Edifier MP230 hands-on review: Retro to the max

Edifier MP230 hands-on review: Retro to the max

If you look too quickly, you might think the Edifier MP230 Bluetooth Speaker is actually a bedside radio from the ‘60s. While visually, that’s by design on Edifier’s part, the performance of this handsome little Bluetooth speaker is more than its surface-level aesthetics.

In general, Edifier has carved out a nice little space for itself in the market — developing high-design speakers that punch reasonably well above their price point in terms of audio performance. While the brand is known for unique designs going as far back as 2014’s e25 Luna speakers that look like something out of a Jetsons episode, the MP230 is taking a page out of the old and trying to do something reasonably new.

I’ve used my fair share of Edifier products — most notably bookshelf speakers including the reasonably priced 1700BTs — so I had some expectations when I got my hands on the MP230. We’ve reviewed a number of Edifier’s headphones here at Digital Trends, including Stax Spirit S3so I was curious to see an on-the-go Bluetooth speaker in the mix. After about a week of general use, here’s how the MP230 fairs.

Design and build: It really ties a shelf together

The Edifier MP230's gold bade is on the top left corner of the front grill.

Edifier is being pretty intentional about this speaker’s design. The marketing site clearly states that they’re inspired by classic radios of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and while there are some aspects of this I find to be true, the look of the MP230 is decidedly a merger between modern and retro.

The downward-toggle-style buttons scream Mad Men to me, and I’ll admit that a highball glass looks pretty nice right next to this speaker, but the glossy almost rose-gold badge on the modern-looking grille definitely feels like something from 2022. The rubber feet elevate the MP230 just enough to make it feel midcentury modern, but definitely in a Crate & Barrel kind of way, not in an “I found this at a consignment shop” kind of way.

None of that is a bad thing, because I think it’s pretty clear that Edifier is going for a modern-retro approach here. The rest of the wood-style chassis, for instance, definitely feels sleek and well manufactured. The enclosure is made of medium-density fiberboard (common enclosure material known for resonance and durability) covered with a nice-looking veneer to imitate the solid-wood cabinets of yore. I particularly like how this feels in the hand as it’s got a density and a weight that’s in keeping with quality. The buttons, though they’re designed to look like they clunk downward, actually have very little range of motion and act more like modern membrane-switch buttons.

The verdict on the physical build of this speaker is that most listeners won’t be disappointed. It looks great on a bookshelf, in an office, or indeed on a bedside table. And because it’s so small (measuring just about 6 by 3 by 4 inches) it doesn’t occupy too much of a footprint alongside the rest of its shelf-mates. It doesn’t, however, look at home on a blanket in the park. It’s nice that there’s the flexibility of a battery so you can take this speaker with you, but there’s something precious about the design that makes me feel much more comfortable with it in my home than out in the world.

Sound quality: right down the middle

Edifier's MP230 Speaker is sitting on a shelf in front of some books.

The MP230 is, in short, a capable little speaker with a lot to offer on the sound quality front. Inside the enclosure are dual 48-millimeter drivers to deliver true stereo sound. This is refreshing to see in such a small speaker, and in fact, many other Bluetooth speakers from popular brands like JBL or Ultimate Ears don’t always offer dual-matched speakers for stereo spread — opting instead for larger elliptical drivers for volume and bass.

Each of the MP230’s drivers is powered by 10 watts of power via a class D amp, providing a pretty reasonable amount of headroom for most listeners’ needs — particularly at this size. The frequency response goes as low as 70Hz which, when coupled with the resonance of the wood-style enclosure, gives a pretty nice bass response. In fact, this is what surprised me most about the sound quality; when you fire it up, it’ll project sound in the low and low-mid frequencies quite well.

So what does this all mean in practice? Well, if you’re listening to “typical music” with average compression — Top 40 mixes or official Spotify playlists — the MP230 is pretty well optimized. The richness in the lower end of the spectrum does wonders for adding fullness to the sound. It does, however, come across just a bit muddy on the vocal side. So, if you listen to podcasts or acoustic music, you might find it a touch distracting.

Everything else: very few bells and whistles

The Edifier MP230 speaker is sitting on a railing on a porch outside.

Edifier seems to have spent quite a bit of focus on the design of the speaker and attaining at least decent sound quality. As a result, there really aren’t a ton of “extras” to speak of here. There are no high-end codecs like AAC or aptXand Bluetooth 5.0 is as modern as the connectivity gets on the MP230.

There’s a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary port if you’d prefer to wire in instead of using Bluetooth connectivity. There’s a USB-c input that doubles as a port for charging and for streaming to your PC, and Edifier has even included a micro SD card slot for playing local files right from the speaker itself.

There’s a 2,500 milliamp-hour battery built into this speaker, which Edifier promises will deliver 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge. I ran this speaker for the full battery and I got closer to eight or nine hours of playback at pretty loud volumes (I was testing the speaker, after all). I think nine hours is a pretty reasonable total, though … much more than folks will likely need in one sitting.

Verdict: Who should buy it?

The Edifier MP230 speaker is sitting on a table on a porch next to an iPhone 11 Pro

The battery life point brings me to my final thought here: Who is this speaker for? Sure it has battery functionality, but because of its wood-tone finish and design-forward features, it feels odd to throw this in a bag and take it to the park. Plus, the rectangle shape is a little awkward for this use-case anyway as it doesn’t sit flat in a backpack.

No, this speaker is much more at home on a shelf in a sitting room or even in the corner of your kitchen. It projects reasonably rich, stereo sound for its size, and it does so by looking really slick. It’s not competing with the JBLs and the Ultimate Ears of the world but isn’t quite reaching the echelon of a Sonos or Bose speaker. In general, I think there’s decent value here at an MSRP of $150 (and it can be had for $130 on third-party sites like Amazon), but if you want extra features like high-end codecs or waterproof durability, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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