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Hands-on review: Edifier S880DB Active Speakers are little with big sound
Wed, 12th Jun 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I have been having a fun time with the Edifier S880DB Active Speaker, so much so that reverting to my normal sound systems will be difficult.

Packed into a 22 x 12 x 16 footprint, the Edifier S880DB is a lot of product. The dual speakers have a fashionable appearance, departing from the basic black boxes we normally associate with similar products. The wooden sides and white inside surrounds make for an aesthetically pleasing look. Sadly, my messy workdesk does not add to the fashion statement that the Edifier system makes.

The right “active” speaker gives you a variety of wired connection options or you can choose to wirelessly connect via Bluetooth.  Edifier have made an emphatic fashion statement, with the black speakers contrasting beautifully with the off-white mount and the wooden sides. The remote control resembles a hockey puck, and I'm petrified of losing it in the mess on my desk.  Aha! It was under my desk calendar all the time!

I frequently refer to written instructions, and I can confidently predict that Edifier's user manual was written by a non-native English speaker. The grammar is off just enough to make some sections confusing. Along with the tiny font size, it has been enough to lead to some head-scratching on my part.

For example, page 8 states, “the play control under USB input is belong to USB HID control, this control need supports of player software, so it will be a difference for different audio player software" [sic].

Elsewhere on the same page, I'm informed that the Edifier uses a different USB Audio Class 2 type audio transmission, whereas Window's default is Class 1. This means, and I quote, “to use the S880DB speaker needing download the special driver program.”

Resorting to my comprehension skills forged over decades of teaching reading, I concluded that Windows users will need to download the special driver to take advantage of the features of the speaker and its remote. Happily, for Mac users, the website informs me that “S880DB is Plug and Play on MacOS X, a driver is not required.” The English on the website much more user-friendly.

I spent several afternoons listening to a variety of classical music, ranging from The Bee Gees to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin - all the classics. On the first afternoon I emitted enough decibels to remain blissfully unaware of the battle being fought from the adjoining living room, where our telly had wound up to maximum to compete.

The Edifier's bass and treble tones are unexpectedly sharp and distinct, and once I'd adjusted the balance to suit my seating arrangement, the true stereo quality was a joy to listen to. In the interest of balance, I listened to some more modern stuff. Celine, Ed Sheeran and Adele all sounded gorgeous.

The excellent sound quality is due to the quality of construction. According to the website, the sharp dynamics for the 94mm mid-range bass unit is due to the aluminium frame, allowing “higher power and minimal vibration.” Likewise, the Titanium-laminate Tweeter Unit provides a “highly sensitive and optimal resolution with a bright and clean performance.”

The XMOS Digital Audio processor means that you can connect via USB to the speakers, which also contain their own built-in amplifier.

I can't finish without mentioning the Bluetooth capability. Switching from my HP laptop was simply a matter of selecting “source” on the remote and changing the input to Bluetooth. You'll see how you're connected by the nifty display at the bottom of the active speaker. It's quite small and subtle and means you'll never be confused as to how you are currently connected.

The Edifier S880DB is small enough to fit on your desktop and still deliver a sound that will have you dancing instead of those more ‘important' tasks. With plenty of connectivity options, you'll never have a problem switching from one source to another.  Windows users need to download the driver if connecting via USB. Priced at under $400, the Edifier S880DB packs plenty of punch at a reasonably low cost.

The user manual was the only minor challenge in my experience. It wasn't enough of an issue to detract from more important things like build quality and sound experience. The variety of connections assure you will have a versatile product that will deliver a quality sound experience.