Look, I love it when hi-fi leans towards anthropomorphism. Nature knows best and she hates straight lines, just look at Devialet’s Phantom Line for reference.
I also love audio equipment that unnerves me – check out the omen, like the Dalek, Wilson Audio Alexia V for beginners. Give me theater! Give me weird eyeballs hanging from rails, sonic structures from weird clothespins, soundbars that mimic graceful sailboats or horns, and huge subwoofers that look like real cabinets (scroll to point five).
This is music! This is the formation of our identities, and we can’t all be happy with an integrated amplifier plus two wooden boxes that house a small driver at the top and a larger one at the bottom – not that there’s anything wrong with that; some of the best stereo speakers we’ve tested adopt this tried-and-true format.
But I’ve always felt that the alternative, the weird and the downright bizarre is where rock ‘n’ roll rests, when it’s not fighting the good fight. It’s definitely what I love the most.
So what better product for me than a war-damaged yellow space rocket speaker that sounds to the whole world as if it’s going to dive into my cold, dead body after killing me?
Meet GravaStar Mars Pro, in ‘War Damaged Yellow’. My first thought upon unpacking was BB-8, but as I extended its three pincer-like feet, I remembered Batteries not included (which is an older reference, but if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out).
So when I turned to face his driver-filled eyeball (there’s also a passive bass radiator in the back), the creature in Jordan Peele’s Nope came to mind – and I felt like I shouldn’t be looking at it.
From whatever angle I looked at it, I decided that this is a design I can support.
Opinion: Class-leading audio isn’t always paramount in designer speakers – but the sound here is good
As a reticent audiophile (one who gets annoyed with herself for perceiving the disadvantages of certain London venues acoustically rather than simply enjoying the show, say) I struggle with the style versus substance debate. I assumed I wouldn’t like this speaker because it’s all talkative and no pants, but it turns out the sound is way better than average – and it’s so much fun.
Turn on the Mars Pro, for example, and it will sound like a door opening on the Death Star. I like it. Then there are the three beautifully styled, hand-painted, faux-weather buttons on the back that include power and play, Bluetooth (which is 5.0 so you can pair two of them in stereo), and the light function, which can be pressed to cycle through six different color choices on the speaker grid, legs, back and, er…gills. What I’m saying is I’m already a huge fan and haven’t even heard it yet.
And there’s also a touch-sensitive illuminated top plate, so you can gently pat its head to turn up the volume of your music. At 5.55 pounds, it’s heavier than you’d expect, too.
The GravaStar Mars Pro in War Damaged Yellow is beautifully made from cool zinc alloy and my favorite design of all the Mars Pros – but feel free to check out the standard black, white or special edition Shark 14, Aurochs or Aquarius options.
I love it because it goes back to my childhood Darth Vader alarm clock (which screamed “You can’t resist the power of the Force!” until I slapped Darth on the head one morning), but that was at a time when wirelessly dripping music from a small Internet-enabled device to its spherical speaker was simply unheard of.
And GravaStar tells us that the Mars Pro It is created for audiophiles and not just mecha fans. This Bluetooth speaker has unique DSP audio algorithms built in to promote deep bass, accurate mids and crisp highs. It’s also a dual speaker design with a passive bass radiator to create full, powerful sound.
GravaStar proudly claims that no two Mars Pros are alike thanks to the hand-painting and that every speaker is the “born warrior of the GravaStar plant” – something eye-catching. It’s also no slouch for endurance with a battery life of 15 hours.
I let random stuff play from my Apple Music catalogue, and its 20W output is more than enough to rock me on my desk – although it distorts a bit when you turn the volume up beyond 80%. However, close to 60%, the Waterboys’ Rosalind (You Married the Wrong Guy) comes with a lot of detail through the hyperactive wurlitzer, snappy drum section and blues rhythm. by Bruce Springsteen Because the night features a lot of exuberance through the keys and the inimitable voice of The Boss as well.
And down? It’s good. A speaker of such diminutive proportions can often struggle, but here’s a sensible solution, providing depth, richness and fit that won’t muddy or swell until you get to the loudest volume increments – and if you love the aesthetics as much as I do , listening to music on it is still a joy.
by John Mayer I think I just feel like (don’t judge me, I swear I didn’t know it was there) sounds glorious through the strummed guitar and tender vocals. Yes, it’s a relatively plain and simple track, but it’s deftly controlled and relayed here.
I’d like to hear two in stereo, to get that extra bass punch without turning up the volume (and muddying a ringtone), but at $330 (about £290 or AU$515) I’ve never seen a speaker that likes the sound. so much visual. And given that I’ve tested some of the best Bluetooth speakers for a living, that’s a pretty big statement.