(Pocket-lint) - The Cambridge Audio G5 is a mid-size wireless speaker. It'll fit in a rucksack but certainly not a coat pocket, and the £229 price sits in the same middle ground. It's not cheap, but is also not so expensive you'll feel like you need to use the G5 as your main hi-fi.
Packing the right features, good sound quality and a classy looks, the G5 is a decent buy if you want greater volume and scale than something like the tiny terror Bose SoundLink Mini II offers. But just how good is it?
Cambridge Audio G5 review: Design
The Cambridge Audio G5 is a chunky brick of speaker. It's roughly the equivalent of the Bose SoundLink III. You can carry it in one hand easily enough, but this really feels like a speaker you'll probably cart from lounge to garden to kitchen, rather than one to take on holiday. Unless you have a seriously generous luggage allowance, that is.
This latest wireless speaker is Cambridge Audio's attempt to class-up its range too. Where the earliest Cambridge wireless speakers had basic plastic shells, this one has a neat-looking aluminium front grille and faux leather on its back and sides. It's some of the most convincing pseudo-leather we've seen, mind, plus who really wants dead animal on their speakers anyway, right?
It's a decent-looking if not quite drop dead gorgeous box, and comes in either silver/dark grey or gold/light tan colour options.
There's a slight curve to its design, but to give it bonus stability there's a little kickstand that flips out of the Cambridge Audio G5's bottom.
While we generally end up using a phone to control a wireless speaker's volume, the box features all the controls you need, up on a soft-touch panel on the top. These let you alter the volume, take calls using the thing as a speakerphone, and switch between using Bluetooth wireless and the 3.5mm connector on the back.
Cambridge Audio G5 review: Ample extras
There are quite a few little extras like this to the Cambridge Audio G5. For example, there's a line out, letting you use the speaker as a Bluetooth adapter for a home cinema/hi-fi setup. There's also a microphone up top, of course, to enable the speakerphone feature. And on the wireless front, there's NFC for easy Bluetooth pairing and apt-X support for phones/tablets that can hack this higher-end codec.
The Cambridge Audio G5's battery can also be used to charge your phone, using the USB port on the back.
Battery life is a strong point too: the G5 lasts for up to 14 hours from a single charge, pretty impressive for what is a powerful-sounding speaker. More on that in a bit.
Having a pretty chunky battery means, no surprise, it doesn't use the same microUSB charge connector as an Android phone. While we're starting to see fast-charge sockets that shake things up, almost all phone plugs are 5V, which wouldn't cut it for this 15V beast. It's one of those cylindrical sockets you need to use here, which is a bit less convenient.
It's not too picky about where it's placed, though. All of the Cambridge Audio G5's outputs are on the front so you can pretty much bung it right against the wall without causing and the maximum volume is pretty loud for a wireless speaker too. This is basically a mobile party box.
Cambridge Audio G5 review: Sound quality
So what does it pack under that grille? The Cambridge Audio G5 has a '2.1' setup, with two smaller drivers on each end and a larger one in the middle. There are also two passive radiators, used in just about every decent-quality wireless speaker these days to get you a decent amount of bass power from a very small, slim unit.
Sure enough, the Cambridge Audio G5's sound is very powerful, with impressive bass volume. The power and scale of the sound is significantly greater than that of the Bose SoundLink Mini. Which you'd hope really, considering it's about three times the size.
What the Cambridge Audio G5 still can't do is recreate sub-bass. It seems like while there's that larger bass driver, it's still the radiators doing most of the work. Hit a certain point down the frequency scale and the bass just stops, pretty much bang on where the Bose SoundLink Mini and other bass radiator-reliant speakers give up.
Of course, unless you're listening to dub step all the time you're probably not going to notice. And the Cambridge Audio G5 does give you the impression of deep, powerful bass.
It's not nasty sound-clouding stuff either, rather reasonably well balanced in avoiding trampling over the mids. Mid-range clarity and separation is pretty good and sound pretty clear.
The same can't really by said of the treble, though, which isn't crystal-clear. The Cambridge Audio G5 has fairly conservative high-end output, making the speaker sound a bit less sparky than some. You can really tell it's operating without a tweeter. That's not to say the G5 is muffled or very dark, though. The treble is just a bit safe.
The Cambridge Audio G5's mids are also a bit less sweet-sounding than the very best sounding wireless speakers. This can leave vocals sounding a bit sterile, although the authority of the speaker is far more apparent than this. It's only with close listening that you can really put a finger on its weaker bits.
There's only so much you can really expect from a speaker this thin and this small, though. And the Cambridge Audio G5 does make for a great party speaker. It may look like a classier candidate, but what's best about it is that it crams a large-scale sound into a relatively small package.
The Cambridge Audio G5 is one of the better mid-size wireless speakers, and while it’s no bargain basement product, it is a bit cheaper than the Bose SounkLink III, one of the G5’s closest rivals.
Sound quality is good overall and there are plenty of features to play about with. However, the tweeter-less design is apparent in the sound, so think twice if you’re really looking for something to use as your main speaker rather than a portable buddy.