Laptop Mag Verdict
The BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i speaker is a high-end wireless compact speaker that offers balanced, precise audio with lots of connectivity options.
Loud, balanced audio
Lots of connectivity options
Spotty app functionality
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Compact, but packs a punch. That’s it. That’s the review. Oh, you need more? OK. The BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i speaker is a high-end wireless speaker that can be used with your laptop, smartphone or tablet for a serious audio upgrade. The small speaker serves up robust, dynamic audio that’s precise and balanced. Coupled with its app and many ports, the speaker has a plethora of ways to access your music. It even offers digital assistant integration via Amazon Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
However, the $299 price might give all but the most dedicated and deep-pocketed audiophiles some pause. Plus, some spotty app functionality mars an otherwise great experience.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i pricing and configurations
There’s only one version of the BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i speaker and it’s priced at $299. However, the speaker is available in two colors: black and white.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i design
The only thing I like more than listening to the Flex 2i is touching it. The speaker is covered in white soft-touch material. It’s cool and smooth to the touch. Another thing I like about the speaker is its shape. The rear corners of the device appear to be cut off, giving the speaker a rather avant-garde appearance that looked just as good on my desk as it did on my bookshelf.
The resulting hexagonal shape is more functional than it originally lets on. Those gutted sides allow the speaker to fit cozily into a corner, which can ultimately help the bass response.
The front is covered by a white metallic grille made up of tiny ovals that contract into small circles towards the edges. The top of the device is covered in more soft-touch material. The BlueSound logo is imprinted just above the glossy black control panel; printed in silver paint, the lettering has a slight gleam.
In the back, you get more pronounced dark gray lettering spelling out the speaker model. Directly below that, you have a black soft-touch plug that, when removed, reveals a mounting thread and a battery port for its optional Bluesound BP100 Battery Pack. And finally, the rear also houses abevy of ports (more on that later).
The 4.9 x 7.2 x 3.9-inch Flex 2i might be small, but it’s got some heft to it at 2.7 pounds.BlueSound ships with two power cords: one for the United States and the other for Europe.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i ports
Along the back of the Flex 2i, you’ll find a series of ports. There’s a USB Type-A port, a microUSB port, Gigabit Ethernet, inputs for audio-in and audio-out, and a port for the power cord. And as stated previously, there’s a mounting thread and a battery port for its optional battery pack beneath the black soft-touch cover.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i codec, connectivity and sources
There are tons of ways to play on the Flex 2i. For the initial connections, the speaker supports Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 5 and the aptX codec. That means, in addition to a smartphone, the speaker will play nice with your MacBook or Windows PC. Speaking of Macs, the Flex 2i also works with AirPlay2 so you can stream audio from other devices.
BlueSound offers a robust streaming provider catalog, including TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, to name a few. The Flex 2i also works with AirPlay2 so you can stream audio from other devices.
If you’d rather not stream, you can also play music by plugging a USB drive into the port on the back of the cabinet.
For a stereo experience, you can pair two Flex 2i together for an even fuller experience, but if you want the whole shebang, add the Pulse Sub+ ($749) for a full surround sound experience. It’s pricey, but cheaper than a full floor-standing speaker setup in most cases.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i setup
Once you plug the Flex 2i in, a green status light in the front of the system lets you know it’s ready to set up. In order to perform the setup, you’ll need to download the free BluOS app (Android, iOS). Launching the app prompts the software to search for any BlueSound products in the vicinity. In the case of my review unit, I was notified that it needed to be set up.
I’m going to stop here and say that if you require an app to control your device, the app should be as seamless as possible. This wasn’t the case with Flex 2i. I wanted to set up the speaker to work over my Wi-Fi network, but no matter how many times I restarted or factory reset, I kept receiving the same not complete error message. I finally had to concede defeat and use an Ethernet cord to establish a connection, which meant I couldn’t use the speaker where I wanted.
Once I ate that digital crow, the app took 5 minutes to update the speaker and I was ready to go.
When I finally achieved a connection, I could adjust the volume, skip tracks and play/pause whatever I was listening to via the app.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i controls
In addition to the app controls, the speaker has a number of physical buttons located on the top of the device. You have play/pause, adjust volume, and skip track controls. There are five preset buttons that can be programmed to play from your chosen sources, including a USB drive, streaming services or playlist stored on your device.
You can also control the speaker via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, which is a pretty cool feature.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i app
Call it a tale of two apps. I had two totally different experiences when using the free BluOS app on Android and iOS. While I got the app to load on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and managed to connect the speaker, I couldn’t access many of the features available on the app despite uninstalling and reinstalling several times.
I had a totally different experience on my iPhone XS Max; once the speaker was connected, I immediately had access to my Tidal playlist and my Spotify account. It was here that I set up Alexa and Google Assistant to take my commands, and perused some of the internet radio channels, such as IHeartRadio, TuneIn and Radio Paradise.
You can also set alarms, connect more BlueSound sound equipment, and set up output (stereo, left, right, mono). There’s also gain controls, which allows the stereo to maintain the same playback audio volume whether a track is older or newer.
BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i audio
So now the section you’ve been waiting for. Just how does the BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i sound? In a word, spectacular. The compact speaker’s custom-tuned drives with a 1-inch tweeter and 4-inch woofer easily filled the top floor of my duplex with rich, clean audio at approximately 40% volume. Raising it to 60% permeated the bottom floor.
And while loud is great for a speaker, where the BlueSound excels is precision, particularly on the high end of things. Jhene Aiko’s airy soprano blew in like a comforting breeze over a well-utilized sample of Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness” on “Summer 2020” on Tidal. The bass was full-throated and that iconic, piercing synth was perfectly recreated from the sealed cabinet.
But don’t underestimate the lows. Listening to Cardi B. and Megan Thee Stallion’s raunchy bop, “WAP,” the bass had an aggressive growl that added even more dimension to the track. And while it’s easy to focus on the salacious vocals, which were crisp, I easily heard the seductive breathing in the background amidst the snares and hi-hats, and the classic DJ Funk loop that makes up the foundation of the song.
Listening to Santana’s “Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven Smile),” the electric guitar had a gritty quality that immediately pulled me in. You know that feeling when you have to make an ugly face because the groove is that solid? Yeah, that face, I made it throughout the track. It really made me wish BlueSound had sent another Flex 2i so I could have gotten the stereo effect going. But the singleton was enough to reproduce the steady strum of the bass guitar, the rich organ, and the crisp drums and cymbals.
And when it was time for me to take a trip back to the ‘80s, I coasted along with the smooth synth-funk of WHAM!’s “Everything She Wants.” George Michael’s plaintive, dreamy vocal skated over the keyboard, especially when he hit that high note toward the end of the song. The poppy drum machine was also prominent thanks to the spacious soundstage.
I was greeted by a robust church organ on Chapel Hart’s “Jesus & Alcohol,” that gave way to an enthusiastic guitar, playful piano and steady drumbeat. The vocalist’s alto was nice and fat and the harmonizing soprano on certain parts really helped tie the track together.
The BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i manages to squeeze a lot of power into a rather small sealed cabinet. For $299, the speaker offers precise, powerful audio that can be accessed through a variety of sources. Plus, with the free app, you can access a bunch of functionality, such as Alexa and Google Assistant. And if you can afford it, you can add another Flex 2i and a subwoofer for a full home theater experience.
But therein lies one of the problems with the Pulse Flex 2i: the price. It can be a bit pricey for non-audiophiles. Also, the app experience can be spotty depending on the platform. But overall, the BlueSound Pulse Flex 2i is a great choice for music lovers looking for a high-quality audio experience in a compact package.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.