Studio19’s Solo Speaker Struggles to Find a Niche

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

We didn’t know what to expect when the Solo EQ arrived at our Portland, Oregon, offices. Frankly, there was some confusion surrounding this speaker. While Studio 19 just launched an Indiegogo campaign for its Solo Extreme E600X-EQ speaker, the model we received for review is actually the E500X-EQ.

The E500X-EQ
is visually striking
and unique, featuring
a brushed aluminum
body (ours was gold)
with a squared,
tubular shape

As it turns out, they’re exactly the same speaker, save some minor aesthetic differences and the fact that the E500X-EQ doesn’t connect via Wi-Fi. The E500X-EQ is currently available for pre-order via Studio 19’s website, but it’s priced at 400 British pounds (roughly $553 U.S.), while the Extreme E600X-EQ — listed simply as the Solo on Indiegogo — is available for $369 or $499 via the crowdfunding website, depending when you place your order. Studio 19 tells us that the E500X-EQ will begin shipping in late March, while the E600X-EQ’s target delivery window is June.

As such, we decided to give the E500X-EQ a go anyway, which should give some foreshadowing for its Wi-Fi ready sibling, and let you know if either one is the right speaker for you.

A fancy form

The E500X-EQ is visually striking and unique, featuring a brushed aluminum body (ours was gold) with a squared, tubular shape, not unlike the Pax vaporizer (except it’s about three feet tall). At the speaker’s base, which is connected to the body by four metal rods, there’s a light you can toggle on and off.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The upper six inches is where you’ll find the grille, which projects sound in 360 degrees around the E500X-EQ; on the grille’s rear, you’ll find ports for aux-in, aux-out, power (USB-C), and HDMI ARC to connect to a TV. On the top of the unit are all buttons for control, including source, mode, power and light toggle (the latter of which we’ll get into below). There are also manual sliders for volume, bass, midrange, and treble — hence the “EQ” in the name. The placement of the power port at the top of the tower is somewhat flummoxing, considering the included cable is maybe four feet long at most, and the unit doesn’t come with a wall-plug adapter.

Altogether, the speaker is undeniably eye-catching. It would make for a great conversation piece, as seemingly everyone in the office wanted to talk about it, though it does bear a passing resemblance to one of those outdoor ashtrays.

In need of a niche

The E500X-EQ can pretty much do it all. Its 8,800mAh battery can hold an eight-hour charge, you can manually adjust the EQ to your heart’s content, and it’s got separate playback modes for gaming, music, and movies. If you buy two, you can even pair them wirelessly for synchronized playback, so long as they’re within 15 feet of each other.

Many of its features
feel tacked on for box-checking, rather than purposeful design.

Unfortunately, the Solo grades out as a jack-of-all-trades — and you know what comes next. Many of its features feel tacked on for the purposes of box-checking, rather than purposeful design. For instance, the speaker’s got a rechargeable battery, but the unit is too big to fit in a backpack, it’s not water-resistant, and the knobs on top don’t feel sturdy enough for constant wear and tear.

The inclusion of HDMI support is also an odd choice; if you want to upgrade your TV speakers, you probably want something with multiple channels to simulate surround sound, or at least enhance dialogue (like a soundbar!), and you can’t pair up two E500X-EQs while in HDMI mode.

As referenced above, there’s also a white LED ring at the bottom of the speaker for style points. The light is kind of cool, but we’re not sure it’s really enhancing the experience all that much.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

When it comes to audio performance, the E500X-EQ is perfectly fine. The manual EQ knobs are fun to mess with, and you can tailor the sound pretty much any way you want. It would be nice to have that functionality in an app for convenience, or in case the physical components wear down or break, but that’s not a deal-breaker by any means. The speaker gets pretty dang loud, and produces some serious bass with the right track playing. The E500X-EQ can really shake some pieces of furniture (perhaps due in part to its small footprint), so be careful where you put it.

Even with the treble cranked up, the upper register is a bit lacking in detail (midrange is nice and warm), and connecting via Bluetooth results in a noticeable, if minor, digital signal processing (DSP) hiss that plagues many wireless speakers — though we don’t expect it at this price point.

The E500X-EQ would fit well into most modern homes aesthetically if it weren’t for the cables hanging out the back.

The E500X-EQ would fit well into most modern homes aesthetically, with a classy, futuristic vibe that naturally draws attention. The problem is, it looks pretty goofy with cables hanging out of the back (the ports should be down near the bottom), and it doesn’t really fit a niche.

Want multiroom audio? You can get two Sonos One speakers for well below the price of the Solo, or a beefier Play: 5, both of which produce far cleare sound.

At $369 — the Indiegogo “Launch Special” price — the Solo (aka the Extreme E600X-EQ) is an OK value proposition, especially if you put style first and want Wi-Fi connection. At $599, the E500X-EQ probably isn’t worth your time.

Investing in a crowdfunding project can be risky. Here’s our take on how you can avoid getting scammed.

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