REVIEW: Orbitsound airSOUND Base
Name: Orbitsound SB60 airSOUND Base
Type: Home cinema speaker system
Specs: Click here for full specs
Orbitsound’s march into your living room continues with the SB60 airSOUND Base system, a speaker box designed to accompany your flat screen TV. Neither surround sound system nor sound bar, can this intriguing speaker find its niche among home cinema enthusiasts? Read our full review to find out!
Orbitsound have impressed us over the years with their ever-improving soundbar range, garnering glowing reviews in the Tech Digest test chambers. This latest unit, the Orbitsound SB60 airSOUND Base however is quite a departure for the company. Described as a “one-box TV sound solution”, it has an integrated sub and resembles an oversized DVD player in design, intended to be sat beneath a TV screen rather than to the sides as you would have a surround sound system, or in front with a traditional soundbar.
Featuring a wooden enclosure finished in gloss black, it’s not an unattractive unit, with a detachable front-grille protecting its front-facing speakers that can be swapped out for an included silver front strip, should that suit your tastes better. It is however quite chunky. Measuring 60cm x 30cm x 8cm, the idea is that your flatscreen TV is perched on top of the SB60 airSOUND Base, with the speaker good to hold screens between 32 and 42-inches in size and, dependant on the model and stand design, some as large as 55-inches. Though you could reasonably house the speaker in an AV cabinet, the use of Orbitsound’s patented Spatial Stereo directional speaker arrays makes that far from ideal, diminishing the speaker’s stereo image if its sides are blocked. As such, those with wall mounted TVs as opposed to those on a stand may find it difficult to satisfyingly place the SB60 airSOUND Base.
The rear of the speaker doesn’t have any HDMI In or HDMI Out ports, instead hooking up to your TV over digital optical or phono analogue connections. Alongside a volume dial, the rear also houses a power switch and a 3.5mm input for connecting an MP3 player or smartphone.
The SB60 airSOUND Base comes complete with both analogue and optical cables for hooking up your TV and a small, black-gloss remote control. The remote is the same as can be found with recent Orbitsound speaker systems, including the M9, offering standby control, a source swapping button, volume controls and buttons to fine-tune treble and bass levels. It also features an “iMenu” button, a remnant of previous Orbitsound gear’s iPhone docking remote controls, and a presentational slip considering it’s unsupported with this latest model. Seeing as it’s the same remote as last time, it unsurprisingly has the same pros and cons – good weight and size, let down by flimsy-feeling buttons.
Fire up the SB60 airSOUND Base, and it quickly becomes clear why it is the size it is – raised slightly on rubber feet, the enclosure houses a sizeable 5-inch down-firing subwoofer that offers bass considerably more booming than what a weedy flatscreen TV is capable of. It’s partnered with two 2-inch front speakers and two 2-inch side-firing speakers, independently sealed on the left and right of the box, together offering a room-filling 200W output.
It sounds great. The Spatial Stereo technology still works wonders and delivers stereo sound without a sweetspot to pretty much any space in a room. It comes into its own in fast moving action scenes, where you get a real sense of movement from the speaker, far more so than you’d ever get from a lone TV speaker array (if not quite as enveloping as a true surround system). There’s warmth to the sound too, with the bass giving some decent bottom end to proceedings without ever overpowering the detail-delivering higher audio ranges.
And yet, the SB60 airSOUND Base’s subwoofer didn’t quite live up to what we’d hoped for, given the punch of the dedicated sub seen featured with the Orbitsound M9. While it was well suited to music (the Love Forever Changes concert DVD sounded sublime through the SB60), it couldn’t deliver the rumble we like to see accompany our blockbusters. The bass-heavy crash sequence of sci-fi flick Prometheus for instance didn’t have the intensity we’ve grown accustomed to, and the same could be said of a run through of some bombastic Call of Duty Black Ops 2 missions. It’s by no means bad – in fact, in many scenarios it’s rather pleasant and detailed. However, if you’re lining up a Michael Bay marathon, your explosive taste may be better served elsewhere, be that with a standard surround sound system, or even some of the beefier soundbars.
An unusual sound system then, the Orbitsound SB60 airSOUND Base is a viable alternative to a standard soundbar unit, offering neither dramatically better nor worse sound than rival accomplished home cinema speaker systems offer. It really then comes down to its size, and whether or not that suits your AV set up comfortably. Given that the size-defining subwoofer isn’t the boldest we’ve heard, it’s likely that a soundbar less physically deep than the SB60 airSOUND Base will be a better fit for most.