Made in America is a strategy that’s working for Shinola, a seven-year-old company offering an unlikely mix of high-end goods –ranging from luxury wrist watches and leather products, to bikes and home audio gear–incongruously marketed under the manufacturer of a famed shoe polish. Shinola collaborates with additional U.S. manufacturers on a lot of its products, as it’s done here with its next set of powered bookshelf speakers, named only Shinola Bookshelf Speakers.
Shinola’s partner with this project is Portland, Oregon’s Barefoot Sound, a speaker maker that has heretofore specialized in designing and construction professional studio monitors and doesn’t have some customer products of its own. In keeping Shinola’s Made in America ethos, the speakers are designed, built, and tested in Portland.
A rich feature set
Shinola Bookshelf Speakers are self-powered two-way speakers, using a 100-watt-per-channel Class D amplifier driving a 6.5-inch high-excursion metal cone woofer and 1.0-inch soft-dome tweeter with a dual-ring radiator in every cabinet (Shinola declined to state what substance that the tweeter is fabricated from).
The speakers are enclosed in composite cabinets completed with walnut veneer (your pick of a natural finish or black paint) and magnetically attached fabric grills. There is a 6.75-inch bass reflex vent at the back of each cabinet.
You are able to feed these speakers with just about any source you care to, since the enclosure housing the amplifier is outfitted with a Bluetooth 4.0 radio capable of decoding the aptX codec, a 3.5mm analog stereo input, RCA analog stereo inputs, coaxial S/PDIF (in and outside, should you need to use an external DAC, like the newly reviewed Benchmark DAC3 HGC), also USB-C. The only connectivity option you do not receive is Wi-Fi.
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Putting all connectivity over the back of the active speaker makes sense, however Shinola’s decision to not incorporate any controls on the front of the enclosure can be frustrating if you want to correct the volume or change the input source. Powering up the speakers is a two-step procedure in which you press a toggle switch to provide power, and then press the Source button to pick the input you would like to use. Three seconds later, the speaker produces an audible thump which has been loud enough to scare the cat. Shinola tells me they have since reduced the quantity of this alert tone so that it’s not so startling.
When two hours pass without an input signal, the speaker goes into standby mode. However, there is no mechanism to automatically bring out the speaker of standby when you restart playback–you’ll have to press that Source button again and re-encounter that thump. LEDs encircling the Source button helpfully inform you which input is busy, but you will want to twist the cabinet around to view them.