We’ve had the chance to look at a few pairs of Monster headphones recently, but headphones aren’t the only thing that Monster has going on these days. They’ve recently released the Monster Soundstage series, a set of wireless speakers with quite a few different ways to connect. In this Monster Soundstage S1 review I’ll take a look at how the smallest speaker in the series handles everything I could throw at it.
What’s in the Box
- Soundstage S1 speaker
- Power Adapter
While the S1 is the smallest of the Soundstage speakers, it shares many of the same design cues with it’s bigger brethren. The speaker is slightly curved with a black speaker grille covering the entirety of the front panel. The Monster logo is adhered at the bottom in the middle of the front panel. The speaker itself has a decent heft to it, it’s a bit heavier than you’d imagine it would be. This is definitely a solid feeling speaker.
Moving to the back of the device, you’ll immediately notice the two large circular bumps behind the biggest speakers. Monster did not skimp on the speakers simply because this is the smallest in the Soundstage line (but we’ll get to that later). Between those there is a vented area covered by a loose rubber cover. The S1 is the only speaker in the Soundstage line that does not have its own dedicated handle, and while the vented area might seem like a good handle replacement, I always felt awkward trying to grab the S1 in that area, and didn’t want to break anything on the speaker. The S1 is small enough though, that you should still be able to pick it up with one hand using different grabbing points.
Continuing to explore the back of the device, you’ll find all of your wired input options as well as some setup buttons under another rubber flap at the bottom. Here you’ll find WPS and Mode buttons, Micro USB, AUX-in, Optical in, and USB inputs. Directly to the right of the flap-covered ports is the power input.
The sides are relatively ordinary, only showing the wider base and significantly thinner top of the speaker. The base has a female threaded port in case you’d like to mount the S1 somewhere. That really only leaves the top of the device to talk about.
The top of the S1 is really pretty slick. The entire top includes your touch input for most functions of the speaker in addition to an NFC pairing point for phones that support it. The power button is always illuminated, though most all other controls are blacked out when not in use. To get to those functions simply swipe your finger across the top of the S1 and it will spring to life. Here you’ll see play controls such as the typical play/pause, volume up and down, and forward/back controls. You’ll also find a circular option button, which toggles the various input selections, as well as lit areas for the various connection types — WiFi, Bluetooth, Digital, and Analog. Only the currently selected input type will be lit, letting you easily tell how the S1 is currently ready to play.
Ease of Use
Setup of the S1 speaker itself is pretty straightforward. If your wireless router supports WPS you can simply set up the speaker using the WPS buttons on your router and the speaker. If your router does not support WPS, there are a few additional steps required. Without WPS setup you’ll need to have your phone or tablet connect to the Soundstage “WiFi” network. Once connected you’ll be prompted to sign in, which will allow you to set up your own WiFi connection on the speaker. You’ll be asked to give the speaker a name, and then enter your WiFi password so that it can connect. After that’s done, you’ll be told that within a minute you should be able to connect to the speaker using the Monster Soundstage app.
I’ve already mentioned that that Soundstage S1 has lots of different ways to connect and stream music. In my experience this is a good thing because I did have a few issues with some of the input options. WiFi is the big draw here, though that requires use of the Monster Soundstage app to connect to the speaker. In my testing with my Nexus 5, the Soundstage app was unable to find the S1 speaker no matter what I tried. Monster is aware that this is, in some cases, an issue on Android and they are working on fixing it. That said, I was unable to test the WiFi playback on the S1 speaker because of this issue. This may have more to do with the phone than the speaker though.
Thankfully there are other options available! Most of those options work without issue as well, though the NFC pairing didn’t seem to want to work for me either. Of the remaining options available, Bluetooth, AUX, and Optical worked mostly as you’d expect. Bluetooth connected without issue, though the range wasn’t what I’d expect based on other Bluetooth speakers that I’ve used. As long as your phone, or other Bluetooth source was within a few feet of the S1 there weren’t any issues, but even sitting across the same room from the speaker would occasionally cause some dropped signal and missed tunes. Wired options were quite reliable though. The AUX and optical input provided completely uninterrupted playback if you’re able to keep the Soundstage tethered.
Once you’re connected though? The Soundstage S1 sounds pretty freaking good. You won’t need to push the S1 too hard to fill up a room with sound. The output has strong bass, though not overpowering, which is a good thing. The high end is also very well represented, though some of the mid-range is absent. This tuning will help the speaker project, and easily fill up whatever space you have it in, though it can also leave some tracks sounding a bit washed out at close range.
Priced at $229.95, the Monster Soundstage S1 is more expensive than your standard Bluetooth speaker. Though as I hope I’ve made clear in this review, this isn’t your standard Bluetooth speaker. The S1 has more connection options than most other similar speakers, and it can also be used as part of a multi-room sound system using multiple Soundstage speakers and the Soundstage app. Considering all of the extra connection options and the possibility of expansion, this tells me that this is reasonably priced speaker.
There are a few different options available when it comes to multi-room audio systems. Monster is a relatively new entrant into the category, though their Soundstage series is a solid first effort. The Soundstage app still has some work to do, at least on my Nexus 5, though sound is what will ultimately determine whether or not a speaker is worth buying. In that regard, the Soundstage S1 is a quality speaker, with sound that really fills a room. While not perfect by any means, the Soundstage S1 has enough going for it that I would recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a multi-room audio system.