Skip to main content

Grace Digital GDI-BTSP201 Review

grace digital GDI BTSP207 Bluetooth speakers front top
Grace Digital GDI-BTSP201
MSRP $249.99
“We can say without hesitation that these little speakers offer a seriously impressive level of sonic value for their $200 asking price.”
Pros
  • Clean, accurate sound signature
  • Powerful, distortion-less max volume
  • Good bass response for the size
  • Excellent wireless audio quality
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Midrange lacks warmth
  • Bass is occasionally boom-y
  • Must select speakers in device settings each time they’re powered on

The last time we had a piece of Grace Digital hardware in our hands, it was the waterproof ECOXBT portable Bluetooth speaker. At the time, we were wowed by the concept, but underwhelmed with the final product. Sonically speaking, the ECOXBT had a sharp touch and was further plagued with an unreliable Bluetooth connection. However, without giving too much away right off the bat, we’re happy to say the company’s latest wireless endeavor, the GDI-BTSP201 (SP201), is a whole new ball game.

The SP201 are Grace’s answer to the expanding genre of compact, wireless bookshelf speakers like the NOCS NS2, and the NuForce S3-BT – particularly the latter. With both sets employing vinyl exteriors in red, black or white, as well as similar dimensions, inputs, control panels, and more, it doesn’t take a trained eye to see the similarities. But the SP201 have some key advantages, including the new Bluetooth 4.0 protocol with aptX, as well as a bargain basement starting price of only $200 at Amazon. The obvious question to be answered was, could the SP201 hold their own when the rubber hit the road? After a several days of extensive listening, we got our answer.

Out of the box

While the SP201 gave us an eerily similar unboxing experience to the NuForce S3-BT, they had a less premium feel. As we pulled the red speakers from their package, they felt suspiciously light, the vinyl felt a little less luxurious, and the light plastic baffles looked a little naked without a grill covering it all up. That said, they still gave off a sleek, clean aesthetic. And seeing as the S3-BT were a hundred dollars more when we auditioned them, we still came away impressed.

At the top of the right speaker we found a digital infinity dial for easy volume control; surrounding that dial is the usual grouping of control buttons. We were also glad to find gold binding posts at the backside of the speaker, nestled below the input section. Digging inside the box, we found a power cable, an RCA to 3.5mm cable, and about 10-feet of speaker wire.

Features and design

While we weren’t blown away by the SP201’s look and feel at unboxing, we found they manage to look pretty good on a shelf or desktop. The vinyl makes for a homey, set-them-up-in-your-study (if people still had studies) kind of vibe, and while the speaker cabinets are fairly deep, they’re still far more compact than the boombox speakers of yore.

…while the speaker cabinets are fairly deep, they’re still far more compact than the boombox speakers of yore.

The right speaker is the input and control hub. As mentioned, the control center is inset at the top of the speaker which, apart from the volume dial, includes a standby/source key, a Bluetooth pairing button, a play/pause key, and a song search toggle button. The back of the speaker houses the system’s single RCA Aux input, a USB port for charging your smartphone (always nice if you’ve got a spare cable), the aforementioned gold binding posts, and the main power switch. Both speakers also include a single bass port at the back.

Sound for each speaker is handled by a 1-inch dome tweeter, and a 3.5-inch composite cone woofer, driven with 35 watts of total system power. The frequency range is claimed at 50Hz-20kHz, and Grace Digital publishes a frequency response chart that is about as flat as you’ll see in a system at this price level, which had us intrigued.

grace digital GDI BTSP207 Bluetooth speakers back ports macroWhat the system lacks is a remote, though we acknowledge that a re-design would be necessary to utilize it. Powering the speakers on and off requires using a physical switch (a real turn-off for the devices when power is cycled). That means every time you want to use them, you must physically power them on, and initiate connection from your Bluetooth device. It’s not a huge issue – in fact some might consider it a bonus – but it is something to be aware of.

Audio performance

After spending some quality time with the SP201 system, we can say without hesitation that these little speakers offer a seriously impressive level of sonic value for their $200 asking price. Even before we recalled the published frequency response, we got a distinct impression of transparency from the speakers as they blasted a powerful burst of distortion-free sound across their spectrum with agile accuracy. At times, there was an edgy cut to the attack of midrange instruments, but for the most part the little blocks belted out a full, brilliant expanse of stereo sound that outperformed their pintsize frames.

…cranking the speakers…brought enough thunder to get us in trouble with the downstairs neighbors.

The first track we auditioned was “The Shankill Butchers” by the Decemberists, and right away we were treated to firm definition in the vocals which bloomed from a well-defined center image. The vocal track was accompanied by clean, rounded acoustic guitars with a jangly, gypsy-style clink to the tambourine. In fact, the upper register remained a highlight throughout this track as the speakers reliably delineated high synths and percussion with vivid clarity.

In the first few hours, we detected some light coloration to the SP201’s sound signature which was particularly well-revealed by the infamous snare drum loop that kicks off Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” On this cut, the riff had a taught click that was too thin for our taste. However, after giving the speakers some ample break-in time, we re-visited the track and found ourselves much more focused on the display of dynamic expression in the string swells and the fluid nature of the reverb that shot out to the left on Michael’s echoed “do think twice!” lyric.

Bass was fuller than expected. When we auditioned some hip-hop and reggae tracks, the low kick hits and bass grooves came through with plenty of force. In fact, cranking the speakers to about 75 percent not only displayed the SP201’s integrity at high volumes, but the bass brought enough thunder to get us in trouble with the downstairs neighbors, invoking a strangely satisfying pounding on the floor from below. The confrontation was all the more impressive since these babies are sized more appropriately for a computer desk than a family room. In fact, our only real issue with the bass was that it could get a touch boom-y at times, and we wished we could spread some of that power to warm up the midrange a bit, especially on classic recordings from artists like the Kinks or the Rolling Stones.

grace digital GDI BTSP207 Bluetooth speakers front iphoneWhile the speakers were impressively precise, sometimes we longed for some more detail and depth in deeply complex productions. Most of the information came through, but the level of texture and dimension came up shy of what we’d call hi-fidelity when we put it to the test with artists like Radiohead and Daft Punk. Still, that’s getting a little critical for speakers at this level, and we had many more pleasant surprises than disappointments in genres ranging from electronic and pop tracks, to classic recordings from the 40’s and 50’s.

Conclusion

While many are leaning towards single-unit systems for their wireless audio fix, separated speakers like Grace Digital’s SP201s prove that true stereo separation and a convincing soundstage can be had without taking up tons of space or breaking the bank. And considering all the other perks these little speakers have to offer – including a crystal-clear sound signature, potent and distortion-less high volumes, and extremely reliable wireless performance – they make a great argument for spreading things out a bit. For those looking for an affordable wireless system, or even a set of computer speakers that keep it small, simple, and powerful, we highly recommend considering Grace Digital’s GDI-BTSP201’s.

Highs

  • Clean, accurate sound signature
  • Powerful, distortion-less max volume
  • Good bass response for the size
  • Excellent wireless audio quality
  • Affordable

Lows

  • Midrange lacks warmth
  • Bass is occasionally boom-y
  • Must select speakers in device settings each time they’re powered on

Editors' Recommendations

Ryan Waniata
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
Crazy! Save a massive $1,000 on this TCL 98-inch 4K TV right now
The TCL 98-inch S5 4K TV on a white background.

If you’re looking for a huge TV but you still want to save plenty of money, you need one of the TV deals going on at Best Buy today. Over there you can buy a TCL 98-inch S5 4K TV for $2,000 instead of $3,000. The $1,000 saving makes this TV much more affordable for many people, and we’re still in awe that you can even buy a 98-inch TV for $2,000. If you’re intrigued, keep reading and we’ll tell you all about what the TV has to offer.

Why you should buy the TCL 98-inch S5 4K TV
TCL is one of the best TV brands for value which explains why this TV is so well-priced. A great price, it still packs in tons of similar great features. Besides its huge 98-inch display, it has a high brightness direct LED backlight which produces brighter images and an enhanced viewing experience. It also supports the HDR Ultra package of Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG.

Read more
Best Buy just discounted this 65-inch Samsung 4K TV to $400
The Samsung 75-inch LED 4K Smart TV on a media cabinet.

If you want a reliable 4K TV that’s just the right size for your living room, check out the TV deals going on at Best Buy right now. Today, you can buy a Samsung 65-inch TU690T 4K TV for just $400. It normally costs $480, so you’re saving $80 on a TV that is already a great value. If you need a new inexpensive TV for your home but you want something from a reliable brand, this is your chance. Here’s everything else you need to know about it.

Why you should buy the Samsung 65-inch TU690T 4K TV
From one of the best TV brands, the Samsung 65-inch TU690T 4K TV is an ideal TV to enjoy plenty of benefits without breaking the bank. It has a great 4K picture with a PurColor Crystal Display which provides fine-tuned colors how they’re meant to be seen. It’s also Direct Lit so that blacks and whites are fine-tuned for enhanced contrast and there’s HDR for a wide spectrum of colors and visual details.

Read more
Save $400 on this Samsung 85-inch QLED TV for a limited time
Samsung QN90C review

Looking for an amazing quality TV for less? Best Buy is often the home of awesome TV deals, and right now you can save $400 on the Samsung 85-inch QN90C Neo QLED 4K TV. It usually costs $2,600, but today you can buy it for $2,200, saving a sizeable amount of cash. Here’s what you need to know about it before you buy.

Why you should buy the Samsung 85-inch QN90C Neo QLED 4K TV
The first thing to know is that Samsung is one of the best TV brands out there so you can’t go wrong buying a Samsung TV. Its penchant is developing some of the best QLED TVs with the Samsung 85-inch QN90C Neo QLED 4K TV being one such highlight.

Read more