Peachtree Audio deepblue2 Table-Top Bluetooth Speaker
Peachtree Audio deepblue2 ($499)
I'm really not sure why I have this fascination with table-top speakers. They really aren't compatible with audiophile sensibilities. For starters, it's one speaker; how are you s'posed to get stereo with one speaker? And bluetooth? It's pretty much CD bit rates at its best these days, but no, I somehow can't take any table-top speaker seriously as high-end audio. And yet, I remain intrigued...somehow giddy at the thought of getting really good sound from a simple box without wires. And in that regard, the deepblue2 seriously delivers.
Peachtree Audio's deepblue2 had a bit of a herky-jerky start. Initially launched as the deepblue in 2013, the product was discontinued shortly after the first production run when the contracted OEM supplier closed it's doors, leaving Peachtree with a wildly successful product launch and no product in hand. Heck, they were even without all the tooling to make the product. A re-launch would mean starting from scratch, but it would also mean the opportunity to incorporate everything they had learned from the first deepblue developement in the new product. Undaunted, the company restarted the product with a July 21, 2014 Indiegogo campaign that raised a whopping $318k of a $64k goal.
Well, the final product is shipping, and not having had the opportunity to review the widely acclaimed original deepblue (I asked too late and it had become unobtainium), Peachtree was high on my list of products to seek out at CES. I had one at my door shortly after the show.
I like the design of the deepblue2 because it doesn't have any. Or, I should say, it has very little designed visual character. Personally, I like a plain black speaker that disappearsI want to hear it, not see it. The problem with strong design elements is that you'll get strong mixed emotions about a product and people will be buying it, or not, to some degree on looks, when sound is the thing that matters.
The look of the deepblue2 is, to me, is completely a reflection of it's nature as a speaker. The front face of this rather large table-top speaker (9.1" x 14.2" x 6.5", 230 x 3 60 x 164mm) is almost entirely covered by a perforated metal grill, behind which are the systems driver elements. Top and sides are matte black, soft-touch silicon rubber, rear panel is hard plastic. Illuminated control buttons are capacitive touch and rest within a gloss black plastic panel atop the unit.
The front grill has slightly angled panels to each side of center behind which are the 3" mid-range and 1" silk-dome tweeter drivers for the left and right channels. Behind the center of the front panel is the 6.5" low-frequency driver used in mono by both left and right channels.
The deepblue2 is definitely not what I would call "feature rich". It exists, it seems to me, to do one thing well (play music) and to do it for as wide an audience as possible. Which means: plain vanilla good looks, and dead-simple operation. This is not nearly as easy to pull of as it sounds, and the deepblue2 does it quite well.
There are only three ways to connect to the deepblue2: Bluetooth; digital optical, and analog line-in. Both the Toslink optical (up to 24/96) and 3.5mm stereo jack line-in, along with the AC power connector, are located in the very small rear panel area. Bluetooth receiver is aptX capable, and will hold pairing for up to 5 other devices.
Control of the deepblue2 is very simple using either the top panel buttons or the included remote. One difference between the two is that the remote has separate buttons for each of the three inputs while the top panel has one button to select and toggle between the rear panel inputs. The other differenceand it's kind of a big one, so don't loose the remoteis that you have a bass level adjustment on the remote. Very nice, and we'll talk more about the bass adjustment when we get to the sound.
The deepblue2 has no battery and is AC powered only, so it's not a speaker for portable use. It does have an indent at the top of the rear panel as a hand hold for convenient carrying, but its fairly large size and 16 lb. weight make the deepblue2 a unit more likely to live in a semi-permanent place in your home, and be available for movement occasionally when needed elsewhere.
Human Factors and Ergonomics
Huh? You learn something every day if you keep your eyes open. When I review headphones, the section I write about how well they fit and how comfortable they are I call "ergonomics". But I always though of ergonomics as the physical suitability of a product, not about it its cognitive suitability. As I searched for the proper word for how well suited the deepblue2 is to being easily controlled and integrated into everyday life (I was thinking "use paradigm"), I stumbled onto the Wiki page for "Human Factors and Ergonomics", and the sub-category "Cognitive Ergonomics", which is about the "mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system."
The deepblue2 is wireless and extremely simple. It has no app. It relies on the user to already have all they need on their phone, or to be able to set-up a wired connection to a player through optical or analog inputs. In this day and age, is being that simple a reasonable approach? My experience so far leads me to believe it can indeed work fairly well.
For example, I had the kids over for a dinner the other night (home made pizza). Usually, when I entertain, I have a lap-top out with Tidal open and just let people select music as they wish. Well, when the kids discovered they could just play music from their phones, the lap-top just wasn't the path of least resistance to their favorite music anymore. With the deepblue2, the kids had a blast just switching back and forth between each other's phones as the evening progressed. Yes, a simple music playing device like the deepblue2 remains cognitively ergonomic in todays world.
Of course, this mode of musical control behavior isn't limited to the deepblue2, pretty much any bluetooth speaker could enable it. The problem is, just about any bluetooth speaker I've experienced doesn't have near the room filling authority of the deepblue2the Bluesound Pulse might be the exception, but even it doesn't have quite the bass extension as I remember it. I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but my point is that for the first time I was able to encourage visitors to connect up to a bluetooth speaker and not have the audiophile in me feel like we were sacrificing a satisfactory listening experience in the process. The deepblue2 was not only a useful general purpose speaker that everyone in the family instantly knew how to use, it also was capable of sounding really good for every one as well.
Let's talk about the sound...