Fluance Ai61 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

These were a new release from the Canadian audio brand, and brought a series of improvements over the original Ai40 speakers. Key changes included a bump up in amplifier output power, the elimination of a power brick, the addition of subwoofer output and TOSLINK optical input, an upgrade to Bluetooth 5.0, and a new tuned bass reflex port. Fluance did the same thing with the larger and more powerful Ai60 speakers. They have been replaced in the lineup with the new Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers.

As with the Ai41s, Fluance has made a series of compelling upgrades compared to the original Ai60 speakers. In addition to the new features introduced with the Ai41 speakers, the Ai61s also get USB-C input for music playback.

The Powered Bookshelf Speaker Advantage(s)
It’s worth taking a quick look at just why powered bookshelf speakers are such a great choice for many people.

You don’t have to try hard to spend $300 or more on a decent wireless speaker. There are some excellent options out there. However, it doesn’t matter how many tricks its DSP is able to pull off, a single speaker is not going to be able to match the true, two-channel stereo sound that a pair of powered bookshelf speakers like the Fluance Ai61s can. Fluance ships these speakers with eight feet of 18 gauge speaker wire, but you need only about four feet of separation to get that stereo effect. Because these use standard speaker wire instead of proprietary cables, you can use your own wire if you want to space them even further apart.

In addition to the stereo sound, these Fluance powered bookshelf speakers have woofers and tweeters enclosed in MDF cases. Compared to the full-range drivers, bass radiators, and plastic enclosures found in many wireless speakers, this results in more detailed and nuanced music playback.

Compared to a traditional stereo setup of an amplifier or receiver driving a pair of bookshelf speakers, powered speakers save space and money. The amplifier is built-in to one of the speakers. There is no additional component to purchase or find room for. The Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers still offer many of the advantages of a separate amplifier. This includes a range of inputs, subwoofer output (if you really want to bring the bass), and plenty of power on tap — in this case, 120-watts.

With its RCA input, the Fluance Ai61 speakers are the perfect pairing with a turntable for an ultra-compact, stereo, record-listening system. Just make sure the turntable has its own pre-amp.

Why Choose the Ai61 Speakers Over the Ai41s
I was very impressed with the Fluance Ai41 powered bookshelf speakers when I evaluated them. For the money, they delivered knockout performance. Why spend the extra $50 on the Fluance Ai61s?

As good a value as the Ai41s are, you will not regret spending a little extra for the Ai61s. The larger speakers have the room for a larger woofer — 6.5 inches. They also get a power boost to 120W. And the Ai61s add a USB-C music input. This is actually the first time I’ve seen USB-C input show up on a set of powered speakers.

The big woofer and tuned bass port mean improved low end response for the Ai61s. They can hit a lower frequency (32Hz compared to 35Hz) and the bass has more impact.

I was listening to a bass-heavy playlist with songs like Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out of Me,” The Breeders’ “Saints,” New Order’s “Blue Monday,” and The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Head On” and the Fluance Ai61 speakers performed admirably. They delivered bass that actually thumped without overwhelming the mix, and the power to dominate an entire floor of my house without distorting. They are just plain fun to listen to, especially with the volume cranked up.

As with the Ai41s, you can plug in a powered subwoofer if you want to really feel the low end. However, you’re less likely to feel that need with Ai61s and their 6.5-inch woofers.

Yes, my office stereo system sounds better. But it’s a vintage receiver driving a pair of bookshelf speakers (that cost nearly twice what the Ai61s go for), plus a subwoofer. The system in total costs at least four times what Fluance sells the Ai61s for, and takes up far more space.

Considering the price and space differences, it is a surprisingly close contest when it comes to audio performance. If you’re not stuck on separate components and you don’t want to spend more than you have to, the Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers are a compelling option.

Fluance Ai61 Key Specifications
2-way, 2-driver powered bookshelf speakers
1-inch neodymium ferrofluid cooled soft dome tweeter
6.5-inch woven glass fiber composite drivers with butyl rubber surrounds
Tuned rear bass ports (reflex design)
Frequency response (DSP-enhanced) 32Hz – 20KHz
THD <0.3%
Integrated Class D amplifier rated at 120-watts continuous average output
Bluetooth 5.0, RCA L/R input, Optical TOSLINK input, USB-C input
Subwoofer output
Includes remote with Bass and Treble adjustment
Internally braced MDF cabinets measure 13.1 x 7.8 x 9.2-inches, total weight 27.2 pounds
Includes 8-foot 18 gauge speaker wire, batteries for remote
Available finishes: Black Ash, Black Walnut, White Walnut, White Bamboo
2-year manufacturer’s warranty
MSRP $299.99
The Fluance Ai61s are an easy recommendation. You’re going to have a hard time finding a better set of powered bookshelf speakers for the money.

They offer great performance, they’re nicely finished, they offer all the inputs you might want plus subwoofer output, you get true two-channel stereo sound, solid bass, and there is plenty of power on tap. If you need something physically smaller, then the Fluance Ai41s offer a near-identical experience — with a little less bass thump and 90-watts of power instead of 120-watts. However, if you have the space and the extra $50, the Fluance Ai61 powered bookshelf speakers are worth every penny.

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