It’s incredible how quickly smart speakers have embedded themselves in our lives. I have an Alexa smart speaker; I hardly use my old FM radio. It’s much easier to say: “Alexa, play Greatest Hits Radio!” and then sit back and enjoy the music. What’s not to like?
However, passive wireless speakers are going out of style because people want Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant speakers rather than models that offer Bluetooth or AirPlay. A case in point is the new Edifier MS50a. I’ve been testing this wireless speaker for a couple of weeks. It’s the company’s first step into the smart speaker market and offers premium build quality and Edifier’s high-quality signature sound.
The Edifier MS50a looks superb. It’s finished in a gorgeous cherry veneer and has a cloth-covered grille to protect the woofer and tweeter. The system pumps out a total of 40W (RMS) and can create a lot of sound. The 4-inch woofer that supplies the midrange and bass frequencies is powered with 25W of digital amplification. Meanwhile, the 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter receives 15W of the power output to ensure the upper frequencies are well focused. The overall result is a compact and sturdy speaker with a robust sound that’s superbly satisfying. The digital to analog conversion is based around an AP6265 chip.
Connecting the speaker to a home Wi-Fi network is easy and the companion Edifier Home app takes you through the process. Once set up, you can use the Amazon Alexa app to add the speaker to your Alexa devices so the MS50a can turn into a smart speaker. And here’s where the first disappointment arises. There’s no microphone built into the MS50a, so you can’t simply turn it on and ask it to: “Play Greatest Hits Radio!”. Instead, you must use your smartphone with the Alexa app to make the speaker smart.
That’s a shame, as once you’ve lived with a smart speaker with its own microphone, it’s hard to go back to using the Alexa app, especially as it’s a clunky and unreliable implementation on my iPhone. To get the Alexa app to accept a voice command, I had to relaunch it afresh for the hands-free function to work, but only for one command.
For those who don’t like or want to use Alexa, the Edifier MS50a can be used as a standalone speaker offering both Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth connectivity. This means you can stream music from a smartphone or any device that supports Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth. However, if you want to adjust the speaker’s EQ settings, you must do that with the Alexa app and the settings aren’t sticky, which means you need to reapply them every time you turn the speaker on. Amazon’s app disappoints because it doesn’t even support TIDAL streaming outside of the USA. More work is needed to make it a better system.
The MS50a can be controlled using the intuitive interface on its top. There’s a power button at its center, surrounded by a cluster of controls for pausing, playing, skipping and repeating tracks. Circular touch control is used for adjusting the volume using an outstretched finger.
The press blurb suggested that there should be a touch-type remote in the box for controlling the volume and power. However, there wasn’t a remote control in the box, which was a shame and hopefully, it’s something Edifier intends to provide in the future. Another feature that Edifier claims for the MS50a is the ability to support TIDAL Connect. Well, that feature’s not there yet either, but Edifier tells me it’s a feature that will be coming in a future firmware update. That’s good news as the speaker needs to be able to stream music without relying on the smartphone as an intermediary.
A neat feature of the MS50A is that two of them can be joined wirelessly as a stereo pair or be used to play the same music in different rooms as part of a whole home audio system. I love that you can pair two MS50a speakers together, but Edifier missed a trick by not including 3.5mm analog or Toslink inputs for connecting the speakers to a computer or TV.
Regarding sound quality, the Edifier MS50a is a very pleasing powered speaker. It has plenty of oomph and produces a robust bass and a well-focused treble. I love the sound it makes. I think Edifier has done a great job with the tuning. However, I wish the Edifier Home app had a few more controls for shaping the sound and remembering the settings. Some presets for Internet radio would have been nice touch too.
Verdict: Edifier’s new MS50a is a beautifully made wireless speaker that looks superb and offers Apple AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth support. The sound is excellent and two MS50a speakers can be joined as a stereo pair. So far, so good. However, this great speaker is let down by poor Alexa implementation and the lack of a built-in microphone to make it an outstanding smart speaker. The lack of a remote was annoying but hopefully, that’s something Edifier may fix in the future. There’s much to like about this excellent wireless speaker but it needs better Alexa integration, plus an improved Alexa app would help. The option of optical and analog inputs would have been nice too. There’s much to like about Edifier’s MS50a, but it needs a bit more work to turn the MS50a into a real winner.
More info: www.edifier.com
- Frequency range: 52 Hz – 18KHz
- Power output: 40W
- Audio input: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 5.0
- Tweeter: 15 W, 0.75 inches silk dome
- Woofer: 25 W, 4-inch diaphragm
- Chip: AP6265
- SNR: ≧85dB(A)
- Dimensions: 14.55 x 14.55 x 21.13cm / 5.73 x 5.73 x 8.32 inches
- Weight : 2.25kg / 4.98lbs