Strong bass extension, Excellent build and design, Competitive pricing, Ear-pleasing midrange with high vocal clarity
No water resistance, Bluetooth latency on the higher side, No volume compensation so it sounds less full at lower volumes
The AS1 offers a hardy construction, good battery life, strong maximum volume and a sound that almost matches class leaders while appreciably undercutting them.
Blitzwolf is a new tech company started in 2015 that strive to provide strong quality at competitive prices. The BW-AS1 is their flagship Bluetooth speaker funded on Kickstarter at the beginning of this year and more recently made its way to mass production. It features some killer features more commonly found on much more expensive units. This speaker especially makes an impressive with its clean metal housing, impressive 20W output power and a 5200mah cell keeping the lights on. Despite its excellent specifications, it doesn’t quite match premium competitors in real-world performance, however, at just $90 USD, the AS1 represents sensational value, very noticeably undercutting said competition. It also frequently goes on sale making it an even stronger value proposition.
I would like to thank Blitzwolf very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the BW-AS1 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the speaker free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The BW-AS1 comes packaged within a clean hard box with design vectors and specifications adorning its exterior. Sliding off the top cover reveals the speaker nestled within a protective inlet and plastic wrapping. Blitzwolf also provides a micro-USB charging cable and 3.5mm cable to take advantage of a wired connection.
The BW-AS1 is a thing of beauty with construction quality that matches premium portable speaker offerings. Chiefly, it impresses with a housing that is almost entirely aluminium save for a plastic back panel and buttons. Its design is sleek and streamlined with chamfered edges adding some visual intrigue. A drilled grill at the front provides a bold aesthetic that catches the eye. The entire construction demonstrates a high level of finish save for the rear edge that is a little sharp.
This impression of quality is reinforced by the speaker’s substantial weight, not unwieldy, but dense and solid. This is no doubt a by-product of Blitzwolf’s implementation of a large 5200mah battery in addition to two large drivers producing a total 20W RMS output, quite significant for a portable speaker. Two small feet ensure the base doesn’t become scratched and ensures the speaker doesn’t wander during high-volume playback.
The main controls can be found at the top of the speaker. The layout is straightforward with power on the left followed by play/pause and volume down and up buttons. The buttons themselves are clicky, providing ample feedback during use. Meanwhile, the rear houses the main inputs, a micro-USB charging port alongside a 3.5mm line-in jack. More grills adorn the rear in front of the rear-facing passive radiator. This makes the speaker modestly placement sensitive, generating noticeably more bass when placed in front of a wall and especially a corner.
The BW-AS1 may lack that last touch of finish found on the Bose Soundlink Mini to give an example. However, in all other regards, it provides a premium experience achieved through excellent construction and design. And although the rear panel is plastic, it is thick with minimal flex. However, like the Bose speaker, the adoption of premium materials does come at the cost of ingress protection, offering no water or dust resistance.
The AS1 is intuitive and straightforward to operate via the 4 top-facing buttons. Holding the on button powers up the speaker with an accompanying status LED hidden in the grill and audio cue to notify the user. Holding for a further few seconds enters pairing mode. Beside it are media controls, pay/pause and volume up and down that adjust the speaker’s internal volume independently of the source. This provides additional steps of adjustment to find an optimal listening volume.
The speaker also has a built-in mic making it useful for speakerphone. The mic was relatively clear in my testing so long as the user is within a reasonable distance of the speaker. The play/pause button also controls call answer/rejection for ease of use. The speaker connects over BT 4.0 but has no apt-x or LDAC support. From comparing a wired vs wireless connection, I don’t find most these small speakers to provide enough fidelity to suffer noticeably, the AS1 does sound slightly more concise from a wired source, however.
Range is very respectable, I experienced no dropouts and was able to confidently leave the room with my source device without experiencing disconnection. Latency is more noticeable than most, there’s a half second delay or so which can irk when watching videos. The speaker has a large 5200mah battery that promises 7-11hrs of use. At medium volumes, I was able to consistently beat 10hrs of longevity which is quite a strong real-world figure, especially considering the speaker’s 20W output power.
The BW-AS1 is very well-equipped for a portable speaker, boasting a very high max power output in addition to dual passive radiators facing front and back. Blitzwolf promise 360 degree audio, however, sound output is not quite as homogenous as the UE Boom, for instance, delivering greater clarity when listened to head on. Where the Bose Soundlink Mini utilises two front-facing radiators in opposition to provide a very full bass response, the front-rear passive radiator positioning of the BW-AS1 produces a more balanced low-end. It can also be tailored via placement, somewhat similar to the Denon Envaya Mini, sounding leaner in open areas, balanced in front of a wall and warmer when placed in a corner.
The AS1 is a relatively balanced speaker with a slight midrange bias as a result of a prominent upper-midrange. It has a modest bass response that isn’t lean or small, but simply lacks emphasis as more fun sounding speakers such as the Envaya Mini. Regardless, it still has plenty of fullness and delivers full notes that please the ear. This speaker isn’t bass forward but also won’t be mistaken for a smaller or low-quality unit. The BW-AS1 impresses with its clarity
The BW-AS1 delivers a full low-end with bold notes yet bass never steals attention as it isn’t as present as the upper-midrange or lower-treble. As such, this fuller character is derived from strong extension that rivals class leaders in addition to an emphasized upper-bass that imbues warmth and body over general emphasis throughout. Though extension is on par with competitors such as the Envaya Mini, this is not always as apparent as the AS1 has quite a restrained sub-bass quantity in addition to a cleaner mid-bass that avoids bloat or tubbiness. When compared to the consumer standard UE Boom, it is evident that the UE speaker has more mid-bass but also considerably less extension and depth.
The AS1 is more dynamic, has more slam and more resolved notes. It isn’t as bassy in its tuning, especially regarding mid-bass, but the net result is a fuller, richer sound due to its greater deep-bass presence. Bass is not as placement sensitive as most portable speakers despite having a rear firing passive radiator and the speaker does not need to be placed in front of a wall or in a corner to achieve a full sound. The AS1 isn’t the warmest, most impactful speaker, but it does deliver a sense of fullness that cannot be imitated by inferior speaker systems. At higher volumes, the strong bass extension of the AS1 comes further to light and it could definitely have benefit from volume compensation at lower-volumes where sub-bass becomes quite scarce.
Perhaps most standout on this speaker is its vocal presentation. Mids are well-realised in order to provide intimate vocals that also aren’t thinned out or unnatural. Through a full upper-bass, mids are lightly warm while a smooth transition through the lower-midrange ensures they aren’t congested or chesty. Emphasis climbs gradually until a lower-treble peak and as a result female vocals are more prominent than male with both taking precedence over instruments. Though lower-treble measures most present within the AS1’s sound and is in near-field listening, vocals do not come across as over-articulated as highs are attenuated first in open spaces, thereby balancing out in normal listening.
Female vocals, in particular, actually sound quite warm and full, and the midrange in general has outstanding clarity on behalf of their smooth climb into the treble. No, mids aren’t perfectly realistic nor are they layered or highly resolved, but this is a fun signature that thrives with modern mastering and is very reminiscent of much more costly products such as the Bose Soundlink Mini.
As aforementioned, lower-treble can be quite prominent though not at realistic listening distances. Beyond 1m away from the speaker, treble sits in line with vocals, providing crisp foreground instrumentation and bringing details to the fore. The speaker isn’t especially detailed and can’t really be used for critical listening, that was never the intention of any portable Bluetoth speaker. That said, it is clearly more nuanced than most and the added energy in this region aids headroom to an extent.
Highs roll off quite sharply into the middle-treble so there isn’t a lot of shimmer, sparkle or minutiae to be discovered in the AS1’s sound. Rather, this is simply a vivid, energetic foreground that well services strings and cymbals with plenty of attach and clarity without sounding metallic. Moreover, as the middle-treble isn’t overly present, the speaker doesn’t fatigue even though it does sound quite forward at times.
UE Boom: The UE Boom is a highly popular model familiar to many portable speaker users. From bottom to top it is evident that the UE speaker is considerably more midrange focussed as a result of its more restricted dynamic range. Bass falls off quicker and sharper, lacking deep bass presence and slam. It has a bump in the mid-bass and a similar upper-bass hump, but sounds a little tubby. The UE Boom has a boxier midrange as it lacks the same upper-midrange emphasis, sounding a touch congested and lacking bass/midrange separation. That said, its mdirange is not recessed as it doesn’t have as much bass or treble as the AS1. The UE Boom also has a lower-treble peak, it is more isolated and again, we see treble roll-off quicker and sharper than the Blitwolf. As a result, instrumentation sounds thinner and the Boom is noticeably less detailed. Its main benefit is its lengthy batterylife and very high maximum volume. The UE Boom also has a very homogenous sound output all around so it is great for gatherings. Still, sonically, it does fall behind the Denon and Blitzwolf, lacking the same dynamism, impact and engagement.
Denon Envaya Mini: The Envaya Mini is my personal benchmark for portable Bluetooth speakers. It has similarly strong bass extension to the AS1 but has considerably greater emphasis producing a richer, more impactful sound. It also has more mid-bass, sounding more L-shaped overall with bass drawing greater attention. Both have a very similarly tuned midrange though as the Envaya has more bass, its midrange sounds warmer and thicker. It also can sound a touch chesty where the AS1 is clearer and cleaner in tone at the cost of having less depth to its sound. The AS1 has more present vocals and higher vocal intelligibility and transparency. In particular, it has better upper-midrange extension where the Envaya Mini falls off a little around 4KHz, sounding smoother and more full-bodied. Both climb to a similar lower-treble peak though the Envaya mini extends linearly into the middle-treble and has an emphasized upper-treble that gives it a somewhat more holographic sound. The AS1 is less detailed and doesn’t have the same headroom. On the contrary, it offers stronger battery life and a significantly higher maximum volume.
If put on the spot, most people would not be able to guess the AS1’s asking price given its design and performance. This speaker offers superb value with its almost full metal build, intuitive design and voluminous sound. It does not come across as perfectly balanced with a bias towards vocals, however, this does contribute towards high legibility when watching films or videos. Perhaps most unfortunate is the absence of water resistance and volume compensation so the speaker isn’t quite as full at lower volumes nor would it be the best choice for those that like to frequently tough it outdoors. Regardless, the AS1 offers a hardy construction, good battery life, strong maximum volume and a sound that almost matches class leaders while appreciably undercutting them.
The BW-AS1 can be purchased through Blitzwolf for $89 USD and be sure to use code AS115 for a 15% discount! I am not affiliated with Blitzwolf and receive no earnings from purchases through this link.