There’s something that feels very right about the just-launched Elipson W35 wireless speaker.
Firstly, it’s a proper stereo speaker, which already puts its ahead of most. Secondly, it’s a modest £799 (€799) which is neither super-expensive for its size or number of drivers. Thirdly, it actually looks good, too.
The Elipson W35 isn't the company's first wireless speaker, but it is the first time Elipson has turned its trademark, spherical Planet speaker into an active, wireless model. It sounds to us like Elipson's rather confident that the W35 is pretty special.
We got some time with this sonic sphere at its Paris AV Show launch, so read on for our first impressions.
The W35 is styled on Elipson’s famous Planet hi-fi speakers and looks great for it. It’s a spherical design, 35cm in diameter - that makes for quite the cabinet space compared to other wireless speakers at the same price, like the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge and the Naim Mu-so Qb.
It’s split in two with the two-driver hemispheres working as the left and right channels. There are ports at the bottom too. In the centre strip, under an aluminium band, are the wireless and wired connections, plus electronic circuitry with the drivers firing out sideways. The rest of the sphere is covered in an acoustic fabric mesh with everything finished in a dark matte grey. There are no other finishes available.
There are control buttons on the strip for volume up and down, mute, input selection and stereo pairing. An LED light changes colour to highlight the input being used.
You can perch the W35 on a flat surface — there is a small plate underneath — but a £149 wooden tripod is also available in two finishes.
There’s a single pole stand option too and you can even hang the W35 from the ceiling. Either way, there are plenty of options when it comes to fitting one into your life.
Wireless is big. There’s no doubt about it and there’s obviously been some thought at Elipson on how to do it right while still staying true to the brand. Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX is present and the W35 will support sample rates of up to 24-bit/44.1kHz.
It’s Apple AirPlay 2-compatible and you can use wi-fi to play local files in the form of MP3, ALAC, AAC, FLAC, WMA, AIFF and WAV. Streaming services can be accessed directly through the Elipson app, and include Tidal, Napster, Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, plus a host of internet radio stations through TuneIn.
There’s a 3.5mm socket and an optical audio-in which Elipson encourages owners to use with their games consoles, TVs and Blu-ray players. While the Elipson W35 won’t do much for a surround sound mix, it should certainly be an improvement on TV speakers.
The W35 is a multi-room speaker and you can even link two together as a stereo pair. When used in a stereo pair all four of the drivers on each sphere function as a single channel, which we found makes for a really powerful, room-filling sound.
Four digital amplifiers, with a total of 350W, power a single Elipson W35. On each side is a single 2.5cm silk dome tweeter. There are also two, 16.5cm mid-range drivers — again, one for each half — designed with a large magnet and excursion to match.
We listen to a pair of Elipson W35s. As ever, though, the trade show environment is rarely the best place to get an accurate handle on audio quality. Flimsy walls, panel ceilings and nearby speakers can all resonate and interfere. That said, we like what we hear.
It’s a big sound with all eight drivers working away and, as much as we’re enjoying listening to two in stereo, we ask for the demo music to be switched to just one of the W35s.
There’s a sticky moment when the Elipson app refuses to play ball but it could be down to the show’s wireless network more than trouble with the speaker's software. Thankfully, the audio flows freely, as we listen to Everything Must Change by Shirley Horn.
There’s lots of thump from the drums in the opening bars. Clarity and precision would be two areas we'd investigate further during a proper review, but there seems to be a very likeable warmth and openness to the sound.
There’s no doubt that the Elipson W35 is one of the most stylish, home decor-friendly wireless speakers around, and we strongly suspect that it’s got enough welly to fill all but the biggest rooms.
In terms of performance, its character seems easy-going but we'll reserve proper judgement on its hi-fi credentials for our full review – just as soon as we've cleared a spherical space in our test rooms.