Price: £399.00 / $524 USDBottom line: The Solo is simply one of the most compelling Bluetooth speaker I've ever tested, and is by far the coolest piece of tech I've tested in 2018. It's straight up one of the best sounding portable speakers no matter where you take it.
- Incredible sound quality for the size
- Customizable EQ
- Beautiful design
- Bluetooth support is useful
- Lots of inputs
- Very expensive
- Not widely available outside the UK
- Not waterproof
- No smart assistant support
There's an abundance of speakers out there in 2018 to fit practically any need you have — top-end options from Sonos, smart assistant speakers from Amazon and Google, and a ton of Bluetooth speakers at practically every conceivable price point.
It can be hard to stand out from the pack — but Studio 19's Solo speakers do not have that problem. From the design and sound quality to its portability, the Solo E500X-EQ is a cut above in the premium speaker market. It's a top-end speaker for all your home entertainment needs that you can also take with you anywhere because it's also a portable Bluetooth speaker — the best of both worlds.
A speaker unlike anything you've ever seen or heard before
Designed by Studio 19 from London, UK this speaker makes some really bold claims about its design and sound quality. Unlike other bookshelf speakers, the Solo EQ is designed to be placed on the floor. Standing at just under two feet tall, it's the biggest standalone speaker I've ever used, but every inch of space seems designed to maximize playback quality.
Looking at the schematic on the side of the box, the majority of the speaker is a cavernous space used to boost bass — to great effect. When I cranked it to the max with some bass-heavy music I could feel the whole room shake with every thumping beat. The speaker array in the top section feature four speaker drivers arranged to deliver 360-degree sound that sounds as good as any sound system I've heard.
The distinct highs and lows from techno and hip-hop music, in particular, sounded fantastic on the Solo EQ, but anything you play through this speaker will sound amazing. There are distinct modes available for watching movies or playing videos which come pre-programmed to highlight different sound details. Movie mode will keep the ambient, dialogue, and soundtrack levels balanced while testing the gaming mode playing Half-Life 2 was somehow as immersive as playing the game wearing headphones.
There are three ways to connect the speaker to your favorite media — 3.5mm AUX input, HDMI, or Bluetooth. Connecting via Bluetooth is fast and secure, and thanks to the speaker's size, the connection range is really strong.
Incredible sound that's ultra portable
The most surprising part of the Solo EQ beyond how great it sounds is that it's essentially a wireless Bluetooth speaker. It's sort of shocking to use a portable speaker that sounds this good. Designed with an 8800mAh battery, you should be able to get up to 8 hours of playback before it needs to be charged via USB-C.
If you're planning to use the speaker in a remote location where you won't be able to easily recharge the speaker from a wall outlet, I've tested powering the speaker using a portable battery pack and it worked just fine. If you're planning to keep this speaker in your home, you can leave it plugged in with a standard smartphone charger and USB-C cable — although it seems like a bit of an oversight to not include a hardwired option or the necessary charging equipment in the box (only a USB-C cable arrived with my review sample).
Designed to stand out and impress
I like putting any speaker I review through the paces in different real-life scenarios, and the Solo EQ performed beyond my expectations in every situation.
Studio 19 claims its patented DPAC system will produce space-filling, high-fidelity sound with full bass that will match or surpass any conventional subwoofer you've heard before — and damn if it didn't live up to those lofty expectations. Whether you plan to primarily use it in a smaller bedroom or office, as an all-in-one unit for your home entertainment setup in the living room, or take it with you outside or in bigger, cavernous spaces such as a community centre gym, the Solo EQ managed to consistently fill the space with crystal clear audio.
I've been bringing it along with me to my weekly dodgeball games to test how the speaker would contend in a bigger, noisier space. Not only did the speaker turn heads, it also performed amazingly at filling the entire gym with music that carried over the busy sounds of the game.
Not all sunshine and roses
As much as I've loved using the Solo EQ, there are some shortcomings that need to be addressed. For starters, there's a somewhat weird bug where if you have your phone paired to the speaker via Bluetooth with nothing playing, occasionally the speaker will let out some troubling clicking sounds. It only seems to happen when the speaker is connected and left idle, but it certainly doesn't sound healthy when it happens. It sounds like the speaker is dying, but I haven't noticed any lasting effects from it.
Because of the analog graphical equalizer on top, there's no waterproofing here at all. This is fine if you're content with keeping it indoors, but with a portable speaker of this quality you're going to want to take with you to the cabin, or outside for a patio party, and so it would have been a nice feature to include somehow. Another minor want: it would have been nice if the bottom light was customizable RGB, or could be synced to bounce along to the beat of the music.
The only other issue is that because this is a UK-based company, international shipping might be a bit of a pain. Studio 19 sells the speaker for £399 via Amazon UK (opens in new tab), but for customers elsewhere in the world you'll need to buy directly from the Studio 19 website. It's also a premium product, starting at $534 USD before shipping costs which puts it in the same range as the Sonos Play:5 (opens in new tab) or Google Home Max except you lose out on the connected features of those speakers for the ultimate portability offered by the Solo EQ.
Final Thoughts: A worthy consideration
The Solo is simply one of the most compelling Bluetooth speaker I've ever tested, and is by far the coolest piece of tech I've tested in 2018. It's straight up one of the best sounding portable speakers no matter where you take it.
4.5 out of 5
It's a shame that Studio 19's international distribution network is so limited, because I could see this speaker really catching on if people could hear it for themselves or buy it from a reliable source such as Amazon. Everyone I've shown this speaker to have been impressed by the sound quality and design. If this is your first time hearing about Studio 19 and their products, I'd say they're a company worth keeping an eye on as they continue to refine their uniquely designed speakers.
So being Bluetooth, which codec technology is it using to give Hi-fi quality? Standard Bluetooth is dire at quality sound. (Why do I suspect that you didn't even physically have access to this Speaker?)
Standard Bluetooth is not dire at sound quality, it's just limited in its bandwidth, which is still more than most streaming audio sources like Spotify and Apple Music. At the same time, the speaker can be used with direct inputs for lossless sound. Marc absolutely had access to the speaker (the outdoor photos are his) — we would never provide a full review of a product we didn't have in our possession.
Good response Daniel. The current limitations are not due to Bluetooth itself, but rather with the DAC hardware used to convert the transmitted data stream to analog for the output stage feeding the amplifier circuits. This is why Bluetooth headphones sound better with the hardware cable, instead of using its native Bluetooth. The DAC in the headphones themselves are rarely as good as the DAC in the better phones or an external DAC.
Sound quality of standard bluetooth is adequate for most listeners but discerning listeners will want devices that support better quality codecs than the standard SBC codec. Qualcomm/CSR promote the use of their aptX family of codecs for high sound quality devices.
My issue with the review is that the sound quality superlatives bestowed upon the speaker don't come with any comparison references. They sound great compared to what?
Looks like a cigarette
Looks like an impressive design, and hopefully sounds better than those sound poles Bose tried to market for live sound. The real test of outdoor speakers? Putting them in the middle of a cornfield, standing 50 feet away, and being able to feel the bass through the earth. That's how I demo DDAC's by Campbell Acoustics.
Bose Soundlink Mini II. Fabulous speaker, lot less money.
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