Review: Infinity One Bluetooth Speaker

Designed by Masterful Engineers. Tuned by Linkin Park.

Brent Butterworth

The Infinity One Bluetooth speaker is endorsed by -- and, they say, "designed in collaboration with" -- nu metal/rap metal artists Linkin Park. I'll confess I'm not that attracted to the band's music; I'd be more excited if the One were tuned by, say, Celtic Frost. (One can dream.) But I can keep an open mind.

One thing for sure, the One is not some cheap plastic hunk'a'junk with a rock band's name slapped on it. It's a heavy-duty product with four active drivers, plus a long-throw passive radiator at each end to reinforce the bass. It weighs nearly 3 pounds and has a cool illuminated front logo and top controls.

OK, let's see what kind of taste Linkin Park has in sound...

Infinity One: Features and Ergonomics

Brent Butterworth

• Four 45 mm drivers
• 25 watts total rated power
• Two passive radiators
Bluetooth wireless
• Speakerphone function
• Waterproof design
• 3.5mm analog input
• Rechargeable battery rated for 10 hours average play time
• USB output for device charging, micro USB charging input
• Illuminated top controls
• Dimensions: 3.9 x 8.9 x 3.7 in / 99 x 226 x 94 mm (hwd)
• Weight: 2.86 lb/1.3 kg

This is a nice feature package, with one big surprise: the unit is waterproof.

Like almost every large, high-output Bluetooth speaker, the One comes with a large power supply with a coaxial connector. However, it can also be charged through its micro USB jack. I imagine it'll take longer, considering most USB chargers aren't very powerful, but it does mean that your One won't be silenced because you forgot to bring the charger.

The One has rings that allow you to clip on a carrying strap, but it doesn't have a handle. So it's portable, but not as travel-friendly as many other portable BT speakers.

Infinity One: Performance

Brent Butterworth

Whenever I test a wireless speaker that even pretends to have good bass, I put on saxophonist David Binney's "The Blue Whale" (from Lifted Land), which starts with a powerful upright bass solo by Eivind Opsvik. Opsvik's dynamic plucking drives most little speakers into distortion, but with the One, I was able to play the solo at a level about the same or even a little louder than an actual, live upright bass, with just slight traces of distortion. As Binney and the rest of the band came in, the sound stayed clean. The sound seems for the most part fairly neutral, with Binney's alto sax sounding especially clean, dynamic and lifelike.

The One easily played loud enough to fill my office; it seems a good 4 to 5 dB louder than most of the relatively small BT speakers I've tested.

The downsides were that the piano sounded a little "canned," as it often does with all-in-one wireless speakers (you really need a real stereo to portray acoustic piano well) and that the upper treble seemed somewhat muted, robbing the recording of its sense of "air" and space. You pretty much need a two-way design (with tweeters) to get that.

I didn't hear much sense of air on James Taylor's "Shower the People" from Live at the Beacon Theater, either, but I did hear plenty of detail in the lower and mid-treble. Even the glockenspiel notes in the chorus, which a lot of audio systems obscure, came through clearly. Even the distortion-prone solo of singer Arnold McCuller at the end of the tune came through with only slight hints of strain; for a compact wireless speaker, that's really good. The one flaw I noted was that Taylor's voice seemed a little jacked up in the lower treble, making him sound just a little brighter than he should. This is a far more neutral sound than you'd hear from competitors like the Jawbone Big Jambox or the Beats Pill XL.

So what would fans of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" think? They'd love how clear Nicki's voice sounds through the One, and they'd probably like how clean the bass sounds, but they'd probably prefer the bigger bottom end of the Pill XL.

Same with the awesome cover of "Mexican Radio" recorded by the aforementioned Celtic Frost: Way above-average clarity from 200 Hz on up to about 12 kHz, but I could have gone for a little more bottom end.

I did notice a bump in the bass when playing talk radio programs, and occasionally with music, but in most cases, the bass seemed well-balanced -- except, again, when the music demanded a more kick-ass sound. One note of caution: Placing the One in a corner really brings out the bass coming from the side-mounted passive radiators, so if you hate boom, keep the One away from more than one wall. Or if you like boom, keep it in the corner.

Infinity One: Measurements

Brent Butterworth

I don't always measure wireless speakers, but I was intrigued enough by the One that I couldn't resist.

The chart you see above shows the One's on-axis frequency response (blue trace) and the average of responses at 0°, ±10°, ±20°and ±30° horizontally. Generally speaking, the more this measurement approaches a flat horizontal line across the chart, the better.

The One has what's often referred to as a "smiley" response, with bass and treble boosted compared with the midrange. But it's more like the geometrical, crooked smile of a Halloween pumpkin. The response is quite flat from about 180 Hz to 1.7 kHz, but it rises a lot in the bass and the treble. This suggests that the mids will be smooth, but that the One will have a bit of a "boom and sizzle" sound. Looks like the Linkin Park guys really wanted that big bottom end.

For comparison, here are the measurements of the Sonos Play:1, one of the best-measuring wireless speakers I've tested.

(BTW, I measured this with a Clio 10 FW analyzer and MIC-01 microphone, at a distance of 1 meter atop a 2-meter stand; the measurement below 200 Hz is a ground plane response at 1 meter.)

Max output at 1 meter, when cranking the first Mötley Crüe's "Kickstart My Heart" as loud as the unit could play without gross distortion (which in this case was full blast) is 93 dB, measured with my trusty RadioShack SPL meter. That's about 9 dB shy of the loudest battery-powered Bluetooth speakers I've measured, but still reasonably loud for a unit of this size.

I even did CEA-2010 bass output measurements. I was able to get measurable output at 63 and 50 Hz, but not below -- as one would expect from 2-inch drivers with passive radiators. Here are the numbers, measured at 1 meter:

63 Hz        92.8 dB
50 Hz        77.8 dB

This is roughly in the same range as what I measure from most 2.0-channel soundbars (i.e., soundbars with no sub), so that's pretty good.

Infinity One: Final Take

Brent Butterworth

There are a lot of affordable Bluetooth speakers out there that would leave you wondering why you bought it, but not the Infinity One. Compared with almost all the other Bluetooth speakers I've tested, the One's clarity and neutrality are far superior. During my listening, I kept thinking "This would be the perfect portable Bluetooth speaker for JazzTimes readers" (a group I'm always looking out for 'cause I write the magazine's audio column). That's because, through most of the audio band, the One sounds refreshingly neutral and uncolored. It also plays fairly loud and clean.

I think fans of hip-hop, R&B and heavy rock might like the Beats Pill XL better for its bigger bass, but the form factor also comes into play: The XL seems to be intended for a more youthful market. It's larger, more easily portable, but maybe not something you'd want to display in your living room. You can go either way, really -- the One and the XL are both very good products.

If I were going to buy a large, portable Bluetooth speaker right now, the One would probably be my pick. I'd give kudos to the too-often-overlooked engineers who actually designed the product, but for some reason, their names never seem to get mentioned. So I'll just say good job, Linkin Park!