Making Waves with the Soen Transit XS Bluetooth Speaker

Travel companions really have to stand out if they’re going to make the final cut on my packing list. They have to be small, pack a punch, and be fun to have along. The Soen Audio Transit XS (MSRP $180) Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker was begging to come on my next trip—a weekend at the beach. Was this small Bluetooth speaker up for the challenge?

The Transit XS is the little brother to the larger Transit speaker from Soen Audio (using some of the same patented technology.) Not surprisingly, it shares quite a bit of the same behind-the-scenes technology. The speakers use a unique design to maximize dome movement within the drivers and a “Momentum Port” to enhance bass response. It will play for up to 8 hours on a single charge.

What made the Transit XS a fun travel companion was its versatility, from the beach to a cruiser-bike tour of town. A rather unique feature of the Transit XS is a mount built into the back panel, the same mount used for a camera tripod. You can use it with the included belt clip, your own tripod (my GorillaPod held it in the proper orientation for stereo playback without tipping) or even a bicycle mount, sold separately. Personally, I think even the XS, weighing in at 0.6 lbs., is a bit too heavy to comfortably clip to a belt, especially if you plan to use it for active pursuits. If my bike’s handlebars are carrying the weight, no problem there.

My plan for this trip was to sit under a sunshade staring at the waves, listening to tunes, and going on an occasional bike ride to the ice cream shop or to resupply my sunscreen collection. Using the tripod let me keep the speaker up out of the sand while facing the speakers towards me—something harder to do with many other speaker setups. The Transit XS is water-resistant, but intentionally not waterproof, as the designers felt it would sacrifice too much sound quality to completely waterproof the speaker.

The Transit XS has a solid feel, and it has a sound that’s solid as well. It didn’t have quite the bass response I had expected, but the bass that was there had a satisfying impact. Slightly disconcerting was a slight distortion, present no matter if I used the Bluetooth connection or the 3.5mm AUX input. In both cases, I connected using in iPod nano, and as a final check, a Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro laptop. Pairing was easy, with a pleasant series of tones indicating that the Transit XS was in pairing mode and a different tone when successfully paired. The XS also performs as a speakerphone, compatible with both iOS and Android phones.

Male vocals had a pleasant warmth, but there was a harsh overtone on female vocals, especially in the upper range of their range. The high treble had a slightly veiled quality—cymbals were rather pulled back, which combined with the harshness, created a small, compressed feel to the higher end of the spectrum.

The Transit XS is available in a nice variety of colors; in addition to the expected white and black, the XS comes in red or a vibrant purple. It’s only 1 inches thick, and 2.5 inches tall, 6.25 inches wide. It has rubberized panels to prevent vibrations in addition to resisting damage if handled roughly; it also resists scratches so it looks great even if slightly abused.

If you're looking for a portable player with a built-in mount, the Soen Audio Transit XS is worth a look. While I thoroughly enjoyed my trip with the Transit XS, its lack of deep bass and the slight distortion makes me think I should check out the larger Transit for my next trip and sacrifice the portability of the XS.