Published on September 24th, 2014 | by Greg0
Monster Superstar: Cute, Fun, If Not Quite Ready To Headline
The problem with building up hype is that it can come to overshadow a product (or movie, book, TV show). There’s a lot in a name, and today’s piece of gear gives itself top-billing right out of the gate. The company behind it is known for chutzpah, and we like some confidence behind our consumer electronics- and thankfully there is plenty of history and experience to back up their claims. Even when, on one hand, they agree that “size does matter”, they also proclaim loudly and right up front that they offer the “World’s Smallest Audiophile Speaker”.
The Monster Superstar isn’t your average Bluetooth wireless speaker, then. Available in a range of colors, six at press time, we first became familiar with it at CES earlier this year. Celebrity spokespeople and clever marketing have kept us interested, and we’re happy to have gotten our hands on it at long last. And what we found was fairly expected- the Superstar is a solid, well-designed, friendly and portable sound machine. Like many, it has a built-in microphone so you can use it as a speakerphone. But more distinctive, it has dual drivers along with two passive bass radiators, and can be set flat on a surface or stand up straight. And, despite being impressively small, it comes with a cute jacket for some level of drop and scratch protection. It’s not fully waterproof or weatherproof but billed as splash-resistant.
We’ve seen other Monster Bluetooth speakers before, both older and newer. And while they’ve always been decent and competitive, this time, Monster has set a target on the popular Jambox line. Others, though, have already carved out that particular niche pretty well, from larger speakers like the Bayan Soundbook X3 to the smaller and more expensive Soundmatters foxL Dash7 and the Lego-inspired Native Union SWITCH. The Monster Superstar fits into a pocket and offers a decent five hours of battery life, along with the usual headphone-in, and pairs easily and offers fairly standard range. It pairs readily and we didn’t have any drop-outs during our tests. But the audio quality, sadly, doesn’t set it apart from the pack much. Any audiophile who sees Bluetooth in a sentence will ask the obvious question: it offers apt-X, right? And the answer is, thankfully, yes: but codecs and protocols aren’t everything.
Bass response is decent, but the issues began when we tried to pump up the volume a little. Movie dialogue could get swallowed up, and explosions sounded a little tinny, but everything grew a bit distorted if we hit above 70% or so of the maximum volume. Now, to be clear, this little guy can certainly push out a fair bit of power that belies it’s size. And we loved it’s performance on pop and rock music at normal volumes. But hip-hop tracks, from the classic Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, weren’t quite as nice on our ears. Andrew Bird sounded good, except for a little lacking clarity and warmth. There’s voice guidance, which can be cool or annoying depending on the circumstance. But the only real issue is the price- at a bit less, it’d be a very solid A-list supporting actor. But at $130, online and in stores, it feels a little like a summer blockbuster that grabs attention but can’t quite fulfill.