BenQ’s treVolo S: The World’s Smallest Electrostatic Bluetooth Speaker

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Last month, GeekDad Editor-at-Large Ken Denmead reviewed a very cool device, BenQ’s treVolo 2 Bluetooth speaker that features electrostatic panel speakers.

Make sure to read Ken’s review for an overview of the technology, and exactly why the inclusion of electrostatic panel speakers in the design is such a big deal. While Ken was working with the treVolo 2, I was evaluating BenQ’s treVolo S.

BenQ treVolo S review
Front view of treVolo S showing dual woofers and electrostatic speaker panels (Photo by Brad Moon)

Very Much Like the treVolo 2 (But Smaller)

BenQ treVolo S review
Folded up for storage or carrying (Photo by Brad Moon)

This smaller model in the treVolo lineup shares many of the features of the treVolo 2, including the hybrid design that combines folding electrostatic speakers with stacked traditional cone drivers, integrated DAC via USB, ability to wirelessly pair with a second speaker for stereo or party mode, Bluetooth 4.2, and an integrated battery. It also shares the premium look and build quality of the treVolo 2.

Despite the similarities, the treVolo S is worth covering on its own. For one thing, it’s more compact, weighing about 7 ounces less and taking up a slightly smaller footprint. In fact, BenQ bills the treVolo S as the world’s smallest Bluetooth electrostatic speaker. If portability is your thing, it offers longer battery life at 18 hours (although it is not water resistant so stay away from the pool), and unlike its larger sibling, the USB port on the treVolo S does double duty as its power/charge port. So you don’t need to remember to bring along a power supply, just plug into your USB charger. This model also offers NFC for wireless Android pairing.

And it’s less expensive at $199.

Same Great Sound, One Key Difference in 3D Mode

Like the TreVolo 2, the unique driver setup of the BenQ Trevolo S delivers a high-quality listening experience. The main body of the speaker contains a stacked pair of 1.5-inch, 12W woofers and two side-facing passive radiators to cover the low end and midrange. The electrostatic diaphragm panels—which fold out to face forward when in use—offer a precise and detailed high end, with 1/10th of the distortion of a typical cone driver.

What really makes the treVolo S audio performance really pop compared to other small, portable speakers is BenQ’s proprietary 3D Mode (not available on the larger speaker). This feature works surprisingly well, adding more depth, a wider soundstage, and improved bass to music without noticeably distorting it. Typically I skip the “boost” setting on speakers when listening to music, but 3D Mode offered such an improvement to the stock sound that I left it on.

BenQ treVolo S review
Top view shows how thin those electrostatic speaker panels are (Photo by Brad Moon)

As Ken noted with the treVolo 2, the treVolo S is a “listeners” speaker, and that means cranking it up is not going to rattle the windows. I often wished for a little more power, but on the plus side, this is a speaker you can crank up to maximum volume without the audio falling apart.

Finicky Positioning

As with the treVolo 2, positioning is important for best results. Even with the tech wizardry of 3D Mode, the electrostatic panels have limited dispersion and drive audio through both front and back. I found the ideal listening spot was about head height and a few feet from a corner. Get too far away from the speaker or too far to the side and the higher frequencies drop off; set it too close to a wall and sound quality suffers.

So you end up with a portable speaker, that technically you can set down just about anywhere, but realistically you need to put some thought into placement or it’s just plain not going to sound all that great.

What Are You Giving Up Compared to the treVolo 2?

The treVolo S doesn’t have the same power as the larger treVolo 2 and I suspect its smaller woofers can’t quite match the low-end performance of the bigger speaker—although the 3D Mode certainly helps there. You lose aptX support, which may be an issue for picky listeners in the Android camp. Unlike the treVolo 2, there is no line out. While you gain that very effective 3D Mode, you don’t get the treVolo 2’s Warm and Vivid modes. And if you like to use your Bluetooth speaker as a speakerphone, you’re out of luck with the treVolo S.

BenQ treVolo S review
treVolo S is a portable speaker that’s nice to look at and is capable of high-quality audio (Photo by Brad Moon)

Who Is the treVolo S Aimed At?

If you’re looking for a portable wireless speaker you can toss in a bag and take to a party or the beach, this is not it. You’ll be far better served by a rugged, water-resistant (and likely less expensive) Bluetooth speaker. But if you really enjoy listening to music and want a looker of a compact system that employs electrostatic speaker technology—without having to dig deep for the pricier treVolo 2—BenQ’s treVolo S is the only game in town.

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