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One-box soundbars are designed to deliver six-channel sound from a single unit, which is ideal for people who don't have room for a full home cinema speaker system. But despite their growing popularity, the products we've tested so far have been a bit of a mixed bag. Most offer decent sound quality, but when it comes to replicating rear-channel effects they're far from convincing.
However, with Marantz's debut one-box wonder, there's cause to be a little more optimistic. Just over three years ago I visited Marantz's Japanese HQ and was given an early demonstration of a new technology called OPSODIS, the brainchild of Dr Takashi Takeuchi who dreamed up the idea while studying for his PhD in Acoustics at Southampton University of all places. Dr Takeuchi took the idea to Marantz who were only too eager to develop it.
Dr Takeuchi's demonstration revealed OPSODIS to be far more effective than the other soundbar systems I'd heard during the same trip, even in its embryonic state. The difference is that it doesn't reflect sound off the walls, a method that doesn't suit all room shapes and sizes, but instead uses a unique (and scientifically complex) sound control theory that widens the effective area.
Fast-forward three years and OPSODIS has blossomed into a fully formed technology, which can be found inside the ES7001 (amusingly dubbed the ‘Cinemarium'), which at around £800 not only costs more than its main rivals but also more than a decent one-box 5.1 system - here's hoping it has the talent to justify it.
In terms of design, discretion is the order of the day. The ES7001's understated, simple design, dominated by a long black speaker grill, allows it to blend into your system without diverting attention from your TV. It's still attractive though, with a silver strip running along the bottom that houses a small info display, a row of indicator lights and a few buttons. The enclosure is also solidly constructed from extruded aluminium and feels reassuringly heavy, which is no surprise given the amount of hardware stuffed inside.