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Pendulumic Stance S1+ review: A winning Bluetooth headphone that focuses on features

You may have never heard of Pendulumic, but its Stance S1+ is a feature-packed wireless headphone that avoids the sophomore slump.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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There are a lot of so-called premium Bluetooth headphones in the $250-$500 range, but what if you don't want to spend that much for a top-notch wireless headphone?

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7.7

Pendulumic Stance S1+

The Good

The reasonably priced Pendulumic Stance S1+ offers good performance for a Bluetooth headphone, it seems well-built and is comfortable to wear. Rechargeable battery life is strong, and you also get a AAA backup battery option not found on other Bluetooth headphones. A nice carrying case is included.

The Bad

The design won't appeal to everyone; sound quality, while good, exhibits some treble push; fairly heavy with backup AAA batteries installed.

The Bottom Line

While it doesn't quite fulfill its promise as an audiophile Bluetooth headphone, the Pendulumic Stance S1+ is a comfortable wireless headphone that sounds good for the money and offers strong battery life.

Enter Pendulumic, a headphone company you've probably never heard of, that's billing its Stance S1+ as an affordable audiophile wireless headphone that's a better value than the Sony MDR-1RBT, Beats Studio Wireless , Parrot Zik 2.0 , Beats Solo 2.0 Wireless , and the Philips Fidelio M1BT, among others.

At $200 USD, in many ways it is.

If you purchase the Stance S1+ on Pendulumic's website, the company will ship it to many locations around the world with the shipping charges included in the purchase price. That's $269 for UK and European customers (about £181) and $239 for those in Australia and New Zealand (about AU$313).

Note, too, that this is a slight upgrade to the original Pendulumic S1. Make sure you're getting the newer, better S1+ reviewed here.

The full-size, over-ear headphone is comfortable to wear and seems well built, with a sturdy metal headband and plush, memory-foam-equipped earpads. I can't say its design is going to turn heads, which is a polite way of saying it's not the most stylish-looking headphone. But it's not ugly and its straightforward, utilitarian aesthetic may be appealing to some.

On another positive note, it has some extra interesting features. Those include a backup AAA battery option that kicks in if the built-in rechargeable battery dies and an analog knob to adjust volume. The two AAA batteries do add some weight to the package, and at 11.2 ounces (318 grams), it's a fairly heavy headphone, weighing about what the original Parrot Zik did. Of course, if you want to lighten things up, you can take out the backup batteries or just carry them in your bag.

The Pendulumic Stance S1 is equipped with several buttons and includes a backup battery option. Sarah Tew/CNET

I like that analog knob -- the design works well to adjust the volume blindly (by feel alone) -- but it is a moving part and if you do something clumsy, like drop the headphone and it hits the floor, knob first, it might break off. I would never do that, but it happens to the best of us.

That knob is also used to pause playback and advance tracks forward and back, as well as answer and make calls. Yes, there's a built-in microphone -- it works well for making cell phone calls, but headphones like the Beats Studio Wireless and Zik 2.0 have a couple of mics that help keep out ambient noise while allowing you to hear your own voice as you speak (as a result, you end up speaking normally instead of too loudly).

You can also listen to the headphone in wired mode, with or without amplification, and it's equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 and AptX support for compatible devices. (AptX is supposed to improve the sound quality of Bluetooth streaming, but it's unclear how much of a difference it makes.) There is no active noise-cancellation.

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What you get in the box. Sarah Tew/CNET

I had no problem pairing the headphone initially, and it re-paired when I turned it on and had my phone in range (it's supposed to have extended wireless range of about 50 feet or 15m instead of 30 feet or 10m). I experienced the occasional Bluetooth hiccup, but in all, my connection was generally steady.

In terms of other extras, the headphone comes with a decent carrying case and a little pouch to store the included cable and charging cord. For the money, it's a nice little package.

Battery life is rated at an impressive 30 hours. And, as I said, you can do even better with the backup battery if need be.

Since the headphone has a lot of buttons on it, it's a little confusing to figure out what does what at first. You get the hang of it after using the headphone for a while, but expect to consult the manual a few times.

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The headphone features nicely padded earcups and a comfortable headband. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

I thought the sound quality was very good for a Bluetooth headphone, though I wouldn't call it stellar overall. We compared it with the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth headphone, a $250 on-ear wireless model and the Beats Studio Wireless, which costs around $350. The Pendulumic had a bit more open sound than the Bose, but it's a tad bright (some treble push) and we noted some sibilance in vocals (midrange).

Both the Bose and Beats offer slightly smoother sound with slightly punchier bass and a warmer midrange. While the Pendulumic is the same ballpark soundwise, the Bose and Beats are just a little more pleasant to listen to.

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The headphones fold flat. Sarah Tew/CNET

Like a lot of Bluetooth headphones, the Pendulumic can't handle complicated rock tracks well, and it's a little loose in the bass (audiophiles will find it slightly lacking in clarity). I should mention that Pendulumic has allegedly improved the sound in this new "plus" version, with deeper bass. I didn't try the original Stance S1, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the headphone I tested isn't short on low end.

As for wired mode, you gain a touch more clarity -- and the Stance S1+ performed decently as a wired headphone -- but you still encounter the aforementioned sibilance. The long and short of it is that while I wouldn't describe this as an exceptionally good wired headphone at least it sounds slightly better in wired mode. Not all wireless headphones do.

Conclusion

Overall, I liked the Pendulumic Stance S1+. I don't know if it quite fulfills its promise as an audiophile headphone, but it does sound quite decent for a Bluetooth headphone in general, matching up pretty well against other wireless headphones in its price range or higher. It's also comfortable to wear, has excellent battery life, and has some interesting extra features. Its design may not be for everybody, but in all, it's a nice start for Pendulumic.

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7.7

Pendulumic Stance S1+

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Sound 7Value 8
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