Audio portability is a handy thing to have, especially if you like to listen to music on the go. For some people, this means headphones – but sometimes it’s nice to be able to have something that allows you to share with others. There are a number of wired and wireless solutions out there, but not all are created equal. The Airwave is a fairly new offering from Creative that offers no-fuss-no-muss Bluetooth connectivity and decent sound – albeit lacking on the low end. Overall, it’s a well-constructed unit that might be worth checking out if you are looking for a portable sound solution.
The Creative Airwave speaker is a slick-looking prism-shaped speaker roughly the size of a size 10 shoe (10.3 inches long x 4.3 inches x 4.3 inches) that weighs about 2 pounds. Creative sent us the blue model to review, but the speaker comes in three other colours (dark grey, red and green). The front face is composed of a speaker grill covering fabric that protects what’s inside while the solid bottom side has two elongated rubber feet that protect whatever surface you happen to place the unit on. The top of the speaker (one of the edge corners of the prism) has an integrated microphone, volume buttons, a power/pairing button and an indicator light. The rear lower edge has a 3.5mm auxiliary port, a microUSB jack and an opening that functions as the bass port. Finally, the back side of the unit above the aux and microUSB ports has an NFC pairing area located in the center. Included in the box is also a manual and a USB cord to allow you to charge your unit using a wall adapter (not included) or your computer (also not included1).
Everything that is included with the Airwave.
Besides being conveniently portable, using the Airwave speaker could not be easier. Old-school “pairing” is available via the auxiliary port on the back. Bluetooth pairing also is available, allowing you to pair your Bluetooth-enabled device quickly and easily. My iPod Touch 5 and my BlackBerry Bold 9900 paired without difficulty. Finally, for the ultimate in ease, NFC tapping is available to pair your Bluetooth-enabled tech. I tried this method with both the LG G2 and my BlackBerry Bold and it worked really well – all it took was a simple tap and I was ready to stream music and phone calls.
Sound quality was really great and well-balanced. The dual 3″ drivers provide a nice, clean sound and manage to muster up some decent power, delivered through an entire side of the prism. Listening to practically any genre of music was a pleasure, as mids and highs were distinct and crisp. The aforementioned opening on the rear edge of the unit is for the bass. On its own, it does provide some small measure of low end; something that was slightly disappointing initially, as I was expecting a little more from this in terms of “boom” factor. However, given the speaker’s relatively light weight (especially for its size), it should really have come as no surprise that the bass does not approach that of a sub-woofer. I did notice, though, that placing the Airwave strategically (for example: on or in a wooden bookshelf, or on a coffee table), gave a surprising amount of supplemental bass resonance, driving up bass performance as the volume went up – with surprisingly little distortion. I’m not sure if it is the angle of the bass port, or its distance from the surface (or both), but it makes do quite well. Overall, the bass, while not earth-shaking, is actually pretty good given the form factor, the price and the weight – and completes the three-point balance that results in decent -if slightly hollow- sound2.
Sometimes Airwave takes “life of the party” too literally. Drunk!
What the Airwave lacks in sub-woofer-level bass power, it makes up for in longevity. Creative claims that the built-in lithium polymer battery provides up to 12 hours of constant use – which is a pretty bold claim. I did try this out one day (with the speaker at around the 50% volume point), and it actually lasted just over 12 hours (although it did flag at the end a little bit). This number is volume dependent, though, so if you’re aiming to provide a large room with really loud sound from this speaker, you’re probably not going to get 12 hours out of it. Adding to the functionality of the Airwave is the integrated microphone, which allows you to use this unit as a speakerphone when paired with a phone. This feature worked really well with this unit. Audio that was heard through the speaker sounded fairly full, while the microphone did a pretty good job capturing my voice, which sounded more “natural” than the speakerphone mode of most smart-phones.
Speakers like this make me wonder why I expect so much from standalone audio projection hardware – and really, it’s because I tend to compare them with headphones (which isn’t really fair). When it comes right down to it, the Creative Airwave is a great portable unit to bring with you when you want to provide some nice ambient noise at a small gathering. It’s also handy to use for presentations in a small to medium-sized boardroom. For $100 I think that this is a pretty good deal. While not as portable as other speakers, the value for the money is pretty compelling.