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Sonic BOOM: 10 blast-tastic soundbars

Fatten up your fat telly audio

Orbitsound SB60 airSound base

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The SB60 airSound Base is a pedestal style sound system suitable for forty-something inch flatscreens. The smart-looking wooden enclosure is finished in a gloss piano black offset by a contrasting metallic magnetic grille (choose from either silver or black, both of which are in the box). Behind the grille sits a 2 x 2-inch driver array, with additional 2-inch side-facing cones left and right used to extend the sound field. Extended bass comes via a 5-inch downward firing woofer. Connectivity comprises optical digital, stereo phono and minijack. There’s no Bluetooth support.

Orbitsound SB60 airSound base

Unique to Orbitsound is SST, or Spatial Sound Technology. This uses spatial stereo techniques to create wraparound effects. I’m not big on faux surround, but this technology did a great job with the 5.1 mix of Sleepy Hollow, creating a genuinely immersive soundstage. SST also seems to quite like ambisonic CD recordings. Unfortunately, while the SB60 is clever, it lacks volume. The spec promises a 200w power output, but that should be taken with a veritable mountain of salt.

Price £199
More info Orbitsound

Panasonic SC-HTB480

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It may have been a paen to lightweight plastic, but Panasonic’s early foray in soundbar territory, the SC-HTB550, impressed with its virtual surround post processing prowess. Thankfully this year, the brand has significantly elevated its cosmetic design. This SC-HTB480 2.1 package boasts an attractive metal mesh grille and the partnering subwoofer, with 16cm downward firing driver, is similarly not unattractive. The system would best suit screens between 42-55 inches.

Panasonic SC-HTB480

The ‘bar utilises a low profile triangular cross section, dubbed a Delta Form design. The shape is economic on tablespace but cleverly offers room for relatively big drive units. Connections include an ARC-compatible HDMI loopthrough and digital optical audio, but there’s no 3.5mm minijack. Bluetooth connectivity for mobile devices is supported by easy hook-up NFC.

Overall power output is rated at a nominal 250W, of which 130W goes to the sub. As with so many paper specifications, this shouldn’t be deemed comparable with rival units. Once again the brand’s post processing remains a strong point. You can choose from six audio presets. In addition to multichannel down-mixing, dialogue gets a lift from a Clear mode which emulates the clarity of a centre speaker. A tad expensive, but Panasonic completists will want to check this out.

Price £250
More info Panasonic

Next page: Philips HTL5140

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