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Belkin Soundform Elite Speaker review: Good low end for size

Reading Time: 5 min read
101
speaker

The Belkin Soundform Elite is a compact, somewhat cylindrical device weighing about 1.25 kilos, or 2.8 pounds, that touts acoustics by the top-shelf French audio company Devialet, including that brand’s “Push-Push” dual woofer configuration, which Belkin says “cancels vibrations while delivering a deep and impactful sound experience.”

To the standard wireless speaker features (like Google Assistant), the Soundform Elite adds a handy twist; a wireless charging dock for your smartphone. While the Soundform Elite is a mono device, it’s designed to be paired with other compatible speakers to create a custom soundscape at home.

We put the Belkin Soundform Elite through our rigorous DXOMARK Wireless Speaker test suite. In this review, we will break down how it fared at audio playback in a variety of tests and several common use cases.

Key specifications include:

  • Bluetooth / Wifi: Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Semi-cylindrical, 62mm (6.4”) wide, 162mm (6.4”) deep, and 168.5mm (6.63”) tall.
  • 1.25 kg (2.8 pounds).
  • Full-range 35mm driver and two 70 mm woofers in “Push-Push” configuration.

Test conditions:

  • Tested with Motorola device
  • Communication protocol used: Bluetooth
  • Firmware version: 1.44.0.8

About DXOMARK Wireless Speaker tests: For scoring and analysis in our wireless speaker reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests and undertake more than 20 hours of perceptual evaluation under controlled lab conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate playback using only the device’s built-in hardware. (For more details about our Speaker protocol, click here.) The Belkin Soundform Elite falls into the Advanced category of devices in the DXOMARK Speaker rankings.

Test summary

Belkin Soundform Elite
101
speaker

Pros

  • Good performance at maximum volume.
  • Impressive low-end extension for its size.
  • Correct volume consistency.

Cons

  • Resonances in bass (boomy), low midrange (muddy), high midrange (canny).
  • Notch in midrange (hollow)
  • Erratic DSP behavior, especially at low volume where bass level is inconsistent
  • Inaccurate dynamics rendering.
  • Maximum volume below average

The global score of 101 earned by the Belkin Soundform Elite puts it toward the bottom in the database of our Advanced segment, for wireless speakers in the $200 to $599 price range.

The Belkin Soundform Elite performs well at maximum volume, even if that maximum volume isn’t particularly loud.

The Belkin Soundform Elite did produce impressive low-end extension and bass for a device of its diminutive size, good performance at its maximum volume (which wasn’t that loud compared with other similar devices), and correct volume consistency.  Its tonal balance is uneven, however, and there were oddities in its digital signal processing (DSP) that undercut the Soundform Elite’s performance in a number of regards, especially dynamics and artifacts.

Sub-scores explained

The DXOMARK Speaker overall score of 101 for the Belkin Soundform Elite is derived from a range of sub-scores. In this section, we will take a closer look at these audio quality sub-scores and explain what they mean for the user, and we will show some comparison data from two of the device’s competitors, the Google Home Max and Apple HomePod.

Timbre

Belkin Soundform Elite

112

152

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge
Best: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge (152)

DXOMARK timbre tests measure how well a speaker reproduces sound across the audible tonal range and takes into account bass, midrange, treble, tonal balance, and volume dependency.

Playback timbre comparison

The Soundform Elite first strikes the ear as a powerful speaker for its size, capable of delivering an impressive low end. As it turns out, its bass capability is slightly unpredictable, and the compact speaker from Belkin actually delivers an uneven tonal balance with notches and resonances.

The Belkin Soundform Elite produces powerful low end for its small size.

Timbre is bass-oriented, and the Soundform Elite packs quite a powerful low end. The device often crosses the line where interesting low-end extension becomes boominess, however, making the low end a bit blurry and resonant. Strangely, at lower volumes, bass becomes subject to DSP inconsistencies, and it appeared either non-existent on our classical music track, or oscillating on another “relaxing” music track, changing level incoherently.

Music playback frequency response

Midrange is a bit inconsistent, with a slightly hollow midrange and a somewhat muddy low mid. Treble is correct but lacks fullness, mainly in high-end extension. Treble was overall a bit coarse, and our engineers noticed a slight metallic, canny resonance in the lower part of treble. This is especially the case in high SPL scenarios. Overall, this part of the timbre is a bit dark, muffled in some use cases, such as voice-centered programs (podcasts and movies). It becomes even more muffled when listening from the sides or rear.

 

Dynamics

Belkin Soundform Elite

87

137

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge
Best: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge (137)

Our dynamics tests measure how well a device reproduces the energy level of a sound source, taking into account attack, bass precision, and punch.

Playback dynamics comparison

The Belkin Soundform Elite had a subpar performance in dynamics. Partly due to internal DSP, the speaker’s attack feels rounded overall, inaccurate, or blurry. This was the case for many evaluation use cases, at different volumes.

The bass envelope is especially impaired, with imprecise, rounded attack and largely exaggerated sustain. On our “urban” track, attack of the sub-kick was clicking. On another electronic track, bass notes were indistinguishable from each other, mushed together.Muddiness and compression led to a poor punch score.

Spatial

Belkin Soundform Elite

71

111

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge
Best: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge (111)

Our spatial tests measure a speaker’s ability to reproduce stereo sound in all directions, taking into account localizability, balance, wideness, distance, and directivity. Please note that wideness is 0 on mono speakers and on speakers that cannot deliver a significant stereo effect.

Playback spatial comparison

The Soundform Elite is somewhat below average in regard to spatial sub-attributes, but still decent. Localizability is correct but a bit blurry because of  inconsistent timbre information.

Incorrect timbre information makes localization a bit blurry with the Belkin Soundform Elite.

The boosted low midrange has distance perceived a bit closer than reference, with a fuller body, despite veiled timbre on voice-related content.

Playback directivity

Volume

Belkin Soundform Elite

91

136

Yandex Station
Best: Yandex Station (136)

Our volume tests measure both the maximum loudness a speaker is able to produce and how smoothly volume increases and decreases based on user input.

Playback volume comparison
Playback volume consistency comparison

Volume step consistency is a strong point for this Belkin device. Despite the powerful impression it first leaves, the Soundform Elite actually has one of the lowest maximum volumes we ever recorded. That said, its performance at maximum volume is pretty good overall

Here are a few sound pressure levels (SPL) we measured when playing our sample recordings of hip-hop and classical music at maximum volume:

Correlated Pink Noise Uncorrelated Pink Noise Hip-Hop Classical Latin Asian Pop
Belkin Soundform Elite 77.9 dBA 77.4 dBA 75.8 dBA 75.9 dBA 76.6 dBA 67.9 dBA
Apple HomePod 78.3 dBA 76 dBA 77.4 dBA 69.6 dBA 79 dBA 71.5 dBA
Google Home Max 91.9 dBA 88.9 dBA 88.9 dBA 81.9 dBA 89.3 dBA 82.4 dBA

Artifacts

Belkin Soundform Elite

87

133

Sonos Five
Best: Sonos Five (133)

Our artifacts tests measure how much source audio is distorted when played back, along with such other sound artifacts as noise, pumping effects, and clipping. Distortion and other artifacts can occur both because of sound processing and because of the quality of the speakers.

Playback artifacts comparison

The Soundform Elite did not shine in the artifacts attribute. Overall compression is always active, easily becoming pumping in some cases (and not necessarily in the high SPL use case scenario, as is often the case).

Bass is inconsistent with the Belkin Soundform Elite.

Our engineers noted that multi-band compression/expansion seems to make bass quite inconsistent. For instance, at quiet volume, the bass oscillates and fluctuates between excess and nothingness. Some distortion was also noticed in high SPL scenarios, but was not disturbing overall.

Playback total harmonic distortion

Conclusion

With a global score of 101, the Belkin Soundform Elite’s performance was in the average to below average range among similar devices.

The bass and low-end are impressive, especially considering that small size, and the device performs well at maximum volume.  Overall performance is undercut by inconsistency and unfortunate DSP, which interferes with the bass even at low volume, an unusual trait.

The timbre performance was roughly average among all the wireless speakers DXOMARK has tested to this point, but lower scores in the other attributes, dragged down the overall score.

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