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Pendulumic Stance S1+ Bluetooth Headphones Review

By Smit Patel

Summary

  • Product Name: Stance S1+ Bluetooth Headphones
  • Manufacturer: Pendulumic
  • Review Date: July 15, 2015 08:00
  • MSRP: $199
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now

  • Bluetooth® version: 4.0 with aptX
  • Driver diameter: 40 mm (1.6in)
  • Frequency response: 10Hz – 22kHz with aptX® enhancement
  • Sound pressure level (SPL): 121dB (1 kHz / 1 Vrms)
  • Impedance: 32Ω
  • External battery: 2 x AAA Batteries (Alkaline recommended)*
  • Wireless playback duration: up to 30 hours (with external AAA batteries)
  • Wireless operating range: up to 50 feet (15m)

When given the opportunity to review a new Bluetooth headphone, I was a bit apathetic about the whole situation especially since the vast majority of these headphones emphasize form over function. More often than not, the wireless technology aspect coupled with the design of said headphones take precedence over the actual sound performance. That is until Pendulumic claimed to innovate this field with their bold “wireless freedom never sounded so good” slogan. Naturally, being intrigued with such an assertion I was more than happy to see what the Stance S1 headphones were all about and whether they indeed lived up to their hype.

Pendulumic are an upcoming Singaporean company which officially introduced themselves in the SoCal Head-Fi Meet in Costa Mesa, California. At this time, the headphones were known as Stance S1 which Pendulumic have since enhanced with better ear-cups and tweaks to become the new Stance S1+. It is this model which has been so highly praised as of late and consequently the center of attention at many meets. Perhaps this is unsurprising seeing that Pendulumic are all about the art of perfecting “wireless fidelity”.    

What you get: the box & accessories

Pendulumic have managed to produce outstanding packaging with all the necessary details to inform consumers of their potential purchase. Inside, there is a matte black box with a magnetic latch that opens to reveal a flat clam-shell case. The case seems very firm and durable which are the needed qualities when traveling around with these headphones. Included within the box is a mini-usb charging cable, mini cable with in-line remote/mic, ¼" adapter and a carabiner.

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Build Quality & Design

The Stance S1+ headphones do not particularly stand out nor does the color scheme do the headphones justice, however, everything is subtle and ties in well together to accomplish a solid product. The circular glassed panel which reveals the Pendulumic logo on the sides of the ear-cup adds a touch of class to this overall well-designed product. Also worth pointing out are the soft leather ear-cup pads and the leather headband which are very comfortable for extended periods of listening.

In terms of functionality, the Stance S1+ is equipped with a wealth of features to give the user an optimal listening experience. On the left hand-side, there is a mini USB charging port, the On/Off/Power Select switch as well as the battery cover. The two powered modes utilize different methods to power the device. The without battery power mode enables the headphones to be run on stored power for 30 hours while the battery power allows for a power back up from AAA batteries should there be a need for it.

The right-hand side contains 3 more modes which cover wireless, wired + powered amplifier and wired. Above this, is the volume dial which doubles as a play/pause and skip track button when pressed once and twice respectively. This is an incredibly useful option, for example, when listening to tracks on Spotify.

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The choice and placement of these functional tools are very intuitive and much better than cumbersome Bluetooth models I have tried out in the past. Though not ultra-sleek, they are a welcomed addition to the practicality that these headphones provide.

In terms of comfort, the headphones do not get stuffy and the now improved ear-cups make for a more ergonomic experience. Though the clamping force of these headphones are more tight than loose, they do not affect the overall listening experience. The headband and its elastic component are also well-placed though the durability of the elastic is questionable.

Technology

The Pendulumic Stance S1+ incorporates aptX which is a new protocol that essentially uses fewer bits per sample so that smaller-sized files are sent across devices. The company that pioneered aptX claims that through doing this, issues such as latency are significantly reduced; however, there are no reports of an A/B comparison proving this to be the case. From anecdotal experience I have found that through comparing the aptX headphone to my Samsung device (which natively runs aptX) and my iPhone (where aptX is not supported), that playback was marginally better on the former. I have also found that through longer distances from a Bluetooth source, aptX-supported devices such as the Samsung invoked much less latency and hence a smoother playback than non-supported devices. Sound quality changes were much harder to discern but I still felt that with the aptX codec, clarity was marginally enhanced with a more refined treble and mid-section.

Apple users must note that aptX is not yet compatible with their devices but consumers can still use an aptX transmitter to overcome this issue.

The Stance is rated to operate up to 50 feet from a Bluetooth source which is quite remarkable. The aptX further complements this feature by supporting backward compatibility which allows music to continue to flow uninterrupted when it is not present.

Sound impressions (wireless, unless specified)

Tonality

When I first listened to the Stance S1+ headphones, I was amazed at the sound coming out of them, especially for a Bluetooth headphone. They are neutral and fairly resolving yet they have this sense of musicality which can make you listen to them for hours on end. Unlike the often too polite Sennheiser HD 558, these are much more involving and satisfying. In the passive wired mode, the sound picks up a bit more clarity and extends deeper into the top and bottom frequency ranges. However, with that said, the sound is remarkably close between the wired and wireless option which is why the aptX codec should be the new way forward. The active wired mode, which employs the Stance S1+’s very own amp is my least preferred mode simply because the sound signature becomes much less flat and cohesive.

Lows

Bass extends deep but rolls off just before the very low frequencies. It is punchy, articulate and well-controlled but is by no means aggressive or impactful. Bassheads should definitely look elsewhere as while the bass is present it is very neutral, appearing only when called for and disappearing in mid/treble based tracks. The emphasis is more on mid-bass rather than sub-bass which is why details are often missed in tracks which command rumbling low sub-bass presence. Nevertheless, bass is enjoyable and presents with good clarity and little if any bloat.

Mids

The midrange of the Stance S1+ is sweet, natural and effortless. It is neither bright nor completely smooth and hence retains this perfect musical balance. Vocals are intelligible and whilst not analytic, good amounts of clarity and revelation of micro-details add to the dynamics of this headphone. Vocals are also placed relatively forward to the bass resulting in a slightly mid-forward signature. There are no discernible peaks indicating that this can be listened to for a long time without suffering from fatigue.

Highs

Treble presents with a good clarity, sparkle and extension as can be heard from George Michael’s “One More Try”. Though never bright, high notes are crisp and cymbal crashes decay rapidly presenting an articulate and defined top-end performance. At the very high frequencies, treble is attenuated but the already good extension makes for a more airy and open presentation.

Soundstage & Imaging

Soundstage width is certainly decent for a closed-back headphone but obviously does not reach as deep as my more expensive open-back headphones. Separation is also beyond average but like the soundstage, width could be improved upon in absolute terms.

Conclusion

Overall, the Stance S1+ revolutionizes the wireless cans market with their great sound and functionality. Through a series of well-made decisions, the Stance S1+ is one of the best choices for a headphone of its nature and price. The needed enhancement from the prior S1 model delivers the necessary comfort changes to truly make these an all-rounder and versatile option. There is room for improvement however as these headphones are not the best at keeping sound in nor are they good at allowing one to hear themselves in a phone call. The design could also be sleeker with a better color scheme to reflect this product. Still, Pendulumic have set up a great foundation for their future products and venture into the art of wireless fidelity.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.