Simple Audio Listen review
Bluetooth speakers and docks can be a handy convenience for mobile devices such as the iPhone or iPad, but they cannot match the sound quality of a good old-fashioned set of stereo speakers with a wired connection.
In fact, the Listen speakers from Simple Audio do provide a Bluetooth option too, but they’re primarily designed to be plugged directly into a Mac or Windows PC, using a USB cable to carry digital audio.
The aluminium frames of the speakers look very smart, but at just 200 mm tall and 110 mm wide they’re still small enough to sit on a desk on either side of a computer screen. A 1.6 m cable connects the left and right speakers together, and Simple Audio also includes a 3-metre extension cable so that you can place the speakers further apart if you want to use them in your front room or bedroom, or perhaps in a boardroom for presentations.
The touch-controls located on top of the right-hand speaker allow you to quickly adjust the volume, switch between inputs, or simply turn the speakers on and off. There’s also a hand-held remote control included for when you want to kick back on the sofa or stroll around during a presentation. Our only minor complaint is that there are no equalizer controls or presets available for fine-tuning the sound.
See also: Speaker reviews
That’s not a real problem, though, as the Listen speakers sound pretty darn good straight out of the box. Inside each speaker there are separate tweeters and woofers – each with its own Class D amp – as well as a pressure driver to enhance bass. There’s also an RCA connector that will allow you to add a separate sub-woofer if you want.
Firing up iTunes on our office iMac revealed that the Listen speakers produce a warm, smooth sound that worked really well with the delicate acoustic warblings of Damien Rice. But they could also pick out all the details in the high-pitched harmonies of Queen.
The bass output was pleasantly firm for such a compact set of speakers, and while they’re not party-pumping loud the Listen speakers will be fine for playing some tunes at a dinner party or for listening to music in your bedroom.
Inevitably, some of that sound clarity gets lost when you switch to Bluetooth but the Listen speakers may still be a match for any Bluetooth speakers that this reviewer’s tested recently.
Alongside the headphone socket on the front of the right-hand speaker, there’s also a convenient Line In socket so that you can still use a wired connection.
A price tag of £399 is pretty steep for a set of speakers that will just sit on a desk with your computer. However, we were impressed by the sound quality of the Listen speakers, and they’ll earn their keep if – like me – you use your Mac and Windows PC as your main music system at home and you also need the Bluetooth option for occasional wire-free use.