Fluance Ai81 Elite speaker review: Power from the towers
“The Fluance Ai81 may not slot in every listening space, but if you happen to’ve got the actual estate, you will be beyond pleased with the outcomes.”
- Incredible soundstaging
- Loads of volume
- Sleek and modern design
- A variety of connection options
- Within your means
- No passive wiring option
- Tower design could also be too big for some
When we predict of powered speakers, our minds are inclined to lean toward more compact bookshelf speakers akin to the superb KEF LX II or the renowned Klipsch The Fives. But because the complexity of our home theater setups increases, so has the demand for larger, more powerful tower speakers with a big selection of connectivity options — from optical to line RCA to Bluetooth.
While we’re seeing more of those powered tower speakers entering our living rooms, a lot of them are in a price range that’s unobtainable. That is why I used to be pleased to get the chance to review the Fluance Ai81 Elite Powered Floorstanding Tower Speakers, a within your means ($500) beast of a pair of floorstanders with a large number of connection options and serious sound driven by their very own 150-watt amplifier which can be suitable for every part from each day music listening to all your property theater viewing.
We’ve been reviewing Fluance speakers for years (their turntables are pretty great, too), but how do these powered towers get up? Let’s discover.
Sleek design and aesthetics
The Fluance Ai81 Elites can be found in 4 finishes — black ash, white walnut, lucky bamboo, and natural walnut –with no price variance between the them. In-box accessories include an influence lead, an eight-foot run of speaker wire, a distant, and manuals.
The Ai81 deliver a sturdy, crystal-clear sonic profile that manages to tug out recent details from albums we’ve heard 1,000,000 times over.
My test speakers were black ash, which blands well with my general lounge decor. But regardless of which cabinet alternative you decide for, the one-inch neodymium tweeter and 6.5-inch glass fiber drivers are all the time going to be black. These being floorstanding speakers, the ash shell combined with the black drivers may look a bit too sinister for some listening spaces, and there’s currently no magnetized grille option. I personally didn’t mind the aesthetic.
Dimensionally, the Fluance Ai81 are 37.8-inches tall, 8.50-inches wide, and 10.24-inches deep from front to back. The MDF cabinetry has a pleasant grainy finish, and the wood itself doesn’t feel low-cost in any way.
All connections are situated on the back of the correct speaker. Here you’ll find two sets of RCA line inputs for connecting things like a turntable (a phono preamp is required, nonetheless), receiver, TV audio out, or perhaps a smartphone with the correct adapter cable. There’s also a digital optical input for running sound from TVs, receivers and more, in addition to a subwoofer output, speaker wire terminals (the output set), and an AC power port. There’s also a master on/off switch for the system, in addition to a volume adjustment dial situated up top, which doubles as an input selector whenever you push the knob in.
Around front, a single LED indicator is your guide for determining if the speakers are on or off and what input you’re set to. Volume, treble, and bass adjustments will make the LED flash, with a red blink meaning you’ve hit the utmost level for every adjustment.
Over on the left speaker, the one connections to talk of are the speaker wire terminals (the input set).
Quick setup and easy controls
The Fluance Ai81 may seem like a standard pair of passive tower hi-fi speakers that you simply would connect with speaker wire to an amp or receiver. And that’s how I first attempted to wire them. Yes, the speaker terminals on each the left and right channels fooled me into pondering I could connect the Ai81 to my A/V receiver, but that’s not the case here. Just like most powered speaker sets, like desktop computer speakers even, the terminals on the back of every speaker are to be connected by the included speaker wire. That’s it.
Miles Davis’ Blue In Green sounds simply breathtaking on the Ai81s, making me feel like I used to be having fun with a late-night martini on a quiet October night in the town.
But rest assured, the Fluance Ai81’s are removed from passive. Powered by a 150-watt Class D amplifier, it was go time once we flipped the facility switch. But why powered speakers, you may ask? The advantage of powered speakers over passive speakers is the amplifier is inbuilt, meaning you may connect a big selection of home theater components directly into them, making them kind of an all-in-one home theater setup. Passive speakers require amplification from an external amplifier or AV receiver.
The best first test was to pair my smartphone to the speakers, a process which took no time in any respect. After connecting, you’ll hear a type of thumping sound, letting you already know the handshake is complete. And apart from switching inputs (which you may do with the distant or right-channel volume knob), the one other adjustments you’ll must worry about are adding or removing treble and bass to your liking.
On the distant, there are a number of buttons for play/pause and track skipping if you happen to don’t need to handle these duties together with your Bluetooth-connected device, in addition to an LED adjusterthat permits you to tone down the brightness of the correct speaker’s front indicator.
Admittedly, the distant feels somewhat low-cost, and while it could have been nice to see some type of on-screen readout for the input we had the speakers set to (a variety of LED colours represent the several sources), the simplicity of the one light is tough to argue with.
How do they sound?
The Fluance Ai81 deliver a sturdy, crystal-clear sonic profile that manages to tug out recent details from albums and tracks I’ve heard 1,000,000 times over. And with Bluetooth 5 streaming (using the AAC codec) being the go-to source for many potential Ai81 listeners, I did all of my music demoing with an iPhone 12 wirelessly sending Apple Music content to the speakers.
Porcupine Tree’s latest release, CLOSURE/CONTINUATION, is a multilayered progressive rock opus that has never sounded so lush. Shimmering, melancholic guitar and vocals are front and center on tracks like Of The Latest Day and Chimera’s Wreck, with the speakers steeping us in an ideal mixture of unpolluted treble and smooth midrange. When drums, bass, and Telecaster thrash kick in throughout the latter halves of each songs, the Ai81 embrace the instrumental punch.
The album’s regular rocker, Herd Culling, opens with a mishmash of digital noise and panned synths, a quiet lead-in that the Fluance Ai81 are patient in articulating, slowly opening up the soundstage to achieve way for the crunchy-clean, primary guitar riff. When frontman Steven Wilson screams “liar,” the band dials up the adrenaline, breaking right into a head-basher of a chorus that gains and soars across all frequencies.
For something completely different, Miles Davis’ Blue In Green sounds simply breathtaking on the Ai81s, making me feel like I used to be having fun with a late-night martini on a quiet October night in the town, watching the boys play their jazzy hearts out. Davis and John Coltrane are the actual standouts here, with the trumpeter and bandleader receiving a correct center-stage accentuation. Sincerely, every time Davis breaks right into a melodic line or two, you may imagine seeing a highlight shine down on him. And the identical goes for Coltrane’s tenor sax, although the staging shifts a hair to the left, sharing a corner with pianist Bill Evans’ sparse, tinkling chords.
Simply put, the Ai81 brought an all-new life to this jazz standard, and admittedly, the number sounded so sugary-sweet, I can have shed a tear or two (it’s the trumpet, it gets to me).
To combat our tears, and to further stretch the Ai81s to their limits, I took a dive into the world of unforgiving thrash-metal. Let’s just say that mid-’80s Metallica has never sounded this ruthless. Our album of reference: Master of Puppets. The Ai81s captured all the Ennio Morricone-flavored goodness of Battery‘s opening acoustic guitars, before plunging headfirst into the track’s galloping guitars, bass, and drums, with somewhat extra high-end for Kirk Hammett’s ripper of a guitar solo.
Welcome Home (Sanitarium) is the softer track off this album, and the Ai81 do a wonderful job of constructing these quieter passages extra-special. James Hetfield’s primary, chorus-laden guitar sounds isolated, sorrowful, and a bit springy, too, a tone amicably juxtaposed against Hammett’s soaring pre-verse leads. It’s guitar double-duty done right, and the Ai81 defiantly balance each six-string styles.
Built for gamers and cinephiles, too
I also put the digital optical input to good use, connecting my TCL 6-Series TV to the Ai81 and putting a number of different A/V sources to the test. First up was somewhat PS4 motion with Crash Bandicoot 4 on the helm. I do know, it’s a child’s game, but have you ever tried getting 100% completion on this? It’s unimaginable! However the more vital reason I selected this title was due to its dynamic sound mix, an audio paradise that the Ai81 drove home.
Colourful, cartoonish sound effects received little to no compromise, with every crate-break and head-stomped enemy getting equal attention. And let’s not forget the sport’s propulsive and zany background music — each track received the type of love delivered in our above musical samplings.
We also channeled our inner cinephile, with There Will Be Blood as our Blu-ray of alternative. Quiet, dialogue-driven moments were on-point, with Daniel Day Lewis’ infamous “milkshake” speech sounding all of the more guttural, focused, and haunting — especially whenever you consider the Ai81’s acoustic give attention to the booming, basement bowling alley.
And the oil derrick explosion scene! The Ai81 rumbled from start to complete, capturing all the environmental chaos. It’s a heart-thumping sequence rendered all of the more intense by composer Jonny Greenwood’s kinetic Bodysong played against the worksite devastation.
Price and warranty
Immediately, you should buy the Fluance Ai81 Powered Floorstanding Tower Speakers for $500. You’ll get lifetime customer support for the speakers, together with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The underside line
So far as Bluetooth-friendly powered floorstanders go, you’ll be hard-pressed to seek out a rival to the Ai81 for the worth. They might be on the massive side, but if you happen to’ve got the room to spare and are searching for a set of versatile powered speakers that may take nearly any input (save for HDMI) and provides it some impressive power and clear, defined sound, then stop shopping now. And if size is the limiting factor, Fluance also makes two bookshelf versions of the Ai design.
Are there alternatives? There all the time are. By way of powered bookshelf systems that we’ve actually tested, the SVS Prime Wireless are an awesome pair of speakers with just as many connectivity options, together with a comparable price. In fact, there are costlier brands that go way above and beyond, akin to KEF’s incredible lineup of powered stereo speakers. But if you happen to can’t spare 1000’s of dollars, the Ai81s are near pretty much as good because it gets and also you’re sure to get a few years of use out of them.