We have reviewed quite a few portable speakers that offer excellent audio and multiple ways to stream or connect, but with few exceptions it seems like most could be described as more utilitarian and less refined. The $299.99 Bayan Audio soundbook X3 is one portable speaker that not only sounds fantastic, it also looks terrific.
Bayan Audio, a UK company founded in 2011, focusses on creating “outstanding products to help you enjoy sound wherever you are”, and with whatever device your music happens to be stored on, whether it be “Audio Systems, Smartphones, Tablets or Notebooks.” They focus on making quality products that use wood, aluminum, and when necessary — recycled plastic.
Our focus when we create a product is to produce a natural sound which has depth, balance and clarity. The quality of sounds produced from today’s digital, synthesised methods isn’t as good after a long period of play, so we avoid these methods and invest more in the quality of the materials we use.
The soundbook X3 is my first Bayan product to try, and so I went into this review with zero expectations. The unboxing experience is satisfactory but not over the top; included are the soundbook X3, an auxiliary cable, and a charger with UK, US, and EU plugs, and a user manual. Right away, the soundbook X3 comes prepared to travel; that’s a good thing, right?
The first time I pulled the soundbook X3 from the box, I was struck by the fact that the speaker really is designed a bit like a book: it has a multi-purpose nylon cover that closes over the speaker; when the cover is closed, the approximately 9.5″ long x 5.25″ wide x 1.75″ thick Bayan is truly portable, and being flat it is easy to pack in a laptop bag or luggage. It weighs 3.2 pounds, so even though it is meant to be portable, it is not some light and unsubstantial speaker.
The Bayan soundbook X3 is available in silver & blue or black & orange. I haven’t seen a white & blue version in person, but I can tell you that when I opened the box, I thought the soundbook X3’s cover was blue jean material until I touched it.
The bulk of the soundbook X3’s weight is no doubt contributed to by its four 1.5″ long throw neodymium speakers (20W total) coupled with its aluminum enclosure. I like that the speaker’s body is aluminum rather than plastic; Bayan says that aluminum uses less energy and provides better audio performance, and I am not going to argue that; I think it also serves to make the soundbook X3 look so much more refined than any shiny black plastic speaker.
The Bayan soundbook X3 can connect to your audio device by using Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX technology, NFC, or the included auxiliary cable. It has a built-in FM radio — which begs the question of how many of you still listen to terrestrial radio when you aren’t in their car? I’m genuinely curious.
The FM antenna is integrated into the nylon cover, in case you were wondering. Rather than being built exactly like a traditional book, the Bayan soundbook X3 is built on a bit of a slant; the reason becomes clear when you open the cover and start listening; more on that in a bit.
When you open the cover, the expanse of solid black speaker grill is broken by the 3D circular passive bass radiator with the Bayan logo in the center. Just to the right of the circle is an LED indicator that will show the connection being attempted or the batteries status when it gets low.
Assuming that you have your phone’s NFC turned on (and that it supports audio pairing), all you have to do to get set up is turn on your phone and unlock its screen, then touch the back of your phone to the NFC logo on the cover. You’ll be asked to confirm that you want to connect; say yes, and you’ll be good to go.
If your phone doesn’t have NFC (hi, iPhone users!), you can connect via BT 4.0. The Bayan soundbook X3 can remember up to 4 connected devices, and it will automatically connect to the last audio source it was connected to when it is in range. For what should be obvious reasons, the soundbook X3 will only connect to one device at a time. Here’s a shot of the LEDs indicating that the soundbook X3 is ready for auxiliary input, Bluetooth, or when it is in FM Radio mode.
Buttons on the top include tune down, tune up, power/pairing/input, volume down, and volume up. Here is where you can see why the Bayan soundbook X3’s slanted build is perfect; it allows the cover to fold back and make a convenient stand. Yet another feature of the cover is that it will turn the speaker on or off when it is opened or closed.
The back of the soundbook has the 1″ x 3″ passive bass radiator, auxiliary in port, speaker out port (if you are adding it to another set of external amplified speakers, the power charging port, and a USB A port for charging your phone while it is streaming to the soundbook.
This is extremely clever and handy; the soundbook X3 has an expected battery life of about 10 hours when played at 50% volume. Since the speaker is plenty loud even at lower settings in a less noisy area, then you might get better battery life. Of course, when you are in a room, you can just plug it in and not worry about battery life at all.
So that’s the hardware; let’s talk about how the Bayan soundbook X3 sounds…
First of all, it should be noted that the bass on this smallish speaker is exceptional. It doesn’t bottom out when pushing hard, the bass is clear, and yet it also isn’t overwhelming. Mids are not muddy, and treble is crisp and clear. I listened to an assortment of music artists including Arcade Fire, Snow Patrol, the Beatles, Ministry, Manchester Orchestra, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, Depeche Mode, Dido, Radiohead, ELO, Gorillaz, Pink Floyd, Keane, Jay -Z, Broken Bells, Phantom Planet, Spoon, Alt-J, the list goes on … and I was extremely pleased with the sound produced. Acoustic music, classic rock, alt rock — all of these sound excellent on the soundbook X3. The speaker’s frequency range is 60Hz to 20kHz; when I perform a frequency check, I can start hearing background sound at 20Hz and the bass definitely picks up at 60Hz.
Perhaps the only time I noticed bits of muddiness was when listing to Alt-J; some of their songs (like Tessellate) can be mid-range heavy(for lack of a better word), and portions of the instruments can sound muddy or slightly less distinct, but then, I’ve noticed that certain songs can sound muddy on just about any speaker I play them on. I’ve started to think that it’s the effect the artist is going for. 😛
In short, the Bayan Audio soundbook X3 is a portable speaker that can handle just about any playlist.
I love the fact that this speaker is equally at home in my living room or kitchen streaming music from my laptop while plugged into the wall, as it is when I am at our pool and it is streaming from my Z2 or Z Ultra. Actually, the Bayan Soundbook X3 is fantastic at the pool, and I can easily get an afternoon of music enjoyment from it; I just have to set it somewhere where I know no one will accidentally splash it. 😉
I have several portable speakers on hand, but I have to say that the soundbook X3 is my new favorite; I love its sound, and I love its design.
The Bayan Audio soundbook X3 is available directly from the manufacturer and for a little bit less from other retailers including Amazon [affiliate link].
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Great style; cover acts as FM antenna, NFC connector, protects the aluminum speaker face, and it turns the speaker on or off; Sound is excellent, no mater what style music you enjoy listening to; Built-in USB charging port on the back of the speaker; shape and weight make it portable and toteable
What Needs Improvement: It’s not inexpensive, but the Bayan Audio soundbook X3 delivers