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Wireless or wired headphones? Yes!

by Phil O'Keefe

 

Like many musicians (and the rest of modern society) you probably spend a considerable amount of time tied to your mobile devices. Whether for business calls, watching content on YouTube or social media sites during your downtime, recording song ideas or just listening to music, such devices have become essential and valued companions to our daily lives. But what about sound? The onboard speakers are generally pretty dreadful, and the earbuds that come with these devices are usually not much better. Is there a headphone that can give you studio quality sound while also providing the modern mobile-oriented tools and conveniences that you need? That's what Pendulumic has set out to accomplish with their new Stance S1+ headphones.






What You Need To Know

  • I hadn't heard of Pendulumic before doing this review. The substantial box packaging indicates that the headphones were "Designed in Singapore, Responsibly Produced in China," and not much else. The Stance S1+ has slightly larger ear pads and increased bass compared to the original Stance S1. 
    .

  • The Stance S1+ functions as a wireless Bluetooth headphone, or as a wired headphone with somewhat better fidelity. The look is rather utilitarian; certainly not as flashy as some competitors that put more attention into design and style than sonics. Still, I think they look pretty cool, with a kind of stripped-down Steampunk vibe due to the deep bronze color.

  • The Stance S1+ has four modes of operation: Reference Wired, Amplified Wired, Wireless and Phone, as selected with a three-position sliding Mode Selection switch on the left ear cup (and of course by whether or not you have a cable attached). Reference Wired mode is always available, even with depleted batteries. Amplified Wired mode uses the built-in amplifier for more volume.




  • The jack for the included cable is located next to the Mode Selection switch on the right ear cup. Also nearby is a small built-in microphone, which is used with Phone mode when using the Stance S1+ wirelessly. The black cloth-covered cable is about 55 inches long and has a iOS style play/pause/answer button and mic inline about half a foot from the headphone end of the cable. You also get a 1/8" to 1/4" and airline style double-plug adapters for the other end of the cable, a mini USB cable for charging the onboard battery, along with a very nice zippered case for everything.  






  • The left ear cup has a three-position power switch, with off positioned in between "on" settings for the built-in and AAA batteries. A pair of multi-color LEDs on the face of the right ear cup indicates when the unit is powered up, when power is low, when the battery is charging or finished charging, and when it's tethered to a Bluetooth device. Pairing to my iPad and iPhone was easy, and the wireless range is quite good. Pendulumic claims the range is extended from the typical 30 feet up to 50 feet, which was confirmed with my own testing. I was able to roam around the various rooms of my house while leaving the iPhone I was tethered to in my office without experiencing dropouts.

  • There's also a micro USB connector on the bottom of the left ear cup for recharging the internal battery. Charging takes around three hours which is surprisingly fast, especially considering the length of time you get for playback when it is fully charged.

  • On the right ear cup, another three-position switch selects amongwired operation with or without the amplifier, as well as wireless mode. A multi-purpose knob that Pendulumic calls the "Pendulumic Dial" is also located on this ear cup. It functions as a volume control, but also as a multi-function push switch that is similar in function to the inline switch you'll find on Apple's ear buds. A single push can be used to answer (or disconnect from) a phone call, while pressing and holding it for six seconds causes the current song to repeat. A quick double press advances you to the next song.




  • If you turn the volume up to the maximum, a beep tone notifies you, which is a nice touch. Another nice touch is that the Stance S1+ can sit flat on your desk when you're not wearing them.
  • The Stance S1+ uses Bluetooth 4.0 and aptX®, which is supposed to improve sound quality. Whether or not this is the reason for the improved sound quality compared to most Bluetooth headphones is debatable, but they do sound significantly better than previous generation Bluetooth cans I've tried.

  • As you'd expect from a Bluetooth headphone, the Stance S1+ has a built-in rechargeable battery, but unusually you can also use a pair of 1.5V AAA batteries. These serve as a back-up to the internal battery and when used together, provide for up to 30 hours of continuous playback. The battery compartment is hidden behind a twist-off panel on the left ear cup.



 

  • The construction seems solid enough for their intended uses, with a steel self-adjusting headband design, padded leatherette band, and soft memory foam filled ear pads that go "around" your ears rather than sitting and pressing directly on them. You can adjust the side ear cups up or down through four clickable positions, giving you about 3/4" of adjustment range on each side. The ear cups themselves are made from a bronze-colored plastic that looks like metal. The Stance S1+ uses a closed-back design.  



Limitations

  • The bass is a bit on the soft side in terms of detail and impact. It's not that it's not there, but it's not quite as defined as you'll find in some high-end studio headphones, nor as refined; which is to say that by modern "over-hyped" consumer standards, they're considerably less pushed in the lows.
  • The highs are also slightly subdued, but again, this is minor - especially by Bluetooth headphone standards. The midrange represented well with these headphones.

  • They're a bit heavier than most mobile consumer headphones, but really not too bad by studio standards. You can reduce the weight by not installing the AAA batteries and carrying them in your bag or pocket instead.  

  • While reasonably comfortable, some users with larger heads or bigger pinnae (outer ears) may wish for larger ear cups and a touch more headband adjustment range. Having said that, they're surprisingly comfortable mobile-friendly headphones.

  • You don't hear your own voice over the headphones when using the Stance S1+ for phone and Skype calls. Additionally, the onboard microphones aren't likely to win any awards for clarity and sonic excellence, and are really not suitable for high-quality recording purposes.
     
  • Isolation is only fair, and not as good as you'll get with the best closed-back studio headphones.

 



Conclusions

These headphones are really a good value. They're not as expensive as many studio headphones and quite a bit less expensive than some of their consumer-oriented competitors, yet they can work well for tracking (as long as you don't crank the levels too hot or get too close to the mic, which can pick up some modest bleed). They can even work for light mixing duties once you learn their characteristic sound. For on-the-go use, they're great companions. Their impressive battery life means you can use them all day and all night, and they'll still be rockin' when the sun comes up the next morning. The rechargeable battery plus AAA backup is a very cool idea not just because of the extended play time, but because you can keep going indefinitely as long as you have a steady supply of AAA batteries available to toss into the battery compartment. The Bluetooth sound quality is better than any other Bluetooth headphones I've tried, and the wired sound of the Stance S1+ is noticeably better. 

As a right-handed guitarist, I love that the headphone cable attaches to the right ear cup instead of the left. I know it's backwards from the norm, but I find the cable tends to stay out of my way better when it's on that side. Of course the best way to deal with cables is to not have to use any, and it's a joy to be able to go wireless without having to make huge compromises in sound quality. And at the end of the day, that's a really big deal - finally there's a pair of headphones with sound quality that approaches good studio cans, but with the added option of Bluetooth wireless freedom. Add in all the other cool features and these are bound to do well with music fans and musicians alike.


Resources

Pendulumic S1+ Bluetooth headphones ($199.00 MSRP, available directly from Pendulumic )


Pendulumic's product web page

Buy these headphones at Amazon









Specifications:

Type: Closed back circumaural wired or Bluetooth wireless headphones

Bluetooth version: 4.0 with aptX

Driver Diameter: 40mm

Frequency response: 15Hz - 22kHz (10Hz - 24kHz with aptX enhancement)

SPL: 110dB (1kHz / Vrms)

Impedance: 32 ohm

External battery: 2x AAA alkaline batteries (not included)

Wireless operating range: Up to 50 feet

Weight: 11.6 ounces (without cable or accessories)


__________________________________________________



Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines. 

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