Very detailed, Balanced sound, Long battery life
Low maximum volume, No life-proofing features, Very directional treble
The treVolo S best suits those that prioritise sound quality, and to that end, it delivers with aplomb.
When thinking of BenQ, monitors, TV’s and household appliances probably spring to mind. When the company announced their first portable speaker, the very ambitious treVolo, it was quite a shock. The vast majority of portable Bluetooth speakers are uninspiring when it comes to sound quality. Most prioritise brash marketing and volume over quality and nuance, targeting beachgoers and park dwellers over discerning audiophiles. The newly updated treVolo S, however, sets out with a very different demographic in mind. Featuring stereo electrostatic tweeters, two full-range dynamic drivers and two passive radiators, the treVolo represents thoughtful engineering.
Electrostatic drivers, in particular, enable considerably lower distortion, superior imaging and greater resolution than any other driver type on the market; with electrostatic headphones from STAX and the highly renowned Sennheiser Orpheus representing the pinnacle of personal audio to many enthusiasts. This is unprecedented within the portable speaker market, remaining a rarity even on studio monitors, where electrostatic tweeters are limited mostly to very high-end products with price tags that eclipse the $200 treVolo S. Further reading on the speaker here.
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I would like to thank Gines from BenQ very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the treVolo S 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 treVolo S has a pleasing unboxing and accessory set. Sliding out the internal tray reveals the speaker, manuals and soft carrying pouch. It doesn’t provide much protection from shock but does effectively mitigate scratches.
The treVolo’s angular design forms a stark contrast to the cylindrical, fabric cloaked models from other manufacturers. Subjectively, it’s a nice looking speaker with a modern design that compliments a home setting. And combined with its lack of rugged or life-proofing features, it’s clear that this speaker was designed more as a portable indoor listening solution over the lifestyle “take it with you everywhere” kind. BenQ’s elegant typeface exudes an elegant aesthetic complemented by its clean silver/white colour scheme, a refreshing departure from flashier competitors.
The speaker’s exterior is mostly plastic with metal accents around the front-facing drivers. The driver enclosure and main structure of the speaker is metal to provide additional solidity, there’s no flex to the chassis at all. All surfaces have a nice speckled texture that increases perceived quality in the hand while adding some tactility and texture. Of note, I would suggest that the black model will hold up better in the long run as the white model is easily marked.
What’s perhaps most unique about this speaker is its fold-out electrostatic tweeters that provide additional stereo separation and a compact form factor when not in use. They’re covered by metal grills on either side to permit unimpeded sound output while protecting the delicate membranes inside. Though its tweeter construction is thin with moving parts, the treVolo S has held up brilliantly in my past 3 months of testing. The speaker has an angled rubber base that provides traction and prevents the speaker from wandering at high volumes. As treble tends to be most directional, it ensures the tweeters are directed closer to ear level.
The main interfaces can be found at the rear of the speaker; a micro-usb charging port and 3.5mm input. Not only does the usb port accept power, it also enables the speakers internal DAC to interface directly with the source. At the top are the controls; power, pairing, volume up and down, play/pause and a dedicated eQ button. All are clicky though it does take some time to memorise the position of each function. Two status LEDs lie just anterior to the controls, offering battery and pairing status accordingly.
The speaker is easy to pair, with similar controls to most speakers. Once paired, connection was solid and range was among the best portable speakers I’ve tested. The speaker communicates via quick audio chimes that are less obtrusive than most. Implementing Bluetooth 4.2 enables the user to pair two speakers to provide a wider stereo image or simply a larger coverage of sound. This can be done through the BenQ Audio app that also enables users to toggle the 3D Mode eQ and monitor remaining battery.
On that note, the treVolo S excels with battery life. BenQ quote 18 hours, and though I wasn’t able to match that claim, I did get very close, consistently beating 16 hours of medium-max volume use before requiring a charge. That’s hugely impressive considering both my Envaya Mini and UE Boom barely scrape over 10 hours at similar volumes. BenQ don’t state the battery capacity, but I would assume it to be quite large as charge times are significantly longer than most. This isn’t as much of an issue as the treVolo S lasts as long on a partial charge as most competitors.
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