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Edifier R1280DBs review: Budget brilliance

$150 powered bookshelf speakers have no business being this good.

Edifier R1280DBs
(Image: © Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Our Verdict

The R1280DBs is budget-focused, but the sound quality is anything but. The powered bookshelf speaker produces a rich and detailed sound that's more than adequate to fill a medium-sized room, and it looks rather good. You get dedicated knobs for adjusting the volume as well as bass and treble, and you'll find all the connectivity options you want, including Bluetooth 5.0. And best of all, you get the ability to connect a subwoofer to the speakers for a more engaging sound.

For

  • Detailed sound with great imaging
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
  • All the wired connectivity options you want
  • Good cabinet design
  • Can easily connect a subwoofer
  • Excellent overall value

Against

  • Bluetooth streaming limited to SBC

Edifier is a Chinese manufacturer that's known for delivering value-focused bookshelf speakers and wireless earbuds, and it has gained a lot of momentum in recent years in the sub-$300 category.

The R1280DBs is an updated model of the R1280DB, a stalwart in this category. The R1280DB launched back in 2017 and immediately became a hit thanks to its sound quality and feature-set, and with the R1280DBs, Edifier is adding better Bluetooth connectivity and a few extra features, like the ability to connect to an external subwoofer. 

What's remained the same is the focus on value; the R1280DBs retails for under $150, so let's take a look at what you're getting with this speaker, and if it's suited for your use case.

Edifier R1280DBs: Pricing and availability

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The R1280DBs launched in May 2020 for $159, and it continues to be one of Edifier's best-selling speakers. It is available in all countries where Edifier has an official presence, and in North America, you can pick it up directly from Amazon, where it is retailing for $143.

You can get the R1280DBs in two variants: an all-black design or a wood grain finish. Edifier provides a two-year warranty as standard across the globe.

Edifier R1280DBs: What you'll love

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The R1280DBs retails for under $150, but you wouldn't know that from the design. Edifier has done a great job with the design of the speakers, with the MDF cabinet encased in faux wood that makes it look very elegant. The R1280DBs comes in a wood grain or an all-black option, and the wood gran finish in particular is striking.

The R1280DBs is designed to look like a premium product, and the build quality is similarly robust.

The rounded corners and chrome accents on the front grille add a bit of flair to the design, and the build quality and fit and finish is on par with speakers that cost thrice as much. 

The R1280DBs has a compact design for bookshelf speakers, making it ideally suited for use in a desktop setting. It doesn't look too big next to my 27-inch Xiaomi gaming monitor, and the Niffler seems to like it, so that's something. 

The front grille is removable, and it houses the 4-inch bass driver, bass reflex port, and the 13mm silk dome tweeter. The right speaker contains the amplifier and all the inputs, with the left acting as a passive speaker, so just you'll find spring clips for connecting it to the right speaker.

As for connectivity, you'll find two RCA analog inputs along with two digital options — optical and coaxial — along with spring clips for connecting the left speaker. The biggest difference between the R1280DBs and the regular R1280DB is the ability to connect the speakers to a subwoofer; the "s" designation in the name alludes to the same. As such, you'll find a subwoofer output at the back, and you can easily connect the speakers to a subwoofer.

The right speaker also houses controls for volume, bass, and treble. The R1280DBs includes a bundled remote that makes it easy to switch between modes, adjust the volume, control music playback, and power the speakers on or off. There's an LED located below the volume knob that serves as a visual indicator for Bluetooth connectivity, and there's another one located at the front that shows which input is in use.

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Setting up the R1280DBs is about as straightforward as it gets: just connect the power cord to a wall outlet, use the bundled cable to connect the right speaker to the left, plug in the speakers via your desired input, and that's about it. I used the R1280DBs with my desktop PC for the last three months, and I used the optical port. The range of connectivity options makes the R1280DBs incredibly versatile, and that's not counting Bluetooth.

It's just as easy to pair the speakers with your phone. The R1280DBs comes with Bluetooth 5.0, and I didn't see any issues with connectivity whatsoever. The remote makes it easy to switch between various source modes, and as far as connectivity goes, these speakers tick all the right boxes.

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Coming to the performance, I was pleasantly surprised with how good the R1280DBs sounded. It delivers a full sound with a lot of detail and character, with plenty of definition with the mids and highs and a controlled low-end. It does a good job with vocals and dialogues as well, producing good timber and clarity.

The imaging is well-suited for TV shows and movies, but the speakers come into their own when playing music. The tight low-end combined with the warm profile makes these a good choice with a wide variety of genres, and while the bass is decent enough in its own right, you'll want to invest in a subwoofer to fully unlock the potential of these speakers.

Thankfully, Edifier makes an 8-inch subwoofer called the T5, and pairing it to the R1280DBs results in a much more engaging sound. The T5 has a low-pass filter that lets you decide the frequency where it kicks in, and the sub paired to the R1280DBs is a fantastic combination.

Edifier R1280DBs: What needs work

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The R1280DBs gets a lot right, and the only issue from my point of view is Bluetooth. While it's great that you can easily pair your phone to the speakers and play music, the fact that streaming is limited to the SBC codec means you're not going to get much in the way of detailed sound. 

That was evident in my testing as well; the sound quality is decent enough, but it lacks the detail and fidelity that you get with the wired options. The best Android phones have AptX codecs as standard, and its omission here means you're not able to stream high-res music. 

The addition of AptX or another hi-res wireless codec would have made a lot of difference here, but that would have made the speakers that much more costly. Maybe next time.

Edifier R1280DBs: The competition

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

There are a few choices available if you're looking for powered bookshelf speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. Neumi's BS5P has similar connectivity options — including Bluetooth — and it puts out more powerful sound (75W vs 42W). You miss out on the ability to connect an external subwoofer, but other than that, it is a good alternative.

If you're looking for wireless streaming options, you'll want to take a look at the Kanto YU. These powered speakers have similar connectivity in addition to the AptX codec, but the downside is that they're costlier at $299. Similarly, Audioengine's A2+ is a stellar choice at $269, offering a variety of wired connectivity options alongside Bluetooth and AptX for $269.

Edifier R1280DBs: Should you buy it?

Edifier R1280DBs

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

You should buy this if:

  • You want powered bookshelf speakers that look and sound great
  • You need speakers with plenty of connectivity options
  • You're looking for the ability to add an external subwoofer in the future

You shouldn't buy this if:

  • You want to stream high-res music wirelessly

Overall, Edifier got a lot right with the R1280DBs. The powered bookshelf speakers produce a lively sound that's detailed and well-balanced, and they look great. You get all the connectivity options you could ask for, and there's Bluetooth 5.0 for pairing with your phone; AptX would have been ideal, but I understand why it isn't available here. 

The ability to connect an external subwoofer is handy — particularly if you're interested in these speakers for streaming music. The sheer amount of versatility makes the R1280DBs a standout choice, and the fact that it retails for under $150 makes it a real bargain.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Harish Jonnalagadda

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.