Anyone who has tried to wade through the multitude of iPod speakers on the market knows that the options are seemingly infinite, and that many of them are very difficult to distinguish from one another. So it's pretty refreshing when a company like mStation comes along and tries to offer something a bit different, first with the colorfully bulbous Stereo Orb and now with the lanky 2.1 Stereo Tower. Unfortunately, this tall speaker comes with a high-end price tag ($299), but without the excellent build quality. Still, for those looking for more oomph than the Bose SoundDock can offer, the Stereo Tower is a good alternative.
If nothing else, mStation knows how to put out a speaker dock with an unusual design. The 2.1 Stereo Tower is unlike any other iPod speaker we've come across, if only because it is about the size of a 6-year-old child (3.5 feet tall). A circular base (measuring about 12 inches across) supports two "legs," which, in turn hold, up the large, cylindrical subwoofer unit. At the top of each leg are the two speaker connections, and this is where the questionable construction becomes apparent. The speakers, which are shipped completely detached from the base, are meant to be rotatable. MStation allows for this with grooves in the bottom of each of the speaker cylinders and protruding screws on the top of each support leg. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to get a completely straight and flush fit between the speakers and the legs. It's not a deal-breaker, but with a $300 speaker unit, we expect better implementation. On the plus side, the entire Stereo Tower is made out of high-quality extruded aluminum, so it has a nice, weighty feel to it.
The mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower features several other physical attributes that are worth noting. First, there's the built-in iPod dock on the top of the subwoofer cylinder. When your player is cradled here, it charges automatically--always a nice touch. Behind the dock is an auxiliary line input, which allows for compatibility with any other audio source. There's also a mini USB port for pass-through syncing, though we think attaching a speaker this size to a computer would be more than a little clunky--it's simpler to just remove the iPod. Lining the front of the dock is a variety of buttons: power, play/pause, track shuttle, and volume. In addition, the included IR remote has bass and treble controls. The main power switch and the DC input reside in the back and bottom of one of the support legs.
No doubt about it, the mStation Stereo Tower is for bass addicts. The large, bottom-firing subwoofer really does its job. It's probably one of the only iPod speakers we've tested where we could actually feel the bass. Once you find a good balance between the treble and bass levels (which reset to flat after every power down), the low-end really thumps without overshadowing the highs or mids. We were really quite impressed with overall sound quality during testing. The one complaint is that the mids are not quite as buttery as we like, but we did get the warmth, detail, and clarity we expect. Plus, stereo separation was good, thanks to the fact that the left and right speakers are actually completely separate units. And--perhaps most importantly--the Stereo Tower really belts out in the volume area. These are party speakers to be sure.