The touch interface has replaced the button across a wide scope of applications, but could there be an even more convenient and natural method for certain scenarios like speaker controls? One company seems to think so. Auluxe have been experimenting with their own hand gesture based concept for years and now it’s ready for the masses. This is their first wireless speaker featuring gesture technology - the £399 E3 - and we’ve been lucky enough to use it in the studio in advance of the official launch.
Auluxe have sculpted an attractive oval design that deserves to be exhibited in any room or on any shelf. It’s not just a speaker but also a beguiling decorative piece with an ebony black tempered glass top and wrap around fabric body covering. A prime focal point is the minimal isolation feet that levitate a handsome wooden base above the speaker's resting surface and additionally serve the practical purpose of reducing sound energy distortion. Of course, amazingly all of the controls have vanished, replaced by gestures. Only one button features and that's a tiny reset on the back, located along with a USB port, 'aux in' and 'power in' port - all hidden out of sight. On front of the E3 there’s a white LED display denoting the time.
The E3 was even easier to set up than we had envisaged. The Auluxe Controller App will guide users through a choice of multiple set-up procedures best suited for their network environment and assists with multi-room set-ups if you have more than one E3. However, if you're an iOS user, then your device will do all the legwork. Simply head on over to settings as the App suggests and the iOS device will see the speaker and ask if you’d like to bring it into your network. After around 30 seconds you're all set up to use this as an AirPlay speaker from all your Apple devices - you can’t really get any simpler than that. Available too is an aux input and Bluetooth 4.0 - neither of which we have made much use of as the AirPlay system deals with lossless audio, retaining all the original quality from the audio source. The internet-connectivity means it can directly link into services like Spotify, tunein, Napster, tidel and many others, leaving your device as a simple control for the audio, rather than the speaker streaming from it. The E3 streams directly from your router and the App also denotes the functionality of multi-room playback for up to ten other Auluxe speakers to play simultaneously. Our Spotify integration has been flawless, Auluxe have nailed it!
To start with the whole waving concept feels highly unfamiliar, especially so if all your other AirPlay speakers are either App controlled or have some buttons. So in truth we were sceptical of not just how well the gesture input method would work, but also if we’d actually use it after the first few days of the initial novelty. Well, after over a month of having the Auluxe E3 playing music for us, its new control concept is now instinctive and actually more leisurely to utilise than other methods. This would not be the case if it worked poorly or only sometimes. As we’ve come to admire, the E3 even interprets our more lazy afternoon hand gestures and those that come from a stretched out seemingly awkward arm on the sofa. It’s quick off the mark, pausing tracks with immediate effect with a swipe of the hand upwards and a repeat of this action immediately resuming the music. Volume adjustment is done by moving your hand clockwise to increase and anticlockwise to decrease. And skipping, you guessed it - a wave left or right.
In total a 60W output is produced from 2 full range drivers, 2 tweeters and 1 woofer. An explosion of volume permeates into our rooms from this output. Whilst it doesn't thump through our bodies like the Sonos Play:1 speakers can do (in reference to two individual units), it puts on a good show that has the impact and musical emphasis to entertain. At the other end of the spectrum the Auluxe E3 can be kept at volume levels of around 10% with ample definition remaining. It doesn't whisper like some speakers do when we desire some complimentary background music. Audio is on the warmer spectrum of sound and the E3 is reliant on the furniture it’s sat upon to project the darker bass tones. We came to realise, after repositioning ours, that it’s on best form when located on top of a thick wooden table. Here the bass resonates in the music and it’s a reasonably clean overall sound style too.
The speaker has a wide open middle range making acoustic numbers by the likes of Jack Johnson and Donavon Frankenreiter sound like live performances, as the Auluxe E3 captures the organic and echoey guitar inner sounds and the percussion elements come to life too. A song such as ‘What’cha KnowAbout’ illustrates this majestic acoustic nature brilliantly, with resonating instrumentals and front of house organic vocals. If we jump ship into more energetic musical arrangements like ‘High On Humans’ by Oh Wonder to show off the flexibility of the driver arrangement within the E3, we can hear the heavy piano playing, stomping bass drum and the male/female vocals are both equally obvious. One large benefit the E3 has over many of its rivals is its wide footprint design. A wider soundstage and a cleaner stereo output is the net gain from this, and separation between instruments and vocals is fantastic. Its performance is strong enough to directly compete against the stereo variant of the Sonos Play:1 speakers and the AirPlay SACKit MOVEit Speakers. The E3 internet connectivity works just as well too.
A revolutionary speaker? Quite possibly. A usefully practical one? Definitely. The Auluxe E3 is a leading all-in-one wireless AirPlay speaker that dispenses room-packing sound from an exquisite wooden and glass design from which you will not tire. Its hand gesture based controls are unquestionably the headline feature, because it’s not only original but is almost always more convenient to use over buttons.