We’ve reviewed Bluetooth speakers from massive companies, and from small family run businesses. We’ve tested speakers that cost less than a mean out, and ones that cost a month’s wages. What we’ve learned is that it’s often the smaller companies that go out of their way to make a statement. For some, this is with a stylish and attractive design. For others, it’s with incredible sound quality.
In an ideal world, our perfect speaker would excel in both of these areas. When we first found the Archeer A320, it’s look alone caught our attention. Once we went through the specification, we knew that this was a platform that had some real potential. But before we could make a decision, we knew we had to try this speaker out ourselves.
The A320 is a stunning speaker that features three large speakers lightly recessed into its bamboo face. When we first removed it from the package, the first surprise was that it was made from real bamboo. This isn’t an imitation material, it’s the real deal. The next surprise was the fact that it’s a true 2.1 system. Even though many Bluetooth speakers have the same speaker arrangement, rarely are they ever actually stereo. With a three-way system, they would use one little speaker for the highs, one for the mids, and a larger driver for the lows. But the Archeer features a mono subwoofer, and two full range stereo speakers.
This is a Bluetooth speaker with a built in lithium ion battery, so you can move it around as you see fit. That being said, it’s quite large. For this reason, it’s best suited for use within the home.
Design & Durability
For many people, this will be the selling feature. The bamboo face has a very organic look to it, but it remains durable. They protect the delicate speaker cones by recessing them deeply into the bamboo cover. Even if you were to drop or bump it, it’s unlikely that you’d make any contact with the soft parts.
Although it appears like the Bamboo is only a faceplate, it’s actually the primary construction material. To add a little contrast, Archeer wrapped the A320 in a grey fabric material. The fabric is a little rough, which adds to its organic appearance. The fabric uses a large fiber cloth, so it’s unlikely that it will tear or come apart from day to day use.
There are four rubber buttons that stick up out of the fabric. These allow you to change the volume, play or pause the music, and turn the power on or off. These are touch sensitive buttons, so they don’t physically click. While this is becoming commonplace these days, it was nice to see that they were raised up. This gives you a tactile response. You can physically feel the buttons when you run your hand over them, making it easier to control the sound.
On the back, you’ll find another exposed bamboo cover. Along the top, you’ll find a small plastic faceplate (the only time you’ll see plastic on this speaker) that includes several ports. There’s a micro-USB port for charging, a 3.5mm audio input, a reset button, and a red LED light that illuminates when the battery is low. On the back of the face plate you’ll find a large hole. This is actually a bass port, which allows air to pass through in order to improve the bass response.
Right off the hop, we could tell that this was a very well made and attractive speaker. But the question remains: is it just a pretty face, or can this speaker keep up with the brand name models?
We’ll cut to the chase: this is one of the most engaging, budget-friendly Bluetooth speakers that we have ever reviewed. It’s most prominent feature is the bass. It hits hard, and it hits loudly. But it’s not the same as throwing a pair of 12 inch subwoofers in your car. This speaker is much more controlled and precise than those types of stereos. This means that even when listening to acoustic music, the base is enhanced rather than being blown out of proportion. The highs are also quite amplified, giving the speaker a strong presence that demands your attention.
We found that it sounded best with rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. All of these music styles have a strong presence, and do well with the type of amplification that this speaker provides. It’s not the smallest Bluetooth speaker in the world, but the sound it produces seems like something made by a speaker many times its size.
With all of that in mind, there are always going to be limitations to what kind of sound you can expect from a sub-$100 speaker. Our only nitpick is the quality of the mid-range. With dedicated speakers for the highs, and dedicated speakers for the lows, the mid-range frequencies are divided equally between the two. This results in a slight reduction of clarity, which audiophiles may find less than desirable.
If you want to get the Archeer A320 up and running immediately, you can simply plug in a 3.5mm audio source and hit the power button. Sound immediately starts coming from the speakers loud and clear. But there is something to be said for the convenience of wireless audio. This speaker connects via Bluetooth 4.1, the most up to date standard. To pair it, you just have to hold down the power button until the LED on top begins to blink. From there, you can search for a device from the Bluetooth menu in your phone. The A320 will pop up, and you just tap that icon to pair it. Once you go through this procedure, the A320 will automatically pair with your phone anytime it’s in range.
Even though this speaker is designed for indoor use, there will be times when you want to move it around. When you do, you might not always have immediate access to a power source. There’s a 5200 mAh battery built right in. Compared to the 2675 mAh battery found in the iPhone 7, you can tell that they didn’t skimp out in this area. But what’s even more impressive is that the battery runs at 7.4v, while most portable lithium ion batteries run at 3.8v.
This means that the speaker has four times the total battery capacity of even the largest cellphone batteries on the market. According to Archeer, this will get you 11 hours of playtime. The A320 performed even better in our tests, lasting for 12.5 hours before shutting itself down. It should be noted, however, that a powerful battery this size takes a while to charge – you’ll probably have to leave it on overnight.
This speaker is loud! We’re not kidding. Although we loved the sound, there are always tradeoffs. The one annoying thing we noticed was an issue with the fabric. When you’ve got this speaker rocking at full volume and resting on a smooth surface, it has the tendency to move around a little bit. We were concerned that it might vibrate itself off a table, taking a spill on the floor. We actually found a very simple solution. We spent a couple extra dollars on stick on surface grip pads. You can stick these to the bottom, preventing the speaker from moving around.
There was no doubt in our mind that we’d be giving the Archeer A320 two big thumbs up. Even if it cost twice the price, we’d still consider it to be a decent speaker. But in it’s current price range, it’s better than anything else in its class. The speaker is loud, engaging, and all-around fun to listen to. We’d highly recommend it to take to the gym, to your next house party, or anywhere else you want to drown out the outside noise and enjoy your favorite songs.
That being said, the A320 has a very specific sound signature that won’t be right for everyone. Let us be extremely clear here: if you don’t like bass, don’t buy this speaker! If you’re looking for a slightly more relaxed sound, consider the iDeaUSA W200. This speaker trades the natural look of the A320’s bamboo for a futuristic look of aluminum, and the bass for a reserved sound stage.
Another consideration is where you are going to use the speaker. The A320 is designed for indoor use. If you’re looking for something you can take out into the elements or use by the pool, you’ll want something that is designed for this purpose. There are lots of choices out there, but our roundup of the best weatherproof outdoor Bluetooth speakers should give you somewhere to start.