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Big Sound Equals Big Bucks with These Speakers

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Category: Hardware Published on Tuesday, 01 April 2014

There may be some truth in the old adage "you get what you pay for," especially when it comes to buying a speaker system or portable speakers.

We've been playing with speakers from Opalum, Korus and SoundMatters (FoxL) and were, truthfully, blown away by their versatility, compatibility and sound quality. But, what actually made us do a double-take was the price tag for the Opalum speaker system.

Coming in at a hefty (and wallet busting) $2,499, the Opalum Flow 1010 speaker system is, by far, one of the best and most technologically advanced systems we have ever used. In fact, the manufacturer - - - Opalum of Scandinavia - - - may have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands when it's time to return it.

The system includes two thin futuristic-looking wall-mounted speakers and a control hub, which is basically the heart of the system. Unlike other wall-mounted speakers, these units lie flat against the wall, measuring a mere 1.5 inches thick and are self powered, which means they can be used without being hooked up to a power source. 

In actuality, the Hub II provides 24 volts of power and the digital audio signal to the speakers through the speaker wire. This eliminates the need for bulky plugs and the need to connect them to a wall outlet. In addition, the speaker wires are low voltage, which allows you to string them inside walls, etc.

Each unit contains 10 two-inch drivers. One is used as a tweeter and the others are used as woofers in groups of three. There are also four dedicated closed-loop amplifiers in each unit, providing a total of 160 watts of power.

Add a Bluetooth device (connecting through the hub) to the mix and you get a wall of sound without wires.

The hub has a subwoofer output, two optical digital inputs, a coaxial digital input and a standard analog stereo input, which allows it to be connected to almost any device. And, once connected, it allows you to select the sound source and adjust the volume of the system. You also have the option of using a universal remote control, which can be programed using the IR learning features of the Hub II.

We also had a chance to play with the Korus 600 ($399) and Korus 400 ($299) portable speakers, which allow you to connect to different devices in different rooms or up to four can be paired together to give you music from the same source in very room where you have a Korus speaker.

These speakers deliver clear, crisp sound, without the usual cracks and pops you get from wireless systems. And, since, they're portable, they can be taken outside so you can bring your music with you to the deck or beach.

The Korus 600, which is the biggest of the two speakers, weighs 11 pounds (versus 4.4 pounds for the Korus 400) and can be battery-powered for up to 90 hours or plugged into a standard wall outlet. It also features a convenient carrying handle, baton audio transmitters for 30-pin and Lightning Apple devices and a baton transmitter providing a USB port.

The speakers use a proprietary wireless system to communicate with your devices, so you need to connect these batons to them. One huge drawback is there is no baton to connect to the mini-USB ports found on most Android devices, but the folks at Korus have told us an Android baton will be coming out later this year. But right now, unless your Android phone or tablet has a standard USB port, you need to plug it into the standard audio input jack on the back of the speakers.

The smaller Korus 400, unfortunately, needs to be plugged into a wall outlet and does not come with the baton accessories. Basically it is meant to be used in conjunction with the Korus 600, but you can purchase batons from Korus to enable it to work without being paired with the larger speaker.

Both of these speakers use SKAA with Walking Frequency Diversity wireless protocols, which can avoid conflicts with other wireless devices and eliminate annoying crackles and pops. They also use a technology known as LiveStage, which enhances the audio playback from your devices.

Last is the SoundMatters FoxL Dash 7 portable speaker ($219). which is designed to fit into your briefcase, pocket or purse, similar to a Jabra JamBox. It's a mere three-quarters of an inch thick and weighs 7.1 ounces, but delivers heavy sound. In fact, you may feel it delivers too much bass, due to its Bass Battery, which enhances the sound.

The Dash 7 also features a noise-cancelling microphone, so you can answer calls without reaching for your phone. It also has a built-in stand that allows it to sit "upright" instead of laying flat on a table or dashboard. In addition, it has  standard audio input and 3.5 mm subwoofer output jacks to connect to other devices.


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Attention Facebook users: Check out Michael Berman's Jocgeek fan page at www.facebook.com/jocgeek, or follow him on Twitter @jocgeek.  You can also contact him via email at jocgeek@earthlink.net.  Mike's blog can also be found on the Huffington Post website at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-l-berman/.