Review: Stellé Audio Couture Pillar
To cut through the clutter of Bluetooth-enabled wireless speakers on the market these days, one would need a stiletto. Or at least a pair of stiletto heels. The Stellé Audio Couture Pillar is making its way through the crowd with a difference. The Pillar (in fact, the entire Stellé Audio Couture product line) is being targeted and marketed to women, with a sense of style and fashion blended with good quality products.
In addition to the Pillar, Stellé Audio Couture also has a speaker line encased inside a fashionable clutch – “purse” for the unfashionable reader. I had seen both of these products at CES, but I finally have a chance to listen to the Pillar and see how it stacks up. Let’s see if the Stellé Pillar can live up to its stellar name.
The Pillar ($349.99 MSRP) is available in four attractive finishes to match any high-end office, living room or bedroom – High Gloss White, Brushed Aluminum, Matte Black and Pewter. They’re all so neutral that they’ll blend into any decor. This is awesome, because the Pillar can be used completely wirelessly wherever its looks or sound is needed. While this makes it very portable, the lack of a handle, water-resistance or any outdoor ruggedness makes it more apt to be used where wires would be an eyesore; poolside, sure, but probably not as a boom box on the beach. At three pounds, it’s also not likely to be something to toss into your backpack. However, it would be extremely attractive poolside. It measures 12-inches high and 4.5-inches across.
The Pillar has Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing was simple with the touch of a button, aided by lovely female voice commands – I do believe she has an Australian accent. Fabulous! Simply press the pairing button and locate the Pillar on your playback device. The lovely voice confirms that it’s paired. There is a built-in Lithium-ion battery that claims up to 15 hours of playback on a single charge. It comes with the most attractive wall-wart power supply I’ve seen recently - sleek, rounded and white, along with a plethora of adapter plugs to make this a global device. There is also a USB jack; when the Pillar is plugged into AC power, the USB jack can be used to charge other devices. It’s disabled when the Pillar is running off its battery. If your playback device lacks Bluetooth, the Pillar has a 3.5mm audio input jack and is supplied with a good quality cable to connect to the output of your music player. One gripe I have with this and many other similar products: if you have a USB jack, why not allow audio to be played through there? That data stream has to be better than what comes out of the headphone jack, and it eliminates the need for both the USB and 3.5mm audio cable when using and simultaneously charging a non-Bluetooth device.
The top of the speaker grill on top of the cylinder houses all of the controls – volume, Bluetooth pairing, speakerphone button, and charging indicator: amber for charging, white for fully charged. Near the bottom of the Pillar are the USB port, the aux input, AC input, and the power switch. I wonder if putting the power button on the top by the other controls might have made more sense.
The Pillar is a single tower speaker, touted as a 2.1 system. It has two 1.5” drivers mounted at slightly opposing angles inside the top of the cylinder, while a 3” downward-firing speaker is vented out the bottom of the tube. I listened to a variety of songs, and could detect a very small, narrow stereo image. It wasn’t a completely mono sound; there’s what I can only describe as a “bloom” of sound around the top of the speaker. Not a pin-point mono speaker, but it would be hard-pressed to call it a discrete stereo system, especially when listening to it from a few feet away. The speakers point up, out of the cylinder, and most people will be listening from the side. Whatever stereo imaging might be audible listening to the top of the Pillar is lost when you sit across from it. However, what is impressive is the bass clarity. Using the tube design to its advantage, along with vents along the outer edge of the base and a rubberized bottom, the Pillar delivers a tight, punch in the low-end. It’s only a 3-inch speaker, so the really deep notes are gone, but the bass that is there sounds quite acceptable. I checked it out with Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling.” This great track features vocals by none other than Etta James. Her voice stands out with really great clarity and detail, and the Pillar kept the heavy bass lines from blurring or masking the vocals.
Let me get this off my feminine chest. I really wish the Pillar wasn’t pigeonholed as a woman’s product. It’s a stylish speaker tower that would enhance many decors, be they male or female. Most households have a mix – don’t make a man feel less than manly if he wants one too. I also hate to think that this product was designed with smaller, more delicate speakers because the company was afraid of making the Pillar too big or beefy. Women like big, beefy sound. Really, they do. Still, this is a far cry from the pink-it-and-shrink-it mindset. The Stellé Audio Couture Pillar is something anyone would be proud to display in their home or office. It’s a clean, simple design with voice-commands giving it a high-end edge in an already crowded scene. For style-conscious consumers, be they male or female, the Pillar has a place in any discerning designer’s portfolio.