Portable Bluetooth speakers are great for when you want to take your music on the go, but you’ll probably want more substantial speakers for using around the house. For multi-room streaming, Sonos has been the king for years.
However, just about everyone’s getting into the multi-room speaker game with the likes of LG and Samsung creating their own speaker ecosystems that can all talk to each other. Unfortunately, most multi-room speaker setups can’t touch Sonos for ease of use and sound quality. Sure, Sonos is expensive, but you pay for the headache-free experience and good sound quality.
Urbanears, most known for its minimalistically styled headphones like the , has taken a crack at creating multi-room speakers with the Urbanears Stammen and Baggen, and while we like their versatility, the company’s boxy-speakers just aren’t very good and cost too much money.
The $349 (£299, around AU$440) Urbanears Stammen looks like a small subwoofer as it’s simply a black box, though you can purchase other colors.
Even wearing shades of bright orange, light pink and teal, the Stammen isn’t particularly unattractive and remains unoffensive enough to fit into most homes. The outside of the speaker is made of cloth, giving the speaker a warmth for those who are sick of metal and plastic.
You’ll find the only physical controls on top of the Stammen. There are two knobs: One to adjust volume and to toggle between Solo and Multi-room playback. The other is for toggling play/pause as well as switching inputs and saved internet radio stations, which is handy to quickly access internet radio stations quickly without fumbling for your phone.
On the bottom of the speaker, you’ll find a full sized USB port, 3.5mm aux jack and power port. Since these ports are located inconveniently at the bottom of the speaker, you’ll have to verify all cables are hooked up during the setup process as it’ll be a pain to access them later on.
There’s also a bass port at the bottom to help this small speaker kick out some serious sound – which we’ll cover in just a second.
In terms of sound quality, the smaller Urbanears Stammen just can’t match the performance of its bigger brother, the Urbanears Baggen.
The latter is definitely worth its extra $100 as it packs extra power and clarity, however the Baggen is much larger so make sure it’ll fit where you want it to go.
The Stammen offers a nice balance of size and power and gets plenty loud to fill a small room. That said, crank it up too loud and the Stammen begins to waffle. Highs sound a bit rolled off and bass is a little more anemic than we would have liked, though you can tweak the bass response in the Urbanears app.
In terms of platform support, both AirPlay and Google Cast are supported, as well as Spotify. It would have been nice to see other apps with tighter integration beyond Spotify, but having AirPlay and Google Cast makes it so you’ll be able to get audio to the speaker no matter what app you use.
As a last resort you can always use the Stammen’s Bluetooth or aux connection.
Let’s go back to the app for just a minute. In short, it’s absolutely dreadful.
The app crashes constantly and even the speaker’s physical controls failed to respond to our inputs on several occasions. Compared to the Sonos software and user experience, the Urbanears just can’t keep up.
What’s worse is that the Stammen costs $349 (£299, around AU$440), which is $50 more than the excellent Sonos Play:3. At this price, there’s simply no reason to get the Urbanears over the Sonos.
The Urbanears Stammen is a mediocre sounding speaker that costs too much compared to the excellent, ultra-refined competition. Its main Achilles heel is its software, which is buggy and can’t match the seamless experience of Sonos’ software. While the Stammen doesn’t sound bad by any measure, it just isn’t good enough in such a competitive market segment.
For $50 less, you can get the excellent , which not only sounds better, but it has a better user experience, too. Plus, it’ll grow with you as you add more Sonos speakers to your home since Sonos has more options like the , a speaker type that Urbanears doesn’t offer.