One of the main reasons Bluetooth speakers are massively popular is their ability to make the music on your smartphone or tablet sound way better. But even if you find a Bluetooth speaker that actually delivers on the promise of better sound (far too many do not), you may not like how it looks. Fluance’s new $150 Fi20 portable wireless 360-degree speaker eliminates that compromise entirely, with an elegant design that makes it feel like part of your home and manages to do so without forcing you to spend high-end furniture prices.
The Fi20 uses an omnidirectional up-firing design instead of the traditional front-firing configuration. The intent is that you can place the speaker anywhere in a room, and the sound will be the same. It’s a good idea, because most portable Bluetooth speakers don’t have the kind of power needed to fill a room from any location, so being able to place it centrally, like on a coffee table, helps maximize what power it has (15 watts, from a class D amp in case you’re curious). The Fi20’s curved triangular tower shape and wood veneer-wrapped exterior help to mask the fact that it’s a speaker. Even the top-mounted touch controls for power, volume, track skip, and play/pause, are discreetly labeled so as not to detract from the device’s looks. Running on battery power, without the power cord attached, one might even think it’s an art piece.
Speaking of the battery, it will keep the Fi20 running for 24 hours at moderate volume, which is an impressive amount of time. Getting it fully charged takes 3.5 hours. Around the back, you’ll find a single aux-in port for connecting non-Bluetooth devices, but somewhat surprisingly, no USB port for giving your phone a boost or USB playback. Like most Bluetooth speakers, you can use it as a speakerphone too, but unlike many of these devices, the Fi20 sports Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, giving it the ability to support much higher audio quality when paired with a smartphone or tablet that also supports the aptX codec.
At 3 pounds and 12 inches tall, the Fi20 is certainly portable thanks to an included handle, but you’ll likely do most of the toting from room to room or perhaps out to the patio or balcony. The materials and design don’t strike us as being especially forgiving of bumps or drops, and the speaker is not rated for any kind of water resistance.
We can’t say how the Fi20 performs until we get our hands on a review unit, but if it’s consistent with other Fluance products we’ve tried, it will deliver very good sound for its price. You can buy the Fi20 right now from Fluance.com, in your choice of black/natural walnut, white/bamboo, or black/black ash.