What is the Steljes Audio NS3?
The problem for any new arrival in this category can be summed up in one and a bit words- Q Acoustics. The BT3 speaker that the company makes is- like pretty much everything else they put their name to- exceptionally competent, beautifully made, and keenly priced. Ten years into their quest to dominate the budget speaker market, they also have sufficient brand recognition to now be something of a go to brand for people as well. Anyone entering the market near them has to put their game face on.
Steljes Audio is a relatively new concern but it does have the backing of the Premier Audio Group who have been around for a number of years and the company's product portfolio is impressively comprehensive. The NS3 is pitching into a serious fight but it seems to be doing so well supported and with a little thought behind the design and implementation. Can it find a place in this contested market segment?
This is a system that might not be in keeping with a purist's view of what an active speaker should be but there are some considerable advantages. The first is that the Steljes only needs a single plug to function- and with it, only the main speaker needs to be anywhere near it. As the connection to the passive speaker is made using speaker cable, there is no sensible limit to where the other speaker needs to be. Steljes supplies a long run of cable with the NS3 but if that wasn't enough, you can easily use a longer run.
The amplification itself is a 45 watt unit of Class D extraction. This powers a 1 inch soft dome tweeter and a 4 inch woven fabric midrange unit. Steljes lists the NS3 as a 4 ohm device (which presumably is what the power output is measured to as well) and lists sensitivity at 85dB/w. This is not exactly featherweight sensitivity but given that the NS3 is tiny and self contained, hardly unexpected.
The final addition to the NS3's specification is a remote control. And judged by the standards of remotes that these products are generally supplied with, a very good remote control it is too. The lower chassis is made from metal and the whole affair looks and feels sturdier than the sad little plastic affairs you usually receive with products of this nature. The good news doesn't end there either. Steljes has seen fit to include a useful selection of functionality on the device itself. You can select inputs, pair the speaker, mute it and adjust the bass and treble. Even more exciting is that pointing the remote in the general direction of the master speaker and pressing a command will see that the NS3 actually does it. In a world where most of these speakers seem to be supplied with ineffectual plastic cards, the Steljes feels like someone cares enough to do a halfway decent job.
Whoever controls the purchasing and logistics for Steljes will be identifiable by a faintly maniacal gleam in their eye. They certainly have some mental fortitude because the NS3 is available in no less than seven finishes including a lively yellow option and something called 'Lagoon Blue' which looks very nice indeed. Quite whether the range charcoal black and 'Gunmetal grey' is unclear (Apple gets away with it but I'm not sure anyone else does) but Steljes gives you that option anyway.
How was the NS3 tested?
Performance with Bluetooth
What is more than acceptable is the performance that the NS3 offers. This is a small speaker and judged by the standards of very large designs, it has to give some ground in terms of bass extension but it goes louder, hits harder and does a better job of creating a believable soundstage than you might reasonably expect. Their arrival coincided with a recent redisovery of the output of Arcade Fire (it isn't like I forgot they existed, more that I realised it had been years since I listened to any of their work which needed correction). With No Cars Go, the NS3 sounds punchy, engaging and believable.
Dig a little deeper and the reasons why the NS3 manages this is that it delivers the critical block of information from 90Hz to roughly 12kHz with an extremely even handed and impressively smooth way. Within this frequency is the information that really makes music believable and with almost every genre of music going, the 'markers' in the music that we respond to are here. The good news is that the Steljes does a very good job of getting everything across in a very organised way. It is important to point out that the NS3 comfortably extends past these points too- in fact some brief checks suggest it has bass response down past the quoted 60Hz figure used in room without significant roll off.
Performance across other inputs
When you connect the equally affordable Numark TT250USB to the same input though, the results are, if anything, more impressive. This is a very affordable pairing and the limitations of the Numark are still present but as a pair, they deliver a little dose of analogue, helped in no small part because both products work very well across the critical areas of listening. Sure it has flaws- bass response as a pairing is weaker than via digital and the top end becomes a little brighter but as a fully working vinyl system for £420 (that still has spare inputs and Bluetooth), you'd be pressed to buy better new.
- Excellent sonic performance
- Useful feature set
- Superb value
- No USB Audio input
- Some limits to bass response
- No shortage of competition
Steljes Audio NS3 Active Bluetooth Speaker Review
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