Pioneer XW-SMA3 Review: Awesome Go-Anywhere AirPlay Speakers

Most AirPlay speakers are not very good at what they're supposed to do: stream music wirelessly between devices and make your life easier in the process. The liberation from wires tends to come with a monstrous configuration headache. But the sound can be so great and high-quality wireless audio is a dream. Can Pioneer's XW-SMA3 make it real?

What Is It?

The XW-SMA3 is a semi-portable wireless speaker with a retail price of $499 in Australia. It can connect via AirPlay, DLNA or HTC Connect — HTC's AirPlay equivalent for One-series phones.

Who's it For?

Sonic fiends who want wireless, great-sounding music at home (and occasionally to go).

Design

Handsome as black plastic speaker boxes come.

Using It

You can connect the speaker wirelessly using six different procedures, so you'll need to refer to the manual to figure out the buttons. Once connected, you control the speaker either from the external device or from the included remote.

The Best Part

An awesome-sounding speaker with a big battery.

Tragic Flaw

Capacitive buttons don't belong on stereo equipment. Touchscreens are fine, but people like to have buttons and knobs and dials on speakers. Merely a quibble.

This Is Weird...

Despite the confusing, poster-sized "Quick Start Guide", the speakers are actually very easy to configure. There are just SO MANY OPTIONS.

Test Notes

  • Comfortable handle on the back of the box's shelf that makes the speakers easy to carry around.
  • The iOS compatible USB port, Ethernet port, DC in and AUX in are sealed behind rubber flaps that are tricky to pop out.
  • Despite the external antenna, this AirPlay speaker doesn't connect any better or faster than gadgets that don't have antennas.
  • Since there are so many different configuration options, this speaker is a tad more complicated than many of the others out there, like our previous favourite, the Audessy Audio Dock Air.
  • Connecting to the device is actually very easy once the speaker remembers your Wi-Fi network. You never need to set it up again.
  • To set it up, pull Wi-Fi settings off your iPhone using a 30-pin USB cable or off your router using an Ethernet cable. Or access a web-based configuration interface from your phone or computer.
  • If you're not near Wi-Fi you can turn the speaker into an ad-hoc hotspot and connect to it using any DLNA compliant device.
  • The speaker sounds awesome. Great detail, and powerful, convincing bass.
  • Thanks to strong battery power, that handy handle and its rain-proof build, the speaker is supposed to travel well. It definitely can — with some caveats. It fits easily into a backpack, but it weighs nearly 4kg. You will want to think long and hard before you carry it around with you for hours and hours. Also, the speaker's cosmetics won't hold up to lots of to-and-fro travel.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. The Pioneer XW-SMA3's battery power and the breadth of relatively easy configuration options make this the best cordless AirPlay speaker we've used yet. The objections are pretty minor. On the price, well, I wish it was cheaper, but that's what these things cost!

Pioneer XW-SMA-3

• Price: $499 RRP in Australia • Connectivity: AirPlay, DLNA, HTC Connect • Weight: 3.5kg • Dimensions: 12.5 inches x 7.1 inches x 5.8 inches • Ports: LAN, USB, AUX-in • Speakers: 2x 3-inch mid-range, 2x 1-inch tweeters

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