The Edifier R1280DBs proves that you don’t have to pay a lot for impressive sound. For an affordable pair of bookshelf speakers in a compact package, they deliver rich, clear, and punchy sound with good sound imaging, and a couple of extra features to boot.
Rich, full sound
Great sound clarity
Surprising amount of volume
Equalizer doesn't change much
Spatializer tech could be better
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The Edifier R1280DBs proves, once again, that you don’t have to shell out a whole lot of money for great sound. That might be hard to believe with pricier brands like Q Acoustics, Bowers & Wilkins, and Dali dominating the best speakers list, but those brands aren't the only ones doing sound right.
The R1280DBs' predecessor, the Edifier R1280 series, has been known for awhile now for its beautiful sound quality for much less, however the Edifier R1280DBs has upped its game in a number of ways: it has a wider frequency response than both the R1280Ts and the R1280DB to start, giving users a clearer, more detailed, and better-defined sound that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in other bookshelf speakers in the same price range.
Factor in features like the Soundfield Spacializer, a sub output, and several input options, and you might start to wonder why in the world anyone would want to spend more than $150/AU$199 if they don’t have to.
Price and availability
- New for 2020
- Available in the US and Australia (no UK availability)
- Price: $139/ AU$199 (about £100)
The Edifier R1280DBs is new for 2020 and though they're slightly more expensive than the older speakers in the R1280 series, the Edifier R1280DBs speakers are an economical option at only $139 / AU$199 (about £100).
That means you’re paying $10 more over the R1280DB for a wider frequency range, a sub output, and the Soundfield Spacializer capability, and only $40 more over the R1280Ts for the Bluetooth connectivity and Optical/Coaxial inputs.
The Edifier R1280DBs is currently available in the US and Australia, but seems to be unavailable in the UK at the time of writing.
Part of the Edifier R1280DBs’ charm is its design. Compact and minimalist yet classy and seamless, these bookshelf speakers would fit just about any home or setup. The Edifier R1280DBs’ side panels are a lovely wood grain with a slightly darker, redder pecan finish while its top, front, and back are covered in durable gray plastic, which has probably helped keep its price down.
It's still an elegant-looking package, however, especially with the removable grills that cover its front panel.
That gray on classic wood look has always been the series’ signature look, but for the R1280DBs, Edifier opted to go darker gray, which works even better. Much like the R1280DB, it also comes in black, though we remain steadfastly loyal to the traditional shade.
The active portion of the system resides in the right speaker, which also houses the inputs and the power switch. Its built-in amplifier has several input options on hand: two RCA inputs, an optical audio port, and coaxial digital port. There’s also a sub output here, which means you can hook these up to a subwoofer to get more oomph and rumble, as well as jacks for speaker wire. On the right panel are three knobs – two are EQ controls that can cut or boost treble and bass by 6 db – and the third is a digital volume knob.
To deliver the sound, each speaker cabinet comes with a 4-inch bass driver, a flared bass reflex port (basically a specially-constructed hole that increases the bass response), and a silk dome tweeter.
Finally, the remote control comes with quite a few buttons that can adjust the volume, pause/play, rewind and fast-forward, and mute/unmute. Because the Edifier R1280DBs comes with five input options available, there are three buttons dedicated for switching inputs: a Bluetooth button, a Opt/Coax button that lets you toggle between Optical to Coaxial, and a Line1/2 button for the two RCA inputs. Finally, there are on and off buttons for the Soundfield Spacializer feature.
Because the Edifier R1280DBs is a pair of powered bookshelf speakers, setting it up is pretty straightforward: you simply plug it into an outlet, connect the two speakers together using the included speaker connecting cable, and connect the active speaker to your TV via the available (your preferred) port or jack. Just remember to select the appropriate input using the remote.
Connecting a mobile device via Bluetooth is also incredibly easy if you want to go wireless, too. Just set the speakers’ input to Bluetooth using the remote, and go through the usual steps connecting via Bluetooth on your device.
Of course, with an optical audio port and a coaxial input joining the T models’ dual RCA inputs, you can physically connect these bookshelf speakers to four different devices and appliances at the same time. That not only makes it a perfect addition to a modest entertainment center where there might be a PlayStation or Xbox, a vinyl player, and another media player on top of the TV, but it also makes your entertainment experience a lot more seamless.
That said, nobody wants to reach behind their media consoles to disconnect and reconnect things everytime they switch devices. Factor in the remote, which has a separate button for the RCA inputs and another for the optical and coaxial inputs, and you never have to get up from your comfy couch again.
These bookshelves don't come with a sub, unfortunately, but you should still be able to enjoy those massive explosions, fight scenes, and intense moments in games and movies by investing in a subwoofer or simply connecting your existing one via the Sub Out port located beneath the coax connector.
If the Edifier R1280DBs’ elegant design, easy setup, multiple input options, and sub output aren’t enough to convince you, its solid performance will.
These bookshelf speakers produce excellent sound quality with plenty of headroom, which means that they are powerful enough that the audio won’t distort at higher volumes. But, what is most appealing about them is that they deliver a lot of lower mids and a good amount of high-end, producing audio that is as rich and full-bodied as it is crisp and detailed.
Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” sounds richer and fuller while The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” sounds clearer and more detailed. Taylor Swift’s “The Lakes” gets more richness in her voice and better representation of the string instruments. Twin Shadow’s “To the Top,” on the other hand, has a bit more punch to it with a little more bass and better defined low-end while also keeping things on the high-end present.
These are all reinforced with Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars.” Listening to this song on the Edifier R1280DBs, it gets more clarity and detail without sounding painful. At the same time, it is punchier and has more body, the lower mids essentially balancing the sound.
All that being said, whatever you do, however, don’t turn on the Soundfield Spacializer when listening to music. This effect, which sounds like added reverb to give the sound a bit more space, kind of compresses and distorts the mids because it's being overwhelmed by that reverb. In turn, the distorted mids overwhelm the rest of the frequencies.
The Soundfield Spacializer does, however, make movies and TV shows a lot more cinematic. As it’s supposed to, as Edifier says, “produce a panoramic sound stage,” it isn’t surprising that it sounds better on videos than it does on music. We’d even go as far as to say that we prefer watching movies and shows with it on, as the alternative just sounds flatter.
In WandaVision, that Marvel opening sequence sounds punchier and more cinematic. Meanwhile, the voices in the show come out very clearly even though there’s no center channel. Everything else is also clear and well-balanced.
The action scenes in The Mandalorian are just as epic-sounding, though perhaps ever so slightly more compressed and distorted in the mids. The sound imaging is impressive though – you can actually hear where the blasters, stomps, and explosions are coming from. Even the movement of an elevator closing is apparent. Plus, there’s the tiniest bit of rumble when the Dark Troopers are marching in the last episode of season 2.
Disney’s Soul sounds exquisite on these speakers. With this Soundfield Spacializer feature on, everything just sounds wider and grander, just the way the Great Beyond and the Great Before are supposed to sound. The score also sounds beautiful – rich and textured.
Bear in mind that this is only with the RCA connection. Via the optical port and cable, you’re getting a noticeably higher quality sound that’s fuller, punchier, and more detailed and that has a lot more headroom. Sadly, via Bluetooth, it’s a bit hollow, slightly compressed, and less detailed. However, with four other input options that are much better, you can simply use this one for casual listening, if you’re more discerning about your audio experience.
Should I buy the Edifier R1280DBs?
Buy it if…
You have several devices and want a sub.
The Edifier R1280DBs comes with five inputs, including Bluetooth connectivity, and a sub output so you can connect several devices all at once as well as get that cinematic rumble you want to feel during the pivotal moments.
You need to cover a small or medium sized room.
These bookshelf speakers are a beast in terms of volume, especially considering their compact size. They’ll cover small to medium sized rooms without effort.
You are on the budget.
At $139/AU$199 a pair, these bookshelf speakers are the budget-conscious’ dream. True, there are cheaper options, but these are going to be the better value thanks to their performance and features.
Don’t buy it if...
You have a large room.
Though the Edifier R1280DBs has a surprising amount of volume for its size, it’s certainly not going to be enough to properly cover larger spaces.
You plan to expand into a surround sound system.
While you can connect a subwoofer, that’s about it. Sadly, expandability to a surround sound system isn’t available. You’ll want to look elsewhere if that’s something you want in the near future. Though it’s so affordable, it wouldn’t matter if you get it now, and upgrade to something else later.
- Looking for something portable? We've got a whole list in our guide to the best Bluetooth speakers
Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.