Review: Bose S1 Pro Portable PA

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Bose S1 Pro Portable PA System

Bose Professional, the same company that changed the landscape for acoustic performers in small- and medium-size venues with their L1 PA system, just introduced an ultra-portable PA called the S1 Pro. It has a lot of potential uses for all kinds of performers, but its portability, profile, and great sound should make it of particular interest to singer-songwriters.

When Bose says ‘ultra-portable’, they mean it. The S1 is only 15 lbs and petite with dimensions of only 13.1″ x 9.4″ x 11″. It’s a power amp, speaker and mixer all in one box with a thoughtful case design that makes it easy to transport and allows it to be used in a number of ways. It’s easy to transport with an integrated, top-mounted handle. When you arrive at the gig or rehearsal, you can set it up in a tilt-back position, on a table top, mount it on a speaker stand, or place on its side as a floor monitor. Perhaps the most interesting–and useful–feature of the little S1 are its built-in sensors that detect positional changes and trigger Bose’s Auto EQ, automatically recalibrating the system’s internal audio settings for each different placement/application. This helps to ensure performers are getting the best possible sound, and it’s one less thing performers need to worry about.

I auditioned the S1 Pro on a solo acoustic gig in a small room with close seating and in a large hall with a small audience. In both cases, it performed amazingly well for such a small box. For the smaller gig, I knew I would be called upon to set up in a limited space, so the S1 seemed to be a good fit. I set it on a table next to me, plugged it in and my PA set up was essentially done. Two of the channels on the three-channel mixer provided the XLR /quarter-inch combo jacks I needed. Using the treble, bass, and reverb controls to adjust the sound, I found the overall sound quality and reverb to be impressive. There was plenty of bottom end for the guitar even with tone controls set pretty much ‘flat’. A third channel on the S1 Pro provides either 3.5 mm (1/8”) line-in or wireless Bluetooth connectivity which was great for playing music on breaks, but could also be very useful for rehearsal or playing tracks.

The S1’s output is remarkable for its size and weight, but perhaps more impressive is the full-range of sound the S1 puts out. While I generally don’t put too much stock on comments from non-musician types, several people at the gig remarked about the great sound quality and I attribute that to the S1. I tried the unit with a couple of different microphones and could actually hear the sometimes subtle differences between them. Back in my home studio, I also was pleasantly surprised at how good a stage piano and voice sounded through the S1 with very little adjustment needed from the tone controls.

I can envision many potential uses for the Bose S1 portable PA. It is an ideal practice PA for acoustic musicians and singer-songwriters, and certainly suitable for performances where a large PA is overkill. With this little PA, you get portability, simple set up, and you don’t sacrifice great sound. However, if you are playing in a big, loud room and need more volume, Bose engineers have thought to include a quarter-inch line-out jack for easy expansion to other amplification systems.

The manual indicates that two S1 Pros can be set up with a mixer for stereo or daisy-chained together for mono operation. Because I didn’t know what one S1 Pro could do, I had packed a much larger powered speaker along for my gig, just in case. It never came out of the car. The S1 Pro did just fine on its own.

The final feature that makes the S1 totally portable is an optional rechargeable lithium-ion battery. I didn’t try the S1 on battery power, but was happy to see that it has settings and intelligent circuitry to trickle charge or full-power charge to get the most out of its battery. That’s responsible engineering. Also, look for an optional rugged backpack-style carrying case with storage for cables and accessories.

Street Price: $599 (optional rechargeable lithium-ion battery is $99 MSRP)

Features:

– High-output sound from a small, convenient system that is ready to perform whenever and wherever

– Lightweight, ultra-portable enclosure is designed to transport effortlessly using the convenient carry-handle

– Onboard three-channel mixer offers independent ToneMatch, reverb and EQ controls on two channels (XLR / quarter-inch combo inputs), with a dedicated channel for either wired (3.5 mm) or wireless Bluetooth music sources (offering streaming from mobile devices with one-touch pairing)

– Multiple positions with Auto EQ ensure that users always sound their best, regardless of placement orientation

– Speaker-stand compatibility, for standard 35-mm pole mounts

– Optional rechargeable lithium-ion battery allows users to perform anywhere for hours

– An optional rugged backpack-style carrying case with special storage compartment (for cables and accessories) further enhances portability will be available soon

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