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aiFi Ai-1 Review: The Modular Stackable Bluetooth Speaker

Stackable speakers that rock!

After witnessing the aiFi Speaker Tower, hands on and ears on, we knew that the aiFi Ai-1 Speaker was a serious feat of engineering. By most standards, it’s an everyday portable bluetooth speaker. It connects to most every device via bluetooth or auxiliary cable, has a large rechargeable 8 hour battery, plays loud music, and is water resistant. In reality, it’s so much more, with some really cool capabilities. aiFi: Artificial Intelligence Fidelity.

Pictures won’t do the aiFi Ai-1 speaker justice. It’s crafted from aluminum housing and feels sturdy enough to be run over by a truck. There’s a mix of Swedish steel and aluminum designed for the speaker to withstand the pressure inside of it. Also, to withstand the pressure the user applies outside of it. It has some heft and weighs 750 grams, or 1.65 pounds. It’s about the size of a standard bluetooth speaker. It may not fit in your pocket, but it’s certainly portable enough to pop in a bag or backpack. While the size is standard, the design is not. It has a sort of retro high-tech look with the large metal speaker grill and visible drivers. The shape is also curved a little so the speaker face pops out a tad with a convex curve. And, most notably, it has customizable LEDs running around the perimeter of the speaker.

On the back of the device is another speaker grill that covers what looks like the subwoofer. The back of the speaker has a few different touch controls. There’s power, bluetooth/source select, light control, and you can slide the touch buttons to control volume. The touch controls look nice and work well, but we’d still opt for some tactile feedback. There are no track control buttons and there’s no built-in microphone for phone calls or voice activation. On the back there’s also an auxiliary jack that supports analog or S/PDIF digital inputs. There’s a charging port that’s magnetic, like Apple’s MagSafe connector. Unfortunately, there’s no micro-USB charging or any kind of USB charging. This is likely because AiFi requires a lot of power to crank such serious audio.

There’s a few subtle design elements that enable aiFi speakers to be stacked up-and-down or side-by-side. There’s indentations on the top of the speaker sized perfectly to fit the rubber feet on the bottom of the speaker. On the side there are metal “aiFi coins” that magnetically fill an indentation. By removing one coin, another speaker’s coin can sit in both of the indentations, creating a magnetic connection between the two speakers. Finally, there are “wavedots” on the top, sides, and bottom that are responsible for data transfer between speakers.

If you have more than one speaker, pairing them is truly effortless. Just stack it on top, or side-by-side. That’s it! You’ll notice the different LED colors become one and instantly you’re playing from both speakers. Stack as many as you want and aiFi will intelligently decide how to best play your audio. 3 speakers side-by-side creates a sound bar capable of emulating surround sound (it’s really amazing). Sound bars can be achieved with 5 speakers too. Stack speakers on top of one another and you get a speaker tower. The wider your build, the wider and more dispersed your audio becomes. It’s great for filling a room with audio in a non-directional manner. Stacking speakers up creates very big sound that’s more directional. It comes down to personal preference and your needs. For a party, you’d probably stack up, for casual listening you may want to stack across.

The battery of each speaker lasts about 8 hours, but this will depend on usage. I found mine to last a bit less. Each unit comes with a 3A power adapter, which is a lot of power. The speaker will take 3 hours to fully charge and you can check the battery status from the app or by double tapping the power button. If you’re stacking multiple aiFis, you’ll need a charger for each. Alternatively, aiFi sells a power link so you can daisy chain up to three speakers and charge just one.

There’s an iOS and Google Play app for aiFi that allows you to remote control your speaker with some extra features. The app allows you to apply firmware updates to the speaker, which can enable a lot of features in the future. Currently, the app can control music and volume. It allows you to customize the LEDs. You can set just about any color or brightness to each of your speakers. Unfortunately, the LEDs can not currently react to music. The LEDs can, however, indicate battery power remaining. The app also allows you to enter party mode where multiple users can queue up a collaborative playlist. The volume control on the speaker is actually independent from the volume on your phone or streaming device. As of now, there’s no customizable equalizer built into the app, but we imagine there will be in the future.

Finally, the audio! The audio is impeccable for a portable speaker, and a portable speaker of this size. It gets even better with multiple speakers, but let’s focus on just one speaker. First and foremost: the audio is very clean and clear. Even at a high volume there’s virtually no distortion. The audio is well balanced and true to the music. The highs are crisp, the mids are very detailed, and there’s some really good bass. The bass can get seriously punchy. The speaker gets very loud! Louder than any other speaker we’ve tested this size. Because the speaker has a very neutral sound signature, it’s great for any kind of music or audio content. With every speaker added, the audio gets louder and clearer. The speaker processor knows how your speakers are laid out and automatically adjusts the audio to consider the extra speaker and layout. The soundbar layout was an incredible experience using a digital S/PDIF connection. As long as you have a method of playing surround sound (i.e. a Bluray player or Smart TV), you will not believe that aiFi is able to make it sound there are speakers behind you.

Read on for the Verdict…

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