If you’re looking for an extremely loud speaker, with an exceptional sound quality that you can tweak to your heart’s content, and revel in outdoors or indoors you should seriously consider the Aiwa Exos-9 Bluetooth speaker.
My detailed review covers all aspects of the Exos-9 from design to sound to its portability. I talk through the one primary reason you would buy this speaker even when there are some disappointing features.
If you’re still undecided, look at the table below for answers to a specific concern you have or keep scrolling.
Is the Look for You?
It’s impossible not to notice the Aiwa Exos-9. It is a beast of a speaker, large and heavy and black all over except for the likes of the aluminum volume knob. The design takes you back to the days of the boombox but has some modern touches. It’s not a sleek, elegant, or stylish look.
So, if you’re not into nostalgia and prefer the lean modern look, you may not want to read any more of this review.
However, if you can get over the design and are looking for a loud and quality sounding speaker keep reading.
The top, sides, and back of the Exos-9 are composed of a textured, matte black plastic. Being plastic, I’m not sure how much protection there is if you drop the speaker, but it’s likely durable enough for the inevitable bumps as you move it in and out of the trunk and carry it around. I wouldn’t call it rugged though, like I do with the Soundboks 2. Two large rubber feet at the base of the Exos-9 keep it stable once you’ve found your playing spot.
A removable and transparent aluminum grille covers a large part of the front panel and protects the five drivers. You can leave the grille on or if you like to see the drivers in action remove it – your choice.
The one design issue that rankles
The controls are on top, but the readout for these controls is in front. I talk about this later, but it makes setting up so much harder than it needs to be. For some, the frustration this causes would be enough to make it a deal breaker.
To wake up and reconnect the Exos-9 you must touch the top control buttons. There can be delays before it wakes and if you’re like me, you’ve already hit it 2-3 times to get a response. Have you ever done this with your smartphone and in the process accidentally opened an app? It’s like the Exos-9, except you change a setting by mistake which is annoying.
The Sound is the DifferenceThe Aiwa Exos-9 ranks # 6 on my list of the loudest portable speakers with an output of 100Dbs.
How does it do this?
Size help because you need space to house all the sound components that produce a loud sound.
So, What’s Inside?
Aiwa claims they avoid spending money on TV ads and celebrity endorsements and instead spend it on high-quality components, like five drivers:
- One 6.5 inches dual voice coil bass driver (subwoofer) which is right in the middle.
- Two 3-inch neodymium midrange drivers (bottom left and right) in their own acoustically isolated chamber to lessen harmonic distortion.
- Two 1-inch silk dome treble drivers (tweeters).
Also, there are integrated class D bi-amplifiers with active and passive passovers.
There are few, if any, portable Bluetooth speakers like the Aiwa Exos-9 that boast 5 active speaker drivers and have 200 Watts of continuous power (not just peak) to those drivers. Most top out at 40 watts.
Not only this, there’s a wide a frequency response range of 40 – 20000 Hz.
Most Bluetooth speakers have woofers that reproduce both low and midrange frequencies. However, Exos-9 is different. Aiwa has changed it up and uses the subwoofer for lows and the two midrange woofers for the mids.
And the Resulting Sound?
Not unexpectedly, all those drivers produce a loud sound. A massive sound at 100Dbs.
However, it’s more than that. The configuration of the drivers and other components produces a loud sound for sure but also one that is clear and balanced.
The bass is deep and warm yet can be ramped up to a punchier and booming sound. The mids are full, not muddy and the highs clear and crisp, never shrill or piercing. No matter how high you turn up the volume, there is almost no distortion (less than 0.1%) even if the table it’s on is shaking. This is especially impressive for a battery-operated speaker. It’s a sound you would expect from a more expensive in-home speaker.
The number of drivers provides a range of sound that allows the Exos-9 to reproduce almost any type of music with clarity and no loss of quality. You get to hear every instrument and the different voices, it might struggle to play classical music at its best, but most folks will not be buying the Exos-9 for that reason.
Getting Your Sound Right
With the Exos-9 you have the flexibility to adjust the sound to your taste. If you want more bass, or if you want to highlight the voices and midrange, you can choose one of the EQ presets or adjust the EQ bands (+/- 12dB) to play the type of sound you like.
Indoors, no matter the room size, the Exos-9 produces a room-filling sound that is balanced and rich. It’s so good you could even consider using it for your home-theater setup. Remember to keep the speaker close enough to a wall to boost the deep bass. You may have to move the speaker around a little to find the best sound.
Outdoors, there’s no issue with bass. You can ramp up the volume to meet the needs of a big party poolside or a BBQ in the park. The sound will stay balanced and still be heard over the noise of the party. Moreover, the bass doesn’t dissipate as much as it does with other speakers.
Plenty of Backup Battery
The Aiwa Exos-9 is battery operated with a 2600 mAH 22V lithium-ion battery pack that is both replaceable and rechargeable.
I like that the battery is replaceable because you don’t have all the hassle of returning the speaker for a replacement or even worse not being able to replace, losing portability and being stuck with having to operate off mains power all the time.
Mind you; you do need the mains power connection to recharge the battery.
How Much Playtime?
Playtime is rated at 9+ hours of typical continuous use. Unlike most manufacturers, Aiwa provides a figure to base that 9 hours use on, namely around 85 dBa SPL. Like all speakers though, playtime is almost halved if you use the speaker at full volume.
Moreover, EQ settings can also affect battery life. Again, the Exos-9 is different because there’s a Battery Save Mode EQ setting. It finds and reduces audio frequencies that use the most power and can increase battery life by up to 100% and get more play time at very high volumes.
You can see how much battery time is left because of the battery level indicator on the screen. And when it’s low, if you’ve bought the optional battery pack, you’ll be able to keep the party going with an extra 9+ hours of continuous use as the original battery. It’s a quick swap out and swap in.
Recharging the battery takes some 5-6 hours so remember to leave enough time to have the battery ready for your next party.
Saving Battery Power
Aiwa has provided two functions designed to save battery power:
- The display screen and touchpad are designed to turn off after 15 seconds of activity.
- After 15 minutes of inactivity, the speaker enters sleep mode to save power. In sleep mode, the speaker will not connect via Bluetooth or play audio.
You can reconnect:
- Via NFC.
- By pressing any button.
- By swiping your fingers across the touchpad (but this can cause problems).
It’s Portable But…
At 13 lbs. the Exos-9 is not light. With its dimensions, you won’t be carrying it around like you do a smartphone. It’s too big and bulky for pockets, backpack or briefcase.
You can carry it with the recessed padded handle in the back but not too far. But, using the handle is awkward because it hangs from your hand at a 45-degree angle, so it feels as if you don’t have full control.
However, you’ve bought it for its louder, deeper, and richer sound and you only get that type of sound with a larger speaker. So short walks to your weekend camping site or the local park are fine. And the size is no problem when you’re tailgating or partying poolside.
If the weather turns on you though, you’ll have to get your Exos-9 undercover. It is neither waterproof nor water resistant. There’s no IP rating so it won’t survive showers, rain, or even water splashes at the pool. And even if the weather is fine, the lack of an IP rating also means it might struggle to survive much dust.
There is an optional carrying case which provides an IPX4 rating that protects against water splashes. But you can’t play the Exos-9 from inside a carry case, so the case only helps you get the speaker inside out of the bad weather or carrying back and forth to the party.
Where’s the Exos-9 Best Suited?
If you’ve got a large gathering outside and no access to mains power the Aiwa Exos-9 is just the ticket.
With the extra battery pack, it’ll last as long as your afternoon or night of fun at your:
- Tailgate party.
- Overnight camp.
- Backyard fun.
- Poolside party (but keep it away from the water).
- Beach day out.
- Fishing spot.
And it won’t matter what sort of music you want to play. It’ll provide the loud yet balanced sound you want for any genre:
- 80s new wave.
- 60s psychedelia and modern over-processed music.
- Old and new pop.
- Folk and classic country.
- And particularly rock and party music.
And it’s just as much at home indoors in large rooms or halls. Anywhere you’ve got a large party or gatherings.
What’s in the Box
When your Aiwa Exos-9 arrives on the doorstep, it’s not going to be a light package at 24.6 lbs.
It is big and heavy but not nearly as heavy as the Soundboks 2.
When you open the black box, you’ll find the following inside:
- The Exos-9 speaker.
- The standard replaceable and rechargeable 2600mAh 22V lithium-ion battery pack.
- A standard PC wall charging cable.
- A 3.5mm auxiliary cable with gold-plated jacks (in case you want to use the speaker in wired mode).
- A quick start guide.
- A registration link for a free two-year warranty.
- A welcoming letter from the folks at Aiwa.
The Aiwa Exos-9 is a large unit weighing 13 lbs. and has the following dimensions:
- 19.4 inches wide.
- 11.7 inches high.
- 7.5 inches deep.
Accessories for Exos-9 are available, but you’ll have to buy them separately:
- Carrying bag.
- An extended battery that doubles the playtime.
I’ve already talked plenty about the design but let’s go through in detail the controls for this beast.
Most of the front is the matte black metal speaker grille which covers the two tweeters, the two midrange speaker drivers, and the center subwoofer.
At the bottom of the front on each end are two oblong recessed slots that look like bass ports but in fact, do nothing. They’re for looks only.
Along the top of the front is a panel. Between the Aiwa logo on the left and a large silver knob on the right is the LCD that shows the equalizer (EQ) band you’re using as well as information like battery life and if the speaker is charging.
On the Top and Sides
In the forward center of the top, there is a shiny black plastic touchscreen control center that illuminates when you touch it. It has:
- A play/pause button.
- The four-way equalizer buttons.
- The link button that’s used to pair two Exos-9 speakers together.
On the right of the touchscreen is the NFC pairing spot.
There are no controls on the sides, just flat plastic.
At the Back
At the top of the back is a recessed rubber-padded handle for a one-hand grip.
In the center is a large bass reflex port (for improved bass response).
At the bottom on the left is the battery compartment that has a small latch to keep the battery in place.
To the right of the compartment is the port area where you’ll find:
- The 3.5mm Aux-In port.
- The “USB Charge” port which has a Type-A USB port for charging your mobile device.
- The “SoftwareUpdate” micro USB port for performing software updates. It will pay to check the Aiwa website (www.aiwa.us.com) for instructions and to download any new firmware versions.
- The wall charger plug port.
- The on/off switch.
Your First Action
The battery should have some charge in it but needs to be installed. Open the compartment latch, insert the tabs on the left first and push in the battery until the latch clicks.
How to Use the Controls on the Top
- The Play/Pause controls the playback of audio from your Bluetooth device, but not through the auxiliary-in connection.
- The EQ controls have left and right arrows to select an EQ band or one of the four preset bands. The up and down arrows will adjust the gain the EQ band selected.
- I’ll talk about the Link button later.
Does it Come with Smart Phone App Control?
No, is the answer. In keeping with the nostalgic design look, you’ve only got the controls on the speaker. There is no smartphone app to control the speaker.
It’s strange really because there is the mini-USB port for firmware updates, and it is a wireless speaker. If you’re looking for total control from your connected device, the Aiwa Exos-9 is not for you.
And too, if you’re looking for a more modern speaker with features like AirPlay, Google Cast, voice assistants, and Spotify built-in, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Let’s Talk About the Equalizer
There’s a lot you get with the equalizer in the Aiwa Exos-9.
Firstly, five frequency bands allow you to set the sound to suit your taste and adjust to make the best use of the room acoustics. You have the flexibility to emphasize bass, mid-tones, or highs, whatever you want.
Secondly, if you don’t want to take the time yourself you can choose one of the four built-in presets:
- Hip-Hop and Dance.
With the Exos-9 there’s no limit to the type of sound you want.
Remember to keep pressing the right arrow to select one of your four presets, or then Battery Save Mode and finally to turn the EQ off.
The Battery Save Mode increases your play time at high volumes by targeting and reducing audio frequencies that use the most power.
Why Placing the Aiwa Exos-9 Is Important?
You can adjust the bass using the equalizer.
But you can dramatically improve the deep bass sound of the Exos-9 by placing the back of the speaker within a few feet of a wall, especially indoors.
It’s a matter of trial and error. You’ll know when you have the distance right. Too close and the bass is dulled but further out and you get to enjoy a deep booming bass sound.
The Problem with Controls on Top and Display on the Front Panel
When you press the touchscreen at the top, the display will light for 15 seconds. At the same time, the front display will light for 15 seconds, showing the latest battery levels, the Bluetooth icon (if a device is connected), and the equalizer settings.
And therein lies my frustration. When you’re adjusting the equalizer controls on the top panel, you must look at the front panel equalizer display to see the setting.
So, you must keep flicking your eyes from the top to the front to get the right setting. It would be so much easier and less hassle if the controls and display were in the same area next to each other. It would save pressing the wrong button while you’re looking at the equalizer screen.
And Other Minor Challenges
- Another annoyance is that the touch-sensitive buttons on the top are not always responsive so you may have to press them more than once to change a setting.
- You can also use the controls to play/pause the music or increase the volume, but there are no dedicated track buttons. You can find those buttons (as well as lock/unlock buttons) on the remote, but you must pay extra for that.
- An improvement Aiwa could make to the front screen is to add a volume level indicator and a battery status indicator.
- When charging, a battery icon on the display does flicker and fill in 20% increments as the battery loads, but that’s only when you have the battery on charge. There’s no display when you’re playing on battery only so, it can get suspenseful while the party’s in full swing, the Exos-9 is at full blast, and you don’t know how much charge you have left.
But you can overlook these minor shortcomings.
They’re far outweighed by the superior sound quality of the Exos-9.
It’s a sound that trumps everything.
Connectivity is the Latest
On the technical connectivity front, the Exos-9 has the latest aptX® Bluetooth compression technology. So, the sound quality is much better than the basic A2DP standard Bluetooth stereo streaming protocol you still find in some speakers.
And if your connecting device doesn’t support aptX®, your Exos-9 has the basic A2DP standard protocol and supports the AAC and SBC audio codecs. So, no concerns there.
No problems connecting
The Bluetooth connection works well with no connectivity problems or signals loss up to 50ft away provided there are no obstacles in the line of the signal.
Like most Bluetooth speakers, pairing your Aiwa Exos-9 is straightforward. Turn on the speaker and activate Bluetooth on your device. The speaker will appear as “Aiwa Exos-9” on your device search screen. Select and you’re connected.
You’ll see a small Bluetooth icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Exos-9 display when a device is paired, but the display will quickly dim to save battery life after 15 seconds.
If your device supports NFC pairing, touch it to the NFC icon in the circle on the top of the device, just to the right of the touch screen. Once again, you’re connected. Remember though. You won’t be able to use this approach with any Apple device.
A handy timesaving feature is the Exos-9 remembers the last eight devices paired, and automatically connects when in range and powered on.
Don’t want Bluetooth or NFC?
There’s no problem connecting any MP3 players, CD players, radios, computers, televisions, etc. using the 3.5mm audio cable supplied.
The Exos-9 automatically switches to auxiliary input when you plug in the cable from your device with the screen showing “AUX IN” for the time you’re connected. Hold the play/pause button on the speaker to switch inputs manually if it doesn’t happen automatically.
What If One is Not Loud Enough?
Some competitor speakers link to each other to create a massive loud sound or an awesome stereo sound, but they do this with cables.
Not so with the Exos-9. You can pair or link two of their speakers together wirelessly.
Simply press the LINK button on one Exos-9 and then press the LINK button on the other.
Once the two speakers are paired, press the LINK button to cycle through the channel modes. Choose from (LR + LR), (L), or (R).
You can choose the double stereo mode (LR + LR) where each speaker reproduces the same sound. Alternatively, choose the separated-stereo mode (one speaker acts as the left (L) and the other as the right (R).
Whichever way, two speakers linked together ramps up the stereo sound massively. Make sure you’re not too close to the neighbors, or you could receive complaints and a visit from the local authorities.
You control the audio through the master speaker (the one without the SATELLITE icon lit up).
For the best sound, ensure the two speakers are within 20 feet of each other, and there’s nothing to block the signal between them. It’ll help too if you don’t have a router or similar device nearby as this might cause interference.
What’s the Frustration with Linking Two Speakers?
Pairing two speakers together do take a little time first up, but it gets quicker with practice. And you will be able to practice because the speakers do not stay paired with one another forever, even if you leave them turned on.
At some point, the pairing will be lost, and you’ll have to repeat the process.
This is not so bad if you only want to pair speakers for the occasional party, but if you want a permanent setup, then you are in for a world of frustration. Resetting regularly would be a pain. I’d look elsewhere if you want permanent pairing.
To Share or Not to Share is the Question
Aiwa has made it easy to refresh the connectivity of your device or to share the speaker with your friends.
It’s a quick operation:
- Break the current connection on your device Bluetooth menu.
- On the speaker hold and press the “PLAY” and the “LINK” button for 3 seconds or until you hear the unit beep
- Search for the speaker in your (or your friend’s) Bluetooth menu, add and connect.
If you get sick of your friends taste in music, the Exos-9 has your back covered. Repeat the refresh process, select the speaker on your device and then block access by pressing and holding the right arrow and the Link buttons together. The speaker will stay connected to your device until you manually release it or until the speaker sleeps from inactivity.
And What’s with The USB Ports?
The two USB ports on the rear panel don’t have anything to do with the connectivity of the AIWA Exos-9, but they do come in handy.
You can use the standard USB port to charge your phone which is convenient when you’re outside. And you can do this even while streaming music. But it’s a single use USB port only. You can’t use it as a digital-in port.
Not too many speakers have a mini USB port for installing firmware updates as the Exos-9 has. It has proved useful in the past to rectify small bugs and problems as well as fixing the “speaker hijacking” issue that created much angst with early buyers of the speaker. From a user viewpoint, this is great because you don’t have to buy the next model. Aiwa listens to its customers and protects their customer’s investment by releasing software updates.
Returns & Warranty
There is a little confusion about the warranty and the return policy.
On Amazon, there’s a 60-day return policy and a 1-year warranty.
On Aiwa’s home site the return policy is 90-days with a 2-year warranty.
On both sites, you can return the Exos-9 with a full refund and no questions asked.
The Aiwa promise on Amazon goes even further and says they’ll even pay for the return shipping. That is most unusual.
What I Don’t Like
- I like nostalgia, but I’m struggling to like this design.
- Don’t expect any smart features like smart phone app control of
- It’s awkward to carry so buy a carrying case if you’re taking it out and about often.
- No IPX waterproof rating so make sure you have some protection if the weather turns on you.
What I Do Like
- The loud 100dBs distortion-free quality sound even at max volume.
- A phenomenal sound that is well balanced with punchy bass, full mids, clean, crisp highs, and no clipping.
- Full control over the sound you want with the customizable 5-band onboard graphic equalizer.
- A powerful battery that is both rechargeable and replaceable.
As you can see from my review, the primary reason you would buy the Aiwa Exos-9 is for its sound.
With this speaker, you’ll get a very loud but well-balanced rich sound. It’s a sound over which you have full control with the adjustable equalizer. It’s so good that the Exos-9 is equally at home inside as it is outside. You could even consider using for your in-home sound system.
Yes, it has its limitations with portability and waterproofing outside. And its look and lack of modern technologies may be too much to take.
It’s worth the investment.