Truth be told, when I took Monster Superstar S100 ($60) out its box, I didn't have high hopes for it. That's because when it comes to tiny Bluetooth speakers, my expectations -- particularly when it comes to sound quality -- are usually pretty low. (It costs £100 in the UK, and doesn't appear to be available in Australia, where the US price converts to about AU$80.)
But it turns out this is a decent mini Bluetooth speaker. While it's small enough to fit within the palm of your hand, it feels substantial enough, weighing in at 0.45 pound or 204 grams. It's fully waterproof (it has an IPX7 rating which means it can be fully submerged) and has a set of rubber feet on the bottom so it doesn't move around when you crank the volume.
The features list is pretty basic. There's an integrated microphone for speakerphone calls (callers said they could hear me fine) and underneath a gasket on the side of the speaker you'll find the Micro-USB charging port and an audio input. A lanyard is included so you can attach the speaker to your backpack or hang it from a tree branch -- or anything you can hook the lanyard on to.
The multifunction button on the speaker allows you to turn the speaker on, pause and play tracks and answer and end calls, but there are no volume controls or track skip buttons -- you have to control playback remotely through your Bluetooth-enabled device.
On Monster's website, the speaker's battery life is rated at "6+ hours of continuous playback." However, the box says you can get up to 9 hours. From my experience, I'd say that if you're playing music at medium to high volume, you're looking at 6 hours. At lower volumes, you'll do better.
As for sound, Monster's done a good job creating a tiny speaker that plays pretty loudly without distorting when you push the volume to the max. Often with these little speakers you feel that if you take the volume to 10, you're over-driving the speaker; it just can't handle it without distorting. But the Superstar S100 holds together whether well while filling a small room -- we're talking dorm room, kitchen or bathroom -- with sound.
It doesn't have a lot of bass but it does have enough. I played Alt-J's "3WW," one of our bass test tracks, and the speaker was able to go reasonably deep, considering its small size. It sounded OK, which is all you can ask when it comes to these tiny speakers.
The more expensive Bose SoundLink Micro plays a little louder, produces a little more bass and also has a better design. But, as I said, the Superstar S100 is a decent little Bluetooth speaker that's comparable to the Sony SRS-XB10. The XB10 also lists for around $60 but frequently dips below $50 and sometimes hits $40. Eventually, that's where this speaker needs to be priced to gain any real traction. In other words, it's good, but not that good.