‘Pinion by Damon Apter
BenQ has entered the audio market with a bang, producing the world’s first portable Bluetooth speaker with electrostatic diaphragm technology, the treVolo (RRP $399).
What are electrostatic diaphragm speakers? When I spoke with Belinda Shields, a marketing executive for BenQ Australia, she explained that, compared with traditional cone loudspeakers, electrostatic speakers deliver more vivid and natural mid-range and trebles, without the cabin resonance, resulting in purer, more nuanced sound. Additionally, electrostatic speakers have a very wide and deep soundstage, Shields said, with exceptional channel separation and the clear placement of every instrument
The design of the treVolo is masterful. When unboxing, as the treVolo sits nestled in its packaging, the speakers presents as a cube, with thick aluminium covering the internal organs, and holes punched in the front shielding the woofers. A rubberish material lines the bottom to prevent the speaker from slipping across surfaces: a common malady for millennials that like listening to very loud music. Once the two collapsible electrostatic panels, or ‘wings’, are opened, however, the system’s undoubtedly unique and futuristic appearance is revealed.
Weighing 1.2 kilograms despite feeling slightly heavier, the treVolo can be transported around and played on the go, however, there is a fragility to the wings requiring some user caution. Battery life is an advertised 12 hours.
On top of the speaker sit the Power, Volume, Listening Mode and Play/Pause buttons. Unlike other Bluetooth speakers, the volume on the treVolo works alongside the volume of your device, rather than on its own. The Play/Pause and Listening Mode buttons also act as Answer and End Call buttons if taking a call through the speaker. At the rear is the Bluetooth button to begin pairing mode. The power adapter included with the treVolo can be connected at the bottom of the rear panel, which also has an auxiliary input and output, and a USB port for charging mobiles.
Setting up the treVolo is quick and simple. There are no cryptic codes needed to begin the pairing process, with activation caused by pressing the Power and Bluetooth buttons simultaneously. As a sociological experiment I asked my 55-year-old father to have a go and even he could do it. This is surprising as he is a known luddite.
The ‘BenQ Audio’ app, available for iOS and Android is a neat addition to the treVolo speakers, allowing listeners to “indulge the best music listening experience”. The app offers the added functionality of three listening modes, indicated by a colouration of the Power button: Pure (green with minimal equalization), Warm (red with a slight increase in bass) and Vivid (blue with a lead vocal focus and instrument isolation). The app also displays remaining battery life, playlist creation, and a sleep timer for Android phones.
Not only does the treVolo look superb, but it has the sound to match. Don’t bother listening with the wings folded in, as it results in distortion and causes the speaker to shake. Once the wings are folded outward, the sound produced is excellent, and it perform favourably against similarly priced speakers. The treVolo aims to produce ‘rich and precise’ sound and it succeeds, with instruments and vocals complementing each other to create a crisp and balanced resonance on tracks such as Sunset by The xx.
Shields credits BenQ’s sound quality to the years of research and development for both the hardware and software that went into the Taiwanese brand’s television range. “We have in-house software for the apps, in-house materials development for the electro static parts and we are qualified to engineer this kind of product. Our TVs — no longer sold in Australia — have been developed with high end speakers for a while.”
If you’re looking for a boombox type speaker to blast all your favourite bangers with your chums at a party, the treVolo probably isn’t for you. The maximum volume doesn’t reach an outstanding magnitude, and songs with extensive bass content do not get the best results from the treVolo. However, BenQ believes the most important thing for an audio component is to deliver sound that is comfortable to the ear, rather than music that rocks out at 11 without sounding precise over an extended listening. So whilst the treVolo is unlikely to appeal to a rowdy bunch of boys looking for dope drops in the club, it should satisfy most everyday listeners.
The versatility of the treVolo’s performance is another winning factor. I tried it out on the bedside table, in the living room and outside on the patio and there was no differentiation in sound quality.
I asked Shields if the treVolo marked the start of a wider audio product campaign.
“TreVolo electrostatic speakers is BenQs debut product in the audio market,” she told me. “BenQ will focus on introducing and marketing this brand new product segment. BenQ will release new models in the line-up when R&D is completed. A non-portable lounge room style product is due mid-year.”
In honour of the treVolo’s unique winged form factor, please enjoy these wing-themed songs:
Damon Apter is a millennial with refined tastes and a tight budget. His job is to cast his teenage eyes over the latest gadgets and provide a unique insight into how youngsters view modern technology.