Starting Points: Peachtree Audio deepblue2 Bluetooth loudspeaker
- Chris Martens
- May 2015
Regular Hi-Fi+ newsletter readers know that lately we have been experimenting with a series of blogs, collectively called ‘Starting Points’, that focus on one fundamental question: What are the right sorts of components to recommend for individuals who truly love music, but who have never owned hi-fi systems before, and who would prefer to keep their initial investments modest? In short, the rare birds we are seeking are those few components that manage to offer disproportionately large helpings of sound quality at also disproportionately moderate prices. Obviously, not all that many components fill this difficult-to-match bill, but thankfully there are a few that do.
One such component, the subject of this blog, is the deepblue2 Bluetooth speaker ($499) from the good folks at Peachtree Audio.
[News Flash: A day or two after this blog was first posted posted, Hi-Fi+ received an email from Peachtree President Andrew Clark advising that, “the US price was recently reduced to $399 every day…”]
If you know much about the musical value-meisters at Peachtree, you can probably guess the simple truth of the matter, which is that the deepblue2 is anything but a typical, ho-hum, workaday Bluetooth Speaker that you might pick up at an electronics superstore for a couple of hundred dollars or quid, depending upon you nationality. No sir, the deepblue2 is—to borrow one of my favourite adopted British expressions—‘a bit special’. Here are some of the reasons why.
Unlike many ultra compact Bluetooth speakers from manufacturers such as Bang & Olufsen, Beats, Bose, Jawbone, JBL, and so on, the Peachtree deepblue2 is, by design, a mid-size unit (though not a cumbersome one) that offers a moderate large, sealed (that is, acoustic suspension-type) enclosure in which its speaker array can go to work. Common wisdom holds that acoustic suspension enclosures offer tighter and arguably more critically damped bass than ported reflex-type enclosures do, while still offering quite decent low-frequency extension—provided that the enclosure volume is adequate, which in this case it is.
The deepblue2 driver array itself consists of a single 6.5-inch woofer that handles shared left/right-channel bass duties, plus separate left/right sets of 3-inch midrange drivers and 1-inch tweeters. Powering this three-way array is a more than ample Peachtree-developed 440-watt amplifier. The result is a Bluetooth speaker that, more so than most others of its breed, is capable of robust, room-filling sound and surprisingly deep bass extension (hence, I think, the name ‘deepblue2’).
The input and control structure of the deepblue2 is blessedly simple. The speaker supports just three inputs: Bluetooth, optical SP/DIF, and a stereo analogue input via a 3.5mm mini-jack input. Controls are very simple. On the top of the deepblue2 one finds five control buttons; from left-to-right there is a Bluetooth enable/pairing button, an input select button (to toggle back and forth between the analogue and optical SP/DIF input), an on/off switch, and a pair of discrete volume up/down switches. In addition, the unit ships with a handy remote control that duplicates the top-panel control switches while also adding a pair of bass level up/down switches and a mute switch. In short, this is the sort of device that newbies can figure out in a just a matter of minutes (or less). Rows of front-facing blue and white LEDs temporarily illuminate to indicate, respectively, relative volume and bass balance levels whenever users adjust either parameter.
A few weeks ago we wrote a blog about another excellent entry-level Bluetooth speaker: the $350 Riva Turbo X. Some of you, therefore, might be wondering how the deepblue2 stacks up in comparison. Here’s the short form analysis.
The Riva Turbo X is hands down the best sounding compact, portable, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker we’ve encountered to date, and one whose Surround and Turbo modes give the pint-sized speaker both an unexpectedly big and uncannily three-dimensional sound. The deepblue2, however, is the best sounding Bluetooth speaker we’ve ever heard, period. It is bigger than the Riva, is not battery powered and thus is ‘transportable’ but not truly ‘portable’ in the sense that the Riva is, and it is the more costly of the two products. But what the deepblue2’s extra size, more sophisticated driver array, 440-watt amplifier, and mains-powered configuration deliver is a significant jump in outright performance. While both units deserve consideration as leaders in their respective classes, the deepblue2 simply offers a broader sonic performance envelope than the much smaller and significantly less costly Turbo X.
What I mean by the term ‘broader sonic performance envelope’ is this. First, the deepblue2 offers far more robust dynamics than any other Bluetooth speaker I’ve yet heard. In a moderately sized office environment, your ears will probably cry ‘Uncle!’ long before the deepblue2 does, and similarly it is a single-box unit that I think would be completely at home in many mid-size and even some large listening spaces.
Second, the deepblue2 offers a viable alternative to entry-level hi-fi system sound, in part because it offers both a more elaborate driver array and a more powerful amplifier than many low-to-mid-price entry-level stereo systems do. The only caveat I might mention is that, like any high-quality speaker system, the deepblue2 benefits from a certain amount of run-in time. I’m still in the early going, but even within the first 45 minutes to an hour of operation I found the deepblue2 progressed from the relatively constricted, ‘uptight’ sound it exhibited straight out of the box to a much more relaxed, refined, and full-bodied presentation. Over the next several hours of listening the deepblue2 has continued to improve, so I really can’t say just yet how good it may eventually become, although things are sounding very promising thus far.
Finally, in keeping with the ‘deep’ part of its name, the deepblue2 offers uncommonly potent and pleasantly extended bass—bass that is more than competitive with the low frequency output of most comparably priced sets of mini-monitors I have heard. While the deepblue2 won’t plumb the depths in quite the way that a good full-range floor standing loudspeaker might do, it nevertheless reads as a more or less full-range transducer, which is a claim few mini-monitors and even fewer competing Bluetooth speakers could make with a straight face.
As I am writing this blog, I’ve been listening to Tim Ries’ superb Stones World; The Rolling Stones Project, which is a lovely but also dynamically demanding CD set, through the deepblue2. And do you know what? It sounds good—really good, not dynamically overstressed or lacking for bass or treble extension in any significant way. What is more, the many brass, percussion, and wind instruments highlighted on the disc have real bite and energy, with very good rendition of timbres and tonal colours. Quite frankly, I know of no other $499 playback system that could do a better job, whether we are talking about a single-box system like the deepblue2 or a very modest multi-piece stereo system. And that, I think, is precisely what makes the deepblue2 such a desirable high-end audio starting point; it gives listeners a big, full-bodied, and surprisingly accomplished sound, yet without taking up a whole lot of space and without putting Titanic-smacks-the-iceberg-sized holes in buyer’s budgets. What’s not to like about that?
Watch for a future full-length Hi-Fi+ review of Peachtree Audio’s deepblue2. Until then, happy listening.
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