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Transit by Soen review: The slickest Bluetooth speaker you've never heard of

While it's a bit pricey at around $200, the Transit by Soen is one of the more sleekly designed travel Bluetooth speakers.

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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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If you've never heard of Soen Audio, like I never had, it's probably because it's a company that until now has apparently made the technology inside the technology. According to its website, Soen is "the leader in high-performance miniature audio solutions, creating cutting-edge audio technology and superior quality audio products for both consumer and OEM customers. We supply the most advanced and best sounding compact audio solutions for several of the world's largest TV, laptop, and PC manufacturers."

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7.4

Transit by Soen

The Good

The Transit by Soen is a well-designed wireless Bluetooth speaker that delivers decent sound in a slim package that's travel-friendly. It's got a nifty retractable kickstand and built-in speakerphone capabilities.

The Bad

Stiff competition at its somewhat elevated price point.

The Bottom Line

While it's a bit pricey at around $200, the Transit by Soen is one of the more sleekly designed and decent-sounding travel Bluetooth speakers.

The company's first --and currently only -- standalone product is a slick looking Bluetooth speaker that's called the Transit. The thought behind the naming seems to be that it's a wireless speaker that travels well -- and it does, with a slim, minimalist design that makes it easy to slip into your luggage or a laptop bag.

Soen Transit Bluetooth speaker product photos

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Design and features

The 1-pound speaker has a trapezoidal shape and one of its endearing design elements is a retractable "switchblade-style" stand that springs out with a touch of button, allowing you to prop the speaker up at a perfect angle on a flat surface, most likely a desk or table. It also comes with a "Magpro" magnetic cover that protects the front and sides of the speaker, though not the back.

While it isn't water-resistant or ruggedized, the Transit seems well-built. It's finished in the type of TPU "rubber armor" that you'd find on an iPhone case and has some brushed-aluminum trim that ups the sleekness quotient (the stand is also made of metal). I really liked its look and feel.

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The retractable kickstand pops out with a touch of a button on back. Sarah Tew/CNET

In keeping with the minimalist design, the Transit doesn't have much in the way of buttons or added features. It has built-in microphone for speakerphone capabilities but that's about it. There are volume controls and a Bluetooth pairing button -- unfortunately labeled with an infinity icon -- as well as a power switch and audio input for non-Bluetooth devices.

However, there's no Pause/Play button or transport controls (some people care about these things and some people don't, because you tend to use your phone or tablet as a remote anyway when wirelessly streaming audio).

Wireless range is the typical 33 feet, though that can vary according your environment. I didn't have any problems pairing the speaker with an iPhone 5S and a Samsung Galaxy S4 and the speaker remembered my devices and automatically paired with them when I turned the speaker on (to be clear, you can only stream audio from one device at a time).

The speaker charges via Micro-USB and is rated for 8 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels. That's about average for a speaker this size, but some portable Bluetooth speakers in this price range, particularly the UE Boom , are able to exceed that number.

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The bass port on the side of the speaker along with the power switch, charging port, and audio input. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance

For a small speaker, the Transit sounds good. Some of these speakers can end up having a harsh edge to them, but this one sounds fairly smooth and is relatively well-balanced, with reasonable clarity. It has two drivers and is described as being a stereo speaker, but as with all these supercompact Bluetooth speakers, you get little to no stereo separation.

Like most of these speakers, it does best with less complicated music and is strongest in the midrange. John Legend's ballad "All of Me" is a good example of a track that will make the Transit look good (and by look I mean sound). The vocals come across clearly and everything sounds smooth -- like you're listening to a bigger speaker. The same is true for video watching (and by watching I mean listening to soundtracks).

Hit the Transit with some techno or hip hop and it does well enough at more modest volume levels, but crank it up and the sound quality dips, fraying a bit at the edges as the speaker is pushed to its limits.

The low end holds together fairly well at higher volumes, but the speaker just doesn't have all that much kick to it. And while it plays pretty loud and filled my small office with sound, it sounded more subdued in a larger room. It's also worth mentioning that you really have to be standing directly in front of it to get the best sound -- it's pretty directional.

Ultimately, the bass performance and overall sound simply don't measure up to that of the Bose SoundLink Mini . That speaker isn't as travel-friendly as this one, but it is a notch up in terms of sound quality.

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The speaker with its magnetic cover attached. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion

In all, I liked the Transit. It's a really nice little speaker that makes for a good traveling companion. The only problem is that for the same price you can pick up the equally slick and even more impressive sounding Bose SoundLink Mini , as well as the UE Boom, which offers even bigger sound and a water-resistant design. It's hard to give this speaker the nod over those models, but as I said, it's well-designed and worth considering, particularly if you're a frequent traveler.

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7.4

Transit by Soen

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Sound 7Value 7
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