When a device looks as bold and eye-catching as the Soundbook X3 by Bayan Audio, it’s usually compensating for something. In the case of a portable wireless speaker, the odds are good that it’s compensating for less-than-stellar sound quality. So when Bayan sent me a pair of speakers to test I was skeptical at best, and I assumed I was in store for “all show and no go.”

Of course, you know what they say about assumptions.

I have never seen a wireless speaker that looks quite like the Soundbook X3. It sports a very cool and unique shape that sets it apart from typical rectangular wireless speakers, and its heavy frame cannot stand up when the cover is closed. The cover swings open and sits beneath the speaker, propping it up securely while in use.

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The device’s colorful speckled cover opens to reveal the large grill that sits atop the Soundbook X3’s speakers, and the fabric on the cover continues around the bottom of the device and up the back. An opening in the center of the back is left for the passive radiator.

Curiously, the inside of the cover has a great pattern on it, but it sits face-down when the speaker is in use, so you never really see it.

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Beneath the metal mesh that covers the speakers there are a series of LED lights that indicate what mode the speaker is in. They only stay illuminated for a short while when the speaker is first powered on, so they’re not annoying during playback. And speaking of powering the device on, the attached cover works much like Apple’s Smart Cover for the iPad — flipping the cover open turns the speaker on, and closing it powers the speaker down.

Overall, the look is very cool. But it’s obviously nowhere near as important as the sound, and this is where the X3 really surprised me.

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At $299, Bayan Audio’s Soundbook X3 is not an inexpensive speaker. The sound is worth every penny, though. The X3 can go toe to toe with most other speakers I have tested in this price range. In fact, it even stacks up well against some popular speakers that are more expensive.

The X3 packs room-filling sound. It’s not quite as powerful as many larger stationary wireless speakers, but the sound is still big and surprisingly clean. Bass from the device is deep and not muddy until you get to extremely high volumes, and highs are bright but not piercing.

It really is an impressive experience.

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Bayan also sent me a smaller Soundbook GO speaker to test, but I wasn’t very impressed with the sound quality. Much better sound can be found in the $140-$150 price range.

At $300 though, the Soundbook X3 is a serious contender on looks and sound. It also features Bluetooth 4.0 aptX, an auxiliary input, built-in FM radio and a battery that lasts for up to 10 hours at between 50% and 60% volume.

Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 – $299.99

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