Frekvens is Swedish for “frequency”, which makes it a great name for the new speakers that Teenage Engineering announced in collaboration with IKEA. When it was first announced I was immediately drawn to the smaller and cheaper Portable speaker, but on my mission through my local IKEA my razor’s edge focus became hazy, and I walked out with two speakers. The second Bluetooth speaker being what we’re going to check out in this review: the modular Frekvens yellow speaker. The speaker has a fairly minimal look but Teenage Engineering is known for making products that can do more than meet the eye, and this is one of them.
Who’s the Teenage Engineering x IKEA Frekvens Speaker for?
- Like the smaller Portable Frekvens speaker, fans of Teenage Engineering will love this. If you’re already familiar with, and like the company, then everything in this collection will be very tempting to you.
- Anyone looking for an interesting project. With the modular aspect of the speaker, anyone with access to a 3D printer can print accessories to stick onto the speaker in fun and quirky ways. Plus, you can build out a bigger overall system if you also get the subwoofer and lights that are also available at IKEA.
- Anyone that just wants a simple speaker for their room or livingroom. If you don’t get the battery that lets you carry it around, this is a solid speaker to just plug into a wall and leave it there. It looks nice, sounds good, and if we’re being honest, it probably won’t survive too long on a road trip anyway.
What’s it like to use the Frekvens speaker?
I used the Frekvens speaker in its most basic configuration, which is to say I bought it, opened up the box, and plugged it in. There are a number of different ways to use this speaker; it’s modular and can be attached to other speakers, a subwoofer, or even lights, and it’s’ portable if you buy the battery pack add-on. As I said, I didn’t get any of that. Instead, we’re looking at the standalone IKEA Frekvens speaker, which is pretty great for just $69.
Like the smaller Frekvens Portable speaker, this thing doesn’t scream “premium build” which is why I like it. I’m sure that if I attached the included strap and bought a battery pack to bring this outside, it wouldn’t last too long. It’s lacking any kind of IP rating that would protect it from rain or dirt, and it’s made entirely of cheap plastic. Sure, that means it’s super lightweight—but it also means that it probably won’t survive an accidental drop. At the very least, the plastic will get some serious scratches. Since all I did was set it up in a corner of my room and listened to music, I’ve had a pretty great experience.
The speaker can be a super minimal all-black box if you want it to be, or you can pop on the plastic yellow cover in order to add a bit of color (it also comes in red). On the front of the speaker is a black volume knob that looks exactly like the one found on the smaller Portable Frekvens speaker. On the back of the speaker are the inputs, outputs, and the power/pairing button. As a nice touch, each is surrounded by a bright primary color which is just the kind of fun design element you’d expect from Teenage Engineering. There’s also an AC out towards the top so that you can connect the lights that IKEA was also selling in the collection.
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Another key element of this speaker’s design is that the entire thing is covered in small holes. This allows for the modularity of the system, so you can attach it to the sub or some lights while retaining the form of a piece you can pick up and move around. Teenage Engineering has been releasing downloaded plans so that you can 3D print your own accessories and attach them. Really, the options are endless if you have access to a 3D printer (or CNC mill).
How do you connect to the speaker?
Getting the speaker turned on is as easy as plugging in the included power cord. If you picked up a battery for some extra portability, then you need to just unscrew the small lid on the bottom to get access to where the battery goes. Once you’ve done that, just press the blue button on the back once in order to turn the speaker on.
You can also hold it down in order to enter pairing mode. You can pair up to eight devices, but just like the smaller Portable speaker I found that switching between devices wasn’t sophisticated at all. You’ll need to enter the settings menu on your source devices every time in order to disconnect or reconnect. Once connected, I didn’t have any problems with stutters or skips for the most part as long as I stayed within 10 meters. There was one occasion where my music began stuttering for some reason and I had to turn the speaker on and off. After that occasion, it didn’t happen again, so I chalked it up to a fluke.
If you’re the type who likes to watch a lot of videos, then I have bad news for you. This thing has some seriously bad latency issues. The audio didn’t sync up with YouTube videos at all. That said, you can always hardwire in an audio cable into the back and skip the Bluetooth lag altogether.
I did this a few times playing videos from my laptop and it obviously worked fine. Ah, the beauty of universal audio jacks. Again, the big deal with the Frekvens speaker is that it’s modular. If you purchase more than one of these or even pair it up with the lights that are also available in the Frekvens collection, then you can really get your own mini light show going as well. It’s capable of being chained up with up to seven other devices.
How does it sound?
One thing that you’ll immediately notice when looking at the frequency response graph above is the emphasis of the lows around 100Hz, and that’s also immediately noticeable when listening to the speaker. While I wouldn’t call it bass-heavy, it’s definitely not lacking in that area. Though one thing worth mentioning is that there’s a steep drop-off below around 100Hz, so while some sub-bass manages to poke through you shouldn’t expect too much of it.
A good example of this is in the song Vanish in Our Sleep by Rob Roy. The rolling bassline is one of my favorites in all of music, but the transition areas sliding into the next note are barely audible even when the main punchy notes sound fine.
Once you start getting into the mids and the highs, I found them to be a mixed bag of results. For example, the vocals during the chorus of the Home by Islandis seem to drop in volume a little as all the instrumentation comes in behind the lead singer, but later on, while listening to Suzanne by Bermuda Triangle the complete opposite happened.
The instrumental guitar picking at the beginning sounded great (as always), but when the rest of the instruments came in nothing was lost or overshadowed. For a speaker that only cost me about $70, I was surprised at the clarity in the highs, especially in this song.
Should you buy the Frekvens speaker?
Whether or not you should invest in the Frekvens speaker really depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. If you just want a speaker to plug in and play music this might not be the best option for you. While the design is great, the sound is good, and the price is right, there are other options around this price point that can get the job done just as well. (If you want to spend less money but still want the same Teenage Engineering design, make sure to check out the Portable speaker.)
Where the Frekvens speaker really shines and becomes a must-have is when you start experimenting with modular add-ons. Throw in the option for 3D printed accessories that Teenage Engineering lets you download for free at their site, and the possibilities are endless.
While other Teenage Engineering fans like myself will appreciate having this speaker for what it is, the casual person might want something a little more durable. In short, the Frekvens speaker is more than just a Bluetooth speaker, it’s a modular gadget that you can interact with. It’s an experiment that you can build upon if you want, or strip down to a minimal black box that sounds good. It’s up to you.
What some other portable options?
If you want to turn the Frekvens speaker into a viable portable option, you’ll have to also buy the battery pack which puts you around a $100 price point. But at that price there are some other great options you should be aware of before you pend your money. For one, there’s the Anker Soundcore Flare which is a sub-$100 Bluetooth speaker that also has a pretty fun design. But more than that, it’s seriously tough. It has an IPX7 waterproof rating, a stable Bluetooth 4.2 connection, and is still extremely portable despite lacking a handle.
Another good speaker you can’t go wrong with is the Bose SoundLink Micro. This thing is super small and portable, but also has an IPX7 waterproof build and a tough plastic exterior that can survive your average outdoor excursion to a hiking trail or the beach. Plus, it also has a pretty nifty hook so you can hang it from things and use it hands-free.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can you add a subwoofer to this speaker?
Yes. If you are shopping at IKEA or its website, you'll see a version of this speaker with a subwoofer added to cover the low end. This model costs $150USD vs. the speaker's standalone cost of $70USD.