SoundStage 3 Portable Brings Music Anywhere
SoundStage 3 Portable is Monoprice’s new Bluetooth speaker that packs a bigger punch than its hefty 10.8-lbs would suggest. This may not be your father's Bluetooth speaker, but he would approve of its utility. Typical to Monoprice designs, SoundStage 3 Portable has a lean-and-mean, understated look. But don’t let its spartan appearances fool you, this speaker brings options that make it difficult to categorize as just another Bluetooth speaker. It has enough standard inputs to be a jack-of-all-sounds around the home, then easily transports to a backyard barbecue where will provide over 10-hours of continuous sound (at <half volume). SoundStage 3 Portable's sound is just as potent, clear and detailed indoors as it sounds big and powerful outside. Its 50-watts of Class-D amplification will drown-out as much pleasant conversation as any purpose-built outdoor “party speaker”. It’s so loud-and-clear that it would be suitable for use as a moderate-range PA system despite lacking pro-audio standards like XLR. But the inputs it does have make it a multi-purpose speaker around the home. Bottle Shelf Pusher
Loudspeakers are intended to be seen and heard, and SoundStage 3 Portable really pulls off the plain Jane look! Subtle in its flat black exterior, the face of the 7.3 x 13.6 x 6.9-inch (HxWxD) box presents three imposing drivers, the driver-count puts the 3 into SoundStage 3. Centered between two 1-inch silk dome tweeters is a 5.25-inch concave aluminum dome woofer. Each tweeter is backed-up by a 10-W Class D amplifier and the woofer is powered by a dedicated 30-Watts, again Class D. While you won’t find any flashing lights or brand logo splashed across the face of this speaker, Monoprice lets the grille-free driver’s visibility speak for themselves. This is a loudspeaker that can handle full volume for any extended period you can tolerate, but it’s not recommended for your prospects of continued hearing.
In appearance SoundStage 3 Portable looks and feels every bit a Monoprice in its no-nonsense build-ethic that’s only betrayed by the versatility of its input options. From the rounded edges of the box, control buttons on top and its wealth of connectors around back, everything feels solid and designed to last. The exception being the handle riveted to the top. The rubbery faux leather handle has a soft, comfortable grip that feels a little thin despite appearing to easily handle the speaker’s 10.8-lbs. The grip may have more tensile cohesion than it seems, but everytime you lift the speaker you feel the handle flex as it accepts the speaker's full weight. So far, moderate testing has shows no sign of cracks or breaks.
Monoprice SoundStage 3 Portable, found here in its natural habitat by a lakeside camp-fire pit where it may be called upon to provide over 10 hours of continuous background music.
The volume up/down, source selector, battery power and pairing functions are found in a single row of matching metallic buttons on top. Each button sounds-off with a solidly satisfying pop when pressed. You’ll get no hollow-sounding, cheap-feeling buttons here. The control-buttons main power rocker-switch in back all have the rugged feel of a bygone-era in consumer electronics. A sturdy flat-black vinyl veneer covers the MFD wooden speaker box. It's similar to the build you’ll find in the company’s own Monolith-series subwoofers. But what you won’t find is a glossy exterior, the rugged vinyl veneer has a texture that absorbs scuffs, scrapes, minor impacts as well as light. The grey 5.25-inch aluminum dome woofer does have a slight reflective quality in its metallic hue that really sets off SoundStage 3 Portable’s lean-and-mean esthetic. This is a speaker that looks like it means business.
While working on this review, I learned a bit of the unusual history of SoundStage 3 Portable that explains some of its unusual in/out features. The essential speaker design dates back to 2018 when Monoprice presented SoundStage 3 True Wireless Stereo. This is the Portable model’s gloss-finished sibling and a dedicated home speaker that runs off AC only. As a stationary home speaker True Wireless was intended to be a household speaker for Bluetooth or direct connection to common household electronics. For its new Portable, Monoprice tuned the speaker so it sounds as big outdoors as in, and added a battery that promises 10-hours of life (at half volume) and of course a handle on top to complete the portable trifecta.
Input/outputs are mounted into the back and are easily accessible, even the connectors feel built-to-last. The USB charger output seems like an unusual choice in a battery powered portable device. But it's another legacy feature that harkens to the electronics of the 2010s when portable battery-powered devices were still relatively new and just about everyone constantly needed to charge something.
True, the speaker includes inputs that most may never use. For instance, not many look to a portable speaker for a digital optical input. But we might appreciate a powerful speaker that adds serious oomph to a secondary display in the home. Many TV’s have an optical output and terrible internal speakers that could give SoundStage 3 a life outside being toted around to backyard barbecues. You can also input sources via RCA and 3.5-mm to give voice to anything from an MP3 player, turntable or audio source components. As mentioned the only thing missing is XLR-in. With its decidedly big and loud output, SoundStage 3 Portable would be a great speaker for a mini-DJ party or demo, but you’ll need a mixing board with RCA outs.
Comparisons to Soundboks Go is inevitable since that speaker is still fresh in my mind and left quite an impression on my eardrums. Both speakers have much in common including the overall PA-like sound signature. Of course, Soundboks Go costs almost three times the price of SoundStage 3 Portable, but both speakers can fill out an outdoor space. While Soundboks Go is larger, heavier and goes much louder, I had no problem finding my dB limit with SoundStage 3 Portable. It’s wake-up-the-neighborhood loud! I got to test this from the shore of a lake in northern Ontario, Canada and could hear it echo across the water. Other cottagers likely didn’t appreciate my sound experiment, but it was useful for drowning out someone’s annoying jet ski on the lake.
SounStage 3 Portable sounds BIG and full. Like Soundboks Go it provides great detail for Bluetooth SBC/AAC with digital-like acuity in the midrange. Its slight emphasis on midbass brings chest thumping power that you may not even notice only passes down to 42-Hz. The strong bass is rounded-out with a sharp, clear high-end with the crisp edges you’d expect from a Bluetooth speaker. This makes it perfect for the kind-of aggressive music that won’t soothe the savage beast. Hard rock and metal sounds like a concert while bringing booming bass you can feel to electronica, hip-hop and EDM. Of course, these musical styles are this speaker’s element. But I also wanted to hear how it sounds in what I assume would be a large, portable Bluetooth speaker’s worst-case scenario… the loungey mid-range sounds of a female jazz vocalist.
I was surprised at the life SoundStage 3 Portable could breathe into the breathy live recordings of Peggy Lee’s Fever and Black Coffee. As older tracks, the rhythm section includes a standup bass that sounds full and clear while only hinting at the speaker's full aggressive capability. As Peggy Lee’s voice occasionally tailed-off into an almost gentle whisper before hitting her vocal stride again, the sound was enveloping with a smooth display of dynamics. In fact, the experience was compelling enough to take me back to a different time and I suddenly had the urge to light a cigarette and pour myself a scotch on the rocks; and I don't smoke nor do I waste good whiskey on ice.
The big-speaker sound of SoundStage 3 Portable makes it so much more than simply another tag-along Bluetooth speaker that settles for letting you just hear your travel-playlist. It gives you a unique, full-throttle rendition of anything you throw at it. No, it’s not going to bring a smooth or warmth to vocals and though detailed, it’s the kind-of edgy detail vinyl-heads allege is how all digital recordings sound. Of course, the speaker makes up for being a single mono-speaker with a size and power in its sound that exceeds the confines of the speaker box.
A sub out seems like another unusual choice for a portable Bluetooth speaker. But since I’ve been testing this speaker, the Sub Out has been an unexpected bright-spot of fun that took me back to the days of playing around with my very first powered subwoofer and experimenting with preposterous levels of bass. I’m happy to report that it works as advertised.
I connected an extra 12” subwoofer kept in my main media room, turned the volume all the way down and set the sub’s crossover to 80Hz. With SoundStage 3 running off its own battery, I fed it sound via Bluetooth from one of my phone’s electronic music playlists in anticipation of sub-bass. I raised the sub’s independent volume until I found a smile-inducing level, thereafter using the phone as master volume control. The results were spectacular! I could add exaggerated boom I didn’t even realize I was missing with SoundStage 3 alone or through some slight adjustments, let the sub subtly blend into the mix.
The 90s big beat-era sound of the Chemical Brothers sounded exactly as it should with the song Block Rockin’ Beats where I must admit I had fun going overboard. But I also wanted to test a live performance of something less bass-centric. The Blues that called to me was Spoonful from a Willie Dixon remaster. While the added bass gives traditional blues the kick it longs for, it put me into the smoky old blues hall where Dixon once played. With a bit of tweaking on the sub it’s fairly easy to find the spot where the full frequency range coalesces nicely using the SoundStage 3 Portable's sub-out.
Another SoundStage 3 positive for fans of preposterous bass-levels is the rear-port. Having the port on back makes the speaker highly susceptible to placement and can really augment its bass extension. Playing it slightly elevated on a shelf indoors, just less than a foot in front of a wall seemed to augment waves of chest thumping bass throughout the room, even with no sub connected.
For $250 ($199 on sale), you get a powerful multipurpose Bluetooth speaker that could be the only satellite/portable Bluetooth or household utility speaker you ever need. When it comes to loudspeakers, size matters, and the Bluetooth audio market is flush with small speakers that fit into your palm and employ passive radiators for a low-end that makes them sound a little bigger. But there’s just no sonic substitute for driver, box size and a real powered woofer. SoundStage 3 Portable is about the same size as many great-sounding home theater center channel speakers. It’s going to be a great choice for portable Bluetooth sound, precisely because it’s barely portable and carries like a very hungry person’s lunchbox.
Despite not carrying an IPX rating, I expect Monoprice’s reputation for rugged build-quality to provide a long-lived speaker under normal conditions. The engineers who designed it clearly followed the wisdom of KISS: “Keet it simple, stupid” and SoundStage 3 Portable kept it simple, even with an array of inputs there’s very little that can go wrong for many years of use, except of course the question of battery replacement. When that time comes, Monoprice has a straightforward answer: A hatch on the bottom of the speaker puts you just two small Phillips screws away from replacing the 8800mAh lith-io battery to extend the life of your investment into the foreseeable future.
Its sound remains even-keeled even at insane volume levels without break-up or added distortion. Outdoors it brings a thrill-ride of a listen to any gathering, jobsite or as an audio companion while doing chores. When you bring it back indoors, you’ll have a Swiss Army Knife speaker that can fill a variety of functions bringing sound anywhere its needed. The current promotional sale price of $199 just sweetens the deal if you're eying this product for the holiday season. Imagine taking the Soundstage 3 on your family outings and making memories with great sound....
Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.
Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".
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