The market is awash with active loudspeakers, which means there are bargains to be had. Hugh John reports 
Spinnaker“Edifier. Big in China”. Is it just me, or does this marteting phrase sound like some sort of eighties heavy metal band (only in those days it was Japan)? Edifier in fact, is a Chinese manufacturer of audio equipment that is big – well, massive – in China though relatively unknown in the UK. It is also developing a reptation for its ethical production and employment conditions.

If the products the company was demonstrating at the Digital Winter technology preview event were any indication, its UK profile could be about to change.

Shaped like a pair of elephant tusks, or spinnaker sails, the most eye catching items on the Edifier stand, perhaps in the entire Digital Winter show, were the Spinnaker speakers. They sounded good too. But the units that caught the ear, and which could attract interest from the education sector – useful as personal kit for teachers and for some functions in schools – were the Aurora and SoundtoGo soundbars. Compact, attractive and tremendous value for money at £40 each, both of these active speaker systems put out surprisingly good sound.

The Aurora is actually three units; a cylindrical section housing the subwoofer and a pair of small globe-shaped speakers. The subwoofer is plenty powerful and gives the overall sound a beefiness which might not be expected from such a small and inexpensive system.

There is no On/Off switch and the volume controls – two buttons – are set atop the right-hand satellite speaker. Connection to a sound source is via a stereo mini-jack which gives the Aurora compatibility with virtually any device – tablet, MP3 player, smartphone or indeed, desktop or laptop computer.

It is mains powered with no internal battery so not totally mobile, but where a sound system is needed for small groups of people, or individuals, the Aurora is definitely one to consider. Oh, and this might be the deal clincher, it comes in grey, pink, black , red  or blue!

The SoundtoGo micro speaker system, however, is entirely portable, being powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The sound controls are set at either end of the unit and to avoid the device being accidentally activated and draining the battery, both buttons need to be pressed to fire up the soundbar which I’m sure chocoholics will agree looks rather like an aluminium-skinned giant Toblerone bar.

Set behind the black metal grill are five small speakers – a bass driver flanked by two pairs of drivers, mid-range and treble. Altogether, this little fella has a surprising heft and presence which you might not expect from something just over 10 inches long and only 2 inches high.

As with the Aurora, connection to other devices is via a stereo mini-jack; simple which makes it well-nigh universal. Charging is through a mini-USB port and Edifier reckons that the battery can last up to 10 hours.

Included with the soundbar is a USB cable and a velveteen pouch which while not offering much protection would certainly keep dust and scratches at bay but which is so tight fitting that – minor complaint this – that there’s barely room for the cable.

School use? For teachers who want a low cost sound system for their own use that is a marked improvement on their laptop speakers, or an anywhere, anytime solution for field trips, SoundtoGo is perfect for both.

“Edifier. Big in the UK?” If the company continues bringing such high quality, extremely competitively products to the market then yes, absolutely no doubt about it.

Aurora Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose     4
Ease of use                 4
Features                      3
Quality                         4
Value for money          5

Aurora active speakers
£40 from

SoundToGoPlus Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose        5
Ease of use                    4
Features                        4
Quality                           5
Value for money            5

£40 from