It’s not just headphones, IEMs, amplifiers, DACs and DAPs that see exhibition at the e-earphone Portable Audio Festival in Tokyo. And it’s not all high-end gear either. There’s a solid amount of super affordable hardware on show. Hardware that encompasses Bluetooth and desktop speakers.
Ultimate Ears showed off their second generation Boom (covered here) and MegaBoom Bluetooth tubes on Level 2 and downstairs in B1 where, at KEF Japan’s nearby table, I got my first hands-on experience with the British company’s latest efforts in the portable/affordable speaker sphere.
First up, their MUO – a Bluetooth loudspeaker that drops a consonant and mortgage from KEF’s highest of high end shiny-silver floorstanding MUON loudspeakers. The baby MUO sits on its side, is considerably heavier in the hand and looks/feels more luxurious than the UE Boom. It sounds better too. The MUO’s aluminium body houses three drivers: a pair of 5cm takes on KEF’s dual-concentric Uni-Q tech running full range augmented by a single ‘Auxiliary Bass Radiator’ (ABR). The internal Li-On battery gives 12 hours’ playback from a full charge.
The resulting sound is WEIGHTY – easily the most satisfying affordable Bluetooth mono-box I’ve heard to date – but it still comes with pricing to match its performance: 45,000JPY (~US$400) which is almost double that of the UE unit. Fuelling my in-show demo on the ground in Akihabara was the Sony NW-ZX2 Walkman. I drove Brian Eno’s “This” out of the Sony’s Bluetooth output and into the MUO’s:
You can’t do that with an Astell&Kern. Devices that don’t stream audio over Bluetooth can be rear-connected via the MUO’s 3.5mm auxiliary input. Finally, know that the MUO is available in four colours other than the silver finish seen in the video.
Those happy to surrender the MUO’s portability are directed towards KEF’s EGG computer speakers. In each loudspeaker, a 50-watt Class D amplifier drives a 20cm Uni-Q driver array. The upshot is an uptick in clarity over the MUO as well as proper stereophony. Inputs include a 3.5mm socket, that runs double-duty as analogue and digital optical, a mini-USB port and Bluetooth over which I streamed that same Eno cut:
Tap the EGG’s subwoofer output for more bass in your face.
Pricing on a pair of EGG comes in at 65,000JPY (~US$550). That’s significantly (with a capital S) cheaper than the current leaders in the desktop-centric computer speaker field, the €2760 (~US$3000) Eversound Essence.
One final thought: both the KEF EGG and MUO talk aptX, a higher quality Bluetooth audio transmission protocol that demands that the transmitter is also aptX-equipped. Apple products currently are not so be sure to check your device’s aptX compatibility here.
Further information: KEF Japan