Review: Archt One is tops for all-in-one Bluetooth sound
Last month, Gizmag reported on the Archt One (pronounced "ark-one") Kickstarter kick-off and its promise to fill a room with consistent, high quality omnidirectional sound via its warhead-shaped wireless speaker. Since then I've had the opportunity to test out a demo unit at home for a few days to see if the Archt keeps its promise.
Before we get to how the Archt One performed under serious sonic pressure (having to tolerate my bizarre listening habits ranging from country music to dubstep to raucous podcasts), let's acknowledge what this speaker is and what it isn't.
Archt One is not one of the many, many portable Bluetooth speakers out there designed to pair with your mobile device to create the equivalent of a 21st century boombox to take to the beach or wherever. Instead, it's a compact home stereo solution meant to replace your old wired sound system, complex multi-piece wireless systems like those offered by Bose and Sonos, or really anything else you use to listen to audio of any sort while indoors.
The Archt One doesn't have a rechargeable battery, so it needs to be plugged into the wall to operate, but so long as it's within reach of an outlet, it is reasonably portable compared to other home sound systems and is no problem to move from house to house or venue to venue.
Archt One uses a patented "sound array technology" that the company, Archt Audio, says aims to replicate the sonic experience of a live musical performance. Sound is projected in all directions, thereby eliminating the need to set up your system in just the right way to provide an ideal listening experience from one or two positions in a room.
At the core of this sorcery is a 3-inch full-range driver, 4.7-inch sub-woofer and 6-inch passive radiator, as well as a built-in digital sound processor to enhance audio streaming quality, a digital-to-analog converter and a two-channel 50 W amplifier.
What's really nice about this all-in-one system is how versatile it is, with the capability to stream music via Bluetooth 4.0, AirPlay, straight-up Wi-Fi or DLNA. You can also feed your tunes via hard wire through a USB port connected to a flash drive, mobile device or computer or even a 3.5-mm auxiliary input. The company says multiple speakers can also be paired together for multi-room audio over Wi-Fi, but I wasn't able to test this particular feature out.
Input source, playback and volume can be controlled via capacitive touch controls on the top ring of the system, and there's also an iOS app that allows you to control the unit and even calibrates the speaker for its current space using the microphone on your iPhone or iPad.
Archt One doesn't have a microphone and therefore doesn't function as a speakerphone for incoming calls over Bluetooth, which isn't that big of a loss since I've yet to meet a Bluetooth speaker that does this very well at all.
So does this 17-inch (43 cm), 8-pound (3.6 kg) bullet of a speaker deliver the goods?
In a word, yes. Most impressive about the Archt One is its ability to fill a room with plenty of loud sound, and without distortion. I was able to measure the maximum output at between 90 and 100 decibels in my small office, making it easily competitive with a decent boombox. Highs and lows both come through clearly – it's easily the best listening experience I've had streaming music over Bluetooth to date.
Archt's claims to be able to fill a room evenly with sound that comes across the same no matter where you are is pretty much true as well, but it should be noted that results will vary depending on the room you're in and factors beyond the control of the Archt One. Sound does bounce off walls and echoes are a real thing, after all. But the basic premise, that you should be able to place the Archt in the middle of a room and walk around it in a circle without detecting much variation in the sound, is achieved here.
Personally, I could do without the choice to use capacitive touch controls, or they could at least afford to be adjusted a bit to be a little more sensitive, as they don't seem to pick up quick taps – I often needed to just stick my whole thumb down on the panel for a moment to be sure it registered my intention.
The design of the Archt One is interesting, to say the least. After a few days, I'm still not sure if I think it looks ugly or elegant. In more spare, modern environments, it's likely to complement its surroundings, I'd guess. Here in the American Southwest, though, it's a little out of place against the regional style.
I also struggled with where to place the thing in a room. Ideally, it should be in the center of the room, but it's a little too big and awkward in most cases, not to mention that it needs to be near an outlet. So it often ends up against a wall, which is fine, and it sounds great no matter where it's placed, but it feels as though I'm not taking full advantage of its omnidirectional action by sticking it in a corner.
But the point is that it does work just as well in that corner as it does when you pull it out and stick it in the middle of things.
The retail price for the Archt One is set to be US$599, putting it in luxury shopping territory, but it's currently available for a few more weeks to Kickstarter backers at a steep discount. All the super early bird $299 units are gone, but there's still some left at $349 as of this writing. Archt plans to ship crowdfunding supporters their Archt Ones between January and March, 2015.
With three weeks still to go, the Archt One Kickstarter has already more than doubled its $70,000 goal, raising over $160,000 so far. Get more information from the pitch video below or the campaign page.