BenQ treVolo electrostatic speakers
Excellent sound quality
Electrostatic speakers have long been favoured by audiophiles, as they ditch the traditional speaker cone in favour of a membrane suspended in an electrostatic field.
The result isn’t just amazingly thin speakers, it’s also phenomenal sound reproduction – but at a cost. Alongside the high price tag, you’re also sacrificing some low-end grunt.
BenQ’s treVolo brings vocals, strings and brass to life, but efforts to reproduce thumping bass lack conviction. Electrostatic speakers are designed to do jazz quartets, symphony orchestras and acoustic performances justice, rather than hard rock or grunty rhythm and blues. It’s not a judgement on your taste in music; it’s simply a matter of playing to the strengths of the technology.
The treVolo’s big selling point is that it’s portable, something that’s quite rare for sensitive electrostatic speakers. The compact design slips nicely into a suitcase or travel bag, with the classy anodised metal finish that you’d expect at this kind of price. When you arrive at your destination and it’s time to unwind, the speaker panels fold out like wings, with dual woofers in the main body.
The panels project both forwards and backwards to offer a wide and spacious sound stage. The unit can run off AC power or a built-in battery that is good for around 12 hours.
Connect the treVolo to your Mac via a micro-USB cable and it’s automatically recognised as an external USB speaker, so you can play music from iTunes or other software. There’s also a 3.5mm audio input on the back for plugging in portable music players.
Alternatively, you can stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.1 – with support for high-quality aptX streaming if your gadgets are compatible. You can even answer calls when it’s connected to your phone via Bluetooth, as the treVolo features a built-in noise- cancelling microphone.
To make the most of these electrostatic speakers, you need to start with great source material. If you have an ear for detail, you can certainly hear the difference when comparing Miles Davis’ jazz album classic Kind of Blue ripped in both standard 256 kbps (kilo bits per second) AAC audio and the high-fidelity Apple Lossless format. Flicking between them – like an eye test at the optometrist – the nuances of the instruments shine though, such as the richness of the double bass.
Thanks to the excellent audio reproduction of electrostatic speakers, it’s easier to close your eyes, get lost in the music and imagine you’re really in the same room as the musicians. Listening though cheaper speakers, these subtle improvements can be lost.
Switch across to The Rolling Stones and everything sounds a bit flat and brash through the treVolo once the heavy guitars and drums kick in. So this isn’t the kind of portable speaker you’d buy to rock an outdoor barbecue or support a poolside dance party. If that’s your goal, then something like a portable Logitech UE Boom may be a better investment.
BenQ’s treVolo electrostatic speakers aren’t for everyone. The speakers are targeted at people with an ear for detail and are more interested in sweet strings than thumping bass. If you rip your music library in lossless formats, because you can better hear the nuances of the instruments during live performances, then you’re the target audience for these speakers. If this doesn’t sound like you, there’s no shame in admitting it – if you’re addicted to bass, you’ll be happier spending your money elsewhere.