[Update January 28, 2015: Although the review unit I received did include NFC for Bluetooth pairing, this was not included in the final shipping product. The Tech Details section below has been updated accordingly.]
I loved Soen’s original Transit speaker enough that it’s still my go-to speaker for around-the-house listening. It’s slim enough to fit on a window ledge, but it still fills a room with its expansive sound. While already diminutive, the Transit does best when it’s got a nice, flat, stable surface on which to work. Recently, Soen introduced the Transit XS on Kickstarter to give you a ruggedized and more portable version of sound. So what kind of punch does this pint-sized speaker pack?
Take it Away
I compared the original Soen Transit to a luxury automobile, and the metaphor is apt given that the Transit’s kickstand-dependent design means it only works on a solid surface like a table, desk, or bookshelf. Transit XS has a much more rugged and practical design—it sits flat rather than leaning at an angle on a kickstand, and it’s got a bevy of options for mounting/carrying. There’s a ¼” tripod mount out back so you can use it virtually anywhere.
Soen includes a multiuse belt clip and lanyard with the Transit XS, and there’s a bike mount available through their online store as well. With the rise of the Gorillapod and GoPro accessories there are thousands of options from helmet mounts to suction cups to octopus-looking things that you can attach anywhere, then attach your Transit XS via the tripod mount. The fact that the Transit XS is just over half a pound helps, too; it’s got a much smaller shape and is easier to transport in a pocket, bag, or clipped to something with a carabiner.
Luxury design is Soen’s visual hallmark, and once you power on the Transit XS you’ll be able to hear their signature audio, too. The tiny speaker starts up with the familiar Soen riff, and it pairs lightning fast. From there you get an expansive sound that’s unexpected from a speaker this small. It’s not just loud, though; the sound is precise, sharp, and detailed—everything you hear is crystal clear from a device not much bigger than a couple iPhones. The partially splash resistant design is a smart tradeoff if you’re not likely to be regularly submerging your speaker (a completely sealed speaker wouldn’t provide such excellent sound).
I tested my usual lineup of songs that highlight bass tracks, vocal performance, classical, and jazz, and found the Transit XS more than up to the task. It’s not a room filling wonder like the larger Transit, but the precise sound works perfectly in the back of an SUV for a tailgate or around a picnic table. You don’t just have to use it outdoors, either; there’s a built-in mic for speakerphone calls, and the Transit XS works just as well on a conference table as it does strapped to a backpack.
There’s NFC built in so you can tap-to-connect, but I was able to easily pair with all my iDevices using the standard iOS Settings option, and the pairing process rarely took more than a second.. One of my only issues with the original Transit was its substandard Bluetooth range, which I’m happy to say Soen’s fixed in the Transit XS. The battery is good for at least eight hours of play time, and you recharge it via micro USB (cable included). Soen’s also used a better battery indicator that has four LEDs to show the charge level, showing the current level both during playback and while charging.
Up top there’s volume up and down, with Soen’s multiuse infinity-symbol button for pairing, play/pause, and call answer functions. If you’ve got a non-Bluetooth device you can use the included aux-in cable to the standard 3.5mm aux jack. Using the aux-in I was able to get even better than 8 hours of battery life.
You can get a Transit XS in black, red. blue, purple, or white, though I still think the black looks the best—it still has a very dignified premium look.
The Transit XS is a tradeoff between rugged speaker tech and amazing sound. Soen’s speaker isn’t for the super hardcore outdoors person who intends to bounce it down the side of a mountain or dunk it in the pool. If that’s a situation in which you might find yourself, a different speaker is in order. If you want something to take on family camping trips, biking, or just backyard parties, the Transit XS is the perfect fit.
Buy the Soen Transit XS
Provides: Bluetooth wireless splash-resistant audio playback, speakerphone, and tripod-mount
Compatibility: Bluetooth-enabled music player or device with headphone out