23 Apr BenQ ‘treVolo S’ Electrostatic Speaker Review

BenQ treVolo S Bluetooth Speaker (Zane Pickett)

Consumers are using Bluetooth speakers more and more these days to play music and videos and the market is booming. Given Bluetooth pervasiveness in smartphones, tablets, laptops and other music devices (e.g., Amazon Alexa and Google Home), this makes a lot of sense.  The need for portability, assistance, and automation are the primary drivers for Bluetooth speaker market.

Today, I would like to share with you my experiences with the BenQ treVolo S Bluetooth Portable Speaker.  You may already know that BenQ makes projectors and monitors, but I bet you did not realize that BenQ makes portable speakers, as well.  The treVolo S portable electrostatic speaker is the only portable speaker I am aware of on the market with built-in electrostatic speakers, and it is the only one that claims it can deliver pure 3D surround sound. Before I begin, let me tell you more about electrostatic technology.

Electrostatic technology

BenQ brings electrostatic driver technology to their Bluetooth speakers, which is an exciting change to see these days with so many different Bluetooth speakers to pick from. An electrostatic speaker is impressive, but consumers are unfamiliar with the technology.

Most people are familiar with conventional speakers. Electrostatic speakers use a vastly different technology, mostly used in more high-end speakers.  Electrostatic speakers are incredibly thin and flat.  The audio source gets converted to electrical signals, and the two charged grids vibrate the thin membrane to produce sound. Instead of cones moving the most substantial volume of air possible, they typically consist of a sheet of plastic coated with some electrically conductive substance. This sheet resides between two conductive grids separated by an air gap on either side. With a distortion rate that is only one-tenth of the frequency of conventional speakers and no cabinet resonance, electrostatic speakers should deliver spacious and natural sound. One thing that is very special about this speaker is that it is the only portable speaker that I know of on the market that uses electrostatic speakers in its design.

What’s in the treVolo S box?

The treVolo S comes in a straightforward and clean looking rectangular box with a clear image of the device on the packaging. Also included, you will find a micro USB charger, a U.S. adapter that snaps into the DC 5V 2A port‎, the user manual and a trendy drawstring carrying case. Easy, uncomplicated, and simple would be how I would describe the packing of the treVolo S. There wasn’t anything to shout out about, but I feel that is fine, as I do notlike complex.

Once I unpacked the treVolo S, I could tell right away that it was a durable and sturdy device with a polycarbonate casing and a sleek modern design. It has a creative and unique design that would quickly catch my eye if I were personally choosing a portable electrostatic Bluetooth speaker for myself.

BenQ says the treVolo S is much smaller compared to the older model. It is more lightweight, weighing 2.2 lbs as opposed to the 2.6 lbs treVolo. It unquestionably doesn’t feel like a cheap speaker.

Back of the treVolo S showing dual 12W woofers. (Zane Pickett)

On the front face of the treVolo S you see dual 12W woofers, dual amplifiers, and dual vibrating diaphragms, which allows the treVolo S to produce smooth, rich bass sounds for lower frequencies. On the left and right of the speaker, you will find two panels that swing out from the side, which makes it look like a miniature satellite. These enable mid-range and higher frequency resonance.

Behind the hinged speakers are two flat and hinged electrostatic speakers. As you can tell from the treVolo S, there are two attached overdrive speakers to handle the lower frequencies. In the back of the device, there is a micro-USB charging port alongside a 3.5 mm jack input. The battery is a built-in rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that BenQ says offers approximately 18-hours of play time depending on the usage. More on my tested battery life later.

BenQ claims that the treVolo S 3D-mode can reproduce an “immersive soundstage,”which I am skeptical, but, hey, they are themarketers, not I.

Micro USB and 3.5mm jack input. Duo double overdrive speakers on both sides.  (Zane Pickett)

At the top of the speaker, you willsee six buttons from top left to right, stop or play the music, distortion-free 3D-mode, which will allow you to change the sound mode, decrease or increase the volume, sync via Bluetooth. There’s also a power button.

The treVolo S supports Bluetooth 4.2connections instead of 4.1, which enables 250% faster and more reliable over-the-air data transmission with 10x more packet capacity. In addition to the six buttons, it has NFC support one-touch connectivity to pair up with another treVolo S in stereo duo mode with a second unit for a more immersive experience.

Six feature (top) buttons of the treVolo S (Zane Pickett)

Sound quality 

When I switched the device on to the “original” mode, it sounded very crisp and clear. Honestly, I did not expect it to sound as amazing as it would being such a small device. I felt that the clarity was outstanding, and the words did not seem muffled, but one downside was there was little to no bass to speak of, but it still blew me away (not literally).

However, when you activate 3D-Mode – BAM! The sound quality sounds by far better.  Listening to The Office on Netflix or testing out different music genres did not sound distorted even at the highest volume. The one song that I felt delivered best was ‘Liquid Love’ by Above and Beyond. The bass would only extend the upper base frequency. The speaker could project the sound forward exceptionally well, but I could slightly hear the bass but not compelling or efficiently enough to please the bass lovers out there in the world, and this was with 3D-mode on.

Different surroundings 

I wanted to get a better understanding of how well the electrostatic speaker’sperformance could be in different settings. Therefore, i moved all around my apartment within the same room as the treVolo S, in different rooms and outside, as if I were to bring it to a barbecue. Even with the hybrid woofer design, the treVolo S did notachieve to emulate bass in the multiple surroundings to my liking.

While I feel the immense clarity sitting directly in front of the treVolo S, the satisfied feeling of being able to walk anywhere within feet behind or to the side, the treVolo S clarity changed and weakened.  The speaker introduced proper layering and depth which is something most portable speakers cannot achieve. Thisis most likely what BenQ refers to as 3D sound, but it is not surround sound, period. I can suggest this speaker for those who listen to mostly pop music, vocal tracks, and even shows or movies. As for the battery, the company says treVolo S gets 18 hours of battery life. Since the speaker was not as loud as I would have liked, I had to bump the volume up to 90% which gave me around 14-15 hours of battery life which is still very impressive.

BenQ provides a functional app that you could download and pair the treVolo S with your smart device that allows you to monitor the battery levels, set Duo Mode, and adjust the volume. I do have mixed feelings though. Even though the bass failed to impress me, I am still overall very impressed by the size, the depth, and clarity that the speaker brought.

Verdict 

BenQ has built a Bluetooth speaker that caters to a specific market. The pure 3D sound was remarkably impressive. For the size, volume, portable nature of the speaker, it would make me a happy camper. BenQ was true to their word of 0% noticeable distortion no matter how long and how loud I played music and TV shows/movies. Durability could be improved, but as long as you keep it safe, then I am sure the longevity would not be anything to stress over right away.

I think the ideal user for the treVolo S would be those who acknowledge particular types of music who want a portable speaker in a quiet setting but not so much for the party or adventurous consumer. Overall, it is an ambitiously robust and creative design that fell short of something truly revolutionary. I do feel the clear and crisp sound quality is way above average for the price of $199.99, but I think treVolo S fell short of other speakers out there (e.g., UE Boom 2 and Bose Sound Mini Link II) that have a more rugged design with more features. For example, the Bose Sound Mini Link II is waterproof and quality enough sound for roughly the same price.

What could make this speaker even better would be a more portable design.  May it be creating a pocket-sized electrostatic speaker.  Choosing a different option than carrying around half the weight of a brick all day in a non-waterproof drawstring bag would be ideal. Even if you had a backpack or purse to put it in, it just isn’t realistic to me. There isn’t much protecting the device itself from getting harmed. The device itself is not even waterproof. IP67 or IP68 would be nice, and while I do appreciate the additional cost and effort, this is an advantage electrostatic would have without the cones or ports to gather water. I think it would be in BenQ’s best interest to create a waterproof carrying case as electrostatic speakers tend to attract dust and particles which could impact quality and durability. While the ‘Wing’ like design makes it more unique, and the unit feels relatively dependable, it makes this particular design seem more delicate. I would possibly bring the portable TreVolo electrostatic speaker to perhaps a barbecue but not to a beach or anywhere near moisture and any liquid.

Finally, I think the treVolo S would be the perfect device to add a microphone to answer/end calls, even adding the button on the deviceitself and into the NFC One-Connection BenQ audio app for a more featured application.  The treVolo S comes in two professional color options, black/silver, and white.

Zane Pickett resides in Austin, Texas and is majoring in video game design while working as the Office Manager at Moor Insights & Strategy. Earlier, Zane built websites and applications for various companies in and surrounding areas of Austin, Texas. Zane is interested in learning about the latest in technological advancements in the world of video games, gaming consoles, PCs, speakers, and televisions, but his interests lie far beyond that ever since he first hopped on his first computer and learned how to use DAAS in his early childhood.