Blue­sound Pulse Flex

FOR Big sound­stage; punchy bass; hi-res mu­sic sup­port AGAINST Noth­ing of note

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

The Blue­sound Pulse Flex ar­rives in our test­ing rooms with high hopes and a fair amount of ex­pec­ta­tion on its shoul­ders. The small­est and most af­ford­able ad­di­tion to the Blue­sound multi-room line up, it has the rep­u­ta­tion of a whole fam­ily of five-star prod­ucts to up­hold. No pres­sure then.

It’s now the only Blue­sound speaker to be in its first gen­er­a­tion, a later ad­di­tion to the line-up and a wel­come one too. Pre­vi­ously you were look­ing at a min­i­mum of £420 to start your Blue­sound col­lec­tion, now it’s a good deal cheaper at £270.

Another feather in its cap

That’s still a size­able in­vest­ment in a small wire­less speaker, but the Flex’s per­for­mance makes sure it’s worth ev­ery penny. At just 18cm tall, it’s a good choice for smaller spa­ces like kitchens or bedrooms, sit­ting at a sim­i­lar height to the likes of the Sonos Play:1 or Ruark’s R1 DAB ra­dio. It’s avail­able in a choice of black or white, with a matt, soft-touch fin­ish and an an­gled back panel to match the rest of the fam­ily’s styling. The Flex can be­come por­ta­ble too, thanks to an op­tional bat­tery pack that fits on to its back panel.

Phys­i­cal con­nec­tions in­clude an ana­logue/op­ti­cal in (there’s a Toslink op­ti­cal/3.5mm adapter in­cluded in the box), USBA port and a head­phone out, plus an eth­er­net port for net­work hard­wiring and a mini-usb port for ser­vic­ing. Of course wi-fi is on board as well, as is aptx Blue­tooth – a feather in the Flex’s cap com­pared with its com­peti­tor Sonos, which has so far kept the tech out of its prod­ucts.

On the top panel of the unit are a hand­ful of play­back con­trols, an LED no­ti­fi­ca­tion light in­te­grated into the play/pause but­ton and five pre­sets, which you can set to mu­sic ser­vices, in­puts or in­ter­net ra­dio sta­tions via the BLUOS app.

Ser­vices avail­able in­clude Spo­tify, Tidal, Deezer, Nap­ster and Qobuz, but if you’re an Ap­ple Mu­sic user, or any other app not yet cov­ered by Blue­sound, you can al­ways use Blue­tooth to fire your mu­sic di­rect to the speaker in­stead.

The BLUOS app has been much im­proved and is now far eas­ier to use, with a cleaner, more stylish de­sign. Menus and nav­i­ga­tion are more in­tu­itive, adding mu­sic ser­vices and net­work shares is a smoother process, and group­ing speak­ers to­gether for a multi-room set-up is quick and sim­ple – it will even walk you through a new speaker set-up in the app.

Even-handed ap­proach

All this en­hances the Flex’s per­for­mance, which is served up by a 9cm mid/bass driver and 2.5cm tweeter, bi-am­pli­fied for a to­tal power out­put of 20W.

We start with a Cd-qual­ity Tidal stream of Adele’s When We Were Young, and the Flex shows off a won­der­fully open and trans­par­ent char­ac­ter, pick­ing out the nu­ances of Adele’s pow­er­ful vo­cal and lift­ing them to the sur­face.

There’s great space and scale here too – more than we’d ex­pect from a speaker this size – and dy­nam­i­cally the Flex is able to com­mu­ni­cate even the sub­tlest of shifts in a way the Play:1 doesn’t man­age as well. It’s bet­ter bal­anced than the small­est Sonos, and could even pip the Pulse Mini in the Blue­sound range too.

While the Play:1 pushes voices to the front, the Flex is more even-handed. This means you hear the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pi­ano notes ar­tic­u­lated just as well as the vo­cals, while the bassline is deep and full-bod­ied with­out ever be­ing over­pow­er­ing.

Get up and go

There’s per­haps a slight roll off of the tre­ble here com­pared to the Play:1, but it works in the Flex’s favour to keep it an easy lis­ten, even with harsher record­ings. It’s sub­tle enough to do it with­out af­fect­ing the Flex’s get-up-and-go, mean­ing it never scrimps on drive or at­tack, even with live­lier tracks.

Of course, like the rest of the Blue­sound fam­ily, the Flex is ca­pable of play­ing hi-res files too, and a switch up to a 24-bit/192khz ver­sion of Nas’ Half­time via USB shows the Flex is ca­pable of sound­ing even bet­ter still.

Bass sounds tighter and punchier, there’s a greater han­dle on tim­ing and rhythm, and the midrange of­fers up more in­sight and ex­pres­sion to both vo­cals and in­stru­ments.

It might be the small­est and cheap­est speaker in the Blue­sound range, but the Pulse Flex is fast be­com­ing our favourite of the line-up too. It’s hugely tal­ented, of­fer­ing up a big, open sound that’s full of de­tail and en­thu­si­asm, and we love its flex­i­bil­ity too.

It’s not the cheap­est speaker of its kind at this price, but it jus­ti­fies it at ev­ery turn. Whether you’re just start­ing your Blue­sound multi-room sys­tem or sim­ply think­ing of adding to it, the Pulse Flex can’t fail to im­press.

“It’s still a size­able in­vest­ment in a small wire­less speaker, but the Flex’s tal­ented and en­thu­si­as­tic per­for­mance makes sure it’s worth ev­ery penny”

At just 18cm tall, the Blue­sound Pulse Flex is suited to kitchens or bedrooms

At­tach a bat­tery pack to the Flex's an­gled back panel and it can be­come por­ta­ble

VER­DICT A small speaker with plenty of ta­lent, the Blue­sound Pulse Flex serves up de­tail and en­thu­si­asm in spades

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