The S880DB speakers' size is conveniently small, but can they live up to the Edifier name in such a small package?
The S880DB speakers' Size & Weight are perfect for a desk or shelf, and their appearance is sleek and attractive. The Setup is made easier by the well-defined input panel on the active speaker. When it comes to Connectivity, these speakers have it all. Their Bluetooth Range is tied for the best we've reviewed.
The Controls for the S880DB speakers are not ideal because of the infrared remote control. The front panel also makes for a steeper than normal initial Learning Curve. There are also some Build Quality issues that could be worked out.
Even with a few minor issues and things to remember, the S880DB speakers are a great contender for a computer desk or shelf speaker in the home or office. The sound quality is great for music and is better than most stereo speakers for gaming. They definitely do justice to the Edifier brand.
Where To Get It
The S880DB speakers represent great value for a variety of customers. Whether you're looking for a great pair of computer speakers for your desk, shelf speakers for your living room or bedroom, or even enhanced audio for your television, these speakers should definitely be a consideration. The Sound Quality is fantastic for its price and the Size & Weight are great for their purpose. The only place you might be let down is in the Build Quality and Design of the remote control.
The Design of the speakers is mostly fantastic. Their Size & Weight are perfect for a desk or shelf, and their appearance is sleek and attractive. The white face paired with the exposed black speaker cones and LED panel creates a nice contrast. The light wood finish on the sides is a good complement to the white center panel. The technical design is also mostly a success. The rear panels on both the active and passive speaker are easy to interact with, as well as easy to understand. The Setup was made easier by the well-defined input panel on the active speaker, with detailed labeling on each input.
The only real design flaw is with the remote control. Rather than connecting the controller to the speaker via the built-in Bluetooth, it is connected via infrared. This means that the active speaker has to be visually available since infrared is line-of-sight. While it sounds like a small issue, it is really a major oversight. For our setup, this meant that the speakers had to be installed backward (left and right) and configured through Windows to invert them. This is because the primary speaker would have lived behind a monitor, with no way to use the remote control, and therefore, no way to change the input. This made for an initially negative experience as we tried to determine how to make the speakers work without having to completely redesign the desk.
The Sound Quality of the S880DB speakers is very good, especially taking into consideration their Size & Weight, as well as the lack of a dedicated subwoofer. Despite the lack of a subwoofer, the bass response range is surprisingly wide. When comparing the output to speaker sets that do include a subwoofer, they are able to produce sound in the lower frequencies better than would be expected, though it does not match an equally priced speaker with a dedicated sub. We tested the various inputs using the same song and compared the results against our top-rated speaker in this price range. All of the tests were performed using the included cables.
This is, by far, the ideal setup for the speakers. The reproduction range is greater and is produced with little to no distortion until the volume is near maximum. Even the bass response, which is naturally lessened without the sub, is better when using USB Digital.
Fiber Optic (TOSLINK)
The fiber optic connection maintains the high audio standard of the USB Digital connection. The only distortion we could create using the TOSLINK cable was by turning the volume up too loud, and even that was minimal.
While we no longer test Digital Coaxial modes, the Digital Coaxial uses the same audio standard as Fiber Optic (S/PDIF), so the audio quality should be identical to the Fiber Optic response.
Bluetooth is often the last resort for audio input on quality speakers. The S880DB speakers, however, manage to handle the Bluetooth connection incredibly well. While the quality is far above what we expect from Bluetooth speakers, it does not equal the quality of these same speakers when connected via other means.
Auxiliary (1/8" or RCA)
As you might expect, the analog input represents the lowest range of audio reproduction on the list. This is likely because of the loss of fidelity going from a digital signal on a device, like a computer, phone, or tablet, to an analog signal in a headphone jack, and transferred to the speakers. There is plenty of opportunity for loss and distortion in that process, as well as in the quality of the cable. Using a higher quality cable than what came in the box, there was less of a loss, but it still produced the lowest quality sound available.
When it comes to Connectivity, these speakers have it all. They offer your standard analog speaker interfaces, both 1/8" (computer headphone/speaker jack) and RCA (red & white connectors), via RCA and RCA to headphone cables. They also offer a host of digital connectors: fiber optic (TOSLINK), digital coaxial (RCA), and USB digital direct. That means that whatever you are hoping to hook these speakers up to, you likely have the correct hookup. For those devices that have none of these connections, the speakers also offer Bluetooth connectivity.
The Range of the S880DB speakers is fantastic. It matched our longest range on the practical and came close on the line of sight tests.
In my 3 bedroom apartment, I can place the paired device anywhere in the apartment and it will continue operating in the office without issue. The corners of the apartment often cause interference to the office, as there are several walls between, but these speakers dealt with the signal without any issue.
Line of Sight
Bringing an iPhone X outside, the S880DB speakers retained a stable connection for 165 feet. That is almost the maximum possible distance for Bluetooth 4.0, which is 200 feet. Considering these speakers must be plugged in, the likelihood of being used in a room that is 165 feet long is low, making this range perfectly within expectations.
As part of the only real Design issue, the control system for the S880DB speakers is not ideal. All major interactions are done through a remote control puck, which is connected to the speaker via infrared. Making sure that the remote is pointed directly at the speaker can be difficult, depending on your desk or shelf configuration.
The majority of the controls are straight forward, while others are a little less clear. For example, it is easy to know that you are or are not playing audio, either by listening or checking your device. You can easily tell if you have successfully changed tracks, or adjusted the volume, again, either audibly or visually. You can also look at the front panel to determine what input is currently selected, as there is an LED panel showing the active input. However, there is one setting that cannot be determined at a glance: the active EQ setting. There is no indicator on the speaker, the remote, or on the device that will tell you if you have Classic, Dynamic, Monitor, or Vocal currently running.
There are a couple of aspects of the Controls that make learning to use the speakers a little difficult. The fact that the control puck is infrared means that you have to point the controller at the speakers. If you are not prepared for this, you might be surprised that the remote doesn't work at all when you press a button. Once you get the remote working, the next challenge is learning that the speakers are slow to respond. Changing the input can take up to a second, so cycling between inputs can be incredibly slow and delayed. You'll also have to know that the number of times that the active input LED blinks after a command indicates what it did. Because of these challenges, the initial Learning Curve is a little steeper than the average desktop or bookshelf speakers but, once you get used to the idiosyncrasies, using the speakers is fairly natural.
The Build Quality of the S880DB speakers cannot be faulted. All of the seams are straight with no sharp edges. The chosen materials are all quality. Even the etched design on the wood grain surface is straight and consistent. The only real improvement to the build quality would have been fully countersinking the screws that hold the cones in place. As it is, the raised screws provide a surface for dust to accumulate and become a bit of an eyesore over time. In addition, not all of the screws on our unit were properly set. At least one screw was more than a millimeter outset from where it should have been.
The remote, on the other hand, tells a different story. All of the seams of the remote are rough, and the seam around the infrared emitter is actually sharp. The panel for the emitter is set too far back from the edge of the ring, making the entire front assembly uncomfortable to hold. The gap around the battery cover on the back of the remote is wide enough to accumulate dirt and grease from your hand, meaning that the remote could become less than pleasant with regular use.
We have performed an extended review of these speakers. They have been used on the studio editing computer to edit the majority of our CES 2019 interviews. They have also been used in our offices to listen to music for over a month. In that time, we have experienced no real functionality issues, other than those detailed about the Design of the remote control, and during the Setup of the USB connection.
These speakers are incredibly small. In fact, their size is so small that it completely betrays their Sound Quality. Based on their size, you would never expect these speakers to sound as good as they do. Their size is perfect for their intended applications: on a computer desk or bookshelf. With such a small footprint, you won't need to sacrifice a lot of desk space, if you are using them in an office.
Despite their size, the speakers literally carry some weight. Each speaker is much heavier than you might expect, weighing in between 6 and 8 pounds, depending on left or right. If these were portable speakers, this would be a problem, but they are not. Instead, because they are intended to stay in one place, the weight is actually a benefit. A heavier speaker is usually indicative of a larger magnet, which typically produces better sounding speakers, which these definitely are.
While these speakers are designed to be shelf speakers, they are also incredibly versatile, making them compatible for almost any use you can think of. You can use the speakers with your phone, laptop, desktop, television, tablet, and more. Since the speakers are self-amplified, you can also use older audio devices, including turntables.
Almost every aspect of the Setup process for the Edifier S880DB speakers is incredibly easy. No matter your setup, one cable connects the two speakers together and one goes to the power. Then, you connect your input cable, either RCA, digital coaxial, fiber optic, or USB, to the speaker and the source. For everything but USB, your task is complete and you can begin using the speakers. If you plan to use the Bluetooth option, simply put the speakers into Bluetooth mode and pair your device.
Unfortunately, if you are connecting via USB, you will need to install drivers on your computer to make the speakers work correctly. This would be no problem if the drivers were included on storage within the speakers. The reality is that you have to go to the company's website and download the drivers, making a step that could have easily been skipped. Fortunately, this only needs to be done once per computer, so it is not a major disappointment.