Summer for the tourists is nearly done here on the Jersey Shore and that is the best news I have heard all month; 3 weeks of scorching hot weather, horrendous traffic, and multiple trips to Toronto have made this one of the worst summers in recent memory.
My real summer begins after Labor Day when I can reclaim my beach and fish in abject silence and feel the wind and rain slash at my outdoor gear. Fall can’t arrive soon enough. Huckberry even sent me their Fall 2022 catalog early so I could add three additional blue Relwen and Proof hoodies to my wardrobe. Not a total loss.
Tyrion has been my saving grace over the past few months; life has not been kind or thrown me any kind of bone recently, but I have persisted and the realization that my mania was starting to take over my life again came not a moment too soon.
Mitch Anderson and I see the world from very similar perch and I am grateful for his support over the past few months. The stigma of bipolar disorder is real and those of us who have full-time careers, families, and manage to push through it most of the time still feel the disapproving stares through our computer screens and across the lunch counter.
Readers and the very kind people at Monoprice are probably wondering when I’m going to start writing about the rather surprising Monoprice Soundstage3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker, but there is a point to my ramblings above.
We all need something to find our way back through the darkness — music is a massive source of light for me when the mind is cloudy and products like the Soundstage3 were an amazing source of therapy.
It would be an exaggeration to call it “life saving,” because that is giving it far too much credit. It is only a Bluetooth loudspeaker, after all.
Just a very good one for $249.95 USD.
Did I schlep multiple Bluetooth speakers across the border with me to give this review some context?
Are the Toronto Maple Leafs still stuck in the first round?
That is your answer.
There is rather stark utilitarian look and feel to the Monoprice Soundstage3; which made the comparison to the DALI KATCH G2 even more interesting because the Danish portable loudspeaker belongs in the MoMa and takes up very little room in comparison.
The Soundstage3 tips the scale at almost 11 pounds which makes it rather heavy for a portable loudspeaker for the backyard, campsite, or picnic table at your local park. The carrying handle definitely comes in handy as you schlep it from the car to its setup location and it does feel rather secure as you walk with it and hold a leash in your other hand.
Compared to most portable Bluetooth speakers, it is on the larger side as well; the Soundstage3 is 13.6″ x 6.9″ x 7.3″ (345 x 176 x 185 mm) and the black finish doesn’t make it look any thinner.
The boxy industrial design doesn’t inspire in the same way as the KATCH G2, but it also didn’t stop me from taking it outside on the deck to show off to friends and family. Most people whom I exposed it to were in agreement that the DALI is a gorgeous looking speaker, but that the Soundstage3 was on par with the Bluesound Pulse Series that I have in my kitchen and home gym.
I can’t say that I agree with that assessment fully, but more than 20 people made that comment so it is very possible that I am just a snob who likes curves, white finishes, and wood/bronze accents.
The Monoprice Soundstage3 utilizes 3 drivers; 2 x 1-inch silk dome tweeters, and a single 5.25-inch concave aluminum cone woofer. The woofer looks exactly like the driver used in the Kanto TUK Bluetooth Loudspeakers that have graced my guest bedroom for almost 3 years.
I rather like the clarity and presence of the TUK, but the same driver and Class D amplification do not mean that you’re getting the same results.
The Soundstage3 features 50 watts of Class D power; the tweeters get 10 watts each, while the woofer gets the remaining 30.
Monoprice claims up to 10 hours of playtime on a single charge using the built-in rechargeable battery and the rear panel includes a USB charging port to keep mobile devices fully charged.
I ran the battery test twice at moderate volume levels and managed to squeeze 9 hours and 20 minutes of playtime out of the unit which is less than the quoted specifications but still rather good performance.
The louder you listen, the less battery life you end up with.
The rear panel features a digital optical input, 3.5mm input, and 1 set of RCA inputs. There is also a subwoofer output which I did not experiment with.
The Soundstage3 paired almost immediately to my iPhone 12, iPad Pro, and MacBook Pro (before it died), so I suspect you’re unlikely to have any issues in that regard.
The range is quoted at 10 meters (32 feet) and that proved to be accurate while listening outside; I set the loudspeaker up at my sister’s home in Toronto on the far end of her swimming pool and walked as far as I could in her backyard before the Bluetooth signal was lost.
When you move indoors, that range drops once there are internal walls between you and the loudspeaker; my signal maxed out at close to 27 feet with zero obstructions, My basement office is 33′ x 13′ x 9′ and I placed my iPhone in the corner on the far end and left the Soundstage3 under the projection screen on the other end and discovered that it worked just fine.
Most consumers buy portable Bluetooth loudspeakers for their portability, durability, and affordability. Sound quality is rarely the most important feature.
The DALI KATCH G2 took me for a loop and I travel everywhere with it; the sound quality and industrial design are huge wins and the loudspeaker brings me a lot of pleasure because it sounds so much better than any of the portable speakers I have tried so far.
The Monoprice Soundstage3 does not deliver the resolution, detail, or tonal balance of the DALI, but it does almost everything else better.
Music has a greater sense of scale and low end impact and that will matter to a lot of people who are not as concerned about timbre, texture, or the last word in transparency.
Both speakers can somewhat etched when you push the volume too high; listening to Orville Peck’s hauntingly beautiful “Let Me Drown” (Qobuz, Bronco, 24-bit/48kHz), I was completely entranced by his baritone voice and range that is not all the common anymore.
Peck can hit the high notes and that rattled the Soundstage3 when I pushed the volume too high; conversation level is where both speakers hit their mark and I fail to see the point of listening to music above that level unless your hearing doesn’t matter to you.
The KATCH G2 delivered his voice with more detail, texture, and midrange warmth and sounded equally as spacious positioned on the same table.
The Soundstage3 was certainly preferable with rock, heavy metal, and hip-hop played at louder levels; my makeshift focus group of listeners all agreed that the Monoprice was able to fill a larger space better and that it was superior in an outdoor space if you were looking for maximum coverage.
When I took the Soundstage3 outdoors and played Elvis, Talking Heads, and Billy Joel, there was certainly more range than with the DALI and I could see some heads turn in neighboring yards — which was my intent.
Placed on a credenza in my makeshift office, the Soundstage3 started to open up a bit after about 30 hours of playtime and it is certainly anything but veiled when you get the volume levels correct. It is certainly more neutral sounding than the DALI KATCH G2.
Listening in a more intimate setting like a kitchen or den, the DALI was my preference listening to jazz, classical, blues, and pop music for the simple reason that it engaged me more.
Vocals had more depth and color and that goes a long way in my book. Listening to Sam Cooke, Ella Fitzgerald, and Levon Helm through both speakers, I was focused far more on the music with the DALI, but also impressed by the clarity and dynamic capabilities of the Soundstage3.
It is distinctly possible that the Monolith Soundstage3 is the ideal Bluetooth speaker for those who listen to more bass heavy music and want something that gets their ass shaking.
It succeeds very well at that task.
Tyrion sat next to me on the deck when I returned for a short stint before returning to Canada and didn’t flinch when I left my Elvis playlist on repeat. I could swear I saw his white tail begin to wag during “A Little Less Conversation.” He will deny that for sure but never doubt a dog.
Where to buy: $249.99 at Monoprice.com (Product # 43666)
Note: The older version, also called Soundstage3, is available for $159.99 at Monoprice.com (Product # 33393).