The Gravastar Mars is unique, beautiful, and sounds rather good too. It's the perfect little buddy to usher in the apocalypse with you. At $300 for the Damaged Yellow edition, it certainly isn't cheap. But nice things generally aren't.
- Brand: Gravastar / Zoeao
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm Aux
- Battery: ~20 hours, charged by USB-C
- Water Resistance: None
- I mean... just look at it! It's gorgeous.
- Separate full range and bass driver for overall good sound
- Volume control is too sensitive
The Gravastar Mars is both an eye-catching work of art and a great portable or desktop speaker. Taking the form of a scuttling drone from the far-flung war-torn future apocalypse (so... probably next year at this rate), the spherical-shaped Mars with three extendable legs features attractive lighting focussed around the eyeball in the center.
Today we're taking a look at the War Damaged Yellow edition, which is hand-painted with blue lighting and retails at $300.
Also available is a Damaged Red edition (with yellow lighting), as well undamaged editions in "space gray" with green lighting, or "sci-fi blue" with blue lighting. The undamaged models are $100 cheaper at $200, which is still a fair chunk of change for a portable Bluetooth speaker.
Gravastar Mars Design
Looking like something that escaped from the Aperture Laboratories (in fact, Gravastar did have a white edition at one point, though it's either out of stock or withdrawn from sale), the Gravastar Mars weighs a hefty 3.5lbs (1.6kg), and stands a full 7.5 inches. It's quite a beast to behold. In a cute sort of way.
The case is predominantly a strong zinc alloy on the top and underside, though the mid-section appears to be plastic.
The LED lighting is focused on the front, but you'll also find smaller accent lighting on the side grills, and the legs, which can fold for storage.
On the underside, you'll find the USB-C charging port, and 3.5mm Aux input. I found myself wanting to apologize to the lil guy for exposing his sensitive belly like this.
A fabric-covered charging cable is included in the box, as well as a stereo cable. The charging cable is right-angled on one end, so it can be fitted to charge the unit without needing to leave him rolled over in a most undignified manner.
You can also purchase an optional charging base for $60, though we didn't receive one for testing.
Around the rear is a separate bass driver (no special lighting around that), and above that sit three buttons for controlling the device. These consist of main power, LED, and Bluetooth buttons.
Long pressing on the power button plays a neat deactivation or power-on sequence, while the LED button can be used to turn on or off the integrated lighting if you want.
The Bluetooth functions much as expected, with a long press of the button to enter pairing mode. The device utilizes Bluetooth 5.0 for latency-free audio, and I was more than happy streaming YouTube to it without experiencing the timing mismatch that sometimes occurred on older wireless speakers. But if you did have problems, there's always the aux input underneath.
On the very top of the main body there's a touch-sensitive volume slider with more blue LEDs to indicate the current volume level.
While visually impressive, you do need to be careful. Just picking the Mars up or brushing your hand across the top can result in an auditory bomb as the volume goes from o to 100 in no time at all. Perhaps two touch-sensitive buttons to increase the volume in discrete stages would have been less dangerous to my ears. I may sound old, but this thing can get ridiculously loud.
In terms of functionality, there's nothing else to be found here. There's no robotic voice assistant integration. It doesn't have an actual pew-pew laser. And the legs are purely there for stability—you can't remote control it.
As a single speaker, both channels are mixed together for mono output. But if your pockets are deep enough, you can hook up two for stereo sound.
As a $300 speaker (admittedly, the "undamaged" editions are $200, so a fair chunk of this cost goes on the hand-painted finishing process), I expect the Gravastar Mars to sound as good as it looks. Thankfully it lived up to my expectations.
I ran through a selection of audio tests from AudioCheck.net, and couldn't identify any glaring issues. I will note that on the bass response test, I could only hear down to 40Hz, while 30Hz and 20Hz produced no audible bass, but did result in a small amount of distortion noise. I couldn't hear this during regular usage, however.
48dB below full-scale volume was about the limit of the dynamic range I could identify.
More importantly, I ran through a range of songs I'm familiar with, and they all sounded decent enough. You should however bear in mind that the laws of physics prevent something this small from producing floor-shaking bass. It's a good speaker for its size that punches well above its weight, but it's still a little top and mid-heavy for my tastes.
You aren't going to run a DJ set from this, but you might take it down the park for a post-apocalypse picnic.
On a device of this size, it's nice to see exposed bolts and screws as such an integral part of the overall design aesthetic.
Though I haven't fully disassembled it, the upper zinc-alloy casing is for looks only and is secured by two hex bolts on the sides. Pulling this shell away reveals the main body of the device, in the same strong plastic as the middle section. A number of smaller hex bolts also secure the bass driver. You'll need a precision repair kit such as the iFixit Mahi to open this.
A set of small Phillips-head screws then secures the control circuitry to the main body, and I suspect the entire thing could be disassembled relatively easily to its component level.
iFixit doesn't have a repairability rating, but in my opinion the prospects are good. I'll update if I ever have the need to try.
The internal 10,000mAh battery provides a stated 20 hours playback. I streamed Spotify to it for around four hours a day at medium volume, with the lighting on, and it lasted into the fifth day, so this seems accurate enough. A full charge takes around four hours.
It's not the best in class battery life by any means, but then again, I don't think the battery matters too much in this type of product. It's an objet d'art for your desktop; not your one and only block-party speaker. Chances are you won't be far from a charger.
Best Collapse Buddy
The Gravastar Mars is beautifully designed, sounds good, and is truly unique. Yes, it's expensive, but well-made and unique things tend to be. If you want something a little different on your desktop or are looking for the perfect gift for gaming obsessed teenager, the Gravastar Mars would be well received.
If you just want some generic rectangular-shaped black plastic tat to take to the beach, then I'm sure Amazon can cater to your whims with 6,000 identical product listings at bargain prices.
The Gravastar Mars is the perfect little buddy to rock out with as modern society crumbles around us. I just wish he was a little more talkative and would stop staring at me so intently with his ominous blue eye.
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