Streaming speaker systems are getting smarter. Pretty much all the new models have either Google’s, Apple’s or Amazon’s “Assistant” built in. Which means that once you set them up, one of the Tech Giants has a microphone in your living room. If you, like me, would like to minimize the eavesdropping, now may be the time to invest in a good set of relatively “dumb” Bluetooth speakers. They are a dying breed, but there are some good options out there.
Argon Audio Forte A4
What I was looking for in a new speaker system:
- Excellent sound quality
- Relatively small speaker units
- Not tied to one single eco-system, and certainly not to one manufacturer
- No microphone / assistant / etc
- A good set of future-proof connections (like RCA, jack or Toslink)
- Actual stereo sound (not two speakers in one box)
The Argon Audio Forte A4 ticks all these boxes. They’re active speakers, with a single cable running from the main unit to the other. On the main unit, there’s a RCA phono (turntable) input, a regular AUX one, and two Toslink connectors. And there’s Bluetooth with Apt-X and AAC support.
I’d describe the Forte A4’s sound as “lively”. There’s a surprising amount of bass (considering its size), and a lot of detail. It all sounds balanced and vivid. My previous system sounded a little “dull”, so it’s fun revisiting familiar tracks to discover new details. You can tell these are real, well-built hifi speakers.
For convenience, I currently have a Chromecast Audio hooked up to one of the Toslink inputs. I know this sends data to Google, but I prefer casting over Bluetooth, because it lets me cast just one app’s audio. Since the “Audio” has been discontinued by Google, I’m hoping a more open alternative will emerge eventually. If it does, I’ll hook that up instead.
One thing I really like is that the speakers automatically turn on when input is detected. This is really convenient if you hook them up to your TV. If your TV is a Samsung or Sony, you should be able to control the volume with the TV’s remote too. Fifteen minutes after the last song, the Forte’s will go back to sleep automatically.
I got these speakers on Black Friday, but even at full price (currently €399) they’re worth every penny. They’ve simplified my audio setup considerably (no separate amp, fewer cables), and they make listing to music or watching a movie more fun.