Monday, April 23, 2018

Thonet & Vander Frei - Portable Bluetooth Speakers

I do travel rather frequently for work, as well as back to my hometown Kuching from Kuala Lumpur and I absolutely cannot survive anywhere without good audio. I have had some good headphones with me, but the experience of listening to music over the air in the openness is a joy that I must have. However, having spent quite a fair bit on headphones, I thought I should look at budget-friendly portable speakers that can still pack a punch and deliver powerful sound that I desperately need. After much Google-ing around, I found Thonet & Vander, a German brand that specializes in consumer audio equipment. The particular speakers I was looking at was Thonet & Vander Frei.

While I am not a fashion-obsessed person, looks do matter and I must admit that the minimalist and polished-modern look of Frei drew my attention instantaneously. The metal grill finish was a nice touch, and as I held the speakers up it felt solid and well constructed. The Frei was not splash-proof, but it was designed to be drop/shock proof, which was a plus for someone as clumsy as I am.

The ultimate decision making came to the sound output from the speakers: packing full 16 Watts RMS (8 Watts x 2 drivers) these tiny little speakers can be really powerful.  The internal speakers feature two full range drivers supported by a passive radiator (non-powered woofer). Sound came out full bodied with good clarity and details, and the speakers can get very loud without much distortion. I am not expecting boomy bass or crystal clear hi-fi quality, but for what I have paid for, a sub-RM200 budget speakers, I don't think there is any other better options out there at this moment at this price point. I am making this conclusion based on someone who truly cares about audio.

Of course, when it comes to small speakers, do not expect miracles when it comes to soundstage or "stereo" effect, pretty much everything came from one source of sound. Also, placement of the speakers does make a huge difference, having it close to a wall at the back can produce better bass "kick". I acknowledge that compared to some of the best bluetooth portable speakers that I have heard (such as Bowers & Wilkins T7), the Thonet & Vander Frei is nowhere near the competition. However, all those top portable bluetooth speakers costs significantly more, we are talking about 5 to 10 times more.

I appreciate the inclusion of the protective jacket that came along with the speakers, and it is reversible for two color options, black or red. Since the speakers do look appealing, I took some casual snapshots of the speakers, you know, my itchy fingers that always want to have the camera clicking away.

I need music with me everywhere I go to, especially when I am writing articles or post-processing my images. Good quality audio makes challenging, time-consuming and energy-draining tasks so much bearable, and many research conclusions have proven that music does improve productivity generally.

Strangely, a lot of photography-obsessed people I know (including Ming Thein) are also equally obsessed with audio. I guess, there are many similarities between audio and photography after all. This can be another topic of discussion for another day.


  1. "Strangely, a lot of photography-obsessed people I know (including Ming Thein) are also equally obsessed with audio". Have to agree with this statement. While not really that obsessed with photography, I also has collection of more than 20 earbud, in ear type of earphones. With the most expensive are Soundmagic E80/ Audio-technica IM50 ( around 250 each) and no headphones yet.
    Currently I have 3 portable Bluetooth speaker from China. The biggest is Piple S5 (20w) about the size of Frei. The other 2 are relatively pocketable Mifa A1 and no-brand Z8 that need to be replaced soon. Still searching for another pocketable stereo Bluetooth speaker.


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