Updated 11/1/13: Soen has dropped the price of the Transit by $50, to $199.
There’s something about Soen’s Transit speaker that demands an analogy to a car. It doesn’t have windows or an engine, but the level of engineering and design prowess it attains just makes you think of a premium luxury car. It’s not the cheapest Bluetooth speaker on the market, but it is definitely one of the best, and it’s easily worth the price.
I used my Transit review unit for everything from computer audio playback to conference calls to outdoor entertainment, and it performed flawlessly. The Transit really feels like a completely thought-out speaker, rather than just another set of speakers bolted on to a battery and Bluetooth receiver.
Taking a cue from the iPhone 4/4S, the Transit is a simple expanse of black bisected by brushed aluminum. There are only three materials on the entire surface: black rubberized plastic for the top, back, and bottom, a black metal grille, and brushed aluminum for the sides and bisecting strip/integrated kickstand. All the surfaces are precisely machined and fit together as elegantly as a luxury car’s, with no discernible gaps. All the important information like FCC labels and model numbers are actually hidden underneath the kickstand, so the Transit’s posterior is even more minimalist than Apple’s products!
More importantly than how the Transit looks is how it functions even before you turn it on. The Magpro cover attaches to the sides and provides a matching rubberized surface to protect the speakers; when covered, the whole thing vaguely recalls the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The bisecting aluminum strip breaks on the back into two parts; one is a simple button, and the other is a flip-out kickstand that opens and shuts with the same satisfying whump as a precision German car door (I dare you to not open and close it repeatedly just to hear that sound).
Once you remove the speaker cover, the Transit’s trapezoidal shape and kickstand prop it at a perfect angle to sit on a desk in front of you. That rubberized surface is actually an integral part of the speaker’s performance, as it helps to provide a solid footing and to prevent the speaker from vibrating or rattling against the surface it’s on. The kickstand design integrates perfectly with the bottom’s angled edge, allowing the speaker to fold up for easy transport while providing an optimal listening experience when set up.
To test the Transit, I threw a variety of audio tasks at it, including a standard selection of music genres, YouTube audio, and a web conference audio link (there’s a mic built in for use as a speakerphone). Nothing seemed to challenge the Transit’s sonic capabilities, as music/conversations sounded great and my fellow call participants could hear me without any echoes or distortion. The small size meant I could locate the Transit close enough to hear and speak comfortably, while Soen’s Precise Talk helped supress background noise from my end of the call.
When I test the highly unscientific attribute of “room-filling” sound, I crank a speaker up to its highest setting in a medium-sized room and then retreat to a distant corner to see if it’s really all that loud. While the Transit provided plenty of sound no matter where I went in the room, it really surprised me with its expansiveness. As I moved around the room, the sound never seemed to be coming from just one place, which is surprising coming from a speaker this small.
Apart from its projective capabilities, the Transit just delivers all around first-class sound. Bass is super clean thanks to a custom-designed Momentum Port that minimizes the vibration of the speaker housing so 1.) your speaker doesn’t vibrate across the table, but more importantly 2.) you get exceptionally realistic bass. Like a good pair of headphones, the bass is presented as a clean, distinct line under the music, but you won’t be recreating the Jurassic Park water shaking scene any time soon. On top of that solid bass foundation, mids and highs are tight, clean, and superbly articulated. I don’t think the Soen engineers even have the word muddy in their vocabulary.
Turning the Tranist on and pairing it is easy, though the pairing button is labeled with an infinity symbol (∞) which isn’t immediately obvious. The Transit supports battery status reporting, so you see the battery level in your iPhone or iPad’s menu bar. Soen quotes 8 hours, which I was able to achieve a few times, and the built-in battery charges quickly. The speaker was also quite happy to remember multiple paired devices, so switching between my iPhone, Mac, and iPad was easy.
Although Soen quotes the standard Bluetooth range of 33 feet for wireless connectivity, I found a more realistic range was 15 feet before static became an issue. This is in line with other Bluetooth devices, and of course your mileage will vary depending on a variety of factors. You can take your Transit just about anywhere, but it is not water resistant.
Listening to music on a Transit isn’t quite the same as having a room full of high fidelity audio gear, but it’s the next best thing in a portable package. Weighing in at just over a pound and only 1.3″ thick, Soen’s managed to pack some incredible audio gear into a very tiny space. The speaker just launched on August 30 at Soen’s website, SoenAudio.com, and during the initial launch you can grab your own Transit with a 10% discount using the code Transit10, but only for a limited time.
Buy the Soen Transit Bluetooth Speaker
Provides: Portable Bluetooth audio with 1/8″ audio in
Minimum Requirements: Bluetooth-compatible smartphone, tablet or computer, or any device with a 1/8″ audio-out jack