Discussions about the new Bose S1 Pro

Bose S1 Pro

Bose S1 Pro 

Designed for musicians, DJs and general PA use, the S1 Pro is the ultimate all-in-one PA, floor monitor and practice amplifier that's ready to be your go-anywhere Bluetooth music system for nearly any occasion. 

This is the place to discuss the S1 Pro.

Bose S1 vs Mackie FreePlay live

Well it sure looks like it matches the specs of the S1 pretty well and I like the idea of an app that can serve as a remote mixer. Of course, the proof is in the quality of the sound. Bose has stood apart from the rest on that aspect. Also, many of the battery powered competitors sound quite different being plugged into power vs on the battery. Certainly this version looks much more professional than the prior Freeplay version which looked like an overgrown boom box.

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I reckon Bose & Mackie are in totally different ball parks!

We have a local dealer near me, in the UK., who dropped the whole Mackie range because of the amount of faulty units that they were having returned.

With Bose, you are guaranteed quality and excellent customer support hence Mackie......”half the price”!

I’ve had my S1 Pro for around six months now, the sound is truly superb and I would thoroughly recommend it.

I just went to Long & McQuade to check out the Mackie Freeplay; and honestly I did not even bother listening to it.  It looks pretty rinky ****, small and I very much doubt that it has the quality and ruggedness of the Bose. Just my guess since I did not hear it! I think you are right theonemanband

Besides the sound quality, having a professional unit that stands up to rigorous use is just as important. We’ve been using an L1 system (Classic and Model II) for years and its been very reliable. I have no reason to doubt that the S1 won’t give the same level of service. So I won’t be trading in my Bose in any time soon.

On this side of the pond, I’ve also heard some less than stellar reports of Mackie equipment in recent years. Some of their older stuff from years ago was pretty good then something changed. Perhaps they went overseas for production and lost some quality control in the process.

Still would be interesting to hear what the sound quality is. Having a mixer app that you can control the unit  wirelessly is a cool idea. 

Ted posted:

I just went to Long & McQuade to check out the Mackie Freeplay; and honestly I did not even bother listening to it.  It looks pretty rinky ****, small and I very much doubt that it has the quality and ruggedness of the Bose. Just my guess since I did not hear it! I think you are right theonemanband

Ted , don’t diss the Mackie Freeplay without hearing it!!! We’ve used one for a couple of years now, out in the streets. It withstands a great deal of handling, plus a bit of British drizzle AND the sound is great. I’ll take the Bose S1 out with me in a couple of weeks to compare. The Mackie unit has an overall volume control which Bose doesn’t have but it’s Bluetooth connection is not good, too quiet. But we have an external mixer, the infamous Behringer 1002B for backing tracks, when we need them.

I had mixed results with the Mackie Freeplay Live. I thought my guitar sounded great through it, but vocals felt like they were compressed or run through a gate of some kind. Instead of a note trailing off, it seemed to just cut off at some point. Also all of the gain control seemed to come in the last quarter of the dial. I really liked the iPad/iPhone app. Ultimately, I wound up taking the Mackie back and buying a Bose S1. I like the sound of the S1 better, but wish it had the app for gain/eq/reverb control.

This was the new one. I can't really say for sure about the volume since I never got to do a side-by-side comparison. I liked the form factor on the Mackie, and it felt like a more streamlined, professional looking product than the older boombox version. I feel like the overall dynamics are better on the S1, with a change in gain discernible throughout the range of the potentiometer, not just well above unity. I think either PA would have fit my needs in terms of loudness, although the S1 seems a bit louder on music played through the bluetooth channel. My guitar sounds better through the S1 right off the bat when used with the Tonematch setting, although I could achieve a similar tone by fiddling with the EQ settings on the Mackie (and those EQ settings, once dialed in, can be saved on the Mackie app). Vocals sound much better to me through the S1, either direct with the Tonematch setting, or with the Tonematch turned off and used with a TC Helicon PlayAcoustic vocal processor. I felt the Mackie Freeplay Live offered good value for the money, but I was less happy with the sound quality on vocals (I used a Shure SM58 on both the Mackie and the Bose). My hope is that Bose will release an app with similar wireless control over gain/eq/reverb instead of the fairly useless BoseConnect app that's currently available. 

A ar134754904610073Cooler of (Really Good) Beer vs. a Box of Surprisingly Good Wine...

I ordered an S1 Pro from B&H last week, and also just got a Mackie FreePlay LIVE from Sweetwater two days ago.  It's sweltering, muggy, gross heat here in New England right now, but I took both units to an outdoor amphitheater yesterday to do an A-B test with both units.  It was right at noon, and the park was mostly empty, so I was able to crank both up pretty high, but didn't do as full a setup as I otherwise might have due to the heat, humidity, gnats, blazing sun and generally unpleasant weather.

I mounted both speakers on stands about 6 feet high and roughly three feet  from the back of the clamshell to compare the sound projection and overall quality.  I played a variety of music via bluetooth and was able to do A-B comparisons of both while walking around out in the park at various distances and angles off center of the speakers.  Both speakers were running off battery power only, as both seem to have the same output on battery vs. AC power.

In the location where I was testing the two speakers, you would probably be much better served with an L1 system or something else of similar power to adequately cover a large crowd, but I wanted to push the limits of these two little boxes to see which would meet my more limited general needs.  I’m planning to keep one of them and send the other back after testing both and finding the best fit.  I’ll be using one for practicing at home (single mic + acoustic guitar playing along to backing tracks), taking to occasional parties and events, living room karaoke parties with family and neighbors, and maybe an occasional coffee shop or beach bar performance.  The rest of the time, it will just be sitting at home in my practice room, either on a table or on a small stand in the corner where I can plug in and jam at a moment’s notice.  I also currently own a Fender Passport Pro 150 system, which travels well, but is too much “stuff” to have set up on speaker stands in a permanent fashion at home, and also takes more time to setup/tear down with all the stands, cables, etc., so that is headed for eBay eventually.

Not surprisingly, the Bose S-1 is definitely the stronger speaker, and for an outdoor audience, would provide a more full, clean, punchy and polished, professional sound.  It had more presence, a wider sound stage, and definitely tighter, stronger bass.  It’s also more versatile as a PA system in general, as it gives you more reach and power if you are going to be dealing with larger groups.  

HOWEVER… the little Mackie surprised me a LOT.  At only 8 pounds, and just a little larger than a shoe box, it held up fairly well, and definitely punches above its weight class.  It’s pretty astounding how much sound comes out of that little thing, and even how full the bass sounds.  In a pinch, you could easily use it for playing in a restaurant, coffee shop or intimate outdoor venue such as an acoustic gig at a smaller wedding ceremony.  It would be more than sufficient for a “grown up” outdoor pool party or tailgate, though if you want more stomping bass for a pop/rap outdoor dance party, you’ll run into the limits of it’s bass capabilities more quickly.  Positioning it near a wall or even better in a corner will significantly increase the bass response, though the tradeoff is a muddier sound.  One thing I really loved about the Mackie is the bluetooth companion app for iphone/ipad.  While limited to only three band equalization and reverb settings, you can adjust equalization and gain on each of the channels separately (along with muting channels or the overall unit), and it’s super convenient to be able to adjust these thing right from your phone or iPad.  With the Bose, you either need to have the T1 connected or walk over and manually adjust the small knobs on the unit to make sound adjustments, so a big plus for the Mackie on that one.  

I also hooked up my acoustic guitar and Sennheiser microphone (both with wireless transmitter packs) so I could roam about the park and play from 100+ feet away from the speakers.  I ran both through a TC-Helicon Play Acoustic box, which provides decent mixing capability and outstanding effects, so I didn’t really test the reverb on either the Bose or Mackie.  I also have a Bose T1 ToneMatch, but frankly it was too **** hot to mess with setting that us as well, though I suspect it would have allowed me to dial in the sound on both units much better.  

With the mic and guitar, again, the Bose is the clear winner in clarity, sound stage and presence, but the Mackie was impressive given its size.  If you mount the little Mackie on a Mic stand (adapter mount peg included in the box) and crank it up out on a street somewhere, people will be blown away by the amount of sound coming from that tiny little thing.  

On one hand, the Bose is definitely portable, battery powered, has fantastic sound for its size, and is relatively small, but it looks and feels like it belongs on a stage, not in your living room, and it’s not something you casually carry around the way you might with the Mackie.  I’m in my 40s, and if I carry the Mackie into a gathering of people, they’ll say “Oh, neat, you brought a little speaker”, and then their jaws will drop when I crank it up.  If I bring the Bose, they’ll say “good Lord, you brought a SPEAKER”, and then their jaws will drop even further when they hear it.  So the Bose is portable, but I’d call it more deliberately portable, while the Mackie is supremely, casually portable.  Cooler of beer vs. box of wine, if you will.

Also, while the Mackie would look great (understated, minimalist and very clean) sitting under my TV as a home speaker, the Bose is just a bit outsized to look normal, and says “I’m using a stage speaker in my living room”.   And lastly, the Mackie gets bonus points for the excellent implementation of the companion app for equalization and levels adjustments from your phone/tablet.  

So my takeaways after 2+ hours of setup, testing and teardown? I’m even more torn about which box to keep and which to send back.  They both have their strengths and weaknesses.  The Bose is $200 more, and you definitely get that much and more in additional sound capability, but the Mackie is so small, so (relatively) powerful for its size, and so well appointed with features, that it is also hard to send back.  As I finish typing this, I realize I’m not ready to send either one back yet (I still have two more weeks) until I try them both out in a wider variety of environments.  Frankly, if I only had the Bose, I’d be supremely happy with it.  And if I only had the Mackie, I’d be extremely happy with it also.  I’ll drop back in with an update once I’ve completely made up my mind and slapped the return label on one of the boxes, but I still don’t know which one stays and which one goes back as of today.

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Hi Vike in RI,

Thanks for joining our community.

Thanks too, for the comprehensive comparison report. I'm sure others will enjoy reading it as much as I did. There's a lot to appreciate in your thoughtful observations.

ST

Thanks you for that thoughtful review. My only comment I would add weighs in on the quality/support of the Mackie vs Bose. This is somewhat intangible aspect and difficult to measure at the outset. But I would also want to factor in how well either unit holds up to serious professional usage and what happens if or when the unit fails in some way. 

I’ll be upfront and admit my bias in this regard goes to Bose based on my personal experiences with the company and my L1M2 system. The S1 is too new to evaluate its reliability as is the new Freeplay. 

I do like the idea of the Mackie app. Perhaps Bose can update their Connect app to do something like it. I know that’s been suggested in another forum post on S1 enhancement ideas.

Ted,

Don't let the EQ scare you away from the Mackie if you like the other features; I thought the EQ settings were a plus. I could set it for my Martin, and save the EQ as a preset, then set separate EQ's for my Ovation and mandolin. Setting it is as simple as listening while you move a 3 band response curve with your finger, setting reverb or no reverb, saving and naming. On balance, I prefer the S1, but the Mackie had some strong features.

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