The Elipson W35 marks the first time that the French speaker and turntable specialist has brought wireless streaming to its trademark spherical shape. The company is best known for its Planet stereo speaker range, and Elipson hasn’t fully shunned stereo sound with this multi-room-enabled wi-fi wonder.
There are two channels embedded within, and the speaker is flexible enough to switch to left or right-only when linked to another Elipson speaker. There is a full suite of built-in wireless services, including Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect and, given the scale of the speaker, it’s available at a seemingly reasonable price.
The W35’s looks will divide opinion long before you consider its audio performance. It’s a sphere with a 35cm diameter, making it larger than a standard football – though, at 9.6kg, we’d advise against attempting to kick it.
Functionally, the W35 is a pair of active two-way speakers, split down the middle so that each channel fires sideways out of a hemisphere. Four class D amplifiers, with a total output of 350W, power a 25mm silk dome tweeter for each side with the midrange and bass coming from a set of 16.5cm drivers, built with a large magnet and excursion to match.
Type 2-way active loudspeaker
Bluetooth version v4.0, aptX HD
Frequency response 47Hz to 22kHz
Formats MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AIFF ALAC, AAC
Dimensions (hwd) 35 x 35 x 35cm
The drivers are housed in the spherical cabinet, which is protected by an outer covering of mid-grey acoustic mesh with a gunmetal strip between the two sides. This strip houses the controls for volume, source, power and stereo pairing, and there are also ports at the rear and bottom for AC power, 3.5mm aux-in, optical, and USB (for service and external device charging).
The bottom of the globe is flattened off with a metal plate, allowing it to sit on a table, shelf or sideboard, with the included rubber feet helping keep it stable. Given its dimensions, it takes up a similar amount of space to other premium wireless speakers, such as the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge, the Dynaudio Music 5 and the more expensive Naim Mu-so 2.
To complete the look, Elipson has a tasteful array of stands and other installation options designed specifically for the W35, including the Stand (£149) in gunmetal or brushed chrome and the Tripod Stand (£149) in silver oak or walnut options. These will fit nicely into most homes and keep the speaker at a good listening height but, if you fancy something a little different, you could opt for the Wall Mount (£79) or Ceiling Mount (£49).
With fierce competition in the wireless speaker market, Elipson has made an effort to cover all the bases in terms of features. The W35 is Apple AirPlay 2-compatible, features Spotify Connect and is Bluetooth 4.0-enabled with aptX HD and support for sample rates of up to 24-bit/44.1kHz.
You can access streaming services, including Tidal, Napster, Spotify, Deezer and Qobuz, directly through the Elipson app, and internet radio stations through TuneIn and iHeartRadio. Once connected to wi-fi, you can also access and play your local files in the form of MP3, ALAC, AAC, FLAC, WMA, AIFF and WAV.
The W35 can also be used as part of a multi-room system, with playback controlled either via AirPlay or the Elipson app. If you have two W35s, you can set them up as a stereo pair. Linked in that arrangement, all four of the drivers of each speaker function as a single channel, which makes for a powerful, room-filling sound.
But while this all sounds great in theory, the experience is a bit buggy and not what we’d expect from a speaker at this price. Judging by the look and layout of the app, it could well be an off-the-shelf software solution rather than one built for Elipson from the ground up, which could possibly explain the bugs.
Set-up isn’t quite as smooth as we’d like either. We try several times and in different locations, but it always fails to connect on the first few tries. Even when we do eventually get online, it seems more by luck than judgment, and we experience frequent lag when operating the speaker using the app.
The multi-room and linking functions work better, though, and a well-designed and solid little remote control is also included in the box.
Play a good quality source and you’ll soon notice that the Elipson W35 wireless speaker offers a wide delivery. We listen to Mozart's Violin Concerto No.3 In G Major, K.216 and the sideways-firing arrangement offers a broad spread of sound that bounces nicely off nearby walls to fill the space. There’s plenty of good off-axis audio too, with somewhere around 20 or 30 degrees from straight on a good spot to enjoy.
There’s a decent slice of dynamism to the sound too. The lead violin has a good variation between the louder and quieter sections and there’s enough detail on show to hear the rest of the strings playing behind. When the bigger instruments arrive, they’re a distinct and pleasing full stop to the end of the first section.
It's not all good news, though. There’s a lack of texture to the instruments and, while the sound certainly fills the room, the stereo image is imprecise and spatial organisation is lacking. Individual instruments aren't given room to breathe, and you simply don't get the feeling of being transported to a live orchestral performance.
Switching to Pilgrimage by R.E.M, the W35 puts in a decent performance in terms of bass. The kick drum is a heartbeat that guides the track almost from the off and, while it’s a little overdone compared with the rest of the frequency range, there’s a good sense of impact and weight to the sound.
The speaker's got enough dynamism and detail to differentiate between the different components of the drum kit, there’s a good tone to the background chimed bells and a definite distinction between when the high-hat is struck open and closed.
But the W35 lacks precision and rhythmic drive. We play Daft Punk’s Give Life Back To Music and the track's wonderfully clipped, impossible-not-to-dance-to rhythm just isn't there. The drum samples and guitar strums should be tight but, without a crisp start and finish to each note, the sound is smeared, killing the sense of momentum.
Through the W35, the track lacks clarity, which deals a hammer blow to insight and excitement. The presentation is more of a melange of sound than a bed of silence upon which a musical presentation is carefully and precisely constructed.
Elipson may have strived for something more than style over substance with the W35 wireless speaker but, sadly, it hasn’t achieved it. Despite a full feature set and some good aspects to the audio, the lack of sonic precision (and, to a lesser extent, the usability issues) make it all too easy to point you towards alternatives instead.
At this end of the wireless speaker market there’s little room for anything other than audio excellence, and that's a level that the Elipson W35 simply doesn't reach.
- Sound 3
- Features 4
- Build 4
Read our Dynaudio Music 5 review
Read our Naim Mu-so 2 review