We’ve had a lot of great things imported from the UK to the US and Canada: our language, Bond flicks, the Beatles, Aston Martin, Karen Gillan, you get the picture. In the latest wave, Bayan Audio has brought their SoundBook Bluetooth speakers to North America. This British invasion couldn’t make my ears any happier after spending time with the their top of the line SoundBook X3. Let’s take a peek.
Bayan X3 – A Premium Experience
With premium companies, there is something different about the experience. The fit and finish surrounding the product is almost as important as the product itself. You saw that with Bayan from the git go. The packaging was immaculate and well thought out. The tolerances were tight enough where I had to use two hands to get components out and everything had a well manicured place, even the manual. Included with the X3 were accessories that lesser audio companies would routinely require you to buy after the fact like a 3.5mm line-in cable, and travel adapters for the UK and EU. The cable was thick and seemed very well made. Bayan left nothing to chance, they wanted how you listen to this their terms. Trust me, that’s a good thing.
The SoundBook name isn’t just clever marketing, they designed this thing to function a bit like a book. The speaker itself has an outer covering, and the front panel protects the front of the device. The fabric is fully stitched and has a leather tab in the front to help open it. The cover folds underneath SoundBook and becomes a stand. Coolest of all, it also acts as an on/off switch. It also magnetically latches. It works just like an iPad Smart Cover if you’ve used one. The SoundBook has basically 4 different functions: You can use it has a Bluetooth speaker, full speakerphone capability, Aux line in from an external 3.5mm source, and FM radio. Rather than giving light indicators or leaving you to your own devices as to what mode you’re on, the SoundBook X3 has a small screen on the lower left of the front of the device. It says “Blue” for bluetooth, “Aux” for The line in, and “FM” for radio. It’ll also give you “Low” for low battery, “Full” when it’s fully charged, and it’ll show you the FM station as well. Up top you’ll have the power/function button in the middle flanked by the volume up/down, and FM station up/down. You also have a number of white lights to indicate volume level. Out back, you have the 3.5mm audio in, audio out, the outport with multi-color LED, and a USB port for using it as a power bank.
While most higher-end speaker systems are bar shaped, the x3 is a bit taller. It uses that extra vertical space for four 1.5″ neodymium drivers. The 2×2 arrangement is very reminiscent of a guitar half stack speaker cab. In between them is a 3″ passive bass radiator. While the latter is not an active subwoofer, this speaker is at no loss for bass. In fact, it might do its job a little too well. All in all, you get 20 watts of stereo power. At full volume, you get a nice thumping action. This feels like a much larger speaker system than it is. For that, Bayan earns a lot of props. Bluetooth audio codecs have gotten good and it sounds exceptional over the air. Unlike most speaker systems, it uses Bluetooth 4.0 which gives you power savings compared to BT 2.1EDR. It also uses the aptX codec. The 3.5mm jack isn’t remarkable by itself, but the quality is. I’ve listened to a few devices where the Bluetooth sound is good, but corners were clearly cut with the 3.5mm aux-in jack. They are not made by Bayan Audio. The X3 had very consistent sound quality with my iPhone whether it was streaming or plugged in. There is also an audio-out if you want to basically use it as a Bluetooth bridge to much larger stereo. Lastly, I found the FM radio to be more than a gimmick. It was clear, had great sound despite the integrated antenna, and was very easy to use.
I would caution this however: You will not like it right out of the box. You will think something is wrong; it will sound a little muddy. Nothing is wrong. It takes a little while for the speakers to get broken in. It’ll start to sound really good after a couple days and it’ll sound it’s best after hours of play time. Be patient and you’ll be happy you were.
Where It Comes Up Slightly Short
First off, I’ll have to say the things I didn’t care for are more like nitpicks, than deep-seated fault. One of those is the battery. At 10 hours of battery life from a 7800mAh battery, it’s at the lower end of the segment. 12-20 is more common. The X3 can also sit only one of two ways, on with the cover open and folded or flat on its front/back. The way it’s slanted, its not stable enough to sit on another surface. That causes it to end up in a large foot print for the device’s size. I had to constantly figure out where to place it when I was not listening to it. You’re also looking at a device that is designed more for indoors. It’s not a speaker you stick in your backpack and take with you do the beach. Lastly, the mic for the speakerphone is adequate, but not up to the quality of the rest of the SoundBook
Like I said in my , there is a difference between pricing and value. This falls into the latter category. At $299, this is at the upper end of the Bluetooth speaker range, but the fit and finish is exceptional.
If Bayan wanted to enter North America and make a splash, mission accomplished. The SoundBook X3 is a little bit lacking on battery life, but it makes up for it with fantastic sound, its designer looks, and fit and finish. Let me be clear, this Bayan isn’t cheap, nor is it for everyone. If you can afford a $300 portable speaker, this Bayan SoundBook X3 is worth a look. I very much enjoyed my time with it.
- Fantastic sound both through Bluetooth and 3.5mm
- High class fit and finish
- Easy operation
- FM radio far from a gimmick
- Includes high-end audio cable and travel adapters for the UK/EU
- Takes up a lot of space for size
- Only a 10 hour battery life