Packing Devialet sound engineering, a built-in wireless charging pad and the Google Assistant voice helper, the Belkin SoundForm Elite Hi-Fi smart speaker seems like the perfect bedside companion on paper. And it’s certainly useful, charging your phone effortlessly and speedily, controlling smart home devices and music playback, and offering more volume and bass than a speaker this size has any right to.
However, while its brain is smart, its musicality is flat. Bass overwhelms, highs screech, and the midrange is flattened. This would be acceptable for a speaker half the price, but Belkin’s put a prohibitively high price tag on this, meaning there are smarter options out there for the savvy buyer – providing the nifty built-in charger isn’t essential.
Belkin SoundForm Elite Hi-Fi smart speaker price and availability
The Belkin SoundForm Elite costs $299.99 / £279.99 (about AU$420). Though it’s packing in a lot of connectivity, and audio support from premium maestros Devialet, the Belkin SoundForm Elite does nothing better than the $199.99 /£189.99 Amazon Echo Studio does, aside from having a built-in wireless fast charger. It’s a neat extra, and has taken some clever engineering to pull off, but simply can’t justify that added expense.
Design and connectivity
- Useful charging pad
- Compact and attractive shape and size
Belkin’s SoundForm Elite looks a bit like a black egg with a diagonal slice taken out of the top of it – or a gray egg, if you go for the alternate colorway. And it’s a good looking egg! With a wraparound fabric cover, and five touch-sensitive buttons on its front cutaway, it makes good use of its small size (162mm x 162mm x 168mm) by accommodating a wireless charging cradle for smartphones to sit on.
A single port for the included power cable and pack sits recessed on the rear of the SoundForm Elite, so if you were hoping to hook up an audio device over a 3.5mm jack, you’re out of luck. This is a strictly Bluetooth or web-based affair, making use of Bluetooth 5.0 and Wifi 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), with set-up carried out with the Google Home app for Android and iOS. Though 5GHz networking is supported, it’s worth pointing out that I had trouble setting up the Belkin SoundForm Elite unless I jumped to my 2.4GHz channel.
Two far-field microphone holes sit either side of the touch sensitive buttons – Bluetooth, volume down, play/pause, volume up and mic mute, in that order. It’s a bit difficult to see the icons for each button, as well as where one starts and the other ends, so you’d do well to learn each position.
Pop your phone on the Devialet logo on the speaker’s slanted side, and if it supports wireless charging, it’ll automatically start juicing up your device. It’s a 10W peak charger, and filled a Google Pixel 3XL nice and speedily – though performance will of course vary based on the battery capacity of your phone and the charging speed it supports. It’s a nice addition and makes for a very nice bedside companion as a result, with the slanted cradle set at a good angle for seeing your phone’s sleep screen at a glance.
Once everything is set up in the Google Home app, the Google Assistant takes over the heavy lifting. Waking the SoundForm Elite with the ‘OK Google’ wake word, you can then have it play tracks from your favored streaming service of choice, have it control smart home gadgets like smart lights, set reminders, check calendars, double check facts and much more.
While we still personally prefer Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant remains an excellent smart helper, and works well on the Belkin SoundForm Elite. The speaker’s microphones are responsive, and relatively good at listening for the trigger phrase even when the music is blasting out at higher volume levels.
- Bombastic, low-vibration bass
- Weak mids and sometimes shrill highs
With its 35mm full range driver and 2x 70mm woofer configuration, the Belkin SoundForm Elite makes quite a startling first impression. For a small speaker, with a form factor best suited for a bedside table thanks to its charging support, this thing goes REALLY loud. You’ll wonder where all that oomph is coming from.
Part of the power derives from Devialet’s smart ‘Push-Push’ woofer configuration, using a dual driver array to really move the air and get those low end sounds cranking out. The smart thing about the ‘Push-Push’ system is that it reduces vibrations from the speaker itself, allowing for a clearer, more responsive bass sound. It serves a dual purpose here, in that the reduced low-frequency vibrations won’t disturb the contact point for the wireless charging system.
But while the bass impresses, the rest of the sound feels squashed by comparison. There’s some sparkle to the highs, but the midrange feels flat and distant. While you may be awed by the bass kick in Daft Punk’s Phoenix, aim for something a little more subtle like the piano lines that underscore Waxahatchee’s Oxbow from recent album Saint Cloud, and everything feels a bit off. The presence of bass is strong, and the shimmer of drum crashes ring true, but everything in between feels a little bit lost. Considering Devialet’s pedigree, and the cost of the Belkin SoundForm Elite, it’s more than a bit disappointing.
Should I buy the Belkin SoundForm Elite Hi-Fi smart speaker?
Buy it if…
You need a bedside charger-speaker combo
There’s lots of smart design in the Belkin SoundForm Elite, and the combination of a powerful speaker and a wireless charging system in such a small package is a great space-saving idea.
You enjoy powerful bass and the Google Assistant
The Push-Push woofer system in the Belkin SoundForm Elite allows for impressively powerful bass response and volume levels, while the Google Assistant is able to understand your voice clearly and respond to requests accurately over the din.
Don't buy it if...
You prefer a detailed, balanced sound
The bass response here impresses, but it’s at the expense of a detailed, spacious sound elsewhere in the mix. It doesn’t suit a wide array of music all that well as a result.
You’re short on cash
This is a pricey smart speaker, charging pad notwithstanding. Unless the charging feature is essential for you, there are better sounding voice-activated speakers with much lower price tags.
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