Important Specs Overview
Speaker type: powered, 2-way, sealed
Continuous power handling: 35 W (per unit)
Frequency response range: 40 – 20k Hz
Driver size: 5 in
Unit weight: 15 lbs
Cabinet dimensions: 6.5 x 7.5 x 11 in (width x depth x height)
Wireless: Bluetooth compatible
Warranty: 2 years
Review And Discussion
The Ai40 is Fluance’s newest generation powered bookshelf speaker. The advantage of a powered speaker is that the amplifier is built in, meaning you don’t need a separate receiver to power it. In other words, they can plug right into an outlet and play, minimal set up fuss.
The typical trade off disadvantage of powered speakers, though, is that they’re less loud and performant for the price, often significantly so. However the Ai40s have a combined 70 W of continuous power handling which is actually quite decent for a compact powered bookshelf speaker. We wouldn’t recommend these as main satellites for a home theater set up in a full sized room, but they can definitely get plenty loud in just about any near to mid field listening setup.
Also quite impressive is the 40 Hz response floor, and Fluance is one of very few audio companies, at least that we’ve seen, that actually publishes a response range graph with each speaker. Obviously you must take self reported data with a grain of salt, but from the graph you can see the curve is nice and flat, meaning even reproduction across the range.
You can, however, see the curve drop off before 40 Hz, meaning the bass will start to get quieter, but this honestly to be expected with a 2 way speaker – a smaller mid range driver simply can’t reproduce low, thumping bass will still being good at its main job of reproducing the mid range majority. Still, the fact that the curve stays flat up until 50 Hz is quite good.
Truly full bass generally requires an additional external subwoofer or a 3 way speaker with a dedicated bass driver built in. Some powered speakers have an output to plug in a subwoofer, but unfortunately the Ai40s do not. If you’re mostly looking for high utility speakers that can reproduce the majority of sound decently, these will probably suffice, but if you really want to hear deep explosions in a movie, for example, you might want to look elsewhere and at a different set up entirely perhaps.
The tweeter is a soft dome and the woofer is a fiber woven cloth blend – definitely higher grade design choice over more common plastic polymers. Paper/cloth drivers have the propensity to sound really good at lower volume and closer range, which is what the Ai40 is clearly intended for, but are more prone to damage and general wear and tear. The Ai40 has a 2 year all inclusive warranty which is actually good for a budget powered speaker, but might be short for the driver components. Contrast that to Fluance’s amazing lifetime warranty on its passive speakers, the only non-elite company which we’ve seen that currently offers that kind of coverage.
The Ai40 is quite heavy for a bookshelf speaker, but that tends to happen with powered speakers that need more components built in. Still it remains relatively compact, so other than lugging a 15 lb block onto your desk they should be convenient and unobtrusive.
The cabinet looks like a pretty standard MDF with a mock wood vinyl finish. It comes in jet black, or the wood color looks pretty decent with the black baffle and drivers. The white color looks pretty jarring and uncoordinated, if that’s something you even care about to begin with.
All connection cables come included with the Ai40, so it’s ready to go out of the box which is nice. It also can pair to a source via Bluetooth, or you can wirelessly control it with a little remote that’s included.
Our Overall Take, As Compared To The Competition
We’ve reviewed Fluance speakers quite favorably in general, and the fact that they’re one of the few companies that is transparent with response data and offers an amazing lifetime warranty on its passive speakers (that doesn’t include this one unfortunately) gives us good faith in them as a company. Also noteworthy is that the Ai40 has been significantly discounted from its original MSRP. At the old price we’d say these are a bit expensive, but for what they go for now they’re definitely very competitive for the specs and features they bring to the table.
Compared to the competition? It’s a tough call. Micca’s PB42X (reviewed here) is about half the price, but not quite as powerful. JBL’s new generation and highly popular 3-series (reviewed here) is more expensive, but has massive overall value, yet they’re also literally massive size wise. We think the best choice will come down to what your priorities are, and perhaps your own listening test, but we do certainly think that choice could be these Ai40 speakers for many people.