where it's coming from, and lacks the wide arc of a traditional stereo setup.
For this reason, Studio19 allows you to pair up two E500X-EQs using 'True Wireless Stereo' support – although how many people will actually do this is another matter, given the high price of each unit.
Connecting to the E500X-EQ is a breeze; you simply select it as a Bluetooth audio source from your smartphone or other smart device.
The quality of the audio over a wireless collection is nice and dynamic thanks to the built-in digital processor, but it's possible to pick out telltale compression noise. Sadly for audio connaisseurs, the unit is quite limited when it comes to codec support, and doesn't take advantage of high-end codes, such as aptX and aptX HD.
HDMI ARC support is another bonus, as it means you can effectively turn the E500X-EQ into a soundbar for your television. As long as your TV has ARC support then you can simply connect it to the E500X-EQ and you'll get clean and clear digital audio – at least in theory. We tried it with two TV sets – a 2015 Sony Bravia and a cheap, no-brand 40-inch LCD purchased from a local supermarket – and got mixed results.
Surprisingly, on the cheaper TV it worked first time, but on the Sony we had to dig deep into a series of menus to enable PCM audio, only to find that a day later the TV refused to send any signal to the speaker whatsoever. HDMI ARC's a great idea in principle, but it's clear that manufacturers aren't sticking to the standard as closely as they perhaps should (which could have something to do with the fact that HDMI ARC+ is now a thing).
In the end, we resorted to connecting the E500X-EQ to the TV's 3.5mm audio socket, and while the analogue signal was prone to some background hiss, the quality was good enough for us to live with.
The fact that the E500X-EQ offers such amazing sound quality in a portable package is really quite remarkable; sure, portable speakers are common these days but it's rare to get one that's capable of belting out such incredible bass and powerful sound. No matter where we installed it, the speaker created an amazing audio experience that we couldn't help but be impressed with; it's just as suited to outdoor use, as long as you have very understanding neighbours.
While it's not the most mobile of units and lacks waterproofing, the E500X-EQ is still small and light enough to be carried around the house with ease, which means your music doesn't have to be confined to a single room – and with eight hours of battery life, it's got some impressive staying power, too.
The fact that the HDMI ARC support didn't work as well as we'd hoped is disappointing, but you may find your configuration is more accommodating than ours. It's also a shame that the unit doesn't have metal EQ sliders or a remote control – having to get up to adjust the volume or equalizer becomes something of a chore over time, but you can at least fiddle with the volume using your phone or – if you're using it as a soundbar – your TV's remote control.
While it's not cheap at £400 and lacks some key features, the E500X-EQ is still a seriously impressive piece of home audio equipment. If you're looking for a solution which covers your music and TV audio needs then this is highly recommended; not only is it great for music and movies, it also saves you the bother of having to shell out for a subwoofer, thanks to its rich and deep bass.
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