Gravastar Mars Pro review: the wireless spider speaker from space
“Gamers, manga fans, and sci-fi nerds will love this speaker.”
High quality materials
Very good autonomy
Dear as a speaker
No low latency Bluetooth
No app support for EQ
Companies can do a lot to make their portable Bluetooth speakers more appealing. They can dress them up in retro rock ‘n’ roll like the Marshall Emberton II, they can make them tough and waterproof like the JBL Flip 6, or they can load them up with voice assistants and multiroom Wi-Fi connectivity like the Sonos Roaming.
But let’s agree that if you really want to stand out from the crowd, your Bluetooth speaker has to look like a mechanical space spider, complete with color-changing LEDs. I can only speak of one Bluetooth speaker: the Gravastar Mars Pro.
If you’re wondering why a Bluetooth speaker has to look like it’s escaped from the MechaWarrior video game franchise, or why it might also look like DOR-15 from the 2007 Disney animated feature film, Meet the Robinsons, just stop reading. I mean, you might as well ask why Doc Brown decided to build a time machine out of a DeLorean.
So let’s move past the why and get right into the wow. Gravastar has created a wonderful conversation piece in the Mars Pro, which starts at $230 for the matte black or white paint job, then quickly jumps up to $350 for the special edition Shark 14, which locks down a shield and two gatling guns on the sides of the speaker. I particularly like the War Damaged Yellow version.
The detail and craftsmanship are top notch, as are the materials. The main body uses two zinc-alloy shell pieces – a large shell that completely covers the upper hemisphere and a smaller one that provides the structural support for the tripod legs – and the rest is impact-resistant plastic. At 7.5 inches tall and with a 7 inch gap between the tips of each leg, it’s not massive, but at 5.55 pounds it packs some serious weight.
The body and legs are adorned with exposed metal bolts and the legs are partially articulated – the talons can tuck under the lower leg segment for a more compact shape. But as cool as the Mars Pro’s body might be, it’s the LEDs that steal the show.
Gravastar says there are six in total, and that may be the number of actual LEDs he used. But if you count the number of individually lit areas, that goes up to 17. They also change color: you can choose from menacing red, high-tech green, two friendly shades of blue, an amber warning sign, or a psychedelic purple. And if you can’t decide, there’s a mode that cycles through them continuously, and another mode that makes them vibrate to the beat of your tunes.
My only criticism of the design is the labeling, which is on the front-facing belly portion. If the speaker is below shoulder height – say on a desk, next to your monitor – you might not notice it, but I think Gravastar should have tried to hide it a bit better.
At the very bottom is the USB-C charging port, which doubles as an analog input port. In the box, you get both cable types: USB-A to USB-C for charging and USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack for external sources. Unfortunately, there’s no way to pipe digital audio into the Mars Pro from a computer or phone using a USB cable.
Hidden on the back, out of sight, are three small control buttons. One for Bluetooth pairing, one for power and play/pause, and one for changing the LED light mode. An LED-lit volume strip runs along the top of the case like a flattened mohawk, and you can press anywhere along its length to adjust the level. The only thing missing is a way to track the jump.
While there’s no doubt that the Mars Pro’s design is otherworldly, its sound quality is decidedly down to earth. Which isn’t to say it’s bad – in fact, it sounds great considering its size – but it’s also pretty clear that you’re paying primarily for how the speaker looks, not how it sounds.
Gravastar says the two-way speaker (a forward-facing tweeter placed directly in front of a woofer, with a rear-facing passive bass radiator) is rated at 20 watts of power, but that’s a little misleading. I had trouble getting the spherical spider to pump anywhere near the volume of a Marshall Emberton, which has an identical power rating, probably because the Emberton uses two full-range drivers and two passive radiators – a more efficient design. Plug it into an analog source and the maximum volume drops even further.
There’s lovely clarity, especially in the high frequencies, and that bass radiator helps the Mars Pro sound full and grounded. The mids are decent, with good detail, but when distortion creeps in now and then, that’s when you’ll hear it.
Due to the coaxial arrangement of the two speakers and its very small circular grille, the sound is very directional. Any off-axis listening definitely loses fidelity. Sit the spider in front of you and aim for its bright opening and your head and you’ll be fine, but leave that sweet spot, and there’s a rapid dip in clarity.
I wondered what kind of tweaks I could accomplish if I had access to some kind of EQ adjustments. But, unfortunately, there’s no companion app for Mars Pro, so you can’t make any adjustments of any kind, including firmware updates if needed.
Due to its gaming-inspired looks, you might be tempted to think of the Mars Pro as a gaming speaker. But if that’s your intended use, you’ll have to stick with its wired connection. On the wireless side, you have a choice of SBC or AAC codecs, but neither is particularly good for latency, with up to 300 milliseconds of lag, and Gravastar doesn’t offer a low-end mode. latency.
Still, if you’re looking for a way to enjoy your music out loud, instead of relying on your computer’s speakers or your phone’s internal drivers, the Mars Pro is a perfectly capable companion. If you have the money and like a little symmetry in your life, you can grab a second Mars Pro and turn the two units into a stereo pair. I haven’t had a chance to try it, but given the directionality of these speakers, it might sound really fun.
I guess one of the reasons the Mars Pro packs so much weight is because it has to have a big battery inside that orb of a body. Gravastar says you can expect around 15 hours of life on a single charge, but that number will likely vary depending on your LED usage and volume level.
The problem is that there’s no easy way to tell how much battery life is left, especially if you’re using it with the optional analog input cable, as that automatically disables the Bluetooth connection.
Is the Mars Pro worth its $230 price tag? As a speaker, no. You can definitely get better, bigger and more rewarding sound from other Bluetooth speakers for less money. But you can’t – shouldn’t – judge this Mars spider solely on its audio chops.
So much effort has gone into making this device much more than a speaker, that for many people, even if you just plug it into the mains and leave the LED lights on all day, the Mars Pro could almost justify its cost on that alone. Speaking of which, Gravastar sells a $60– perfect for maximizing the eye candy factor.
So if you dig the mecha-sci-fi vibe this speaker gives off, I think you can rest easy knowing that while it may not deliver top-notch sound, the Mars Pro is a totally prop unique and beautifully crafted that will make you proud to own a planet every time you look at it.