When I was a young child my family living room was dominated by a large piece of wooden furniture at least 3 1/2 feet high and 6-9 feet long. Inside was the “Hi-Fi” as my parents’ referred to it. It consisted of three sections. The first section contained the turntable, the second the amplifier (It used VACUUM TUBES!!) and the third a large speaker and storage for some of the many albums my parents owned. Unfortunately, only two of those albums, Meet The Beatles and Simon and Garfukle’s Greatest Hits, held any interest for me. It was big, bulky and didn’t sound very good.
When I was thirteen I got my own stereo. It was a huge leap forward. The vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors and the turntable was replaced by a cassette tape deck. It consisted of a rather large unit that was the amplifier/receiver, an equalizer, a tape deck and two sizable speakers. Like my parents’ Hi-Fi it was big and bulky but at least it sounded good!
How times have changed. My iMac sounds pretty amazing for what it is and has a few thousand songs on it. My iPod Touch has has fifteen hundred songs on something smaller than a single cassette and when I want to listen without headphones I need only place it into the JBL speaker dock I picked up a few months ago. No, the sound isn’t as booming as the huge speakers of my childhood stereo, but it certainly sounds good enough for me.
Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to use mStation’s Tower 2.1 Stereo. It combines the physical presence and big sound of my old stereo with the massive storage of today’s iPod. It is an impressive unit but how did it sound?
I knew the size of the device from its description but that had not fully prepared me for what greeted me in my garage. The box was BIG and it was HEAVY. It wasn’t as substantial as, say, my parents’ Hi-Fi but at over 40 inches tall, more than a foot in diameter and weighing in at 21 pounds, it was substantial none-the-less.
I lugged the box into the house, opened the package and was listening to music through it within moments. The unit is a physical presence in anything but the largest of rooms. It is also a sonic presence that easily pumps out 100 watts of sound. IT GETS LOUD!!!!!
The massive sound comes from and array of five speakers that are built into the unit.
Four of the Tower’s drivers are contained in the silver cylinders that sit to the left and right of the iPod dock. Each contains a 1”tweeter and a 2” midrange speaker.
The fifth speaker is a 5.25” subwoofer that is housed in the main body and fires downward. As I said- big unit and big sound!
Assembly was a breeze. There was the main unit, the two speakers, an array of six iPod adapters for use with a variety of different members of the iPod family, the power cord (no power brick required- nice!), some additional cables for using non-iPod devices and and a USB to mini-USB cable for connecting the unit to your computer.
The main body is made of aluminum and sits sturdily on the floor. The two speaker cylinders attach in mere seconds without the need for any tools. They can then be rotated up to 20 degrees in either direction. This allows for sound to truly fill whatever space the unit is in.
The controls on the unit are simple and well-placed. You don’t need a PhD before you can figure out how to use it. In a world of ever-increasingly device complexity I appreciate such a minimalist approach!
The mStation Tower comes with a remote control that, as you can see from the above picture, looks like a throwback to the remotes of yesteryear. Almost the size of the iPod Touch, the remote works well enough but is nothing special. The range is good but it is worth noting that while the remote controls volume, treble/bass and can advance or repeat tracks it does not allow you to control the iPod’s menus.
The mStation 2.1 Tower is, in a word “unique”. During my two weeks using it I went back and forth as to whether I liked the look of it or not. Ultimately I decided, for myself at least, that it draws too much attention to itself for my taste. The sound, however, was a different story.
The mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower sounds great. The unit provides big, clear sound that far exceeds anything coming from the increasingly ubiquitous, small iPod speaker systems that have proliferated in recent years.
The day I unboxed the unit I was in the midst of a six hour writing marathon. I set my Touch to shuffle through the 1000 songs on it and got to work. The result was that over the next six hours I heard an incredibly wide range of musical types. (What can I say, I have eclectic taste!) Everything sounded GREAT. The base was strong, the highs and mid-range clear and the clarity of it all was excellent. And did I mention… It gets loud!
I paid close to $200 for the JBL onStage PIII that sits on my desk at work. At a current price at Amazon of $250 the mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower strikes me as a good value.
Were I looking for a speaker system that stands out as part of a room’s furniture it would be on my short list. As it is, however, I don’t miss my parents’ Hi-Fi or the component system from my teens. I don’t see my stereo as part of a room’s furnishings preferring, instead, something that disappears into the room. Unfortunately, the mStation Tower doesn’t fit that bill.
• Great sound and volume
• No power brick
• Easy set up and use
• Included remote
• Good value for what you get
Large, limited remote
Big and Heavy
The mStation Tower retails for $299 but is currently available fromfor $250