I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Pendulumic, a company based out of Singapore with a burning desire to make headphones that will deliver the best possible value for your wallet. Something that will make you forget that you are listening to a pair of wireless cans! The Pendulumic Stance S1+ is their brainchild and this is my review.
Build Quality and Design
The Stance S1+ draws much design inspiration from Steampunk subculture. Its overall dark bronze colour scheme is a sharp departure from the usual blacks or silvers seen in other brands. They have chosen to go with a sturdy aluminium frame, and instead of having it sit directly on your scalp, your head will be nicely cushioned with a stretchable band. The headband’s frame can be click-adjusted to fit most head sizes.
The Earcups are plastic, but retaining the same bronze tone of the metal frame. Each side is capped off with a gloss transparent disc over the logo and some LED indicators. The headphones feel pretty hefty overall and they stretch broadly and quietly with no noticeable strain
The plastic sliding switches on each earcup remind me of the ones I used to find on cassette tape players from yesteryear; and the volume dial reminds me of a mechanical watch. Another unusual feature is the large size of the ear cushions in relation to the earcup. Most headphone designs have it flushed against the outer edges, whereas this one seems deliberately more exposed.
Overall the build quality is great for its price, but its unabashedly Steampunk design language may not be for everybody.
Performance and Features
The Stance S1+ supports Bluetooth 4.0 and apt-X codec for CD-quality sound. Bluetooth connection was reliable up to 10 meters or two concrete walls away. It will be remembered for being the only wireless headphones (that this reviewer knows of) that uses 2x ‘AAA’ Alkaline batteries to serve as a backup power source – dubbed InstantOn mode. The right earcup slides off and behold – A Battery Compartment!
Assuming you’re playing at 50% volume, you will get up to a verified 15 hours of juice off the internal Li-Ion battery alone. To continue listening wirelessly, simply switch to InstantOn mode for up to (if Alkaline batteries are used) 30 hours.
That may seem like a great idea, but consider this! Increasing numbers of wireless cans (at this price) are already supplying more than 30 hours on a single charge, so this feature is slowly losing its relevance. I would rather list the actual battery life as 15 hours and recommend using the InstantOn feature as a fallback before getting a chance to recharge. And I will also recommend using rechargeable ‘AAA’ batteries to save on cost; plus unlike Alkalines, those are less likely to leak into these cans!
The Pendulumic Stance S1+ features the Pendulumic Dial that combines volume and music controls in a step-rotational knob. Inspired by watch crowns, it’s a great concept that other brands implement in varying ways – like on the classic Plantronics Backbeat Pros.
The Stance S1+ is stated to feature four different play modes, but it’s really just three! Wireless, Amplified (Wired but using the Stance S1+ internal Amplification) and Wired mode. ‘Phone mode’ doesn’t really count because it’s just a handsfree function, and can’t be counted as a mode by itself. (The call quality on handsfree is pretty good though)
The headphones actually sound great, with good high frequency clarity and warm mids. It delivers just the right amount of bass for most tracks, even reaching the lower bass frequencies. Despite its tonal balance, I do feel that the bass is a bit boosted but I’m glad that it wasn’t boosted too much that it muddies the sound. Bass drums sounded full and had a nice afterglow in Jennifer Warnes’ audiophile standard ‘Way Down Deep’, her vocals shining through the center while shakers lighted up on both sides. Even contemporary tracks like Jason Derulo’s ‘If It Ain’t Love’ had nice separation and bite.
But, occasionally the Stance S1+ struggles with timing. It isn’t so obvious when playing fast numbers like ‘If It Ain’t Love’. Play something slower that you’re thoroughly familiar with, and you’ll discover that some beats arrive out of pace. Also, when skipping to the next track, you will lose the first second of your music, and the next second will come too fast. With videos you will get a slight audio delay of half a second.
They actually feel pretty comfortable. The cushions are soft and plush, and they don’t clamp down so tight. Just enough to keep the headphones in place without causing discomfort.
At S$298 (US$215) the price may seem more reasonable than most makes, given its decent build-quality and overall good sound. But there are competitors from brands like Bose, Plantronics and Fiil which can put out (at least) similar battery life and sound quality, for around the same price. For instance, the Fiil Wireless headphones provides at least 30 hours of juice at S$299, just off the battery! It also comes with comparable sound quality and popular features like noise cancelling and an app.
I like the Pendulumic Stance S1+ for its decent sound, great build and comfortable fit. The SteamPunk design may stick out too much in a world dominated by Apple’s clean lines, but if you’re open to a different take, the Stance S1+ is worth a serious auditioning.