The Stelle Audio Pillar certainly proves that Bluetooth speakers needn’t be small, plasticky pieces of kit with mediocre sound. This pillar-shaped speaker not only looks the part, the premium build of the device also kicks out the audio with gusto.
But with a price just shy of £300 it’s not a budget purchase by any means. Is it truly good enough to fully replace an alternative home stereo setup?
Got the look
When we unboxed the Stelle Audio Pillar it was clear this device had cut no corners. The exterior brushed metal enclosure felt cool to the touch and, we suspect, is as hard as nails - not that we’ve been throwing it around. That's great for a portable unit.
Although the definition of portable can be brought into question, as at 30cms tall and just short of 11.5cms across it’s big for taking on the road.
For us it works best in the home. We’ve had it sat in the kitchen and living room running from its built-in battery and, for the most part of its test life, plugged directly into the wall in the office. In each instance it’s melded in well with its surroundings - a sign of decent design if we ever saw one.
However, the physical size lends itself to decent audio. Within the Pillar is a 3-inch subwoofer and two 1.5-inch drivers that really thump out the audio.
We’ve seen a lot of Bluetooth speakers over the years and few have pumped out audio as clean as we’ve heard from the Stelle Audio. We’ve thrown all kinds of musical genres its way via Bluetooth and everything has maintained a decent balance in its delivery. Clear vocals cut through instrumental backing, while bassier underground tunes hold onto a good amount of low-end rumble.
However that 3-inch sub does have its limitations. We got plenty of bass out of it, but if you happen to be, say, a fan of trap music (is anyone?) then the ultra low sub bass from those 808 hits won’t replace a giant stereo system and separate sub.
There’s also something to be said for stereo separation. By the very nature of its design the Stelle Audio Pillar outputs the left and right audio channels in one very narrow field, which gives it a sound more reminiscent of mono output. As expected, really.
One of the things we like the most about Bluetooth is just how easy it is to use. The Stelle Audio keeps controls simplified with separate pair and speakerphone buttons on the top, alongside two volume buttons for localised adjustment of output. Pairing with a source device, such as laptop or smartphone, takes a matter of seconds.
We were surprised to hear an Australian-sounding voice talking to us when setting up the Pillar, as voice commands explain when pairing is complete. Not that an antipodean accent was unwelcome; just another point of difference that caught our attention if anything. And irrelevant of where you are from the Pillar comes fully prepared - it has no less than six plug types in the box for charging to cater for almost every territory.
In addition to Bluetooth there’s a physical 3.5mm jack and double-ended cable included should you want to wire up directly from another source. But that’s as far as it goes. A lack of DirectPlay or DLNA is a bit of a shame, but then that's not what this portable is all about.
Although we’re not entirely convinced we would find huge amounts of use for the Pillar while out and about, particularly given the near-1.4kg weight, the built-in battery is said to last for around 15-hours. We like our music to be loud - something the device has no problems catering for - but that meant we were seeing closer to 10-hours of life. Still, that’s fairly decent performance.
At first the Stelle Audio Pillar’s £300 price tag made us think it was going to be a form over function device. How wrong we were. In addition to being a gorgeous looking product, it doesn’t hold back when it comes to audio quality. Indeed it’s one of the best sounding Bluetooth speakers we’ve ever had in the office.
If you’re contemplating replacing a giant stereo system in the home with a single and elegant solution then we have no doubt that the Pillar is a viable solution. It’s got the looks and it’s got the sound. Stereo separation and the very lowest sub bass frequencies won’t match a physically larger system, but then the Pillar won’t take up half a room in the house.