2.1 Stereo Tower – Review

2.1 Stereo Tower
Company: mStation

Price: $300 US (modest discounts are available online)

When I asked a father-daughter guest listening panel to evaluate mStation’s impressive 2.1 Stereo Tower, Gordon, the dad, asked me “Is it as heavy as it looks, John.” Yes, I answered. Then Evee, the teenage daughter, asked me “Why does it look so weird?”

Gordon thought the Tower’s “nifty look” and “nice, tight footprint” were designed to make a strong statement in a living room or family media den. He predicted this one-piece jumbo speaker unit will sound best when positioned at a 45 degree angle to an uncrowded corner in a room, for optimum sound and projection.

Stereo separation is minimal with tweeters located only inches from one another. You can twist the tweeters and experiment. Treble high-end range is extensive, and the downward-blasting subwoofer provides potent bass. Gordon suggested mStation’s v.2 of this product should add extra tweeter speakers right and left, and/or include a high-quality midrange speaker in the black central cabinet column. I’m not sure about having more tweeters, but a midrange speaker will definitely help.

Evee thought 2.1 Stereo Tower has a “nice sound,” and it will be great if a color kit option is provided to match room decor or make a personal color statement. Gordon was concerned about “high frequency rolloff” until I demonstrated the treble and bass controls on mStation’s easy-to-use remote control, and I showed how equalization on an iPod or external music source can dramatically enhance the tower’s native “ordinary” audio output.

Gordon guessed this “strong sonic and design niche” product could be priced fairly all the way up to $999, which will make the company elated. He called the tower’s $300 price tag a “helluva good price, John.”

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I read through several posted reviews of mStation’s 2.1 Stereo Tower, and discussed it with Bill Palmer of iProng. Bill and other reviewers covered this product’s many strengths and few weaknesses, and for once MyMac.com won’t attempt to be more thorough or witty than our colleagues.

Instead, we’ll compare this heavy-duty unit to a notable one-piece high-end iPod docking stereo system: Zeppelin from B&W, discussed here and here.

• 2.1 Stereo Tower is taller than Zeppelin is long.

• Tower is heavier than the Zeppelin.

• Remote control for Tower is superior to Zep’s.

• Zeppelin’s audio clarity is grade A, and tower’s is grade B, which is still darn good.

• Top volume on both speakers is high, but not exceptional.

• Zep’s appearance is weird, but elegant; Tower’s is just plain weird.

• Tower requires little floor area and a lot of vertical space; Zeppelin fills a desk or shelf, but is not very tall.

• [DrumRRRRRRRROLL] Zeppelin costs twice the price of Tower.

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Good photos of Tower are at the following company URL, complete with full description of its features and specs:
Some of the latter are:

• 2.1 Stereo with Dedicated Subwoofer
• 100 Watts of Peak Power
• Docking Station-Syncs w/iTunes
• 10 Key IR Remote
• 6 Cosmetic Docking Cradles
• Cables include USB, Stereo Mini

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Guys: Your wife or girlfriend may not be wild about Tower’s tall, metallic, columnar appearance. She may make predictable wisecracks about insecurities of yours that have nothing to do with audio quality.

Gals: If you can live with Tower’s looks, you’ll learn to like its sound, especially once it’s tucked away in the corner of your family room. Become an expert with the remote control, and your husband/boyfriend will love you even more.

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MyMac.com asked iProng’s Bill Palmer for additional pertinent raves or rants about mStation’s 2.1 Stereo Tower, because Bill has had his system much longer than we have had ours. Bill’s pithy prose response was:

The 2.1 Tower, a four foot tall system that sits on the floor, obviously isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re looking for a big one-piece system with  audio output that sounds good from the top of the range to the bottom, and bass that can literally make the floor shake, you’ll love it.

This Tower’s little touches are nice, ranging from the separate bass and treble controls on the remote to the line-in port for use with the iPod shuffle. But what really struck me about the product is its price point. A major component of the way I rate speaker systems is based on how they compare to similarly priced systems, and at $300 the 2.1 Tower would be slotted against (much smaller) systems like the Bose SoundDock and the Logitech Pure-Fi Elite, which get utterly blown away sound-wise.

A more apt comparison might be with the Ignitek iCarrier, which is also about four feet tall, but in my tests the 2.1 Tower bested the iCarrier in audio quality, functionality, and physical stability. At $500 the 2.1 Tower wouldn’t have rated out as highly in my book as it did at $300. But if you’ve got the floor space for it, and if the room you’re using it in is large enough for its humungous audio power to actually matter, there’s nothing not to like about the 2.1 Tower.

Thanks, Bill. We hope you’ve caught up on sleep after covering Macworld Expo 2008 as a solo act. Nicely stated above.

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Thinking out loud, before deciding on our MyMac.com rating:

• When you want to make a strong visual statement to enhance your audio statement, this product is a good choice.

• Cost comparisons place the Tower as high value for money.

• It’s heavy metal in more ways than one, so don’t let your kids or pets knock it over.

• Versatility is a plus on Tower, with multiple iPod docking inserts, USB connectivity, and effortless remote control.

• Bass booms. Treble blares. TOWER ROCKS POP MUSIC, and delivers other genres with presence and clarity.

Taking all the above into account, and devoting another hour to critical listening, MyMac.com is comfortable awarding the $300 mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower a strong 4 out of 5 rating. You have to hear and see it to appreciate it, and we’re glad to have had that opportunity.

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