Edifier Luna-E (E235) Review – Bigger, Not Always Better

Introduction –

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The Edifier E25’s might just be Edifier’s most popular model; they have the most available accessories, are the most reviewed and have been subject to no shortage of compliments. And these accolades came for good reason, the E25’s are an absolutely striking speakers system that I can personally vouch for; I’ve owned my E25’s for almost 3 years now and they have reliably served my multimedia needs with crisp audio and a very tight, punchy low-end. However while the mids and treble response never failed to impress me when considering their asking price, I always felt that they needed a bit more lower and sub-bass; they completely lacked that sense of fullness or impact down low and sounded anaemic at low volumes due to their reliance on passive radiators and lack of electronic volume compensation.

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Almost 3 years later, Edifier have addressed these concerns with the E235, a 2.1 computer audio system that combines two very proficient 2.0 speakers with a 100W 5.8GHz active subwoofer. While I couldn’t be more excited that the E235’s are finally coming to Australia, I’m less enthusiastic about their $800 asking price. Is the external subwoofer worth the $500 premium over the standard E25 and the $100 premium over Edifier’s AU previous flagship, the S1000DB? Let’s find out.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Amber from Edifier very much for providing me with a loaner unit of the E235 for review. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and despite receiving the speakers free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

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Accessories –

The E235’s come within a rather enormous box that carries Edifier’s typical two-tone colour scheme. The outer faces are covered within nice low-key renders while the back lists the main specifications and features of the speakers. Opening up the packaging reveals a Styrofoam platform with all of the accessories embedded within.

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Underneath lie the two satellite speakers and subwoofer unit all within protective their own protective cotton pouches, very nice. There’s an extra layer of foam on the bottom to bolster protection during shipping.

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In addition to the speakers, papers and power adaptors, Edifier also include an array of smaller accessories. Unlike their bookshelf speakers, Edifier’s Image line-up come equipped with a range of high-quality cables and remote. The proprietary interconnect cable is probably most notable since it will limit placement width to 3M however, the cable is of good quality, thick and supple with tight connectors. Unfortunately, replacements will have to be ordered through Edifier and, at present, they do not offer the cable through their official store.

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To take advantage of the E235’s new optical input port, Edifier include a fiber-optic cable for use with TV’s. It’s a digital connection so you will experience no quality loss through transmission. In addition, that same super sturdy AUX cord included with the E25’s and Spinnaker’s makes a return on this model too. It’s perhaps my favourite oem 3.5mm interconnect cable, with ample thickness, great strain relief, proper shielding and a super supple feel. The cable can be used in conjunction with the included female 3.5mm to RCA adaptor for use with a PC.

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The remote is identical to that included with the S1000DB, that is to say, a nice compact controller with an efficient button layout. It’s attractive and feels solid enough, the matte texture is nice and grippy and the rubber buttons are well delineated and provide clicky feedback. It is here, on this more sophisticated speaker system that we can see mapped functions for the extra buttons. I will go into more detail in the usage and sound sections of this review.

 

Design –

It’s no secret that a large portion of the E25’s popularity stems from their gorgeous design. You can read more about the details in my dedicated E25 review since the e235’s are identical apart from the addition of a subwoofer and a THX logo on the fronts of the speakers however, I will give some brief impressions here.

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I do feel that the speakers are better suited towards a more contemporary computer setup over bookshelf usage since they are designed to stand out as much as possible; they hardly blend into any regular room landscape and would be more comfortable in an art gallery. However, that is not to be taken as a negative since the speakers capture the right kind of attention with their sweeping styling and range of vibrant colours. The signature red colour scheme is captivating without being gaudy and fit into my more natural room more comfortably than I would have thought. If you are looking for a more coordinated look, the speakers are also available in white and black.

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The speakers are angled for optimal high-frequency reproduction when placed on a desk and have a rubber-coated base for stability.

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The rubberized front face houses the two active drivers, a 4” exposed woofer unit and above it, a 19mm silk dome tweeter. Edifier aren’t afraid to brandish the E235’s new found THX certification on the fronts as well though the uncentered log on the right speaker is irking and a little cheap looking. The right speaker also houses a power/status LED that provides clear, distinct feedback.

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Unfortunately, as with the E25’s, the black rubberized texture attracts dust like nothing else and its grippy texture is very difficult to clean. A significant amount of processing went into these product shots to provide a palatable viewing experience.

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The rear of the speakers are just as intriguing, with a brushed aluminium support bridging the gap between the two opposing passive bass radiators. It’s hard to look away from the exposed drivers during high volume playback, it’s a very unique look that has remained fresh and futuristic despite minimal change.

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The new 100W subwoofer fits perfectly into the speaker system with identical design language and colour. While some speakers can be a statement of design, I have yet to really see a truly visually innovative subwoofer; rather most are designed to draw less attention with plain, geometric designs. As always, Edifier don’t settle for the status quote, and the e235 sub pursues a very futuristic look that vastly deviates from essentially every other 2.1 speakers system out there.

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The sub looks integrated yet alien, with the rounded driver enclosure sitting atop a moulded matte black base that gives the impression that the sub is floating on black aether. Despite being almost entirely plastic, the sub is far heavy than that included with the Logitech Z623 for instance, weighing in at ~5Kg. This keeps the sub steady on its base and prevents wandering during high volume playback. It’s also a reassuring hint that there is are quality drivers and amplification circuitry inside.

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Speaking of drivers, the E235 has a single 8-inch driver that is augmented by two 8inch radiators that fire outwards from each side. They have a similar design to the radiators at the rear of the E25’s for a more engaging and uniform look.

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The base has rubber feet to prevent vibration and protect your floor since the speaker is considerably heavy. Similar to the Edifier Spinnaker’s, the base houses the recessed 3pin power port and has integrated cable routing to produce a cleaner look. I found it far easier to hide the power cable and keep everything looking minimal when combined with a small cable box.

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A white power status light sits at the top of the sub. The design of the light is similarly space age, there is also minimal light bleed through the plastic housing which enhances the quality of the product.

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I must restate, the E235’s are absolutely striking, I love the look of the new sub and the 3-year-old satellites still feel as futuristic and contemporary as they were at launch. The E235’s have a timeless look that I feel will age very well; they don’t compliment your TV setup or office landscape, they completely steal the show. While I still feel the same way about the overzealous tweeter protector and the dust grabbing rubberized texture on the front face of the speakers, it’s hard not to love the overall design of the system, so I’m happy it has remained mostly the same.

 

Usage –

The E235’s are just as easy to setup as any other speaker despite the complication of their multiple wireless components. Once both the subwoofer and speakers are powered and the passive left satellite is connected to the active right speaker via the proprietary interconnect, the speakers and sub instantly pair over a 5.8GHz connection. In addition, if any one component is powered off, they promptly reconnect without issue. Should you need a replacement sub or speaker, the sub does have a manual pairing function. I didn’t notice any phase or latency issues during usage and the subwoofer maintained a solid connection even at a distance of about 3M.

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The right satellite houses the interfaces and wireless circuitry. On the rear are the 3.5mm and optical inputs, both functioned perfectly in my usage as with any other speaker. In addition, the E235’s support Bluetooth 4.0 and apt-x, producing considerably lower latency and, in theory, CD quality audio over a BT connection.

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In usage, range was solid, a little worse than the S1000DB, but better than the older E25 and completely reliable. At first, I did experience some loud crackling when switching between Bluetooth devices on my laptop, however, these issues did not persist with other sources so I would chalk that up to an issue my laptop rather than the speakers themselves. Latency was slightly higher than the S1000DB, that is to say, noticeable but overall negligible and watching films and videos were all perfectly served by the E235’s. Quality loss over Bluetooth was also minimal (streaming from my apt-x enabled HTC 10); there are a few videos demonstrating a substantial quality difference between a wired and wireless connection on the E25’s, however the more standard rich E235 did not have the same quality deficits in my experience; sub-bass remained nice and tight and the highs didn’t become any more brittle or splashy than they already are. Maximum volume also remained more than sufficient though it is possible to achieve more volume over a wired connection from a good source.

The E235 automatically enters BT mode when powered on, as always, Edifier’s Bluetooth system is very intuitive, there is no pairing mode, the speakers simply pair on first come first serve basis, great for multi-device usage. I’m very happy to see that Edifier have removed those cheap audio cues denoting power and connection, the speakers communicates source and power solely through the status LED on the front of the right speaker. Source selection is easily selected through a single pressing of the power button on the remote (while holding will power off the speakers). The LED glows:

Blue – Bluetooth

Red – Aux

Green – Optical

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The included remote has several basic functions that provide some audio flexibility. It’s an IR remote and as such, must have a line of sight connection to the right speaker. The remote functioned well and has very good battery life, my E25 remote lasts about 6 months before needing a new cell, often more. Up top is the power button that controls both the sub and speakers. Beneath is a 4-way d-pad where up and down control volume and left and right control subwoofer volume, great for compensating for a larger or smaller room. The centre button allows users to easily switch off the sub and use the speakers in 2.0 mode, it’s not necessary but does help on some really poorly mastered tracks or videos, effectively removing the popping from a non-filtered microphone recording.

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The same capacitive controls remain from the E25. Once again, they are on the wrong side of the speakers and aren’t super sensitive. They work in a pinch, but the remote is still the ideal way to control the speakers.

 

Sound –

With a drastically increased RMS rating (72W-172W) along with the addition of an external 8” subwoofer, the E235’s achieve considerably more sub-bass extension and rumble than its predecessor. As I noted in my E25 review, the Luna Eclipses suffer from a prevalent bass roll-off at lower volumes. Obviously, this poses great coherency issue when combined with the fixed frequency crossover of the sub. Thankfully, Edifier have mostly alleviated this issues through digital volume correction that increases bass presence on the satellites at lower volumes. As such, the E235’s sound rich and extended throughout their volume range, and they even sound pretty punchy when the sub is powered off too.

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The speakers produce minimal hiss, there is only slight noise from the tweeter driver and even that is only audible when placing my ear next to the driver. As stated, the right driver contains all of the amplification circuitry for both satellites. I did notice the right speakers getting quite warm though they never got notably hot during use. Maximum volume is very good, Edifier build in their signature DSP that lowers bass and treble levels at higher volumes to prevent distortion. Perhaps because the processing is more mature, or as a result of a higher quality Bluetooth connection, I didn’t notice the shouty character that was prevalent on the E25’s at high volumes on the E235’s. As is expected, the E235’s have a similar maximum volume to the E25’s, though the inclusion of that subwoofer does mean you don’t need as high a volume to produce full, room filling audio and the E235 is a much more realistic home theatre solution than the plain E25. That being said, I do feel that the E235 is more tuned for near field listening as the Subwoofer did lean out in my larger lounge room, even when subwoofer volume was turned up to its max setting. Perhaps placing the sub near a wall or in a corner would alleviate this issue, but I found the speaker much better suited to my medium sized study and small bedroom. I can’t help but draw notable comparison to my Edifier Spinnaker/Energy XL-S8 2.1 speaker setup since they are so similar on paper yet so vastly different in reality; I will provide ample comparisons to this setup in the following sections.

 

Tonality –

The E235’s have slightly bright midrange response with adjustable sub and lower bass responses that range from neutral to considerably full. They have a noticeably boosted treble response that aids detailing and clarity but does fatigue at times.

The music setting is quite flat though I feel that it’s been purposefully hampered to promote the use of the THX eQ. The music and THX settings are very similar, however, the THX setting is slightly bassier and the highs are more extended and sparkly, the Music setting seems to roll off the highs quite considerably, resulting in quite a dull sound. The 3D setting is the most different and provides, as its name would suggest, a very expanded soundstage. It also considerably increases sub-bass output and makes vocals sound very distant. I feel that the processing is a bit overzealous and I rarely find myself preferring this setting over the THX or Music presets even when watching films or gaming, it is simply too sculpted. I will use the THX preset in my following sound evaluations.

 

Bass –

The e235’s have a remarkably linear lower/sub-bass response that extends to the deepest audible lows and provides a hearty dollop of physical slam too. Sub-bass has great rumble and texture and the E235 provides a very tight and coherent bass reproduction; it’s a far tighter response than my Energy 8-inch sub for instance. The e235 also has a more linear tuning than the Energy sub, but that speaker cost me just $50 (original RRP of $300 USD) and the Spinnakers are a stronger performing speaker than the E25, especially with their active bass drivers. As aforementioned, the E235 does not provide a large space-filling sound and the sheer physical impact that a home theatre sub provides, instead, it augments the satellites with an extremely linear, extended and textured sub-bass response. The sub really is very good but is best suited for near field listening at a computer rather than with a TV. It’s a very nice subwoofer that, on its own, might cost $500, especially given it’s rock solid, super low latency wireless integration. The Energy sub augments the Spinnakers incredibly well, but its roots as a home theatre speaker are reflected by its poor definition and texture, especially when compared to a discrete system such as the E235. It also requires a wired connection to the satellites and has no phase settings meaning that placement will be heavily limited, it is far from the ideal solution proposed by the E235 but ultimately remains a more budget option for the economically constrained.

As with the E25’s, mid-bass is punchy and upper-bass is slightly recessed, sapping the lower mids of some body and warmth. The dual opposing passive radiators at the rear of the speakers provide a very punchy, fast bass response that has heaps of resolution. The Spinnakers do sound fuller on their own and perhaps have the ability to sound better than the E235’s when paired with a better sub, but as they are, the E235 offers a more textured response and no longer suffers from the lack of extension and slam that affected their predecessors.

Bass is well integrated on a whole, but the crossover of the sub may be too low depending on volume. As mentioned in my E25 review, the Luna Eclipses (satellite) sound anaemic at lower volumes due to their use of passive bass radiators which rely on pressure changes within the housings to increase bass presence. At lower volumes, the E25’s sound a little thin, leaving a gap in lower-bass before the subwoofer kicks in, providing quantity to the sub-bass. This creates a somewhat skewed bass response that sounds a bit unnatural but still quite pleasing depending on the type of music being played. At higher volumes, the sub sounds more integrated. The subwoofer is very, very good on its own and I want to love the E235 more. But as a package, I feel that the overall audio performance does not justify the asking price and I do feel that the Subwoofer’s benefits here may not be enough to justify the speaker’s exorbitant price increase; just having a subwoofer does add to the experience, but a subwoofer can only do so much and I would have liked to see some improvements to the Satellites as well. Sadly, they are essentially identical to the E25’s.

 

Midrange –

Where the looks and feel of the speakers have aged incredibly well, I feel that the sound quality of the satellites hasn’t kept up with more recent speakers or conversely, higher end older speakers that have since come down in pricing. The E235’s have a spectacular subwoofer with very good, but not exemplary satellites. For $800, I expect such outstanding performance in all regards and the E25’s are simply not up to scratch. This section will be very similar to my E25 review since the satellites are practically identical apart from some minor digital tweaks.

The speakers have a bright midrange with a focus on clarity. Male vocals are especially thin but very clear and female vocals share this thinner presentation, but to a lesser extent. The satellites have great clarity and are aggressively detailed. The lower midrange is a little unnatural and scooped sounding, contributing the bright tonal balance of the midrange. Male vocals do tend to be a little behind in the mix, though their clear nature means this character does not overly affect definition. Fortunately, the upper midrange isn’t so variable and while female vocals can sound ever so slightly raspy, the speaker’s supreme clarity does enhance the overall sound without becoming overbearing or harsh. I feel that female vocals may even be better done on the E25’s than the S1000DB’s, the E25’s specialise in texture and upper midrange, the S1000DB’s sound a little dull by comparison (but not on their own). If you enjoy a lot of female vocal, pop and especially Asian pop music, both the E25’s and E235’s are a really solid choice. For instance, booting up Resident Evil VII, a game with fantastic atmospheric effects, and the E235 delivered clear vocal performance and plenty of rumble for more action intensive scenes. The exaggerated atmosphere effect were well reproduced by the speakers, every nuance was brought to the fore creating a truly engaging experience however the treble did become overbearing during VCR scenes that are mastered with a constant beep that was accentuated on the E235’s. Imaging was spot on and enemies were easily located. The S1000DB’s did sound richer as usual, but they lacked the visceral rumble of the E235’s which does vastly enhance gaming and film.

Overall, the E235 is still a very good speaker and their upper midrange performance is a testament to the E25’s value at $300. However, the $800 E235’s faults cannot be so easily dismissed and the lower midrange could still do with a lot of work in future models. The Spinnakers and S1000DB both sound considerably fuller and more natural throughout their midrange. The E25’s sound great in isolation but start to falter in comparison to these higher range speakers.

 

Highs –  

Edifier’s bookshelf speakers have always had stunning treble quality and the titanium driver S1000DB’s exemplify this strength. Instantly, treble is far more resolving on the S1000DB, and the E235’s lack a lot of upper treble detail. They are still nicely resolving due to a middle treble emphasis though that same accentuation can make the speakers sound splashy as a result. As with the E25’s, I didn’t find the E235’s to sound harsh per say, but the treble response does still become grating at higher volumes or with songs with brighter mastering. The S1000DB actually has a similar amount of treble emphasis overall (also controllable via the rear facing dials), though it has more treble body, extension and texture, creating a more engaging experience. The Music preset does take the edge off, though it is a little too effective, making the speakers sound dull.

 

Comparison –

S1000DB

Comparison to the S1000DB is most fitting, as this model represents the flagship of Edifier’s Bookshelf line-up where the E235 is the highest available Image speaker in Australia.

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From the outset, the E235’s definitely have better bass extension than the S1000DB’s, not considerably better, but easily noticeable in direct comparison. This is most notable in songs which have a descending bassline; the S1000DB begins to roll off a little in the lower sub-bass notes while the E235, on account of their higher output power and larger low frequency drivers, achieves that more bottomless sound. However, things change when we head up the frequency range and this will become quite a recurring theme in this review. The S1000DB has a fuller lower and mid-bass response that sounds more cohesive where the E235’s are missing a little in the lower bass and lose details here entirely. They also have that thinner upper-bass/lower midrange presentation that does sound clear, but tends to suck the character out of the sound, the S1000DB’s are fuller and more coherent while the E25’s are thinner and more separated. I would classify this as a tie between the E235’s and S1000DB’s based upon preference and usage, the fantastic sub-bass on the E235’s does add another dimension to the sound that the S1000DB only glimpses but for pure music use, the S1000DB is the more brilliant and revealing speaker.

S1000DB has a more forward lower midrange producing a more balanced midrange overall. It is still a slightly bright speaker, but vocals are fuller, more natural and insightful than the E25’s; here we are essentially comparing a $300 speaker to a $700 one, and those differences definitely show in their performances. My main issue with the E25’s is with their lower midrange which is a little dry and lacking body. The Subwoofer does not address this issue, only adding to the lower end. Midrange and upper bass issues are most apparent when listening to midrange focussed tracks such as acoustic, the E25’s sound thin while the S1000DB sound nice and rich. The E25’s do have more clarity than the S1000DB’s and also have quite an aggressive detail presentation. So although they have less midrange detail than the S1000DB overall, their more forward upper midrange/treble response results in them sounding similarly resolving. That being said, this resolution does come with more caveats than the S1000DB and the E25’s can even sound kind of hollow, perhaps due to Edifier’s DSP adding a slight reverb effect? This is something I experienced with the original E25’s as well though not something that affects the fuller Spinnakers and R2000DB/S1000DB.

 

Verdict –

The E25’s are a fine speaker, there is no doubt about that. At their $300 asking price, I think they’re a well-rounded and well performing set of 2.0 speakers that are easily comparable to the A2 from Audioengine and similarly priced speakers from Creative and Klipsch. But although the E235 comes with an external subwoofer, a very good looking and sounding one at that, it also comes at a considerably higher price of $800.

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While each component is worth its individual price, for example, the speakers are worth $300 and the subwoofer could sell for $500 on its own, as a package, the speakers still lack the nuance of 2.0 speaker systems within the same price range such as Edifier’s own $700 S1000DB. I suspect Edifier is pricing the system higher for early adopters since the E235 system has fallen in price considerably overseas; I remember seeing a set sold closer to $500 AUD when I was in Thailand. At that price, the E235’s are a very nice buy, great for computer usage and easily superior to any $500 TV soundbar out there. While users with larger rooms should probably still invest in a dedicated home theatre system, the E235 is a very full-featured unit that sports an abundance of inputs such as aux, optical and low-latency apt-x wireless in addition to an incredibly dynamic sound.

Accessories – 9/10, Great quality cables, though proprietary interconnect limits placement. Nice remote with well-mapped functions. Fantastic packaging with soft fabric pouches for transport and storage.

Design – 9/10, Striking in every regard, the E235 is one of the most visually impactful speaker systems on the market before hitting the absurdly expensive statement speakers from premium western brands. Not only are they visually rewarding, they are also functionally convenient with a great wireless sub system and remote. The status LED is clear and the small satellites and wireless sub grant flexible placement. All components feel premium with a dense feel in the hand though the glossy finish is prone to smudging and the rubberized faces attract copious amounts of dust. The sub is very compact considering its driver size and will fit into almost any computer build.

Bass – 9.25/10, Bottomless extension, very linear sub-bass. Slight gap in lower bass at low volumes produces some coherency issues, through the sub is better integrated at medium-high volumes. Tight, punchy mid and upper bass responses due to those super-fast radiators. Upper bass dip saps body and warmth from the midrange.

Mids – 8.25/10, Brighter with more clarity than neutral. Thin, scooped lower mids remain very clear. Upper mids sound great with pleasing body and aggressive detail. Far superior to most 2.1 systems but falls short of similarly priced 2.0 speakers.

Highs – 7.5/10, Slight emphasis can be fatiguing to some, but never becomes sibilant or overly thin, nice and airy with good extension.

Overall 7/10 – I often mention versatility in my reviews since it is such a large factor to consider when buying speakers. I also rarely recommend 2.1 speakers on account of their weak satellites. In the right environment and if found at the right price, the e235’s deliver crisp, dynamic and extended audio with style and visual impact. They have an outstanding subwoofer and very proficient satellites, all contained within a visually coherent design. While I do find the speakers impressive in all regards, they are simply too expensive for the overall audio performance offered. They are also one of the most versatile speakers I’ve tested, unmatched for gaming/film usage whilst maintaining a neutral enough sound to very proficiently cater towards music use. So their ultimate value will be subjective and up to the buyer; if you have very mixed usage and demand great audio quality in every regard, there are few speakers that deliver such a versatile performance like the E235. But if you use your speakers more for music, then a 2.0 system like the S1000DB will likely serve you better, even if you have bassy preferences.

 

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