Ministry of Sound started in Elephant and Castle and now has a global presence as a clubbing-'n'-compilations giant. And yet despite building an empire on having a great sound system, one thing it's never done terribly well is audio products. Does the S Plus, the first in the new line of Bluetooth and multi-room speakers from Ministry of Sound Audio correct that bum note?
The first thing to note about the S Plus is that, like the rest of the range, it's made by the same company who do Ted Baker's generally excellent line of audio products. Ministry's sonic experts are said to be heavily involved with the process of subsequently tuning the speakers and the results are actually very strong.
Now, this may come as a surprise to some of you, who may well view Ministry as more of a brand than a musical entity. However, if you hate dance music, would never dream of going clubbing in Elephant and Castle, and consider the brand to be over-exposed and vulgar, there is one thing you should know, and that is that its sound system is very, very good. Exceptional, even.
In fact, when Ministry opened - before it even had a drinks license, if you can imagine that - it was almost beyond belief how good it was, especially when compared to the systems found in most European clubs of that era. Ministry, in that sense, is a brand built on great audio.
As such, the S Plus supports A2DP, to wring the most out of Bluetooth music, and offers a lot of subtlety, depth and quality. Standing only 25cm high, or about 30cm when on its dinky little stand, it is by no means the loudest or most boombastic speaker ever, again perhaps the reverse of what you'd expect.
It's also got unexpectedly good stereo separation for such a small speaker. If it isn't good enough you can, if you wish, buy two of them and use them as a stereo pair. We've not had the pleasure of hearing this and it seems like an eccentric way to spend £260 to us, but it's cool that it's there as an option.
There are also clever touches like the vibration-resisting rubber surround that slips off to become a carry handle, an impressive 15-hour battery life, easy NFC pairing and a 3.5mm line in that you'll probably never use.
Retailing at about £130, it's taking on the likes of the Bose Soundlink Colour, Jawbone's Jambox Mini, the Cambridge Audio GO and quite a few other strong contenders, and it doesn't really pale in comparison to any of them. If you move to the next pricing tier and look at the Bose Soundlink Mini and the full-size Jambox, you get much better sound, but then you lose portability and convenience.
Clearly, the issue here is that the £110-£140 Bluetooth market is a busy and bustling one, and while the S Plus is undoubtedly in its top tier for audio, it doesn't bodyslam its competition so much as sidle up alongside it and try to catch your eye.
Design and build
…Which brings us to its looks. For the white and gold model, we're going to use the standard polite euphemism: it won't be to everyone's taste. It's a bit Gucci, a bit Versace. It's UK garage, not grime.
Prefer the dressed-down, sharp-but-casual, black Nikes look? Thankfully, there is a - to our eyes - much more tasteful, black and silver alternative.
If you like to "rock the Cristal" you may very well like the white one better, and who are we to argue with your taste? But in its black incarnation, we'd go so far as to say the S Plus is among the best looking Bluetooth speakers in its price range. Both are also splash resistant to IPx4 standards (which is to say, "not very splash resistant, but hey, it's better than nothing).
The Audio S Plus offers excellent sound quality, reliable pairing, and a choice of looks to suit both the tasteful and the blinging aesthetic.
Wonder out of the 10m Bluetooth range and it starts bleeping in a plaintive fashion. We'd really rather it didn't do that.
Our other objection to the S Plus is more to do with where it sits in the audio market. As noted, there are a lot of strong alternatives at about the same price, but perhaps more to the point, we'd always recommend paying a bit more for a wireless speaker, and upgrading yourself to multi-room. That, of course, is down to you, your budget and your personal taste.
But seriously, pay a bit more, you cheapskate.
A lot of Bluetooth speaker for the money, this is highly portable but can command a room. Its sound and styling (at least on the black one) are top notch, making the Ministry of Sound Audio S Plus a serious rival to the likes of Bose, JBL, Cambridge Audio and Jawbone. Rewind and come again, my selector! Ahem.