Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Lack of connectivity options
Little sound-shaping controls
A little heavy and bulky
For the reasonable price, great sound, and beautiful design, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the Edifier R1280T as entry-level powered bookshelf speakers.
The Edifier R1280T powered bookshelf speakers provide a beautiful balance between affordability and high-quality sound. In fact, when we pulled these out of the box and hooked them up to a smartphone and aux cable, we were surprised at just how full, and substantial the sound quality was. But it isn’t just the sound of these that impressed us, but design too. The subtle wood tone and a unique light-gray grille will be right at home on a bookshelf in your main living room. They aren’t without their shortcomings—limited EQ control and connectivity options, for instance—but overall, the Edifier R1280T impressed us.
Speakers generally aren’t designed to turn heads from a design perspective. Most of the budget options out there are essentially just plain black rectangles sitting next to your TV. And while that is a design that has its place, when we pulled the R1280T out of the box, we were surprised just how good they look. Higher-end brands like Sonos and Bose have made a name for themselves with sleek, small, good-looking speakers. For a mid-level brand like Edifier to give us such a positive reaction made for a nice unboxing experience.
They sit at about 9.5 inches in height and just under 6 inches in width, making their footprint much smaller than your average shoebox. At about 7 inches deep, we did find them a bit bulky on the long end, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing speakers for a shallow shelf. The sides are constructed of a light, tan wood that clearly shows off the grain, giving these speakers a natural, almost 70s look. But the cloth grille on the front is a unique light-stone-gray with a thin, metallic accent line right in the middle. That same color and material emblazon the Edifier logo on the bottom.
That grille sits at a soft crescent on the front (a pleasant departure from the flat black grilles of most passive speakers), and if the light hits the grille right, you’ll get a slight shimmer from the cloth. If you take off the grille, you’ll see that other than the tan wood panels on the sides, the whole construction is a plain, matte gray color. In our opinion, this isn’t quite as classy of a look as leaving the gray cloth plate on, but it’s nice to see that if you want the speaker cones exposed, you can have that. All in all, it’s a solid look if you want these to be a statement piece on your shelf.
There isn’t much information in Edifier’s product descriptions on just what these speakers are made from, but our best guess is that most of the construction is comprised of a molded plastic or polycarbonate enclosure, with two wood slats acting as paneling on the sides of each speaker. Each main woofer is built of the usual cloth/felt-type material, and the tweeters employ the standard silk. Both of these material choices are in line with our expectations for a speaker of this class.
In use, these speakers feel substantial. The wood-paneled sides give it a premium feel, while the plastic enclosures are thick and weighty. That weightiness is a bit of a double-edged sword because while it does provide confidence in durability, it makes the speakers heavy. We recommend only putting them on sturdy shelves, not small corner bookshelves.
In use, these speakers feel substantial.
All of the knobs, buttons, inputs, and even the standard speaker-wire clamps all feel high quality—much more so than we’d expect at this price point. We can't speak to years of use, but the sound, controls, and physical integrity of the speakers all felt as great at the end of the week, as it did at the beginning.
The pair of speakers consists of one powered speaker, with an internal amp to power both speakers, and one passive speaker. You connect them together via standard stereo speaker wires, so the setup is simple.
The whole package is rounded out by a small remote with only three buttons: volume controls (up and down) and a mute On/Off toggle. On the side, there is a volume knob and two EQ knobs for treble and bass. These knobs feel and work great, but we’d have liked a mid control or even an RCA input selector.
One of the main drawbacks of this pair of speakers is just how limited they are from a connectivity standpoint. Edifier sells a few different units, and many of them offer Bluetooth compatibility, sound controls, and more. The R1280T do not feature Bluetooth connectivity, which is a huge gap in their functionality. There are only two stereo RCA inputs on the back.
One of the main drawbacks of this pair of speakers is just how limited they are from a connectivity standpoint.
Admittedly, these are the two inputs that most people will use the most, but it’s important to note that there isn’t even a standard aux input on the back. Edifier does include a stereo RCA-to-aux cable with your purchase, so you’ll be able to connect standard music players right out of the box, but it would be nice to see more versatility on actual ports.
We’ll admit that our expectations were low to start with, as these are $100 powered speakers from a mid-tier brand with very little in the way of EQ controls. But on music listening alone, these speakers punch above their weight. Before we get into the experience, we’ll run down the on-paper specs.
Each speaker gives you 21W of output, which seems low considering the size of the drivers. Those drivers are pumping 4-inch woofers at 6 ohms, and paired with a 13mm 4-ohm tweeter per unit. Edifier puts the signal power at about 85 decibels with less than 0.05 percent harmonic distortion. All of these numbers look okay, and they are in keeping with such a small package in each unit.
On music listening alone, these speakers punch above their weight.
What surprised us is how well these speakers kept up during testing. We spent about a week with these going through our daily life. We put them through tests that ranged from our morning routine playing pump-up top 40 music to quiet, acoustic wind-down music at night. In our tests, we ran these at only about half volume which was more than enough to fill our apartment.
There is a nice body on the bottom end, much more than you’d expect from the driver size. This is most likely due to the design of the speaker enclosures and the materials used. There is a flared bass port out the front of each cabinet that measures just slightly larger than the tweeters, which seem to be doing a lot of work on the low end of the spectrum. But what’s also surprising is just how much detail is available on the higher end of the spectrum—something that is usually sacrificed with more bass in smaller enclosures.
One drawback is that these speakers do seem to be tuned for compressed music, but not as well-tuned for spoken voice like radio talk shows and podcasts. They got a bit muddy in these instances. But otherwise, you’ll be pleased with the response of the R1280T.
At right around $100, we’re pleased to see just how much value you get out of the Edifier R1280T. Most speakers at this price point sit in the entry-level category, giving you much smaller drivers, a cheaper build, and ultimately a sub-par listening experience. These R1280T offer high-class sound for an affordable price. You sacrifice a bit on the brand name side (no Sonos or Bose here), and you’re not getting modern features like Bluetooth, diverse inputs, or variable EQ controls. But to get speakers with decent sound quality at $100, you have to cut some corners.
Edifier R980T: The step-down option from Edifier gives you an all-black design, a slightly cheaper build, and presumably thinner audio for a lower price
Onkyo Wavio: Onkyo is known mostly for their home theater speakers, but the Wavio is their entry into the small powered speaker class. We think you get more for your money with the R1280T, but you can save some cash with the Onkyos.
Edifier R1700BT: To get a similar sound and build quality, but also get Bluetooth functionality, go for this model from Edifier and expect to pay about $50 more.
A great balance of performance and design for an entry-level price.
We can safely say that the Edifier R1280T are among the best powered bookshelf speakers on the market for the price. You aren’t going to get Bose-level performance, but you also don’t have to spend a Bose price. If you want solid-sounding powered speakers, and are okay with limited control and connectivity, look no further.