Fluance Ai41 Powered Bookshelf Speakers Review: Soundbar Killer?
Powered speakers have moved out of the office. In bygone days, the only powered speakers you’d own would be connected to your computer. People are now realizing that soundbars really aren’t that great and a good pair of bookshelf speakers are nearly always better. But just because they want bookshelf speakers and the better sound quality they represent, that doesn’t always mean they want the AV receiver and everything else that goes along with it. So, Fluance has started selling powered bookshelf speakers, like the Ai41s, for just such people. They can connect to a computer, sure, but they do just as well plugged into a TV. So, how do the Fluance Ai41 power bookshelf speakers sound? Let’s review!
Fluance Ai41 Specs
|SPEAKER CONFIGURATION||2 Way – 2 Driver Bookshelf Speaker System with Integrated Amplifier (Pair)|
|BLUETOOTH||Yes; BT 5.0|
|INPUTS||RCA L/R, Bluetooth, & Optical TOSLINK|
|TWEETER||1 inch Silk Soft Dome Neodymium Ferrofluid Cooled|
|WOOFER||5 inch Woven, Glass Fiber Composite Driver with Butyl Rubber Surrounds|
|AMPLIFIER POWER||Class D 90 Watts Continuous Average Output (2x 45 watts RMS)|
|FREQUENCY RESPONSE||35Hz – 20KHz (DSP Enhanced)|
|INTERNAL LEAD WIRE||18 gauge Internal Lead Wire to Reduce Signal Degradation|
|POWER||Input: 100-240V AC (50/60Hz)|
Output: 19V 3.15A
|CROSSOVER FREQUENCY||2800Hz Phase Coherent 12dB/Oct – PCB Mounted Circuitry|
|ENCLOSURE||Tuned Rear Port Bass Reflex Design Dampened|
|DIMENSIONS||10.9 x 6.5 x 7.6 inches / 27.7 x 16.5 x 19.3 cm (HxWxD)|
|SPEAKER WEIGHT||Active Speaker: 8.52 lbs (3.86 kg)|
Passive Speaker: 7.44 lbs (3.37 kg)
|CERTIFICATIONS||ICES, FCC Certified|
|TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION (THD)||<0.3% (THD+N 1%)|
Fluance Ai41 Design
The Fluance Ai41 powered speakers look like traditional bookshelf speakers with some differences. There is no included grille on the front and the right speaker has an integrated amplifier. The speakers are rear-ported and the left and right speaker must be connected via speaker wire (there is some included but you could certainly use your own).
The Ai41s sport a 1″ soft-dome tweeter and a 5″ fiberglass woofer. The speakers have stereo RCA and optical connections and accept a Bluetooth connection. There is a subwoofer output as well. One very nice feature is that when the Ai41 amplifier detects a subwoofer connection, it automatically engages an 80Hz crossover. A very welcome design choice!
The pair I was sent for review had a matte black front plate and a dark brown woodgrain finish on the cabinet. There are four total color combinations. There is a volume knob on the front of the right speaker that controls power, volume, and input selection. The knob doesn’t stop when it hits maximum or minimum volume. The indicator light will start to flash red and the volume stops changing.
There is also an IR sensor on the front for use with the included remote control. The remote allows you to control the speakers’ volume, input selection, and basic Bluetooth functions such as play/pause and forward/back. Also included are bass and treble adjustment. You can bump up and down the bass by 5 in each direction. The remote is the only way to control the treble and bass adjustment.
Fluance Ai41 Setup
I used the included power cord and speaker cable to set up the Fluance Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers. The connections were simple and easy. The five-way binding posts were a nice touch allowing you to use banana plugs if you wanted for simpler and more secure speaker wire connections.
You can connect to the Fluance Ai41 via RCA, optical, or Bluetooth. If you choose RCA or optical, you must ensure that your source is outputting two-channel PCM. The Ai41s cannot decode surround sound. This should only be a concern with an optical connection. I connected to the Ai41 with Bluetooth. I used both my desktop computer, my Pixel 5, and my wife’s iPhone. The Bluetooth connection was secure and stable.
If there is a downside of the Ai41 speakers, it is their size. They aren’t big for bookshelf speakers, but they aren’t small either. At nearly a foot tall and 7.6″ deep, they won’t be super easy to place in some installations. They do have small, rubber feet on the bottom to decouple them. You could also fairly easily wall-mount these (installing a small shelf would also be a great solution). They aren’t heavy (the right speaker with the amp doesn’t top nine pounds) so nearly any shelf or mount should hold them.
Fluance Ai41 Powered Bookshelf Speakers Sound Quality
The first thing I did was play some sweeps through the Ai41s. They had usable bass down to around 55Hz. The specs may say 35Hz, but in my room, without adjusting the bass control, 55Hz was about as good as it was going to get. Honestly, if you are planning on adding a subwoofer, this is more than enough extension.
I had the Ai41s in my open-plan living space that includes my office, kitchen, and living room. This is a large room, but I sit very near them. As such, I didn’t have to turn them up very loud for an enjoyable listening experience. At max volume, they didn’t distort at all and filled the very large space with sound. So much so that conversation would be nearly impossible in most of the room. If you wanted to talk, you’d have to be as far as possible from them.
The Fluance Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers were very neutral in their sound quality, something I look for in a speaker. They created a very convincing center image. The bass was punchy and the highs seemed very well extended. I listened for hours without a hint of fatigue. Honestly, I can say very little more than the Fluance Ai41s sounded great. I loved them!
The Fluance Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers are clearly designed to be a soundbar killer. At $250 retail, these bookshelf speakers are priced right. With the integrated amp, these should be easy to place on either side of a flat panel display. The use of simple speaker wire means you don’t need some sort of proprietary cable to connect the two speakers. If you need them further apart, you can just get a longer cable.
These bookshelves will provide a better sound experience than just about any soundbar on the market, and certainly any soundbar in this price range. If for no other reason then they can be placed far enough apart to provide real stereo imaging. The ability to connect a real subwoofer and have the speakers automatically engage a crossover is a huge plus. If you are looking for a soundbar to connect to your display, you should take a close look at the Fluance Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers. I guarantee they will sound better!