Aiwa Is Making a Comeback

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Aiwa’s brand history started in the ’70s with low- to mid-priced home audio equipment. They were the king of inexpensive but decent-sounding stereos and even had a quality line of boomboxes and portable tape players. It was this latter market that threatened Sony, which ultimately killed off Aiwa by buying the name and letting it slip into obscurity.

The Aiwa brand recently became available and was snatched up by River West Brands, a Chicago company that specializes in resurrecting lost brand names. River West Brands connected the newly acquired Aiwa brand with an innovator in the audio market, Joe Born of Hale Devices. The rest, I hope, will show the Aiwa brand once again taking its place providing quality products for reasonable prices.

I spoke briefly with Joe Born and Alex Kemmler from Aiwa last week and it is apparent that they believe in the brand, have a great idea, and will be able to deliver it nicely. Alex emphasized that the focus was on sound quality all the while paying attention to form and price. That form ended up being much larger and heavier than most speaker offerings, but it is still portable and sounds amazing.

Born and Kemmler were kind enough to send me a prototype of the new Exos-9 Bluetooth speaker to test out. I was asked not to post pictures of the prototype, so I can’t easily show the size, but I can say it is big. Officially it is 493mm x 192mm x 298mm (19.4″ x 7.5″ x 11.7″) L x W x H. Not too big to grab by the comfortable handle and haul off to a game night, or backyard party, but you won’t see one strapped to a bicycle, or tucked in anyone’s carry-on. Weight is a sturdy but manageable 5.9 kg or 13 lbs.

As for sound quality: it blows away all of my portable speakers, and gives my pricey TV soundbar a run for its money. The speaker enclosure includes a single 6.5″ dual voice coil subwoofer, a pair of 3″ midrange drivers and a pair of 1″ silk dome tweeters. This group, combined with a well-designed enclosure, and a class-d amplifier deliver a frequency response of 40 to 20,000 Hz. The bass response is solid and exceeds anything I’ve listened to recently. There is even a 5-band graphic EQ with 4 presets to tune your listening experience. Max continuous output is 100W and is more than loud enough for the kids to yell: “Turn That Down!”

Power is supplied through a standard AC power cord or from the internal and swappable 22 Volt 18,500 mAH rechargeable battery pack. The latter can also be used to charge your phone or other USB device through the port on the back. I did not use the Exos-9 on battery power for long, but it is expected to last 10 or more hours, and can go twice that with an optional extended battery.

Pricewise the Exos-9 comes in at $300, which seems quite reasonable. It’s less than twice the street price of any Bluetooth speaker I’ve liked, and in line with my V-Moda headphones. It isn’t a full-blown stereo, but since 99% of the music I listen to comes from my phone or computer this isn’t really an issue for me. The fact that I can unplug it and easily tote it gives it extra points.

The Exos-9 takes its inputs via Bluetooth, or a 3.5mm auxiliary input in the back. I was pleased with the Bluetooth range. Your mileage will vary, but I was able to stay connected throughout the house with minimal cutout from the back bedroom. Most of the other speakers I have tried, especially the smaller ones, can barely stay connected if I leave the room.

One feature that I was not able to test was the mirroring and stereo-pairing modes. This allows two speakers to mirror each other when you need to cover multiple rooms, or act as left and right stereo speakers in the same room. It’s the latter mode that I think I’d use most, but the mirrored mode would be convenient at parties to provide the same music inside and out.

I compared this new Aiwa to my previous favorite, the Cambridge Audio Go v2. In a side-by-side comparison I was still impressed with what the Cambridge does with such a small form, but it just can’t beat the physics of a large and solid bass enclosure. Technically the frequency response is similar for the two, but the Exos-9 just packs a lot more power into the lower notes and offers cleaner highs.

You can find out more about Aiwa’s relaunch and pre-order the Exos-9 Speaker at Aiwa’s site: aiwa-us.com.

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