Name: T12v3 Soundbar (Orbitsound)
Type: Stereo soundbar with subwoofer
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: £299 direct from Orbitsound
UK audio specialists Orbitsound return with their latest re-vamped T12 Soundbar, the T12 v3. Have they perfected the “spatial stereo” wizadry to kill off audio sweet-spots for good? Read on to find out.
We know what you’re thinking; “V3? It seems like yesterday that the the v2 launched!” It’s a little under a year since Orbitsound’s last T12 soundbar launched, but the smaller, dynamic nature of the UK audio upstarts means that they can churn out updates to their gear far faster than rivals. But far from being a mere incremental update, the v3 is a marked improvement over its predecessor.
The T12 v3 set includes a gloss black soundbar (600 x 100 x 100mm) and similarly styled subwoofer (230mm x 460mm x 200mm) connected via cable as opposed to a wireless connection, which may limit its placement in more spacious AV set-ups. As well as an iPod connector on the top of the dock, connectivity on the rear of the soundbar includes optical, coaxial and analogue ports as well as a 3.5mm connection for those with mp3 players or phones from stables other than Apple’s. Leads for all these connections are included inside the box, while a volume dial also sits on the back.
It’s worth noting at this point that we’ve had our hands on a pre-production model rather than the final retail build. It’s almost identical to what’s headed to stores, barring a few quirks. Firstly, there’s a rear switch for changing the intensity of the stereo effect that wont be present in retail models as it’s more a feature to demonstrate Orbitsound’s “spatial stereo” tech to reviewers and journalists, which we’ll speak about in a second. Also, the volume steps on the remote control will be a little more refined, giving you more precise control over volume levels in the final product.
What makes the Orbitsound soundbar unique from its rivals is how it uses a proprietary “spatial stereo” system. Designed by Orbitsound founder Ted Fletcher (whose CV includes working alongside musical luminaries The Eagles, Elton John and mad-cap producer and sonic-scientist Joe Meek), it is able to deliver stereo sound from a single central unit. In other words, it does away with the concept of a “sweet-spot”, giving anyone standing at any position in a room with a T12 v3 soundbar the same left and right stereo fields as if they were standing between two separate left and right speaker channels.
In practice, it’s not quite as clearly defined as that, but there’s certainly a separation in the audio delivery no matter where you’re standing in relation to the T12 v3, making it the perfect choice for those who indulge in busy movie nights with a gang of pals. What’s arguably more important is the overall sound quality of the unit, and that thankfully is very good indeed, thanks to improved drivers and a new metal grille across the soundbar that allows for a greater spread for the audio image.
Though a little muddy at first (which again may be tweaked slightly in the final product) dialling back the bass a tad and pushing the treble settings up a little via the lightweight remote offered a full, warm stereo sound that’s incredibly detailed. The T12 v3 soundbar is billed as primarily a partner for your flatscreen TV, and it certainly does a great job of bringing dialogue to the fore in movies, without scrimping on explosive booms and tinkling details. We spent quite a few hours playing games through the soundbar, and was incredibly impressed with the incidental detail it managed to pick up whilst we played through the classic Half Life 2. The crackling flames of a ruined city, being bombarded by sci-fi shells have rarely sounded so crisp.
Our main bug bear was the way that the T12 v3 soundbar doesn’t retain your audio tweaks if you switch it off from the mains, a problem considering it’s initially a little flabby sounding. It has a standby mode in which it does remember your changes, but if like me your green-conscious worries mean you have to switch everything off from the wall at night, you’re going to have to keep re-configuring the soundbar. This wouldn’t be so bad if HDMI support was included to allow for an onscreen menu, but as it isn’t you’re going to have to keep your ears finally tuned to re-balance the sound each time.
Keep in mind too that you’re not getting support for 5.1 or 7.1 surround channels here, with everything being scaled back to stereo instead. It’s not a fault for a soundbar clearly billed as doing some pretty special stuff with its stereo tech, but with similarly priced bars offering the feature, it’s worth considering.
Orbitsound’s T12 v3 is a worthy update to the brand’s popular soundbar range. There remain a few niggles (namely HDMI support and surround features) for this price point, but it’s hard to argue with the overall aural quality of the product. If you’re looking for a no-fuss system with which to boost your flat screen’s sound capabilities, you can’t ask for much more than the T12 v3.