Edifier have proven time and again that they are masters of design without compromise of sound quality. This is helped in part by their acquisition of STAX, the renowned electrostatic headphone manufacturer considered to be one of the greatest in the world. I`ve tested Edifier`s flagship computer speakers as well as the portable Rave MP700, but can their newest speaker in their bookshelf speaker lineup, the R1280T, achieve similar visual and sonic impact with an RRP of just $150?
Disclaimer –I would like to thank Edifier very much for providing me with a loaner unit of the R1280T. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and I will be as objective as possible in my evaluation of the product.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
The R1280T`s come within a small box that snugly fits the speakers, accessories and a few cm of foam padding. It has the usual two tone Edifier design, with renders on the front and sides and specs/features on the rear.
Opening up the top reveals the speakers wrapped in frosted plastic along with two cables, interconnect wire, a manual and the remote.
Edifier provide users with a regular RCA cable in addition to an RCA to 3.5mm cable to take advantage of the dual inputs on the back of the R1280t.
Unfortunately, they`re both much cheaper in feel than those included with the Image line. The jacks are not gold plated and produce a loud static when twisted within the jack, they also produce a very loud pop when first plugged in. This is partially solved through application of deoxit but it`s still not ideal. Much thicker, gold plated, double shielded cables can be had for under $10 AUD online, Edifier should really include better ones in the box. It`s a good idea to keep the internal volume of the speakers low and the volume on the source high.
In addition, the remote is pretty budget overall. It works perfectly fine and the buttons have a mushy but accurate click. Since the remote communicates via infrared, it will need to be pointed directly at the right speaker to function, range has been good enough for general usage, but it doesn`t beat the Bluetooth remote included with the Spinnakers.
The left, passive speaker connects through conventional speaker wire. You can use any wire to increase the distance that the speakers can be placed apart though the included cable is quite long already. They attach to the speakers via a reliable spring loaded terminal.
Being a bookshelf speaker, the R1280T`s are not as striking as the Image line, of course they were never intended to really draw attention. Instead, they provide a more classic look, with an understated blend of MDF and plastic. The plastic runs down the centre and rear; it feels very sturdy and the dark grey is classier than plain black or white, well matched to the grey grills. The wood looks relatively nice, but the grain is a little artificial and it lacks the feel offered by higher end speakers. There are also small foam feet on the bottom that prevent vibration and wandering as well as protecting the surface upon which the speakers are placed.
The speakers look pleasing enough for a bookshelf speaker but the feel is still not quite premium. Edifier add a few accents such as the silver separator on the grill and Edifier logo at the bottom which add a little emphasis to the design.
The front grills are a little stiff but can be removed, allowing users to showcase the exposed driver array. Subjectively the speakers look a lot better without the covers, the tweeter is well protected by a plastic facade but the 4inch woofer is completely exposed. It`s probably wise to keep the drivers protected from dust and general contact when not in use.
Removing the covers made the sound a little clearer in my testing, I definitely prefer the brighter sound produced without the fabric covers.
The right side of the right speaker houses the interfaces and status LED (glows green when on and flashes when muted). Edifier outfit the R1280t`s with three dials, the top allowing users to tune the quantity of treble, the middle controlling bass and the lowest dial altering volume. As with the E25`s, the placement of the controls is not ideal though volume and muting functionality can be easily controlled via the remote, bass and treble adjustments can only be altered on the speaker itself. But even if the controls are poorly placed, they are well laid out, with actual hardware dials and more space between them to allow for easier manipulation. The three controls lie within a countersunk panel on the right of the right speaker, they are clearly marked and well weighted. The volume dial is not a potentiometer, instead employing a digital volume control to allow for conjunct operation with the remote.
For $150 you do receive a very nice looking set of speakers that are a step up in terms of looks from the plastic speakers offered in retail stores. The remote is a little cheap but as mentioned, works perfectly as intended. The speakers are quite compact for a bookshelf speaker and conversely quite large as a desk speaker, but the aesthetic design more than makes up for the larger than average space requirements.
The R1280t`s are an active bookshelf speaker that utilize a dual driver setup comprising of a 4″ bass/full range driver augmented by a 13mm silk dome tweeter for a total output of 42W RMS (21W each speaker). In addition to the front firing, flared bass reflex port, this setups allows the speakers to produce a pretty pleasing sound considering the recommended price. The maximum volume output is similarly impressive, with a full, room filling sound that will easily satisfy most listeners. As a bookshelf speakers without rear bass ports or passive radiators, the sound is very consistent with volume, sounding just as crisp at lower volumes. As a result, they`re also not placement sensitive at all, sounding similar on a desk as on a shelf. Of note, I do prefer the sound without fabric covers and will evaluate the sound with them removed.
The sound produced by the R1280t`s is reasonably balanced but on the smoother, more laid back side of neutral; perfect for easy listening and relaxing but perhaps not ideal for more excitable genres such as rock and pop. It`s a luscious and perhaps surprisingly refined sound when considering the price and one that is well suited towards the intended usage case scenario. With the bass and treble adjustment dials in factory position, the sound is more midrange centric, but the dials offer enough adjust ability to produce a slightly v-shaped sound should you want to listen to the aforementioned genres. Providing 6dB of adjustment in either direction, bass and treble controls don`t make a huge difference to the sound but will provide an extra layer of fine tuning to suit listeners looking for more low end emphasis or treble sparkle. They still don`t really alter the tonality of the midrange nor do they affect extension in either direction.
Heading into the low end, the R1280t`s are lacking sub and low bass in general, but mid-bass is punchy and upper bass is generally well considered. The speakers also produce a full bodied, slightly darker midrange, that is very even throughout, devoid of peaks and any form of harshness. This produces a nice vocal presence; vocals are very clear but sound slightly veiled with the cloth covers. The speakers are also well detailed but definitely not aggressively so, the sound is more relaxed. The treble response is a little more laid back as well, with a roll off at the very top. This makes them great for longer listening sessions and background play, but critical listening easily reveals their lack of top end sparkle, regardless of treble adjustment.
Despite the lack of extension in either direction, the R1280t`s have an impeccable soundstage with precise imaging and a strong centre image. Instruments have plenty of space even with the thicker sound of the R1280t`s and placement is quite easily discerned. To my ears, the R1280t`s have a stronger soundstage than Edifier`s Image line of computer speakers that themselves had strong imaging as a result of in-built psycho-acoustics.
The speakers produce a weighty bass response that has slower decay and isn`t the tightest but retains modest balance with the rest of the sound. It`s not super punchy like Edifier`s image range of speakers but is rather a smooth, room filling bass, as would be expected from a bookshelf speaker. As a result, bass is slower but not bloated, losing out on detail and definition in favour of impact. Bass notes tend to blur slightly in faster tunes but has enough texture to flatter slower music. Using the dial on the right speakers, the bass can be tuned, this mainly affect mid bass, sub-bass and upper bass don`t change much with adjustment, great for controlling bloat and I`m sure users will appreciate the option to alter the tuning.
The speakers are lacking a bit of sub-bass extension with a softer low bass response and a strong roll off below 60Hz. Otherwise mid bass and upper bass are more prominent; mid bass is in line with the lower midrange but upper bass is slightly behind them both (though not overwhelmed). The bass can sound bloated if the bass dial is too high, but otherwise bass is plenty taught for the price if looser than higher end speakers.
The higher frequencies are much more impressive. Beginning with the midrange, the speaker produces a well balanced and smooth response that well reproduces vocals, piano and acoustic music, hence well suited towards genres such as indie and jazz over rock and electronic. Mids have a nice presence, vocals sound intimate and smooth, both male and female. Similarly, the midrange is not peaky at all and avoids any harshness.
To my ears, the midrange sounds more full bodied than neutral on a whole, both upper and lower mids, there`s little muffle and vocals have plenty of intelligibility. That being said, there is a small amount of veil to the sound and the treble adjustment makes little impact on this character; yet despite this, the midrange is very consistent which is a rarity given the more excitable sound carried by most speakers.
Vocals sound great with a nice sense of body that avoids being either thin or thick but somewhere in between. Male vocals sound slightly veiled whilst the upper midrange retains admirable clarity, albeit without a focus on clarity. There`s a nice sense of detailing to the speakers, not as much as more sculpted speakers but it`s a refined sense of detail that doesn`t draw immediate attention.
If you don`t mind the slight veil, then the midrange on the R1280t`s will be sure to impress with vocals, acoustic and any midrange focussed music in general. Videos and games are also complimented by high speech intelligibility and great soundstage imaging/spacing.
Treble has a thinner character but is still balanced enough to retain texture and avoid woodstick pheonomon. The high end has a nice sense of detail and adjustable quantity but the roll off is definitely noticeable, especially tracks with a lot of effects or high hats. Upper treble can sound especially thin but luckily never sibilant or fatiguing. The treble response well compliments the speaker`s smooth sound but will lack sparkle for those who prefer a brighter, more hyper detailed sound signature.
Verdict –Although the R1280t`s are a bookshelf speaker, with a relaxed sound to match, they actually make for a pretty versatile media/computer speaker and with their relatively high volume output, I`m sure they would serve a TV setup equally well. Even for the modest asking price of $150 and perhaps the $130 price tag offered by several online retailers in Australia (such as Dick Smith), it`s still hard to say that the R1280t is great value. This is especially so with the abundance of budget 2.1 speaker systems on the market that offer certain advantages over the R1280t. However in the bookshelf speaker market, the R1280t`s offer sensational value, as these products are generally priced much higher, most in this price range being passive and thus requiring further expense on an external amplifier. So whilst the R1280t does not match the bass extension or sheer volume of 2.1 computer systems, nor the premium feel and exotic aura orbiting traditional bookshelf speakers, the R1280t`s sit as a happy medium, offering a clearer midrange and a more refined sound than the vasts majority of consumer speakers, not to mention a much nicer wooden build/design. Edifier provide a solid option for buyers looking into a smooth, non-fatiguing pair of speakers that are just as happy flanking a 64inch plasma TV as they are decorating a bookshelf.
Accessories – 5/10, Cheap cables and remote, work but static and pop are not ideal.
Design – 7.5/10, Very nice MDF cabinets look great but understandably feel less premium than more expensive speakers. They are certainly eye catching without their fabric covers, with a flared bass reflex port and ribbed woofers. Controls are well weighted and easy to manipulate, ideally should be located on the right of the left speaker. Dual inputs and spring loaded interconnect connectors work reliably.
Bass – 5/10, Room filling bass response has plenty of slam but lacks a bit of speed and definition. Sub-bass is quite rolled off. Not too much bloat or bloom despite slow decay, great for slower genres, but a bit messy for pop/rock/etc.
Mids – 7/10, Full and very even midrange is surprisingly refined at this price point. Slightly veiled lower mids but upper mids are clear. Nicely detailed without drawing immediate attention. Great sense of space and imaging.
Highs – 5.5/10, Rolled off but smooth and non-fatiguing. Well suited towards long, easy listening sessions.
Verdict – 7/10, A nice option for the price and a great entry into higher end bookshelf speakers, the R1280t sits comfortably at the higher end of it`s price range, handily beating similarly priced computer speakers with refinement and an air of quality. Fantastic imaging and space most noticeably augments the smooth sound whilst the wood build and very catching driver array will sate those looking for a more unique listening experience. If you don`t mind the cheapish accessories and lack of extension, the R1280t`s bass, midrange and soundstage performance will be sure to impress.
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