Humax STA-1200 BSW: The “world slimmest soundbar”

humax-soundbar

Humax, a UK provider of specialist digital set-top boxes, has entered the audio market, launching what the company claims to be the “world’s slimmest” soundbar. The STA-1200 BSW is a compact and stylish soundbar, which, according to the Humax press release, is packed with incredible audio.

Despite being just 20mm thick, the STA-1200 BSW blasts out 80W of sound from a total of four front speakers. The ultra-thin soundbar comes with a separate 100W passive subwoofer, which has a built-in Bass Enhancer. As well as penetrating deep tones throughout a room through the Bass Enhancer, Humax also draws our attention to the wide spatial sound the STA-1200 BSW produces for a “powerful cinema effect”.

Coming with wall mounting brackets and a shelf stand there’s no excuse not to put the soundbar in a prime position on the wall. Set up, the company promises, is easy. Multiple inputs, including AUX, SPDIF and Bluetooth, mean you will be able to connect the STA-1200 BSW to various devices.

As well as improving the sound on your TV, the STA-1200 BSW can be connected to music devices and used to enhance the sound. The connection can be made via either a 3.5mm audio headphone jack socket or Bluetooth. As Pocket-Lint points out this means “Streaming music from a mobile, tablet or laptop should be straightforward.”

Whilst none of the tech press has yet to have the pleasure of reviewing the STA-1200 BSW, there has been a fair amount of interest generated from Humax’s new product. Pretty much all of the credible technology publications have made reference to the STA-1200 BSW and were keen to include the comments of Graham North, commercial director at Humax.

“Humax has a proven capability in delivering feature-rich digital home products and we have applied that technical expertise to the audio market, with a high performance product that delivers powerful sound into the living room for a highly competitive price,” said North.

The STA-1200 BSW soundbar is priced at £199 and was released on May 1.

If you’ve not heard of Humax, they’re the guys and gals responsible for bringing us Freesat and Freeview set top boxes. The brand’s venture into the audio market should be interesting to review. Though having entered audio with the “world’s slimmest soundbar”, Humax has seemed to have got off to a good start and their audio ventures look promising.

Life’s Good: LG 2013 Product Showcase

LG-84-inches

LG invited us to take a look at their plans for our living room for 2013. Whilst we didn’t enjoy their choice of curtains, they had some amazing suggestions for audio/visual equipment.

The future’s looking pretty clever, with 90% of LG’s upcoming TV and AV roadmap Smart-enabled. Smartphones have really set the bar quite high for this version of artificial intelligence so it’s good to see manufacturers stepping up to this challenge. We covered LG’s magic remote when it was launched but it’s impressive having a first-hand play with the 3D gestures and voice commands. LG’s Smart TV platform still hasn’t quite make social media on TVs useful, but the automatic inclusion of streaming services such as iPlayer, LoveFilm and Netflix is delightful and speaks to a more modern way to consume content. LG were also keen to show off their range of second-screen options that enabled you to move your content around the house – the living room of the future may be the kitchen, or garden or wherever you happen to be. LG were keen to show off their monster 84-inch ULTRA HD TV (LM960V), which is available to buy in the UK now. The LA960W was far more modest at 47- and 55 inches and beautifully designed.

LG-Magic-Remote-Hand

But great looks are nothing without great sound and LG had a range of home cinema options for us to play with. The BH9430OW is a classic surround sound set-up, the kind which I actually see less and less of these days. Bundled with a 3D BluRay player, the system cranks out 1460W of power through aramid fibre speaker cones, for crisp sound. The two rear satellite speakers are wireless, which is a boon for those hoping for a clutter-less environment. The 3D sounds is impressive, but it’s hard to gauge if it’s a distraction or part of an immersive experience in a media showcase setting. The NB4530A was LG’s take on the increasingly popular soundbar. At just 35 mm the 310 W soundbar can comfortably blend into most homes and can wirelessly sync with your TV or smartphone and even comes with a wireless subwoofer (we’re keen on anything that cuts down on cable clutter!).

LG-CM-Micro-System

As music lovers, we also enjoyed the CM2630DAB, even though a CD playing hi-fi system felt incredibly old-fashioned, despite the inclusion of Bluetooth streaming and USB connection. Our modern-minds felt much more at home with the ND8630 Dual Docking station, that works with Android and Apple devices. The ND8630 has Bluetooth and Airplay streaming and NFC connectivity, all so you can access its 80w of rich sound.

CM2630DAB:£199
NB4530A: £349
BH9430OW: £699

Image courtesy of Twitter user @jegarharp

Sonos Launch the PLAYBAR Soundbar: Review Roundup

Sonos-Playbar

Despite humble beginnings in the not-so distant past (founded in 2002), Sonos have catapulted themselves to the forefront of the AV market, becoming the byword in wireless audio technology.  The latest innovation comes in the form of a soundbar, bringing Sonos into the world of home cinema.  It has long been clear that the quality of the speakers in today’s TVs simply hasn’t kept pace with the significant enhancements made to picture quality and screen size.  There are plenty of solutions out there for those of us who have decided that it’s about time the noise matches the picture, but, having helped to revolutionise home HiFi, Sonos have decided to apply their own considerable expertise to the Home Cinema experience.

Sonos seem to think they have hit the nail on the head with their latest offering and they aren’t shy about telling us exactly that, with Sonos Inc CEO, John MacFarlane, saying “Playbar will change everything about the sound experience in your living room, bringing together amazing HiFi sound for your TV and wireless access to the world’s music in a radically simple way”. But do the experts agree that the Sonos Playbar is about to revolutionise the AV experience in your home?

What HiFi: It’s great for sports, opting for a more immersive sound.

The big question, of course, is how the Sonos Playbar sounds, so we kick off (excuse the pun) with a spot of Premier League football. Within just a couple of seconds it’s clear that this is a massive improvement over even the most impressive-sounding flatscreen TV. The width of the soundstage that’s created is mighty impressive, and there’s detail, weight and tonal balance that a TV on its own simply can’t deliver.

SlashGear: A smart piece of tech with nifty features; there is no remote, but that need not be an issue.

Sonos has fitted the PLAYBAR with an accelerometer so that it knows which way up it’s placed: that means it can automatically figure out if it’s on the wall – with the “top” facing out – or sitting flat, and adjust the equaliser settings automatically. There’s also a pass-through IR system, which repeats your TV remote’s commands in case the TV’s own IR receiver is blocked in some way.

T3: It sounds good, but the addition of a Sub is almost essential.

Add the Sonos SUB to create a ‘3.1’ system and things change. Having that dedicated bass channel allows the PLAYBAR unit to concentrate on higher frequencies, thus creating a more balanced sound. Like us, you’ll have to play around with the SUB settings, as having it too loud can be overkill.

Wired: It beats the competition for looks

Stocked with an impressive nine drivers, the compact, low-profile Playbar employs rounded corners and silver accents to earn more style points than most sound bars, which tend to be black, boxy, and décor-damaging. At just 3.3 inches tall, it can sit in front of your TV without blocking the IR or the screen itself.

Gizmondo: It’s expensive, but for those with the money it will live up to expectations

The Playbar does a lovely job, but you could get something that sounds just as good with more features for less money. That said, Sonos is a luxurious, simple, and satisfying way to listen to music. If you can afford it in the first place, you won’t be disappointed.

All in all, the consensus is that the Playbar is an attractive and well featured piece of kit. All of the usual Sonos features are included and it makes a great addition to an existing Sonos system. However, the Playbar is not cheap and to really get the best from it the cost skyrockets further as you add the all-important Sub. If style and substance are your primary concerns the Playbar is well worth considering, but if your credit card bill is of more importance, perhaps it is worth seeking a cheaper alternative.

PLAYBAR will retail for £599 and will be available for purchase at Sonos.com, and other retail partners around the world. For more information on SONOS PLAYBAR, including technical specifications and more, please visit Sonos.com/playbar.

Orbitsound T12v3 soundbar interchangeable fronts

Let’s be honest, an Orbitsound T12v3 soundbar makes a stylish addition to the home. Launched by the acclaimed British audio technology brand, Orbitsound back in August, the T12v3 soundbar delivers the ‘spatial sound’ experience that Orbitsound are renowned for, and in doing so, has proved highly popular. And highly popular technological gadgets, it seems, cannot escape being ‘milked’ for every penny, and are usually followed by a series of accessories to adorn, improve and generally ‘show off’ a loveable device. The latest device, despite being super-stylish in its original form, unable to escape the inevitable string of accessories, post the seal of public approval proved by high sales figures, is the T12v3 soundbar, with a series of interchangeable fronts being launched, just in time for Christmas!

Orbitsound-ColourPlate

You can now ‘personalise’ your favourite soundbar with a range of seven stylishly coloured fronts, designed to suit the décor of any modern home. Intent on staying ‘ahead of the game’, Orbitsound has based its colour range on the interior trends predicted for 2012. The ‘bold’ collection of distinctive coloured interchangeable fronts, include Pillar Box Red, Pistachio, Ivory, Mustard, Plum, Pebble, and Duck Egg….  “Duck Egg”?!?

A Pillar Box Red soundbar certainly promises to transform the device into the focal point, as well as the talking point of a room but I’m not so sure about Duck Egg. Being unsure what colour Duck Egg actually is, I ask my trusty source Google, which informs me that Duck Egg is ‘a pale greenish blue colour, like that of some duck eggs.’ Why Orbitsound didn’t opt to call this shade a more alluring Agua Serene, or Tantalising Turquoise, instead of Duck Egg I’ll never know!

No doubt these interchangeable fonts will be a hit amongst style-conscious consumers, and if you’ve already spent £299.99 on a T12v3 sounbar, what’s another £29.99 to make it the colour of your choice?

Orbitsound T12v3 soundbar: Surround sound magic

We’re always amazed by those single speakers (soundbars) that sit in front of TV and emit surround-sound from one speaker. They just don’t make sense to us. Still, this hurdle hasn’t stopped British manufacturer Orbitsound from producing their best-sounding soundbar to date: the T12v3.

Orbitsounds-Soundbar

The new Orbitsound T12v3 may not have the most memorable name (compared with Pioneer’s Soundwing), but the engineers promise that its performance will stay with you, even if the name doesn’t. The new bar boasts “even greater sound clarity, improved bass response and extended volume range” than the old model.

Specifically, the new Orbitsound should offer a smoother, tighter bass response thanks to an improved subwoofer. The main speaker drives also include higher quality components which produce a more rigid, balanced, cleaner sound stage. Oh, and the whole is system is more powerful.

Another benefit of the T12v3 (and all soundbars), is that they produce surround-sound without the limitations of a “sweet-spot”. Traditional surround-systems produce one-direction sound which creates one location that’s good for listening at the expense of the rest of the room.

Audiences seem to be noticing the difference, too – in less than a year, UK sales of the T12v2 soundbar already rivalled those of more established brands.

That’s only going to increase as the company has been working closely with giant retail partners including John Lewis and Harrods, as well as signing a deal with Widget – the UK distributor that introduced the TomTom to our shores.

As a soundbar, it looks as you’d expect it: a bit like the flatscreen TV it’s supposed to sit in front of. It’s got a high-gloss finished with a metallic speaker grill to give the device a premium finish. The grill should also ensure the sound is more acoustically transparent, too.

The T12v3 soundbar costs £299 and will be available from September 2011.  For more information about the Orbitsound and the T12v3, visit www.orbitsound.com.

Pioneer Sound Wing: Revolutionary speaker technology?

Pioneer makes a lot of home theatre devices. Really, a lot. This one, however, lives up the company name – new, innovative: pioneering. It’s a called a ‘Sound Wing’, and it brings surround sound into a single, beautiful speaker bar.

Pioneer-Sound-Wing

Aside from great aesthetics, the Sound Wing uses what the company call a “revolutionary and breakthrough new speaker technology”. Officially known as HVT (Horizontal-Vertical-Transforming), it allows speakers to
be made much thinner while still creating a full 360 degree soundscape.

The Sound Wing uses the technology to create an immersive audio experience while taking up almost no room – it’s just 25.5mm thick. You could probably even put one in front of your computer monitor without losing too much desk space.

It’s not limited to sitting in front of a device, however – the omni-directional speakers can be placed anywhere in the room and still provide a wide “sweet spot” to enjoy the full sound experience.

To better explain the experience, imagine that normal speakers fire sound directly at you, widening as they extend. The Sound Wing is different – it emits a sphere of audio, pushing sound in every direction. Wherever you are in the room, sound surrounds.

The Sound Wing comes bundled as part of the HTP-SLH600 AV package, which also includes the VSX-S300 slim AV receiver. Like the Sound Wing, it’s also smaller than you’d expect, but equally big of features – including four 3D compatible HDMI inputs and Pioneer’s Advanced Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration.

It can fully equipped to decode all mainstream HD audio formats, including DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as Dolby True HD. You can also add Pioneer’s AS-BT200 Bluetooth Adapter to enjoy wireless (omni-directional) audio from any A2DP Bluetooth-enabled mobile device or personal computer.

For more info visit www.pioneer.co.uk