Love ’em or hate ’em, soundbars, by necessity, have
become a staple on even the most sophisticated
custom home integration projects. For every
deluxe home theater with massive tower speakers
hidden behind acoustically transparent scrim
material, there’s an audio-deprived flat-panel TV
in a guestroom with no room for a surround sound
processor and in-wall speakers.
|Triad’s Vladimir Yasinskiy puts his finishing touch on soundbar.
Fortunately, speaker manufacturers within the
custom channel are doing their best to manufacture
an evolving assortment of soundbars with the best
audio possible for such a small footprint, while
keeping aesthetic goals front of mind as well.
Always an innovator in the category, Leon
transformed its soundbar lineup with a powered,
ultra-thin, custom offering, called Horizon OTO.
It’s the first active soundbar in the Horizon Series,
which includes soundbars custom built to match
flat-panel displays. Now, not only is the new
Horizon OTO soundbar custom built to match the
display, but it offers 50 watts of power and easily
connects to the TV and subwoofer with digital
optical inputs and wireless outputs.
|Definitive Technology’s SoloCinema Studio features five discrete
channels, high-performance speaker elements for each channel, and
120 watts of power complemented by a 200-watt wireless subwoofer.
At the heart of the Horizon HzOTO soundbar
is a high-fidelity 2x50W on board amplifier. It
features both an optical input (for Dolby Digital or
PCM) and analog stereo inputs to easily integrate
with other components. Its rear IR input jack and
front panel IR receiver can be tied into any control
system, while the front touchpanel and included
remote provide auxiliary control.
At less than 2 inches deep and only 4.5 inches
tall, the Horizon HzOTO (MSRP $2,895) is
purposefully designed for ultra slim TVs. It also
features an enhanced audio platform, pairing
3-inch aluminum cone woofers with cloth-dome
tweeters. The rear-ported design allows the speaker
to develop bass response down to 70Hz, and if
more bass is a requirement, an internal wireless
transmitter will pair with Leon’s new wireless
subwoofer receiver (sold separately) to add any of
Leon’s Aaros Series subs to the system.
Keeping up with the custom-built theme,
Triad Speakers offers nearly a dozen soundbars in
total, with styles ranging from 1.0 models that are
single-channel, 2.0 models that are two-channel,
and about a half-dozen 3.0 models that are three
channels in one.
The most recent Triad soundbar offering is the
super-slim Nano, which the company believes is the
best performer in its ultra-slim class. Each speaker
features a custom-applied high-gloss finish, via a
proprietary process called EcoGloss. It consists of
multiple layers of water based-paint and polishing
compound done by hand. This adds another four
to five man-hours to the build process. A gloss
finish could be achieved faster by using solvent-and
catalyst-based paints, but Triad is a green
manufacturer, so the toxic nature of these chemicals
does not meet with the company’s standards.
|Leon’s Horizon OTO is the first active
soundbar in the Horizon Series, which includes
soundbars custom built to match flat-panel displays.
||PhaseTech’s Teatro TSB3.0 provides a wide, enveloping front stage in a low-profile enclosure.
The Nano LCR 3.0 incorporates six specially
designed Scan-Speak drivers and three soft dome
SB tweeters in a fully damped and braced aluminum
enclosure. The speaker is manufactured to order in
Triad’s modern factory in Portland, Oregon.
|Paradigm Electronics' Soundtrack 2
|Atlantic Technology offers its full-range H-PAS PowerBar home theater soundbar that includes an advanced Bluetooth adaptor.
With high performance left, right and center
channels paired with two SFE (spatial field
expanders), PhaseTech’s Teatro TSB3.0 provides
a wide, enveloping front stage in a low-profile
enclosure. The unit’s passive 8-ohm design
allows users to integrate the soundbar seamlessly
with their existing AV system. It incorporates
two 3-inch mineral-filled polypropylene, ultra-long
throw woofers with rubber surrounds per
channel and one 0.75-inch silk/synthetic blend
soft dome tweeter per channel. SFE 1-inch fullrange
aluminum inverted drivers are mounted on
the sides. Phase Technology’s signature Absolute
Phase crossovers are employed to ensure smoother
transitions and phase matching among all drivers.
Another PhaseTech exclusive, EVT (Enhanced
Voice Technology), is available via a front panel
switch. When the switch is turned on, frequencies
associated with human speech are augmented to
provide crisp, clear dialogue.
The TSB3.0’s extruded aluminum, ported,
mono-frame cabinet has a curved profile with a
depth of only 1.5 inches at the TV; the total depth is
2.5 inches. It measures 43 inches wide and includes
a powder-coated steel grille. Tabletop and wall
mount options are included.
An Adjustable Width Option
At CEDIA EXPO last fall, Sonance introduced the
first adjustable width soundbar. Two models of the
patent-pending speakers, enable an integrator to
match the width of any display between 50 and 80
Built using the materials developed for the next
generation of the company’s Visual Performance
Series, Sonance Soundbars utilize a three-way
speaker design. Each channel features a coaxial
1-inch powder-coated aluminum tweeter and a
4-inch laminated Kevlar and Nomex Midrange,
paired with dual 4.5-inch laminated Kevlar
and Nomex high excursion woofers. The LCR
configuration and passive design will allow the system integrator to utilize the
amplifier or AV receiver of their choice.
The SB46 M (MSRP $1,750) is compatible with displays 50 to 65 inches
and the SB46 L (MSRP $2,000) is compatible with displays 70 to 80 inches.
Improving Clarity and Depth
Atlantic Technology offers its full-range H-PAS PowerBar home theater
soundbar that includes an advanced Bluetooth adaptor. Each PB-235-BT
(MSRP $799) includes one of the company’s BTAA-50 Bluetooth adapters that
features aptX processing for CD-quality audio streaming, “tap and pair” with
NFC equipped devices, and AAC decoding. Users can stream content from any
Bluetooth-enabled device, including an iPhone, iPad, or Android smartphone.
Designed to be mounted above or below a flat-screen TV either on a shelf or
via wall-mounting bracket, the PB-235-BT features Atlantic’s patented H-PAS
bass system, which produces deep, distortion-free bass without a subwoofer–
reaching down to 47 Hz at theater-level SPLs. The PowerBar also boasts a
sophisticated DSP with Dolby Digital and DTS that delivers a two-, three- or
|Panorama 2 features completely new Bowers & Wilkins engineered
drive units, which deliver an enhanced acoustic performance.
A further benefit of H-PAS technology, the company says, is its ability to
improve dialogue clarity. This is due in part to the low bass distortion of the
system’s compact drivers and the fact that the full range of sound is coming
from where your brain expects it to come from–in front of the listener. Most
conventional soundbars only go down to an audio frequency of 150-200 Hz,
which requires the subwoofer in the corner or behind the sofa to carry some
of the lower registers of human speech. These subtle fragments of dialog now
arrive at the listener’s ears at the wrong time and from the wrong direction,
making the dialog harder to understand.
Panorama 2 is the result of intensive research by Bowers & Wilkins renowned
engineering team at its UK Research and Development division in Steyning,
West Sussex. For $2,200 MSRP, it includes technologies originally developed
for high-end speakers such as the 800 Series Diamond, and uses them to bring
a new level of performance to soundbars.
Panorama 2 features completely new Bowers & Wilkins engineered
drive units, which deliver an enhanced acoustic performance. The new low-frequency
drivers have improved linearity for greater dynamic performance
and lower resonance for deeper extension. The midrange drive units have
wider dispersion characteristics, which helps to improve the virtual surround
performance. The tweeter has been improved, too, for smoother integration
with the midrange. The overall result is improved acoustics, the company says.
Because the vast majority of sound from even the most effect-heavy movie
soundtrack is delivered through the center speaker in a surround sound system,
and Bowers & Wilkins has worked hard to get this aspect of the Panorama 2
right. Of the nine drive units housed within Panorama 2’s casework, five are
utilized in the active center speaker: two bass woofers, two midrange drivers,
and an aluminum dome tweeter featuring Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus tube-loaded technology.
The other four drive units provide the rest of
the sound, and each one is located within its own
enclosure to maintain a purity of performance. All
the drive units are powered by six class D amplifiers,
providing a combined power output of 175Watts.
Three HDMI inputs and single HDMI output
allows Panorama 2 to serve as the hub of a home
On its third anniversary at CEDIA EXPO last
September, GoldenEar introduced three significant
new products, including the SuperCinema 3D
Array XL soundbar. The 3D Array XL is a larger
version of the company’s 3D Array, designed for
TVs 70 inches and larger. Like the 3D Array, the
XL incorporates special 3D image optimization
technology to achieve lifelike, wide, deep, and
immersive 3D playback when used with or without
rear/side surround speakers. This technology,
pioneered by GoldenEar founder Sandy Gross,
was meant to address certain problems that have
been brought up recently in a 3D audio research
project being conducted by Dr. Edgar Choueri at
Princeton University. Dr. Choueiri points out that
the crosstalk that exists between the left and right
loudspeakers and contralateral ears, especially
when the left and right channels are minimally
separated in soundbar systems, is deleterious to a
listener’s ability to fully experience and process the
imaging cues necessary for 3D imaging perception.
The SuperCinema 3D Array XL (MSRP
$1,499) incorporates left-, center- and right-channel
speakers, plus a second set of drivers that utilize 3D
Array Technology to effectively cancel out crosstalk
distortion between the left and right channel. The
result is a soundstage that Gross says stretches from
wall to wall and beyond, with amazing height, width
and depth that effectively envelops the listeners in
a true 180-degree plus soundfield, even though the
soundbar is only 62 inches wide. All this is contained
within a 2.7-inch deep enclosure.
The SC3DAXL incorporates eight of GoldenEar
Technology’s cast spiderleg-basket 4.5-inch bass-midrange
drivers with the company’s Multi-Vaned
Phase Plugs (MVPP). In addition, there are three
of GoldenEar’s High-Velocity Folded Ribbon
tweeters (HVFR). The center channel section
of the array has the four bass/midrange drivers
arranged around the HVFR tweeter in a two-stage
D’Appolito array, where the two drivers closest to
the tweeter go all the way up to meet the tweeter
and the other two roll-off at 800 Hz.
Where Wireless Matters
Last September, Definitive Technology introduced
the SoloCinema Studio active soundbar ($1,199
MSRP), which joins the company’s first active
soundbar product, the SoloCinema XTR ($1999
MSRP) introduced in 2012.
SoloCinema Studio features five discrete
channels, high-performance speaker elements
for each channel, and 120 watts of power
complemented by a 200-watt wireless subwoofer.
Its audio feature package differentiates by offering
high-performance HDMI inputs, Bluetooth
wireless audio, as well as true 5.1-channel DTS and
Dolby surround processing. Definitive’s proprietary
Spatial Array technology frees sonic images from
the enclosure to envelope the listener in a totally
immersive spatial sphere of life-like sound–from a
single convenient speaker.
Bluetooth devices equipped with Near Field
Communication (NFC) such as those with Android
and Blackberry operating systems are especially easy to
pair with SoloCinema Studio simply by touching the
device to the soundbar. Non-NFC Bluetooth devices
are paired via on-screen display. SoloCinema gets
near-CD sound quality from Bluetooth streams by
supporting aptX and AAC codecs, the company says.
Other than power cords, minimal wires are
required–only connectors from the soundbar to the
TV and DVD/Blu-ray player. The subwoofer is
linked to the surround bar wirelessly with no pairing
procedures required. Additionally, Definitive
Technology provides hardware (feet and brackets),
so the soundbar can be placed in one of three
places: on a shelf under the flat-panel, raised above
a protruding TV table stand, or mounted on a wall.
The compact wireless subwoofer features a
downward firing 8-inch woofer, bass port, and 200-
Paradigm Electronics began shipping its 2.1
Millenia CT 2, a soundbar system designed for easy
connection to popular networked audio devices,
such as Apple TV or Airport Express. The system
hosts an onboard control box interface and controls
are recessed to allow for stacking of the control
module and Apple TV without
|At CEDIA EXPO last fall, Sonance introduced the first adjustable width soundbar.
Two models of the patent-pending speakers, enable an integrator to match the
width of any display between 50 and 80 inches.
Dedicated Music Mode,
Movie Mode, Paradigm Virtual
Surround and Dolby Digital are
MartinLogan’s Motion Vision delivers five-channel
surround sound from an all-in-one system
that’s designed to be stylish yet unobtrusive, simple
to install, and easy to operate. Three advanced-resolution
Folded Motion tweeters, four 4-inch
high-performance woofers, and seven dedicated
amplifiers deliver 100 watts of total system power.
The Motion Vision was engineered with a
bass performance in mind, paired with precisely
etched mid and high frequencies. Advanced DSP
technology and surround sound decoding allow
MartinLogan to replace five separate home theater
speakers with a one piece solution that reproduces
Motion Vision delivers front left/right and center
channels via dedicated Folded Motion tweeters and
high-performance woofers and simulates rear left/
right effects channels. Dual rear-firing bass ports
reinforce the bass extension and can be adjusted
plus or minus 10dB to custom tailor bass
performance. A built-in SWT-2 transmitter
allows, at the touch of a button, the addition
of a compatible wireless MartinLogan subwoofer. For
those that desire a non-wireless subwoofer, Motion
Vision offers simple wired connectivity.
Millenia CT 2 speakers feature 1-inch S-PAL
satin-anodized pure-aluminum domes and 4-inch
S-PAL satin-anodized pure-aluminum bass/
midrange cones. Brackets for wall mounting
the speakers are available as optional system
accessories. The low-profile subwoofer features an
8-inch reinforced polymer composite cone with
1.5-inch high-temperature voice coil.
The Millenia CT 2 system is available in Black
Gloss for $899.99 (MSRP), but an upgrade kit
for current Millenia CT owners is available and it
includes a control box for instant connection to your
audio/video equipment, as well as a new remote
control with three AAA batteries for $199.99.
TruAudio’s SLIM-PWR44 was recently added to
the company’s SLIM series. This self-powered stereo
soundbar, will not require a separate amp, yet it has
been designed to produce “top-of-the-line sound,”
according to the company. The same thin design as
prior models will now feature 4-inch woofers along
with larger drivers. Because of this extra focus on
low-end frequencies, the SLIM-PWR44 no longer
requires a subwoofer. However, a 5.8 GHz wireless
subwoofer transmitter is available, just in case,
for connection to any sub. The three different EQ
settings complement the 4.0 Apt-X Bluetooth to
enable excellent quality from any device.
Jeremy Glowacki is editorial director of
At International CES in January, OmniMount
introduced an accessory designed to attach a
soundbar to a wall-mounted TV, eliminating
the need to put holes in the wall. The universal
design attaches to an existing TV wall mount
to hang a soundbar below it, regardless of the
mount’s fixed, tilt, full motion, or interactive
The OCSBA is ideal for medium and large
TVs, typically 32 inches or larger, and works
with most brands or styles of TV mounts (fixed,
tilt, full motion, interactive), offering residential
installers another add-on opportunity. The
OCSBA supports up to 30 lbs and is available
for $49.95 (MSRP).