Polk Woodbourne Wireless Bluetooth speaker

This stereo speaker system is well built and can put out plenty of bass, despite its relatively small stature

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Polk Audio Woodbourne Wireless Bluetooth speaker
  • Polk Audio Woodbourne Wireless Bluetooth speaker
  • Polk Audio Woodbourne Wireless Bluetooth speaker
  • Polk Audio Woodbourne Wireless Bluetooth speaker

Pros

  • Sturdy build quality and good looks
  • Puts out a big sound
  • Good range of connectivity options

Cons

  • Frequency adjustments have to made via the source device
  • Perhaps a little too bass heavy

Bottom Line

If you want powerful sound from a self-contained and relatively small wireless speaker system, the Polk Woodbourne is an excellent choice. It's output is surprisingly punchy for a unit of its size, and even allows you to feel the bass in most typical environments.

Would you buy this?

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Polk Audio is well regarded when it comes to speaker technology, and the company is quite capable of making small speakers that put out a big sound. The Woodbourne stereo speaker system that we're reviewing here is perhaps not that small compared to like devices, but it's still a very compact system that can put out an impressively big sound, especially on the low end of the spectrum.

It's a single, self-contained unit that's just over 60cm wide, 17cm tall, and 17cm deep, and if you use it as intended, there are no cables to connect except for the power cord. It's a speaker system that can work wirelessly, so, for the most part, all you have to do is find a spot for it that's near a power outlet and you're good to go.

You can easily connect the Woodbourne to an Apple Airplay system using Wi-Fi or Ethernet, but it's not a product that's restricted to Apple customers. The easiest way for the rest of us to use the Woodbourne is via Bluetooth. Simply press the Bluetooth button on the remote control to activate that mode, and pair it to your phone, tablet, or even laptop. This is what we did for our tests. We used a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone with it, as well as an Ultrabook with Bluetooth 4.0.

If you must use cables, then you have the option of going digital (via the optical port), or analogue (via the 3.5mm port). A USB port allows you to play music directly off an iOS device, too, but not off a USB stick as you need to have an interface to control the music playback.

All of the connections are located on the back, and there is an overly simple set of control buttons on the front that can be used to switch the unit on and off, change the volume, and select the source. A column of white LEDs light up when you change the volume, and then they disappear, essentially allowing the speaker to run in a stealth mode, apart from the LED that shows which source is being used. Cloth covers the somewhat flexible grille that protects the stereo speakers.

The overall sound of the Woodbourne is rich and it emphasises low frequencies a little too much. That said, if you enjoy listening to your music with a slant towards bass, then you will get a massive kick out of this unit. We enjoyed it, and we think the sound from it is impressive overall. We'll describe it as being powerful and leave it at that.

The power comes from two 5.25in drivers that are mid-range woofers, which explains the tendency of the unit to be bass heavy. They are complemented by two 1in, dome tweeters, which add the necessary brightness to the output. A slight curve in the speaker enclosure design also gives the impression that the sound is widely spaced, which can be a little off-putting as you move around the unit (Polk calls this feature 'lifelike sound projection'). The continuous power output rating is 180W. There is no subwoofer present.

What helps the unit sound so strong is a build quality that is itself very strong. It's a speaker system that's made out of wood (MDF) and finished with a mahogany veneer, and it has a heft to it that makes it stick to its spot like an anchor. The enclosure doesn't rattle, but depending on what you place it on, other things around it might resonate or excitedly jump around. You'll have to make sure that you situate the Woodbourne on a heavy and solidly built piece of furniture without leaving too many knick-knacks around it. It won't be any good on a small bookshelf. A heavy, wooden buffet would be perfect for it, especially if you plan on cranking the volume.

Indeed, the sound this speaker unit puts out is very powerful and bass-heavy. You can really feel the punch if you put up the volume, and this goes for pretty much any genre that you play, but especially electronic music and hip-hop. Rock music also goes well. The thing is, though, there isn't a way to adjust the bass and treble on the speaker itself, which means you'll have to use an equaliser on your source device to change the characteristics of the sound.

For an apartment setting, this speaker system might be a bit too much to handle; close living proximity and plaster walls will definitely allow the sound from the Woodbourne to be heard beyond your own living quarters, especially at night, unless you play at a low volume.

With a retail price of $849, the Polk Woodbourne represents a fairly big investment, especially for what is essentially a wireless pair of speakers, but its quality, both in terms of build and sound output, is undeniable. Plus it's very easy to set up and use. Basically, it's worth considering if you want a relatively compact, self-contained, and powerful speaker system that will give your music a hefty punch.

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