Free-standing modern robust sound system for your iPod or computer. (April 30th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: mStation
- Outstanding audio quality. Attractive modern design. Excellent build quality. Excellent value. Very small footprint.
- The price may intimidate some, but I think that $300 is an excellent value for the system, due to the pros mentioned above.
mStation is not a household word in stereo sound, but this is my second great experience with one of their products. One word describes their stereo product line: Excellent.
The gray and black aluminum mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower is almost all metal, with thick plastic mounting brackets for the two speakers. The separately packed tower speakers connect to the system with an embedded RCA-style connector that fits into a female socket. You secure them by twisting them into place using three guide screws. With a small twist, the speakers are steadily in place. The modern floor-standing design may not appeal to some, but I appreciate the minimalist approach to its chassis. The instruction manual makes putting the system together relatively easy.
A power cable hooks to the bottom of the left leg where a master power switch sits. The unit has a soft on and off switch on the top of the center pylon. The soft switch sits beside the usual controls for volume, play, pause, and track skipping. A USB sync cable and an eighth-inch connector cable are also included. The 42-inch Stereo Tower comes with six dock adaptors for different size iPods.
The overall build quality is supreme; you fasten everything tightly to minimize vibrations, and the 21-pound system uses solid materials. A ten-key remote, identical to the mStation Orb remote, ships with the Tower. You can adjust bass and treble with the remote or with the controls located on the top of the unit. Most remotes omit bass and treble control, and I appreciate this attention to detail.
The underside of the black central pylon sports a 5.25-inch dedicated subwoofer, which offers a great deal of flex to produce lower tones accurately. The drivers in the towers offer 30 and 60-watt output, while the total peak system power with the subwoofer, is 100 Watts.
iPod SoundThe iPod mounts on the top as if sitting on a throne. Even with the iPod's limited EQ settings, the Tower sounds as if the performer is in the same room. Even with the Tower audio settings neutralized, I was surprised to hear clear, sharp sounds. Raising the treble yielded velvety ambience in electronic music and a level of clarity that fooled my ears.
I was shy to turn up the bass, because of the size of the enclosure. I worried that the large chamber, coupled with the somewhat large driver, would produce bass that would either muddy up the sound or take away presence from the mid and high-range tones. Instead, the bass gradually filled out the audible range, and produced a powerful, yet not obnoxious, thump.
More on the MusicThe mid-tones are very well represented. Dennis Lee Hopper's spoken word segment in the Gorillaz' "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head" was reproduced beautifully. I could hear slight nuances of his voice crackling as if he were speaking in front of me, while the humming choir surrounded his dulcet tones but did not bleed together. Overall, the system did not buzz, hum, or hiss at all.
I sat there for about four hours in the dark with my eyes closed, listening to music with a smile on my face. I have not enjoyed listening to music so much in a long time.
Computer SoundWhen I connected the 2.1 Stereo Tower to my computer, it enhanced the experience, due to iTunes' superior EQ. I could feel Portishead's rambunctious bass lines vibrate through my desk and chair, despite the unit being a good five or six feet away. Burial's "Untrue" album is one of my favorite collections, since it has intentional subtleties like vinyl pops and hisses, with angelic female vocals, as well as many different layers of digital and orchestral instrumentation, all of which rang through clearly and separately.
Gaming SoundGaming is equally pleasant on the system. To give it an air of normalcy, I removed the satellites, extended their connection to the base through male and female RCA cables, and positioned them on either side of the monitor. My current obsession, EVE Online, was a treat to play with such rich speakers. Ambient noise sat enjoyably in the background; subtle engine rumbling and in-station music produced a clear sound, even with explosions and shots firing. Background music also played without any distortion. I could turn up the volume to where it would fill my apartment, with little to no distortion, even in other rooms.
The price may turn off some individuals, but as a steadfast believer of getting what you pay for, I feel that $300 is certainly fair considering the overall build quality, style, and audio reproduction. This is simply an exceptional sound system, albeit, a tad expensive.