Bose has developed a number of portable P.A.s over the years with its L1 series, but the S1 Pro Multi-Position P.A. System, released this past spring, represents the most affordable system yet—and it still offers sound quality worthy of the Bose nameplate on the front.
The unit is intended for solo performers. Putting the S1 Pro through its paces, I was duly impressed. Using it while entertaining small to mid-sized crowds in various settings, the unit delivered in terms of sound quality, range and portability. Over the course of this review, I used it to cover crowded dive bars, private homes and a spacious catering hall. In each case, I was pleased with the sound it delivers.
Weighing just under 16 pounds, the S1 Pro measures 13 x 9.5 x 11.2 inches (HWD) and is shaped to allow different uses. Vertically, you can put it on a stand or elevated surface, but the enclosure’s rear side is cut so you can also place it in Tilt-Back mode, where it sits at an angle without having to be propped up—useful if you have to place the system on the ground, aimed at a close-range audience. Its shape is also conducive to being laid horizontally for use as a monitor wedge. No matter how you’re using it, built-in sensors can tell what position the S1 is in and adjust Auto EQ to provide an optimal tonal balance for that use.
Despite its relatively small size and many-angled shape, the enclosure has a three-channel mixer built into its side. Each channel has its own volume knob and signal/clip indicator. Channels 1 and 2 are a pair of clearly defined, user-friendly combo-XLR inputs, which made setting up my keyboard and microphone prior to gigs quick and easy. Both channels have their own reverb, bass and treble controls, along with separate volume knobs for each individual input, making it simple to adjust during and between songs. Each of the two channels also has a ToneMatch selector button that lets you pick optimized presets for vocal mics and acoustic guitars; the mic preset brought out my vocal nicely, providing a balance that I’d long sought.
Channel 3 is an auxiliary 3.5mm input; connecting my cell phone to the unit, I could feed my Spotify playlists directly into the S1 during breaks. That said, perhaps my favorite feature is the ability to wirelessly and remotely use Bluetooth technology to accomplish the same functionality as the auxiliary input.
Additionally, once I synched my smartphone to the S1 Pro using Bluetooth, I was able to use advanced settings to control the bass, treble and other effects. This was particularly useful to counteract changes in the volume or quality of the sound on songs playing through the Bluetooth connection.
Due to its compact size and shape, the S1 Pro can be set up almost anywhere. When using it at a private party on a client’s front lawn, I was able to situate the unit on a narrow windowsill. In other settings, such as a piano bar and restaurant, I angled the S1 Pro in the Tilt-Back position, using it as both a monitor and a P.A.
The S1 Pro can also be mounted on standard speaker stands, which allows the sound to travel farther, as it did when I played at a large banquet hall with over 2,000 people roaming back and forth between the interior and exterior of the venue. The S1 Pro provided high output, ensuring the keys and vocals traveled well while maintaining clarity. More than once, passers-by commented, “Where is your sound system? I don’t see anything!”
The unit has an AC power cable but also comes with a removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, able to hold up to 11 hours’ worth of charge. The S1 Pro will automatically charge the battery when plugged into a wall, but a special Quick Charge setting, only available when the speaker is not in use, can be used to speed up the process. Worth mentioning, a pair of S1 Pros can be daisy-chained together in mono using a TRS 1/4” cable; I didn’t try this out as I had only the one unit to review.
While lightweight and small in size, the S1 Pro offers considerable volume, detailed audio and smart features for an MSRP of $599, making it the company’s first portable P.A. under $1,000. My vocals have never sounded better live than through the S1 Pro—so much so that it’s hard to imagine using a traditional amplifier or speaker again.
Jordan Kaplan has provided live music for private and public events throughout the New York City area, both solo and with his band, GiftBox, for more than 30 years.
Bose • pro.bose.com