The Fluance Ai40 does three things well: it’s big, it’s loud, and it’s cheap. The speakers have tons of power and Bluetooth for easy connections, but they’re missing the finishing touches that would make them a great bookshelf speaker set.
At just $170 with five-inch drivers, an integrated amplifier, and Bluetooth, Fluance packs a lot of value into this set. But compared to competitors, the sound is just so-so, especially in the midrange. Between that, a style that doesn’t stand out, and a couple of missing creature comforts, it’s a good choice for bargain hunters, but not audiophiles.
The Ai40 is Fluance’s entry-level bookshelf speaker set, and it boasts impressive five-inch, woven glass fiber drivers and 35 watts of power in each box. And “box” is the right word—with MDF wood housings (vinyl wood decals), no driver covers, and a single volume dial for control, these won’t turn any heads. We received the natural walnut color, but bamboo and flat black housings are also available.
The speakers are proudly “designed and engineered in Canada,” and I do like the little Canadian flag tags on the back. If you check the box, though, you’ll see they’re manufactured in China.
If the style doesn’t say much, perhaps it’s because it doesn’t have to. At 11-inches tall and almost eight-inches deep, these speakers are beefy—too beefy to fit behind the monitors on my desk, for example. But considering the power and size of the drivers, they’re not unreasonably large.
Listening to my typical mix of videos and music via the standard RCA input nearly blew my ears off at full volume. The integrated amplifier offers much punchier bass than you usually get without a dedicated subwoofer (and there’s no option to add one directly, by the way). It was too much sound for my office—these are better suited for a large bedroom or even a living room, assuming you’re okay with just stereo sound and a single RCA input.
While they offer a lot of sound and a whole lot of bass, the speakers could be better in the midrange. Compared to my trusty Edifier R1280T, the larger speakers were muddy in the middle frequencies, even after the recommended 12-hour breaking-in period. They also had quite a bit more analog noise, despite coming with heavy-duty cables and nice metal contact points. You can get rid of this by connecting with Bluetooth, but that won’t be an option if you’re looking for a simple setup. Qualcomm’s aptX audio standard is included, so that Bluetooth connection is quite a bit better than some cheaper options.
Controls are also a bit limited. The volume knob is also a power button and a switch between analog and Bluetooth inputs, but bass and treble have to be handled with the included IR remote. The pairing button is on the back of the right speaker, and this does the Ai40 no usability favors. That’s a control that might be used often for guests or quick mobile connections, and it’s hard to get to. There’s no reason the pairing button couldn’t be on the front, the remote, or (preferably) both.
In terms of value, the Ai40 is competitive for those who want tons of power and don’t particularly care about high fidelity or connection options. To get five-inch drivers with Bluetooth from a competing brand, you’re looking at $50-$100 more. If you want that power on a budget—especially with bass that rattles your teeth in most rooms—go for it. If you need a more subtle performance in the midrange and more than a single wired connection option, there are better choices on the market, but you’ll probably pay more.