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Friday, August 10, 2018

Urbanears Lotsen Review

Price when reviewed
  • $199.99
While most multiroom speakers look similar – black, rectangular speakers – Urbanears looks to offer something a little more stylish with the Lotsen. Offering support for AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect and more, can the Lotsen compete with established multiroom speakers from the likes of Bose and Sonos? Find out in our Urbanears Lotsen review.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
The Urbanears Lotsen is available to buy right now from the likes of Amazon in the UK (£179.34) and the US ($199.99), as well as the Urbanears website.

The RRP is £179, putting the speaker in-line with other great Bluetooth speakers including the Sonos One (£199/$199) and the Bose SoundTouch 10. The Sonos One offers smart assistant functionality and the Bose SoundTouch 10 offers similar functionality for £30 less, so can the Urbanears Lotsen compete? We think so, especially in the design department.

DESIGN AND BUILD
It’s hard to look at the Urbanears Lotsen and find something displeasing to the eye. The fabric-wrapped square speaker is small and compact measuring in at 172x115x193mm, and is available in six gorgeous colours. These range from the understated black and grey to the bold goldfish orange, so you’re sure to find the right colour to compliment your room.

It’s understated, and looks perfectly at home on side tables, shelves and counters. It’s out of the way until you need it, blending into the environment as a piece of furniture rather than tech.
But while it’s a stylish speaker, that’s not the design highlight – for us, anyway. Many modern speakers feature touch interfaces to control music playback and adjust volume, and a common complaint from consumers is how frustrating the experience is. Urbanears realised this, and decided to feature two physical knobs atop of the Lotsen to control music, change the input and more.

The twist-and-push of the knobs feels satisfying, and when combined with tiny LEDs and icons around each knob, you always know which input is selected. It’s a perfect combination of new and old, and the novelty of twisting a knob to adjust volume never really wears off, does it?

FEATURES AND SOUND QUALITY
In terms of features, the highlight of the Urbanears Lotsen has to be the range of connectivity options. Alongside the standard Bluetooth and Aux-in inputs, the Lotsen boasts Wi-Fi connectivity. This means that the Lotsen can offer more advanced playback features including Chromecast, AirPlay and Spotify Connect support as well as the ability to stream internet radio stations without the need to use a phone, tablet or computer.

The hands-free experience is what Urbanears wants to provide with the Lotsen, and we think the company has done a pretty good job. As well as using the knob to select different inputs, you have seven presets that you can customise via the app for iOS and Android. These presets can be programmed to your favourite internet radio station or that one Spotify playlist you love, and when selected, music playback will commence without the need to connect any device (as long as it’s connected to Wi-Fi!).

This relatively simple feature makes the enhances the listening experience, as you no longer need to fiddle around with your phone or tablet to listen to your favourite tunes. Just come in, sit down and turn the knob to your favourite preset.  

Oh, and for those that want to pick up more than one unit, the Lotsen also offers multiroom support, allowing you to synchronise your music playback in different rooms across your house. Unfortunately, we were only provided with a single review unit, so we can’t comment on the multiroom performance.

Let’s talk audio; the Lotsen features one 1in neodymium dome tweeter, one 4in woofer and two Class-D amplifiers, providing enough volume to fill a small or medium room. But while that sounds like a decent setup for a multiroom speaker, the audio experience isn’t perfect.

It’s clear within minutes of listening that the Lotsen has been tuned to focus on bass, and while the bass is deep and satisfying – especially when listening to Hip Hop and Dubstep – it can drown out the mids and high-end, making the audio sound a little muddy at times. The crisp clarity that you find from the likes of Bose and Sonos isn’t really present here. It’s great if you’re a fan of bassy music, but we’d recommend looking elsewhere if your music tastes revolve around strings and vocals.

SPECS
  • 20W output
  • 60Hz - 20kHz
  • Aux-in
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Wi-Fi
  • AirPlay
  • Chromecast
  • Spotify Connect
  • Internet Radio
  • Physical knobs
  • Seven customisable presets
  • Available in five colours

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