Great sounding speakers with Bluetooth convenience

Rating:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Doesn’t work
  • 2 – Hardly functional
  • 3 – Serious deficiency in most areas
  • 4 – Works, but has many issues
  • 5 – Fine but leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth buying
  • 8 – Fantastic, almost best-in-class
  • 9 – Best in class
  • 10 – Perfection on the border

Price: $250

Fluance Ai41 on desk
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Many people today turn to Bluetooth speakers for most of their music listening. That’s fine for on the go, but at home you might want to treat your music to better speakers. The Fluance Ai41 speakers offer much better sound, but with all the convenience of Bluetooth.

The Ai41s are an update to Fluance’s previous Ai40 speakers, but they’re not just any minor update. In addition to increasing the wattage from 70 to 90 watts, they have been completely redesigned as a ported speaker, rather than the sealed design of the previous model.

A digital audio input connects Bluetooth and analog audio connectivity, making the Ai41s a perfect option for playing any kind of music in small to medium sized rooms.

This is what we like

  • Great sounding with impressive bass for the size
  • Simple Bluetooth connectivity
  • Analog and digital inputs
  • Subwoofer support with built-in crossover
  • Remote control included

And what we don’t do

  • No grille means speakers are exposed to potential damage
  • No USB-C connectivity

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Build and design

Fluance Ai41 bass ports
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Dimensions: 277mm x 165mm x 193mm (10.9in x 6.5in x 7.6in)
  • Weight (active speaker): 3.86kg (8.52bs)
  • Weight (passive speaker): 3.37g (7.44lbs)

The redesigned cabinet is made of MDF composite, making for a speaker that is relatively light yet feels fairly solid. On the back you can see the new bass port on the top of the speaker. At the bottom, Fluance has added rubber feet that prevent the speakers from moving too easily, but also slightly reduce the vibration of the speaker.

We look at the Fluance Ai41s in the Black Ash Finish, which looks very nice up close. The speakers are also available in Lucky Bamboo, Natural Walnutand White Walnut finishes, so matching the speakers to your interior should not be a problem.

The Fluance Ai41s aren’t particularly big or small considering the 5-inch woofers, and if you’re familiar with bookshelf speakers, you’ll know what to expect. If you’re used to computer speakers, the Ai41s take up quite a bit more space, but they also sound much better than your standard computer speakers.

An interesting design choice carried over from the Ai40 is that the Ai41s do not have speaker grilles. As an aesthetic choice this works, but it does leave the drivers exposed. If you have young children around, you’ll want to keep these speakers out of their reach.

Connectivity

Fluance Ai41 ports for connectivity
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Inputs: RCA L/R, Bluetooth and digital optical TOSLINK
  • Subwoofer output: 80 Hz Low Pass Frequency Cutout

When it comes to connecting your audio devices to the Ai41s, you have multiple options. The speaker supports Bluetooth 5.0, which is the way I think a lot of people will usually connect. The Bluetooth connection is solid and pairing is easy: just put the speakers in Bluetooth mode and they will automatically enter pairing mode.

You have both analog and digital options for connecting other audio devices. A pair of RCA jacks are on the right speaker for connecting analog audio, while a The optical input allows you to digitally connect your PC or other audio devices.

There is also a subwoofer port on the back of the right speaker. The speakers have a built-in crossover that is activated when you connect a subwoofer. When enabled, the speakers cut the low frequencies at 80 Hz and below, allowing the subwoofer to handle them instead.

One thing to keep in mind if you plan on hooking up a turntable is that these speakers don’t have a phono preamp. To hear your turntable properly, you need either a standalone phono preamp or a turntable with a built-in preamp.

The Fluance Ai41 . Set up

Fluance Ai41 set to listen
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

The Fluance Ai41 speakers may look almost the same from the front, but each speaker is different from the next. All electronics, connections and controls are packed into the right speaker. The left speaker is passive, with only a speaker terminal to connect to the right speaker.

The speakers are connected via an included eight foot long speaker cable. The cable is 18 gauge and should be long enough for most use cases. Fluance recommends an 18-gauge cable if you’re using a cable other than the one provided, but if you choose a longer cable, you may be placing your speakers too far apart.

After connecting the cable between the two speakers and connecting the right speaker to power, flip the switch on the back of the right speaker to turn them on.

Control and remote control

Fluance Ai41 remote control
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Whether you use the included remote control or not, operation is simple. On the right speaker is a single button that has multiple functions. Turn it to adjust the volume, or press it to switch between the different modes you can use to connect to the Ai41s.

Fortunately, the LED on the front of the right speaker is color-coded. By default, it lights up red, which means it’s in standby mode. The other colors indicate the connection you are using: green for RCA analog, blue for Bluetooth, and white for optical digital.

As mentioned, connecting to Bluetooth is as easy as switching to Bluetooth mode and pairing from your device of choice. If something goes wrong here, a Bluetooth reset button on the back of the right speaker makes starting over easy.

The remote controls the above functions, but also controls the EQ, which is only available via the remote. The bass and treble controls are subtle, but if the speaker sounds too bright or doesn’t emphasize the bass enough, you can correct it with these controls.

Finally, you can also dim the LEDs with the remote control, a handy function if you set up the speakers in a bedroom.

Sound quality

Fluance Ai41 woofers
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • woofer: 5 Inch Woven Fiberglass Composite Driver With Butyl Rubber Edge
  • Twitterer: 1 inch Silk Soft Dome Neodymium Ferrofluid Cooled
  • Amplifier: Class D 90 watts continuous average power (2x 45 watts RMS)
  • Frequency Response: 35Hz — 20KHz (DSP Enhanced)

Each Ai41 speaker combines a 5-inch fiberglass composite woofer with a 1-inch silk soft dome tweeter. In the right speaker is a 90 watts RMS Class D amplifier that pumps 45 watts into each speaker. Despite the small design, the speakers make clever use of DSP to achieve a frequency range of 35Hz to 20kHz.

To test the Bluetooth functionality of the speakers, I streamed from Apple Music on my iPhone. For analog audio I have my Sony NW-A35 Walkman to the RCA ports, while using the optical output of my Focusrite Clarett 8Pre to test digital audio from my computer.

Overall, the sound quality is fantastic, with surprisingly deep bass for the size of the speakers. A subwoofer would be a nice companion if you need deeper bass frequencies, but I only tested the Ai41s.

Listening to The Clash’sGuns of Brixton”, the low-end response was immediately noticeable on Paul Simonon’s bass. This track has percussion spanning the stereo spectrum, with bass, drums and vocals taking center stage, making good use of the Ai41s’ stereo field.

Then I turned to Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan’s “Saturday is over‘, which plays some interesting tricks with reverb. Certain sounds are infused with reverberation and sounded very far away on the Ai41s. The more dry elements of the song sounded like they were in the same room.

VCFs”The pressure” again shows the low side that the Ai41s can push out. The highs of certain percussive elements get very in your face, but even then nothing sounded overly high or harsh. Aggressive? Yes. Cruel? No.

The maximum volume isn’t quite what you’d expect given the wattage, but this isn’t a bad thing. The speakers don’t easily penetrate audible distortion at all, but this comes at the expense of volume.

Should you buy the Fluance Ai41?

The Fluance Ai41 speakers offer fantastic audio performance for the price. Not only are they way beyond what comparably priced Bluetooth speakers can do, but they are ahead of many competing bookshelf speakers in the same class.

The Ai41s opt for solid bass and distortion-free sound over pure volume. That means that while these offer enough volume for listening to music with the speakers closed, they are not as well suited for use in a home theater.

If you’re considering a Bluetooth speaker for home use, it’s definitely worth sacrificing portability and opting for these speakers instead. You will not regret the decision.

This is what we like

  • Great sounding with impressive bass for the size
  • Simple Bluetooth connectivity
  • Analog and digital inputs
  • Subwoofer support with built-in crossover
  • Remote control included

And what we don’t do

  • No grille means speakers are exposed to potential damage
  • No USB-C connectivity

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