Writing my Airpulse A80 Review left me feeling a little bit deflated if I’m brutally honest. That deflated feeling came from the fact that they’re only loan units and I knew I’d be sending them back! Over the 7 days I had them, I really started to become attached to them.
I’d only heard of Airpulse once before, I’ve recently published a press release detailing their launch line-up. They’re part of the Edifier group but the A80’s differ in the fact that they’ve been designed from the ground up by famed audio wizard extraordinaire Phil Jones.
On paper then, these should be excellent and I certainly felt that way. They’re expensive, they’ll set you back around £629 / $860 but are they worth the asking price? Let’s get into my review and you can find out. Read on below for my thoughts on the Airpulse A80’s.
The Airpulse A80 is a set of two speakers. It’s an active speaker system, meaning that you won’t need an amplifier to power them (unlike my recent Edifier P12 Review). They provide 100-watts of total power output and have a good amount of input options, which makes them super flexible in terms of where you set them up. You’ll be able to set them up with a TV, PC, Smart Phone plus lots more! The Airpulse A80’s also feature high resolution audio support which means if you have an music subscription service like Amazon Prime, you’ll get the benefit of much better audio quality.
With an Amazon Prime subscription you’ll get access to Amazon Music at no additional cost. The Amazon Music library has thousands of HD and Ultra HD songs. Hit the link here for a free 30 day trial. Just remember to cancel after the 30 days and you won’t be charged!
I was really excited to get my hands on these but, I didn’t expect them to arrive so soon! I was a little caught off guard when they arrived just one day after I got the email to say they were available to review. I’m not complaining though, as they came direct from Airpulse, it just gave me a bit of an idea of the sort of service you’re likely to receive.
Once I’d opened up the box I was greeted with a well presented collection of bits and pieces I’d need to get set-up. I unboxed everything and set up the A80’s on my TV stand. The set-up was really easy and took literally 2 minutes. The detachable power-lead is a great addition, it means you can buy a longer cable if you require one and provides additional placement flexibility.
Overall my first impressions are good; I really like the classic wood styling and minimalist design features. But, I can’t hide the fact that there is a hell of a lot of single use, non recyclable packaging which I’ll quickly summarise below.
Single Use Plastic
It’s completely unnecessary and is completely avoidable. Each and every element of the speaker system has it’s own plastic covering. The accessories come in a cardboard box with plastic lid. And then inside that box, all of the accessories are individually bagged in plastic single use bags. I’m not sure why manufacturers feel the needs to wrap everything up in plastic. Things won’t get that dusty without it, or if manufacturers insist on individual packaging for each item they should invest in recyclable or sustainable alternatives.
If you are eco conscious and we probably all should be, it’s worth thinking about contacting these large world wide corporate manufacturers to let them know we want eco friendly alternatives. Hopefully this review will be read by people in the industry so changes can be made.
Airpulse A80 Review Sound Quality
To spend over £600 on the A80’s, they need to be up to scratch in terms of audio performance. I listened to a good variety of music and also hooked these up to my TV to see how they performed when watching a movie. The first album of choice was Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By. I know this album quite well, it features a track with remarkable levels of bass (Song Name: Lock It Up), which would be a good test!
For the album I left the bass and treble at the neutral positions. The standard sound is really well balanced and has good clarity in instrumentation and vocal aspects. A few of the tracks, and in particular the bass heavy ‘Lock It Up’ needed a bit of extra bass enhancement. Fortunately, you can turn the knob on the back of the unit and increase the bass. I didn’t crank it all the way up, I recon it was just about over halfway, which sounded pretty great. Just over halfway is probably the perfect setting for the bass and I didn’t move it again once I’d found that sweet spot.
I’d say my office, where I do most of my tests is a mid-sized room. The Airpulse A80’s had no problem filling the entire space at low to medium volume. Playing music at really low levels (sort of a background music levels) audio performance is pretty much perfect, I can’t pick fault with it at all.
Regardless of how loud you have the audio level set, the quality tends to remain throughout the volume spectrum. One thing I did notice was, at the maximum volume the bass didn’t (at least in my opinion) sound loud enough. I felt it would need a bit of a tweak using the knob on the back to increase the bass further. They didn’t distort much at all at the max volume, but I did notice an ever so slight bit of static noise / sibilance.
The high end is fantastic too, I really like my tweeters to sing. And the A80’s are the first speakers that I’ve tested that feature a ribbon tweeter. Ribbon tweeters offer greater level of flexibility, compared to their traditional driver style counterparts. They’re also extremely light, that lightness makes for a much higher level of acceleration and a greater level of response, this goes on to translate into greater performance. And I have to say, the high end is fantastic. The A80’s feature probably one of the best sounding high ends that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.
I wanted to also watch a movie, so for further testing, I plugged them into my TV (via the Headphone Jack). I watched a film called ‘Promising Young Woman’, there isn’t much in terms of a sound track, but what music there was sounded great and was certainly an improvement over the in built speakers. Cast dialogue sounded crystal clear and the enhanced bass, in comparison to the standard TV speakers was thoroughly enjoyable. And, I didn’t really want to admit this, but they are better than my dedicated Edifier XM3BT 2.1 system that I use for my home theatre audio needs.
Amazon Prime Music has a feature called Ultra HD. Some music on the streaming service is super high quality and I wanted to test if the High Res Audio support on these was all it’s cracked up to be. Listening to those Ultra HD tracks via Bluetooth I couldn’t really tell if there was a difference or not to be completely honest. I may not have the ears for it! But, when connecting to my laptop via a cable, I could definitely notice an improvement in overall clarity, sound quality and instrumentation detail. So, if you can, listen via a wired connection. Having said that though, Bluetooth will be fine for general / casual use.
The Airpulse A80’s feel really robust and extremely strong. And, I guess that’s thanks to the 18mm thick MDF construction, that’s finished in a stunning walnut. The inside of the cabinet is lined with a professional waved sound absorption material which makes it sound and feel solid.
The build quality reminds me of Edifiers’ S1000DB, which I gave a 10/10! Airpulse have paid particular attention to all of the smaller details and that culminates into the build quality practically being perfect. They have ensured the finished wood construction is without fault. The speaker cabinets fit together well, there aren’t any mismatched panels or sharp edges to the wood textures, it almost feels like it’s been made out of one piece of wood. The result really is spectacular.
My usual scratch test was pretty pointless, as just holding one of the speakers in your hands you know it’s not going to get damaged or scuffed in normal use. I did it anyway. I grabbed a letter opener and ran it down the side of the speaker cabinet. And, as I imagined, there wasn’t any damage or light scratches at all.
The speaker cable that joins the passive and active speaker is really thick and has a rugged construction, particularly the connector feels super strong which is good. I’m glad they haven’t skimped on the included cables. It all just seems too perfect doesn’t it? Well not quite, I was a bit disappointed with the bundled remote control.
Disappointing Remote Control
The remote control really does feel like an after thought. At first, I wasn’t too bothered about this because I’d considered that the designers probably concentrated on the overall speaker performance before thinking about the bundled accessories. But, if we’re being asked to pay over £600 for the A80’s I’d have expected a remote to be (and I hate this phrase) a bit nicer.
The worst part about remote is that it doesn’t feel like it’s been designed specifically for the A80’s, it’s an off the shelf product they’ve included at the last minute which is unfortunate. I’d have preferred the remote control to have the same premium look and feel.
The remote control is quite small and made of a cheap black plastic. It has buttons for power, source selection, volume control and mute. The worst part of the remote was trying to remove the cover to fit the included battery into it. The battery cover is not very well made and was slightly off centre which meant I had to forcefully remove it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s functional (and that’s all I really need from a remote) but that’s all it offers, it’s not even particularly nice to look at.
Features and Design
The A80’s I received were finished in walnut, which looks fantastic. I’m not sure how I feel about the other colour option, electric blue. The electric blue option restricts the localities you can place them in. For example, they wouldn’t look good in a classically decorated living room, but they’d look great in a modern games room / office. The walnut finish, however, looks good in any setting.
Although I didn’t open them up to look inside Airpulse say that the inside of the speaker is fully lined with acoustic foam to help improve performance. The foam, aswell as the all wood construction means these are fairly heavy!
On the front of the speaker, starting from the top you’ll find the ribbon tweeter. Moving further down the front is the 4.5″ driver, which really does dance about when you’ve got the volume cranked up. Below that, on the right hand side speaker, is a small LCD display, which indicates which source you’ve selected. That screen area also includes the infrared sensor for the remote control.
On the back of each speaker you’ll find the oval shaped bass port. Airpulse opted to feature an oval shaped port to reduce wind noise. The back of the speakers is also where the connectivity, power and speaker cable ports are situated.
The bottom of each speaker has 4 foam feet, they could have left these off to be honest because the A80’s do come with full size angled foam pads for you to stand them, which helps improve sound quality and sound position. The pads help angle the sound toward your ears and reduce the amount of sound absorption through whatever surface you’ve sat them on. It really does help improve the audio experience.
You’ll also notice that they’re aren’t any dust covers / grills included with the A80’s, which I’m pleased about, they look far too good to have the drivers and ribbon tweeter hidden by an ugly grille.
Airpulse A80 Review Summary & Verdict
Score: 9.5 / 10
The negative points I’ve expressed don’t come anywhere near to outweighing the countless positives though. And I have no qualms about recommending these to you, my readers. Go ahead, if you can stretch to the asking price.