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BenQ treVolo portable Bluetooth speaker
High quality sound, battery powered portability, and a wacky design make this speaker an interesting one to consider
- Built-in battery for portability
- High-quality sound overall
- Interesting design
- Some tracks needed more treble
- BenQ Audio app didn't work for us
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
BenQ is not the first brand (or perhaps even the twentieth) that you’ll think of turning to for a high-quality Bluetooth speaker, but the company has introduced a portable speaker that’s different from the norm, and quite an interesting proposition. The treVolo makes use of electrostatic speaker drivers that can produce sound both in front and behind the listening position.
By including electrostatic drivers, which are based on a flat, lightweight membrane, rather than traditional cone-based tweeters, for the higher frequencies, the BenQ treVolo stands out from the crowd. It still has cone-based drivers for its woofers, and these are installed in the central core of the speaker while the electrostatic drivers are in side panels that fold out to give the speaker a larger footprint. The woofers face forwards and are 2.5in in diameter, and there are two bass radiators installed on either side to help bolster the low-end frequencies.
It’s an interesting speaker design overall, with the side-folding electrostatic drivers giving it a less-than-traditional function, as well as making the unit look neater when it’s not in use, and making it easier to transport. It feels solidly constructed, and the buttons are easy to press. There is the main power button at the top, which has a ring that illuminates in different colours to indicate what’s going on with the speaker, and there are extra buttons for the built-in speakerphone functionality and playing mode, in addition to volume.
Built-in equaliser settings can be accessed directly on the speaker itself when you press the mode button, and they make a subtle yet noticeable difference to the sound. We preferred the 'pure' setting, which is indicated by a green flashing light around the power button. The 'warm' and 'vivid' settings made the sound a little less vibrant to our ears. In any case, we took to using a digital signal processor (DSP) app on our Android phone to dial in some more treble.
Like many speakers these days, you can get quite a big sound from a small footprint, and the treVolo is no exception. Its overall output is loud enough to fill a room of a modest size, and it’s ideal for an apartment setting because it won’t emit too loud a boom.
As usual, speaker placement can play a part in the resulting sound quality, and you'll need to find a nice, central location for it in the room you plan on listening in. Since it's a portable speaker with a built-in battery that can give around 12 hours of life, it doesn't need to be near a power outlet all the time. Bookshelves, tables, and anywhere you have surface space can all be tried.
All the music that we tried on this speaker sounded good to our ears, rock and metal being particularly suited to the speaker due to the somewhat flat response. As mentioned, we turned to our own DSP to add some treble, but mostly to hip-hop and electronic dance tunes. It was no big deal, but we felt like the higher frequencies in some tracks needed a little help to overcome the woofer sounds in those instances.
Clarity was high, and the subtleties in the songs that we played were noticeable. From tiny cymbals to scratchy guitar strings, it could all be heard, and it’s a speaker that provided an enjoyable listening experience across the board. We tested with streaming music from Google Play Music, as well as locally stored 320Kbps MP3s and CD-quality FLAC files.
The problem straight off the bat for BenQ is that the treVolo costs $399, which puts in the same price league as products such as the Bose SoundLink, and only $70-100 below products such as the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2 and the Bowers & Wilkins T7. These are all names that are highly regarded in the audio space, while BenQ isn’t. It’s an immediate disadvantage that the company hopes it can make up for with different styling and technology.
Read more: Harman/Kardon Aura wireless speaker
Indeed, while it’s a Bluetooth speaker that definitely sounds good, we can’t help but think that the asking price is a little high for brand that hasn’t been a player in this area before and needs to entice potential users.
That said, there is plenty to like about it: its built-in lithium-ion battery makes it wonderfully portable, and its speakerphone and line-in features are also useful. Sound quality is mostly accurate and loud enough for a modest room, there is enough bass for everything from hip-hop to trance, and subtle tones are reproduced well. Some tracks might need a bit of extra treble though.
At the time of writing, we spotted it for $350 from a couple of online retailers, which is a price that definitely makes it more enticing.
BenQ supplies a phone app that's meant to be able to show you the battery life and EQ mode of the speaker, in addition to play music off your device and any music servers you have on your network. However, we couldn't get this app to communicate with our speaker in order to see its stats. The app played music through speaker without problems though.
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