The last time I bought a pair of speakers at the below $150 price level was the Altec Lansing multimedia speakers, which cost exactly $150 about 25 years ago. They were pretty good for multimedia purposes, but definitely weren’t sufficient for anything beyond that.
When Edifier sent me an e-mail with the title “$100 speakers that don’t suck,” my first thought was: challenge accepted! They’re about $130/pr. in Canada with a straight price conversion, so they still fall into the sub-$150 category. What could I expect? A lot, apparently.
The R1280T powered bookshelf speakers let you connect to multiple audio devices using dual RCA inputs. By looking at the back panel, you can easily tell that one of these is a passive speaker and one is an active speaker. The active speaker has two inputs located on the back. These inputs are perfect for RCA to RCA or RCA to AUX connections. Connect them to a PC, laptop, tablet, phone or record player. The speakers are connected to each other via regular speaker wire using spring clip speaker terminals. The varieties of cables are included so I didn’t need to search inside my spare-cable boxes to find the appropriate ones.
The front grilles are a little stiff but can be removed, allowing users to showcase the exposed driver array. Subjectively, I find that the speakers look a lot better without the covers. The tweeters are very well protected by a plastic facade, but the 4″woofers are completely exposed. It would be wise to keep the drivers protected from dust and general contact when not in use.
My only two criticisms are that the feel of the connectors are cheap, and the speaker terminals use only spring clips. Then again, these are not premium speakers. They were designed to hit a price point of not “low” or “affordable”, but “cheap” in the most positive way possible.
The sound produced by these speakers is reasonably balanced, but on the smoother, more laid back side of neutral. It’s perfect for background music, but definitely not for studio monitoring (what do you expect?) It is, however, surprisingly refined when considering the price, and is well suited to the intended usage as a multimedia speaker system.
With the bass and treble adjustment dials in factory position, the sound is more midrange centric, but the dials offer enough adjustability to produce a slightly v-shaped sound providing 6dB of adjustment in either direction. It’s a big enough boost to the sound, which provides an extra layer of fine tuning to suit listeners looking for more low end emphasis and/or presence. Nicely, the controls don’t really alter the tonality of the midrange nor do they affect extension in either direction. Impressive.
Heading into the low end, the R1280t’s mid-bass is punchy and upper bass is generally well reproduced. 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 midrange presence; vocals are clear but sound slightly veiled when the grille was installed. I highly recommend to remove the grille for more serious listening sessions.
The speakers are also well detailed, but not aggressively so – the sound is more relaxed. The treble response is a little more laid back as well (which I like), 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 presence, regardless of treble adjustment.
Impeccable soundstage with precise imaging and a strong centre image are the core strengths of these speakers. Instruments have plenty of space, even with the thicker sound of the R1280T and instruments’ placement is quite easily discerned.
Listening to Howard Gladstone’s Hourglass album and my other usual suspects, including my own production and Charice/Judas Priest/Michael Buble music selections, are not a chore.
These aren’t perfect. But for under $150, they indeed don’t suck, and in fact are pretty damn good for the money.