The best Bluetooth speaker ever? Maybe…

I have to be honest: I’m just not that keen on Bluetooth speakers. They typically just don’t sound that great, they tend to be a little fussy with connectivity, and they seem expensive for what you actually get. I recently received on loan a review unit of a new Bluetooth speaker that I believe has successfully changed my point-of-view on the entire category, and I like it so much I’m seriously considering buying one once this unit has to go back: The Bose S1 Pro. So what’s so great about it?

Before I get to that, let me point to the elephant in the room: The word “Pro” in the name is your tip-off that this really isn’t a consumer product, and the price point — $599 — is hardly consumer-friendly. But wow does this thing sound great!

In any case, the S1 Pro is designed as a portable PA system for musicians, DJs, business presentations, and other pro applications. As such, its features are designed primarily for that market. You’ll find a three-channel mixer, for a start. Two of the channels provide XLR-1/4″ combo inputs, two-band EQ, and a built-in variable reverb. The third is used for either 1/8″ aux input, or Bluetooth. Those two primary inputs are great for solo artists, whether busking or playing a small venue, allowing one for a mic, and one for guitar. That aux input would then be ideal for adding a backing track to the mix to play against. And with an optional lithium battery pack (retails for about $99), you don’t even have to have an electrical outlet nearby to do your thing.

The unit can function in various positions for various applications. Put it on a speaker stand. Set it vertically on the floor; it can tilt back too to direct the sound. Or place it on its side and it can function as a conventional wedge monitor. With the flexibility, it goes beyond conventional PA to be a sort of one-size-fits-all pro speaker. And at just 15 lbs. (slightly under that without a battery, and slightly over with one), it’s easy to take just about anywhere, especially with the beefy, integrated carry handle.

Frequency response comes-in at a claimed 70 Hz on the low-end, and 16 kHz on the high-end, although listening to the speaker, you’d think that the low-end was lower than Bose says it is; it produces some nice, thumpy bass, despite the fact that the woofer is just 6″ in diameter. (For mids and highs, there are three 2-1/4 drivers along with that woofer.)

Of course, if you have a pair of the S1 Pros, you can connect them to a conventional live mixer to tackle a range of PA applications. Given its size, the S1 Pro is best suited to rooms on the smaller side.

But let’s get back to using the S1 Pro as a luxury home electronics product… The features that make the S1 Pro so great for PA is what makes it great for home use; flexible inputs, great sound, light weight, and portability. And if you’re a guitar player, the S1 Pro makes a really nice guitar amp for home use. But in the time the unit has been in my possession, I’ve been using it primarily for listening to music via Bluetooth, streamed from my iPhone, and for that application, it’s beyond awesome. The S1 Pro has enough punch to fill any room with incredible sound, and taking it to the garage while working on cars would eventually produce a noise complaint from my neighbors if I wasn’t careful. I also appreciated the fact that the speaker and integrated amp have appropriate filtering to keep that annoying chug-chug-chug GSM cellular interfere completely at bay when used with my iPhone.

To be sure, six Benjamins is a lot to spend on a Bluetooth speaker for home use, and it does place it firmly into the premium category for home users. But after spending a couple of weeks with one, as I said at the outset, I’m seriously considering spending the cash to have one around. And while I won’t be busking on the street or playing cafés anytime soon, having it around to do double-duty as a guitar amp makes it very nearly justifiable, wouldn’t you say?