Q: My wife wants to get me a Bluetooth audio speaker. Have you tested anything lately that you can recommend?
A: It depends on what you're looking for. Here are three winners I have tried recently.
Taking it from the top in terms of price and performance is the Fluance Fi50. This is a full-sized, audiophile-quality tabletop music system that must be plugged in to the a wall socket. It can fill a fairly big room with warm, clear, lively sound, and the coaxial speakers feature dedicated tweeters for better high-frequency reproduction. The Fluance Fi50 is my favorite Bluetooth speaker under $200 and looks fantastic, too, with a modern design and choice of three real wood finishes. Learn more at fluance.com.
Many of the smaller speakers I have been testing are rugged designs that are perfect for an active lifestyle. The two other recommendations fit into this category, starting with the Braven Balance at $129. This midsized speaker is IPX7-rated for outdoor use and has a soft rubber material covering most of its surfaces. Six bright, attractive colors are available, and the sound is excellent. Learn more at braven.com.
Those looking for something small to carry along with them should consider the Hercules WAE BTP04 Outdoor. This triangular speaker is splashproof and dustproof and built like a little tank. You can download an app to your smartphone to adjust tone with an equalizer function. It's only $42 and sold online in many places. See wireless-audio.hercules.com/outdoor-btp04.php.
A wise man could make the case to your wife for getting all three. You need the Fluance for home, the Braven for the beach and the Hercules for your backpack or briefcase so you always have a powerful speakerphone with you.
I might have a few more Bluetooth speaker recommendations around the holiday season.
Looking for 'wow' effect
Q: I have a Yamaha A-S301 integrated amplifier and need new bookshelf speakers. Can you recommend anything under $1,000 that will still have the "wow" effect compared with my 30-year-old B&W 50 bookshelf speakers?
A: My favorite bookshelf speaker selling for under $1,000 (and prices far beyond that) is the $999 GoldenEar Technology Aon 3. I wrote about this bookshelf speaker a few years ago after I first heard it at the Consumer Electronics Show. It was the best sound at the show and completely smoked the $20,000 tower speakers that were on display across the hall. I ordered a pair of Aon 3s on the spot. Then I bugged the company until they finally showed up at my door. See goldenear.com.
Anyone looking for something way under $1,000 should check out the A1rx-c from Chane Music and Cinema. Chane loudspeakers, once sold as "Arx" from the Audio Insider, incorporate exotic high-performance technology in plain black boxes. Think of it as getting Ferrari-like parts in a Chevy Cruze. The $298 A1rx-c is not in the same class as the GoldenEar products, but the sound is sweet, balanced and detailed. Pair them with some good electronics and they will make you grin ear to ear. See chanemusiccinema.com.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.