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Review: Acoustic Research portable wireless Speaker AWS5B3



Today we received this medium sized, very interesting speaker from the great people at Acoustic Research (Acoustic Research portable wireless Speaker AWS5B3). When our team visited their display at the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas last month, we were very interested in real world reviews for this kind of product.  Let’s get started:

AWS5B3The speaker can be connected to a sound source in a variety of ways, including direct, Bluetooth, and with an included 900 MHz transmitter. Direct is like many portable speakers in that it uses a 3.5 mm jack and the included cable to connect to your tablet, laptop, mp3 player, or even smart phone. The Bluetooth hookup is like many contemporary devices; a few button clicks and your BT device is connected. The included 900 MHz transmitter could use any audio source which uses RCA connection. That could be an old school Hifi, or a contemporary surround sound system, smart phone, mp3 player, etc. With the included 3.5 mm to RCA cable, or your own RCA cable, the potential input for the transmitter is anything you can imagine, even a professional mixing board. The manufacturer claims a 150 ft range, so you know I’ll be testing that for accuracy.

AWS5B3-bOut of the box I quickly realized, that unlike many portable BT speakers, this one did not include a Si-lion battery. It does have AC wall warts for the speaker and the 900 MHz transmitter. 6 AAs later, we were powered up and ready to explore this unit. I will be testing Bluetooth with an Apple iPad 2 and a few different Android smart phones. For the direct connection test, I will be using the same devices, and for the 900 MHz transmitter, I will be sourcing from my Pioneer surround sound as if I were powering the speaker at my pool for the day. It is intended for outdoor use, so it looks a bit like a lantern and it is quite large at 11.5 inches tall, 7 wide and 6.5 deep. Not so portable as it weighs in at just less than 4 lbs. The speaker can be linked with multiples, I will not be able to test that feature.

The two way speaker powered up instantly, and I pulled out the quick connect brochure to get going. First I connected Bluetooth to my Droid Razr Maxx:  It’s as easy as pushing the BT button until it flashes blue, choosing the correct BT device (AR Speaker) from the menu on my phone and voila, I am broadcasting to the unit.  Next I connected an older Android phone, the LG VS920 Spectrum, and finally an Apple iPad 2.  No problems connecting the phones, or the tablet.

I used the iHeart Radio App as well as Audio Tool App, and Google Play Music App to send signals. This varied from streamed popular music and playing tracks from my phone, to test tones as well as white and pink noise.

Droid Razr Maxx. When you put the AR speaker into pairing mode, it, like many devices has a blinking blue LED on the front panel. It took a couple tries to get my phone to connect through BT. The signal seemed weak; I could only get about 20 ft away indoors. Outdoors I measured signal up to 30 feet from the unit, but signal started breaking up after 12ft. After all the testing I’m thinking this droid might be defective. All outdoor Bluetooth range testing was done with battery power as well as with the included AC adaptoid.

LG Spectrum: Indoors the Bluetooth hookup was quick. From several directions the phone had clear hookup from 27-30 ft. clear good signal and good sound. Outdoors the spectrum operated clearly over the same range as indoor.

Apple iPad 2: Bluetooth picked up the AR SPEAKER right away and connected easily. The indoor range was 30+ ft. Outdoors the signal was strong and clear up to 33 ft from the unit. From 33-37 ft there was significant signal interruption. When moved further than 37 ft, signal breakup was dominant.

900 MHz transmitter: Very easy to use the included cable to connect any 3.5mm audio source. I also used my home system and my own RCA cable to supply signal to the transmitter. When you connect the speaker to the transmitter from the back panel buttons, the LED becomes a steady green. I put the transmitter in my laundry room then walked the speaker around my .9 acre back yard. I have a terraced yard so there are some conditions to my observations: Much of the structure around my pool is iron fencing with brick columns. Some of the time I was standing on a slightly raised elevation (4 ft). I live in a medium sized 2 story home with steel siding.

That being said, the speaker had virtually no problems from zero to 110 ft. I walked throughout my house and had strong clear signal and good sound in any room in the house.

In the yard, I was able to put it anywhere around the pool (85-110’ from the transmitter) and had strong signal, with full range music at a decent spl level for outdoors, while still having quite a bit of volume left on the dial. It’s not meant to be a PA system, but it’s very capable for outdoors or indoors.  I live on a relatively busy corner, and I could hear the music clearly with no problem from anywhere in the pool area.  I was able to walk out to approximately 200’ at the elevated level and still have a decent and consistent signal.  Like many RF transmitters line of site is beneficial to greater range.  It also has 3 channels which can help improve transmission and reception.

Direct connection:  It worked with any source I could find; clear, and strong signal and plenty of SPL.

The Conclusion

AWS5B3-cAll in all, the speaker puts out some decent sound with a decent SPL level, especially when Bass Boost is engaged.  The flexibility of the inputs is an important feature in the all connected world we inhabit today.  The iPad was superior in terms of BT range, and I  especially liked the 900 MHz transmitter as it allowed me to move my home sound system out to the pool in full fidelity, or almost anywhere on my property or in the house, without having to dedicate my phone to DJ mode and worry about phone calls and range.  Anyone who can operate a smart phone or an old school Hifi can make this work well for them.   It’s a nice addition to any patio or poolside and I give it 8/10 stars.

8 / 10 stars           


Want to know how you can win this speaker? Simply like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter and then click on “contact us” above. For the subject enter “Acoustic Research Speaker Giveaway” and include the link to your Facebook or Twitter profile in the body along with your name, phone number and address. We will be announcing the winner on Twitter next week, and you will be notified by email. Good luck!


Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.


About Author

Mike E

An audio specialist with over 20 years of audio engineering experience. When not sitting behind a sound board, he enjoys spending time with his family, including his two youngest sons, as well as rock/mountain scrambling, rappelling and taking his Jeep into hard to find areas (until it has to be dug back out from the dirt).


  1. Can this speaker be used with a desktop computer? I do not have any mobile electronic devices. I want to send internet radio from my desktop computer to a speaker in another room. Will this work? Also, I would be interested in knowing if there is some other speaker that can work this way that is not so LARGE. thanks

    • James

      Yes it can. It offers a 3.5mm input (line-in). So you can come out of the line-out/speaker-out of the PC into the line-in of the box. Anything that uses a 3.5mm/line-in cable can feed it audio. PC’s, laptops, tablets, phones, media players, etc.

      As for a smaller speaker, it would depend on the range of which you are sending the other room (feet). If it’s about 25-50ft distance, you can buy a good USB bluetooth adapter for the PC and use any Bluetooth speaker that has a good range (ie: ). Else, there are other WiFi speakers out there such as the Amazon Echo (, which is a WiFi speaker AND a personal assistant (which makes for a fun mix for the same price range of most WiFi speakers). Or you can try the Sonos speaker ( We will also be running a review on a WiFi adapter here shortly as the test model comes in.

      Hopefully that helps!

    • JeffreyB

      Also, you can check out the Logitech UE Smart Radio. These radios connect to your WiFi network and you can control all elements of them from any browser in the house. They are fine radios and sound superb for their size (like most Logitech speakers). The only problem is they are a bit pricey now and have been ever since Logitech discontinued them. It was unfortunate that they did that, as they are great speakers. I have 2 in my house (upstairs and down), and you can sync them together so they both play the same source without any delay (great for a full-house music solution). Why they dropped them…I don’t know. They play Sirius Radio, Pandora, local channels via internet streams, Slacker Radio, music on your PC and more.

  2. Richard Hard on

    My parents has any Acoustic Reach speaker system but I do not now how to make it work. It is a model 48 – 18 – 700 plug in for the speaker with a model 35 -12 – 100 plug in for the transformer for the speaker. The serial number is 4412CO190. The actual speaker has a serial number of 4412G1981 with AW871 with date code of 2441.
    I do not understand any of this. Is there any way to make it work or is it too old or is this just junk?
    Thanks for your help.

    • JeffreyB

      Hello Richard,

      Since we don’t have a complete knowledge of A-R’s products as we have only tested out what they have sent to us, we would advise contacting A-R (Acoustic Research) directly for such questions to get a complete answer. We are simply a member of the press/media and have no direct affiliate to A-R.

      To reach A-R:

      Looking at the model you mentioned, it is supposed to include 2 speakers and a transmitter. Each speaker has it’s own power cord, and can operate via battery as well. The transmitter is needed and is what transmits the 900mhz signal to the speakers. If you do not have the transmitter, your speakers may not work. The transmitted itself has inputs where you would connect your device (phone, tablet, TV, DVD player, etc). Without the transmitter, there is no other way of connecting to the speakers.

      Again, to be certain, contact A-R directly so that they can answer your question more deeply.

  3. Terry Quinn on

    I’ve had mine for about a year and it worked great initially…now, I can barely hear it with the volume maxed out. Any suggestions?

    • James

      Your best bet would be to contact A-R to see what their thoughts are on the issue. Most likely it will no longer be covered under warranty, but sometimes a company will still try to take care of you if it is something due to a fault in the product (ie, maybe a board is damaged).

      So many things could contribute to what you are referring to. A short in the electronics, damage to a certain area (ie, 3.5mm input), left in the heat for long periods of time, etc etc.

      If anything, maybe there is nothing physically wrong with it, and they can walk you through correcting the problem you are experiencing.

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