Published on June 30th, 2014 | by Greg0
Bayan Audio’s Soundbook X3: Lovely, But A Tad Overpriced
With wireless speaker systems sprouting up like flowers after a rainstorm, it can be impossible to keep track of each new edition released. Today’s model, though, deserves some serious attention thanks to it’s eye-catching design, balance of portability and power, and audiophile credentials. While you might not have heard of the company, they are a well known brand in their home country, based in the UK and now becoming more widely available here in the US.
The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is part of their series of portable Bluetooth speakers (the X3 is the larger of the siblings, the basic Soundbook is smaller). On paper, they’ve created a speaker that hits all of the right notes, with a feature set that includes support for apt-X, Bluetooth 4.0′s superior protocol that offers much better audio quality. There’s both an auxiliary headphone-in and even an output jack, allowing you to connect other sources, plus a USB output port for connecting your smartphone and charging from the speaker directly for a battery boost. Rated at a 10 hour battery life, we didn’t need to recharge it often, and there’s NFC compatibility as well for those with devices that support it. Finally, the rarest feature of all was the inclusion of an FM radio antenna, allowing this to serve as the perfect speaker/radio for your kitchen counter, bedside table, or for use at your next picnic.
The design itself offers plenty to love- our initial impressions were overwhelmingly positive, thanks to a shape that naturally angles the sound where you want it and a speaker flap/cover that flips down to serve as the stand. Built from solid aluminum, it feels sturdy enough to throw into a bag and held up well over testing. Connecting to our iPhones and computers was easy, and the speaker can remember up to four devices. The Soundbook X3 has four active drivers plus a passive bass radiator, and can put out 20W of power, enough for a small room though not enough to really drive a party. The top button controls are nicely recessed and easy to use, with one exception- you need to press the power button to change sources, and it’s not very well indicated. The volume LEDs on top are a nice touch. The unit isn’t weatherproof, which is a shame, but that absence usually would allow for better audio performance.
And it was only here where the Soundbook X3 let us down a bit. We’ve seen many less expensive competitors, from outdoor-friendly models to desktop monitors, but at this price range you could get Harmon Kardon’s cool dual-speaker Novas. Feature sets and sizes vary, and the best option will largely depend on your use case, but in the price range of the Soundbook X3, we do have high expectations. And though the mids are solid and impressive, the high and low-end response didn’t wow us. Soundstage was a bit flat, whether in classical or hip-hop listening, and overall a little synthetic, lacking the dynamics we want (and need) to see. We also faced occasional cutouts, especially during pausing or when skipping a track. Available for around $300, online and in stores, the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 comes very close to winning our seal of approval, but the high price tag makes it harder to recommend unconditionally.