Grace Digital GDI-BTSP201 Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

Nov 12 2013

We reviewed the previous generation Grace Digital Internet Stereo System over two years ago, and while we loved it then, the world of audio has continued to evolve as users grow more and more attached to their mobile devices. That's where the GDI-BTSP201 Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers come to play, offering a standalone left and right stereo experience while still supporting Bluetooth and direct audio, all for under $250. 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Let's take a look at the exact specifications of the Grace Digital Bookshelf Speakers:

  • Full Range High Fidelity 36 Watt Powered Stereo Speakers
  • 1” Soft Dome Tweeters, 3.5” Composite Cone Woofers and Rear Port
  • Dynamic Frequency Range from 50 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Connection allows Music Playback from any Bluetooth Device
  • Utilizes CD Quality Wireless Transmission with Integrated aptX Technology
  • Supports SBC, AAC, and aptX codecs and A2DP and AVRCP Profiles
  • Premium Leatherette Wrapped Case
  • RCA Auxiliary Audio Input to listen to Wired Audio Sources
  • Connects to TV’s, Computers, Smartphones, Tablets, MP3 Players
  • Supports Charging Smartphones via the USB Charging Port

Some notes from the above--the 36 watts is combined. Each individual speaker has 18W of power. The speakers support Bluetooth 4.0 which features support for the aptX codec, designed to produce better sound, and the speakers were tested utilizing a Samsung Galaxy S4 which does offer compatibility (sorry iPhone users, you're out of luck for now). 

UNBOXING

The unit came packaged in a full color cardboard box within another cardboard box to protect it. Within the box is formed styrofoam which did its job as the Grace Digital Bluetooth Speakers arrived without a scratch on them. Included with the two speakers are: power cable (for the right speaker which has volume/power controls), a 10 foot standard speaker cable, RCA to mini cable, and a user manual. The included speaker cable to connect the left to the right powered speaker comes in 10 feet, however, any standard speaker wire can be used if you desire a different length.

Our review unit came in a black leather-like material, with an added stiching as you can see in the photos. The material is soft to the touch and the texture is fairly safe for most. Grace Digital also makes available red and white versions as well, depending on your home decor. The black will be more than suitable for most homes. Each individual speaker housing measures in at 7.4" by 7.2 by 4.5 (Height x Depth x Width), and each weighs 4.2lbs. Each speaker contains a 1 inch dome tweeter and a 3.5 inch cone woofer, and there is no grille cover to hide these from the front. The bottom contains 4 very short felt feet which prevents the unit from sliding.

The right speaker contains the power outlet as well as all of the control functionality. These controls are located at the top of the speaker and allows you to power the device on/off, switch input from bluetooth to auxiliary, transport control functionality (play/pause, skip fwd/back), and then a volume dial which makes it all to easily to crank up to full volume. There is no visual volume display to guage how loud the volume is, and there is no remote control. Having the buttons on the top of the unit could make things tricky if you planned to have these speakers atop a bookshelf, making it difficult to reach, but once you have everything configured to your liking, it's possible you wouldn't need to adjust often.

 

 

EXPERIENCE

Connecting the Grace Digital BTSP201 Bluetooth Speakers could not be easier whether you are going wireless or wired. When the unit is powered on, the bluetooth light blinks rapidly blue and red, which means the unit is read for pairing. With Bluetooth 4.0 the speakers can support being paired with up to 8 devices, a very convenient feature in any household. Our Samsung Galaxy S4 connected very quickly--much quicker than the Bluetooth in my car--and then playing music was immediate. One frustration of the device is that it does not support auto-reconnect (something my car DOES support). As a result, every time you power the Grace Digital Bookshelf Speakers off and back on, it requires going to the Bluetooth menu of the device to reconnect to the Grace speakers.

On the rear of the right speaker includes a USB port, which is powered (5V) which will allow charging of a mobile phone device, but will not work for tablets which require higher voltage. Also, direct audio playback is not supported through USB like some devices. Nearby the USB port is the auxiliary ports--which you can use with the included RCA to mini cable and connect it to a mobile device's headphone jack, or if these speakers were desired in a more traditional AV Stack, could be connected to any other stereo system.

Our test consisted of a wide range of musical options, with the objective to test the highs and lows of the system as much as possible. We conducted the tests first using Bluetooth paired to a Samsung Galaxy S4 and then with the same audio and volume levels attached directly via auxilary to the same device. 

Via Bluetooth, the speakers displayed a solid level of highs and mids for most classical, jazz and rock tracks. Surprisingly powerful the Grace Digital speakers provide a lot of flexibility in sound configuration by allowing a true stereo configuration with separate left and right units--where as most Bluetooth speakers on the market are more compact in a single unit. Even at full volume there was no discernable hissing or distortion with these tracks. When playing audio with heavy bass however, the unit started to suffer as it was unable to project a solid bass sound and actually began to distort at full volume. If being played in an apartment or room, you most likely won't be attempting to play this at such high volumes, but if being used outside or in a large or loud space, could be disappointing.

The same audio tests were done utilizing the auxiliary cable directly connected to the S4 phone, and we're pleased (or concerned) to report that the distortion on the lows was not found to be a problem here. We found no discernable difference for the mids and highs in our tests.

In addition to sound tests, we tested the power draw to see how much wattage the Grace Digital Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers would pull if the unit was left on. In thinking where we would keep the speakers--tucked away somewhere high around the house--we would not want to draw too much power to where it would be necessary to turn the unit off after every time. Fortunately the speakers draw only 1.3 watts when idle. Even on the loudest and busiest song we could find, we could not see a draw of higher than 28 watts.

CONCLUSION

With a retail price of $249, and easily found for around $199, the Grace Digital GDI-BTSP201 Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers are an affordable and attractive speaker set, and one of the few solutions available for true stereo separation afficionados. The lack of a larger woofer and the lows bottoming out over Bluetooth could be a dealbreaker depending on what your musical desires are, but for the majority of tracks we tested the audio was sharp and crisp. The unit is attractive enough to stand out on a table, yet subtle enough to hide in plain site and complement a home.

PROS

  • Affordable price
  • Separate left and right channel speakers
  • Compact and attractive size and weight
  • Supports standard RCA input devices
  • Clear and crisp highs and mids

CONS

  • Bluetooth doesn't reconnect after power off/on
  • Weak bass
  • No remote control

Thanks to Grace Digital for providing the review unit.

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