The NS3 marks the debut of Steljes Audio, the newly launched branch of British company Steljes Limited. Other products in the lineup include the NS1, another pair of powered speakers for desktop use, plus a range of soundbars, DAB radios, stereo amps and wireless streamers – look out for more reviews in the coming months.
It’s hard to look at the NS3 without your gob being well and truly smacked. The curvy cabinets come in eight groovy colours with names such as Artisan Blue, Solar Yellow and Vermilion Red.
The design is simple yet striking, with no visible seams or fixings and minimal clutter aside from a black volume dial and small status LED on the right speaker. There are no grilles to hide the drivers either, but the black surrounds look so good that you probably wouldn’t want to.
The NS3 is beautifully crafted, with a luxurious lacquered finish and hefty build justifying every penny of the price tag – which, it should be noted, is very reasonable for such an impressively made product. They look even nicer than the Q Acoustics Q-BT3 and Ruark MR1, and that’s saying something.
Their 190mm height is ideal for desktop placement, but in order to accommodate the amps and drivers, the cabinets are deeper than your average wireless speakers.
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All of the sockets and switches are found on the rear of the right speaker, and there’s a decent selection. You’ll find 3.5mm mini-jack, analogue stereo and optical digital inputs – the latter is a godsend if you want to hook up your TV – while the USB port lets you charge devices while you listen, but you can’t play music from flash drives. Finally, a subwoofer output is provided for those who want to boost bass output.
The left speaker connects to the right using the supplied cable, which clamps to sturdy gold-plated binding posts. Steljes even supplies banana-plug adapters to make connection even easier.
The NS3’s power output is quoted at 2 x 45W, supplied by a Class D amplifier inside the right speaker. It drives a 1-inch soft dome tweeter and 4-inch woven fibreglass mid/bass driver with a two-way crossover. Frequency response is given as 60Hz-20kHz.
The NS3 is an absolute cinch to install and just as easy to control. The supplied remote sports the sort of poky blister buttons that I normally hate, but they’re built into a high-quality aluminium casing that sits comfortably in the hand.
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The keys are well labelled, responsive and cover all bases, including dedicated volume, bass and treble controls and buttons for each input. You can also use it to pause or skip tracks on your Bluetooth device. Alternatively, you can use the front-mounted knob to adjust the volume, or press it to toggle through the inputs.
The NS3s may look gorgeous, but thankfully it isn't a case of style over substance. Their sound quality is excellent, boasting a clean, open sound with bags of detail. Their neutral tone and polished presentation lends itself well to a variety of musical genres, plus there’s enough energy and attack to keep boredom at bay.
Play "Riverflow" by Tristan and the drums are weighty but well timed, while crisp, precise brass lines punch through the mix. Airy, expressive hi-hats and cymbals make the song sparkle, and there’s a lovely snap to the snares. They require a few hours of running in to iron out a touch of stridency at the top end, but once it settles down they sound much sweeter.
This is a big, busy production with plenty going on, but the NS3s stay on top of it all. Each instrument is given room to breathe, keeping the track’s sense of space intact – congestion is never an issue.
They possess all the power and volume you’d expect from active speakers, and are comfortable operating at loud volumes. There’s a touch of treble deterioration and bass booming as the level creeps northwards, but you get a nice room-filling sound without straining the eardrums.
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You could never describe the NS3’s sound as lean, but it’s not muddy or overpowering either. Taut, well-integrated basslines lend a pleasing sense of fullness and weight, but you can twiddle with the tone controls if you feel something isn't quite right.
Vocal reproduction is also impressive. With Corinne Bailey Rae’s acoustic cover of "Munich", the NS3s reveal the delicate nuances of her voice and the incisive twang of the guitar strings being plucked. Her voice sounds full and focused, augmented by a backdrop of rich, warm guitar chords.
also hooked up my TV to the NS3’s optical input and was impressed by how they handle demanding movie soundtracks. Explosions have heft and attack, while the speakers’ top-end clarity adds texture to dialogue and effects. There’s a sense of scale and excitement here that will put any TV’s speakers to shame.
For the money, the NS3 is hard to fault. Up your budget and you’ll get greater finesse and insight, perhaps a bigger, more authoritative soundstage. But on the whole this system’s impressive performance should win it many admirers and suggests big things for the future of Steljes Audio.
The NS3 is an absolute steal at this price. The curvy, luxurious cabinets have the air of pricier speakers, while their open, weighty sound makes a further mockery of the £200 price tag. Connections are generous, and with a choice of eight eye-catching finishes you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a colour to suit your room. Give the NS3 a whirl and you won’t be disappointed.
Impressive performance, luxurious design and an enticing price make Steljes’ powered speakers an absolute bargain.