“Scandinavian je ne sais quoi”
FOR High volume; nice bass weight; good amount of detail AGAINST Needs more dynamic expression; not agile
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.
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.
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