Once a big name in the PC peripheral segment, Creative seems to have lost its way over the years and is now fighting to re-establish itsname in the speaker space. While some of its earphones continue to be a crowd favourite even today, Creative hasn’t had anything new when it comes to speakers for quite some time now. Thanks to the smartphone and tablet boom, Creative is also focusing its efforts on portable audio and has launched a suite of new products for 2013. Today, we’ll be checking out the Airwave HD Bluetooth portable speaker, an upgrade to the original Airwave. The sole difference between this and the older model is that the new one is more compact; everything else is pretty much identical.
Design and build
Creative’s Airwave HD comes in two striking colours (red and black) and has a mix of matte and glossy finish. The plastic chassis is very sturdy but isn’t put together very well. The pyramid-shaped speaker is made up of several different pieces that are glued together, but it doesn’t sit flush and large gaps are visible towards the edges. We shudder to think what would happen in case you accidentally dropped it. It’s a lot heavier than the old model, weighing in at almost a kilogram (980 g).
The Airwave HD is well designed and will certainly appeal to the youth. The speaker sits firmly on your desk thanks to the two rubber strips. The two full-range drivers in the front are covered by a similar pyramid-styled mesh, which goes with the overall theme. On the top, we have a microphone for voice calls, a power button, volume toggle and finally a Bluetooth pairing button. There’s an LED indicator beside it that notifies you during pairing or when you max the volume.
Around the back, we have a bass port, a microUSB port for charging and Aux-in. The Airwave HD also has built-in NFC for quicker connectivity. Overall, the Airwave HD looks funky and has good connectivity options. The build quality, though, is just about average, as the unit could have been glued together better.
Aux-in is a nice addition
The main attraction of the Airwave HD is the ability to pair and stream audio via NFC and Bluetooth from multiple devices. The speaker lets you pair two Bluetooth stereo devices to it simultaneously, and it works on a turn-by-turn system. This means the second party cannot hijack your song if you’re playing something. The speaker also supports the AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote) and HFP (Handsfree) profile. The speaker will work with a Bluetooth device up to 10 metres.
Easy to use
Instead of simply relying on the LED light to know what’s going on, there’s an automated voice to assist you when you’re about to pair a second device.
The NFC pairing works seamlessly with any compatible phone. You simply tap it on the back and it does the rest. The two full-range drivers are really loud thanks to the Super Charged amp onboard and can easily fill up a medium-sized room. The spatial distribution is also very good as the audio can be clearly heard in all areas of the room. The audio quality, however, is not great across the frequency range. When streaming, the vocals are clearly audible and have a nice tone to them; however, the mid-range and lower frequencies often tend to eat into one another and end up sounding muffled and weak. This is a typical issue when you have one speaker trying to reproduce the whole frequency range. There’s no slam present in the bass at all and the absence of deeper bass notes is filled with odd silences in the audio track. It’s also hard to distinguish between FLACs and MP3s as the audio fidelity isn’t great. The quality improves slightly when you plug in the same device via auxiliary. The bass is better and the midrange sounds more defined, but overall, we expected better. At max volume, the vocals tend to sound shrill and the sound gets too muddy, so it’s best to keep it at about 75 percent. The Airwave HD packs in a Li-ion battery that’s said to deliver about 7 hours of music on moderate volume.
Playing from two devices works very well and as soon as you pause your song, the other party can play theirs. The microphone is very sensitive in picking up sound and you can have normal phone conversation while standing about 2 feet from the device without having to shout.
Creative has priced the Airwave HD at Rs 13,000, which we feel is too expensive for what’s on offer. Sony has a similar solution with the SRS-BTM8, which has the same features as well and is half the price. Creative’s non-HD version of the Airwave has a very similar feature set feature set, plus boasts of a longer battery life (12-hours) and is almost half the price (roughly Rs 7,000) making it a more tempting buy. We would give the Airwave HD a miss for its high price and mediocre sound quality.