“Scan­di­na­vian je ne sais quoi”

FOR High vol­ume; nice bass weight; good amount of de­tail AGAINST Needs more dy­namic ex­pres­sion; not ag­ile

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

At a glance, you might mis­take the Vifa Helsinki for a small clutch bag or a woolly purse rather than a wire­less speaker, some­thing that might be­long more in a fash­ion shoot than a hi-fi test­ing room. But Vifa hasn’t set­tled for style over sub­stance – be­neath the furry fab­ric is a prod­uct with some solid sound qual­ity.

The Helsinki will play your mu­sic in two ways: through its 3.5mm in­put jack on the back, or via aptx Blue­tooth. Apart from vol­ume con­trols, there is only one other but­ton, lo­cated on the side, that tog­gles be­tween the in­puts. Press un­til it flashes blue to pair it to Blue­tooth de­vices, or hold your NFC com­pat­i­ble de­vice near the vol­ume but­tons.

Brain power

Vifa says the Helsinki’s lithium ion bat­tery lasts for eight hours, and takes around three to four hours to reach full charge.

And you can, to some ex­tent, tell the Helsinki where it’s play­ing from and how you want to use it. The Vifa app, avail­able on IOS and An­droid, gives you a choice of two place­ment set­tings – the un­medi­ated ‘All­round’ mode, and a ‘Desk­top’ mode that, ac­cord­ing to Vifa, in­tro­duces a “soft dip around 300Hz” to com­pen­sate for any rise from it be­ing on a large desk or shelf.

The tun­ing modes let you choose be­tween ‘Neu­tral’, for stan­dard lis­ten­ing, and a ‘Late night’ mode which em­pha­sises the bass and tre­ble fre­quen­cies. You can also use the app to turn down the bright­ness of the light around the Helsinki’s Mode but­ton, which is a neat fea­ture too. The Helsinki doesn’t have a USB port – though it’s not some­thing that’s univer­sal on wire­less speak­ers, it’s handy for charg­ing and a nice ad­di­tion when it’s there.

Vifa takes pride in the de­sign of the Helsinki, as it should with the num­ber of big names be­hind it. The wool has been wo­ven by Dan­ish tex­tile de­signer Kvadrat, and comes in a range of four ro­man­ti­cally named colours: Wil­low Green, Misty Blue, Dusty Rose and Sand­stone Grey.

The Helsinki isn’t par­tic­u­larly heavy to carry – at 1.4kg it weighs about the same as a litre and a half of wa­ter (or, in­ci­den­tally, a hu­man brain).

The body is made of a sin­gu­lar, molded piece of alu­minium to avoid any as­sem­bly mark­ings or frail ar­eas, and the leather strap aims for a mix of com­fort and style. There’s no mis­tak­ing the de­sign chops on this por­ta­ble wire­less speaker.

Mid­night rave

But not only does the Helsinki look good, it sounds good too. When­ever a speaker in­vites you to take it out into the real world, it’s got to be loud, at least. The Helsinki meets that bar with gusto, man­ag­ing to hit high vol­umes without sound­ing harsh.

It’s also got a good amount of bass weight be­hind it, so if you’re look­ing for some­thing to play high-en­ergy songs at a mid­night for­est rave, the Helsinki is a good choice. The low fre­quency drums in Tay­lor Swift’s

Shake It Off have a sur­pris­ing amount of force for such a lit­tle speaker. Its midrange is rel­a­tively in­sight­ful too, on Swift’s pro­cessed lyrics in the mid­dle of the song that en­cour­age you to get down to “this sick beat”, as well as the clear vo­cal­i­sa­tions that fol­low. It won't beat the Dali Katch for de­tail any time soon, but there’s cer­tainly enough there to make you take note. Push­ing the tre­ble with Eels’ Los­ing Streak, the high-pitched pi­ano that chirps along through­out the track re­mains up­lift­ing and airy without edg­ing on bright, or in­fring­ing on Mark Oliver Everett’s vo­cals. The Helsinki has a nicely re­fined tonal bal­ance, so you should never feel as though one el­e­ment of your mu­sic is ob­struct­ing an­other.

Bright and breezy

But while this wire­less speaker is all too ready to roar, it doesn’t quite have the level of qual­ity in its dy­namic ex­pres­sion that we’d like. We switch to The Pre­tender by Foo Fight­ers, and while the Helsinki can man­age the more ob­vi­ous changes be­tween the soft vo­cals and blasts of elec­tric gui­tar, there’s a level of sub­tlety in the per­for­mance that’s miss­ing com­pared with the class lead­ers. Sim­i­larly, the Helsinki would also ben­e­fit from be­ing a lit­tle more ag­ile – the quick tempo of Los­ing Streak isn’t as ar­tic­u­late as it could be, and falls short of con­vey­ing the song's breezy mo­men­tum. Over­all, this por­ta­ble wire­less speaker sits in the mid­dle of that cross-sec­tion where style and sound qual­ity in­ter­sect. It’s weighty and loud without be­ing brash, and will com­fort­ably han­dle your mu­sic. If your hi-fi needs some of that Scan­di­na­vian je ne sais quoi (or, as they say in Den­mark, en vis no­get) then the Vifa Helsinki will keep you con­tent. VER­DICT This stylish wire­less speaker has the sound qual­ity to match its good looks

“When­ever a speaker in­vites you to take it out into the real world, it’s got to be loud, at least”

The Vifa Helsinki looks like some­thing from a fash­ion shoot, but this stylish wire­less speaker also has great sound

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