Ikea’s first Bluetooth speakers show it’s still figuring out tech

Ikea has been working in the technological space for the last years. It started with wireless chargers, went into smart lights last year and now it's moving to speakers. I've been testing the company's first two Bluetooth speakers for the past week, and they feel Ikea par excellence in good and bad ways.

The first two pairs of Bluetooth speakers manufactured by Ikea went on sale earlier this month: the Eneby 20 and Eneby 30. They are large and minimal squares with a single disc in them to control the volume and turn on and off the unity. The design is quite forgettable, although you can remove the loudspeaker grille for a more stylized industrial look. However, for the most part, it looks like they were designed to fit inside one of Ikea's many square storage units.

The Bluetooth synchronization process was easy, but that's also where the technology problems seem to start. The audio quality of the speakers is not good when playing through Bluetooth: there is a haze that makes the instruments confuse each other and really take away any complex recording. For the smaller model, which sells for $ 49, it's not a scandalous problem; but at $ 89 for the largest speaker, you're entering the territory of much better Bluetooth speakers. (Also portable.)

Speaker Eneby 20 from Ikea

It really seems to be a problem with Bluetooth, too. Both Eneby speakers also allow you to connect an audio source using a headphone jack, and that results in a much clearer sound than when in wireless and compressed mode. In theory, you can connect a Chromecast Audio or an Echo Dot to one of these things and turn them into smarter, higher quality speakers that use Wi-Fi (which does not have the same bandwidth problems), but at that point, I probably should have bought a normal Amazon Echo first.

What I always ask myself is who these speakers are designed for and the answer seems to be, well, Ikea buyers: not everyone, but people who are not otherwise, buy dedicated speakers or intelligent speakers. If your main concern is that you still do not have a speaker (and you do not get the best speaker, or something particularly modern or portable) and you are physically in an Ikea store, then the Eneby models work. The smaller model is not too expensive, and should fit very well with your other Ikea furniture.

There are other very striking aspects of Ikea for these speakers, especially the smaller model. The Eneby 20 comes with a handle that, with the right tool, you can join. In fact, it seems much more elegant with the handle activated. The handle is also designed to make the smallest speaker portable. Both the smallest and the largest model should be plugged into the current, as they do not have batteries. But the little ones can accept an optional battery pack, which is sold separately for another $ 20, which can be added so you can take it while you travel. That makes the price start to add up, but I like the Ikea-ness that is something modular.

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Ikea Eneby 30 speaker (with the fabric grid removed)

The Eneby speakers are another example of Ikea hitting some, but not quite, of the best beats when it comes to technology. I have not tested their Qi chargers, and by all accounts they work fine, but they have not been updated in a while and are loaded at only 5W, below the fastest upload speeds that many modern phones, including the iPhone, accept. I've also heard that Ikea's low-cost smart bulbs work very well when combined with the Philips Hue hub; but when I tried them with the Ikea concentrator, the hub software interposed to work reliably.

Ikea has a lot more technology to come. He is working on new speakers with the respected design and audio firm Teenage Engineering. And it's supposed to launch products – presumably speakers – with Sonos next year. It may be necessary to work with a more experienced partner to push your products to the limit. I hope so. I think everyone would be happy to see Ikea stripping the smartest technology from the basics, reduce the price and make it more accessible to everyone.

We take a look at the speakers in the last episode of Circuit Breaker Live. You can look at the segment above or see the whole show below.

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