On the right ear cup one finds a downward-facing and mesh-shielded microphone port, a bottom facing headphone jack, a downward-facing mode control switch, and a very distinctive volume/playback/phone control dial that looks much like an oversized winding stem for a high-end chronograph. Basically, the Stance S1+ offers several core modes of operation:
- Self-powered operation with wireless Bluetooth connectivity (with power supplied either by the main rechargeable battery or the back-up AAA batteries),
- Self-powered operation with hard-wired connectivity (again via rechargeable or back-up batteries), or
- Purely passive operation with hard-wired connectivity.
The volume/playback/phone control dial has a pleasingly knurled surface and a gently ratchet-indexed rotary control motion, plus a push-to-click control motion that can be used to start or stop playback or to forward to the next track. The same push-to-click motion can also be used to answer or disconnect phone calls, etc.
Obviously, the Stance S1+ addresses all the expected convenience, ease-of-use, and styling tick boxes in a masterful way, but what really sets it apart is its sound. Most of us (myself included) have predetermined notions of what we expect Bluetooth headphones to sound like, but if your experiences are anything like mine then you may find the Stance S1+ recalibrates those notions in a big hurry and very much for the better. And, thanks to its available control settings and cabling options it is easy to do back-and-forth comparisons between the Stance’s sound qualities with Bluetooth vs. hard-wired connections.
Based on such comparisons, here is what I found. First, the Stance S1+ offers sound quality that seems quite competitive with the better non-Bluetooth, passive-only headphones in its price class. In short, the Pendulumic offers qualities of natural—and naturally engaging—tonal balance with a just-right touch of organic warmth, plenty of dynamic traction and punch, hearty but not overblown or loose-sounding bass, and a decent measure of treble extension and transparency. Together, these qualities would do many a $200 passive headphone proud. But the neat part is that this isn’t a passive headphone; it’s a Bluetooth 4.0, aptX-enabled headphone that’s truly at its best when used in wireless mode.