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Monitor Audio ASB-2: Operation, Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Editors choice
Monitor Audio ASB-2

Summary

Our Score:

10

Monitor Audio ASB-2 – Operation

Unusually, the ASB-2 is configured using an onscreen menu system, sent to the TV via HDMI. It’s a useful inclusion given the lack of a front-panel display, but it’s surprisingly rudimentary for such a high-end product.

The text is blocky and you have to select menu options by pressing right instead of OK. It’s not a deal-breaker, but doesn’t exude the same class that the ASB-2 does elsewhere.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

The menu allows you to tweak the EQ, with adjustments for bass, mids and treble from -10 up to 10. You can set the volume levels of the surround channels, virtual centre channel and subwoofer. There’s plenty more to investigate, giving you a decent level of control over performance.

When setting up the ASB-2 on your home network, the level of difficulty depends on what you’re trying to connect. If your router supports WPS, for example, it’s easy – just press the relevant buttons on both boxes and they handshake.

iOS devices are also simple; just connect your iPhone or iPad to the USB port and share its Wi-Fi settings by hitting ‘allow’ when the option pops up.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

But connecting through a PC’s web browser is frustrating – the ASB-2 creates a temporary Wi-Fi connection with the PC, allowing you to visit the ASB-2’s IP address and configure your router through the menu.

But despite having a healthy signal, the ASB-2 seemed unwilling to list our router among the available access points. We’re sure there’s a sound technological explanation for this, but it does underline how much easier life is for Apple users.

The ASB-2 comes with a compact remote, sporting a grey finish and minimal button layout. It’s easy to use and looks attractive.

Monitor Audio ASB-2 – Performance

The ASB-2 is a stunning performer. What makes it so impressive is the level of refinement on offer, no matter what material you throw its way. Movie soundtracks like Hellboy II on Blu-ray have rarely sounded so smooth and textured, thanks to the ASB-2’s impeccable high-frequency reproduction.

The movie’s amazing Troll Market scene is infused with layer upon layer of silky detail, from muted background chatter to the flutter of fairy wings above the hordes of shuffling mutants. The ASB-2 renders it all with pin-sharp clarity.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

It’s also remarkably powerful, effortlessly generating a huge, room-filling soundstage. Its bass output is thunderous yet tight and responsive, stopping and starting with the speed and decisiveness of a dedicated subwoofer. That pays dividends when Hellboy goes toe to toe with the Forest God – its huge ‘feet’ smash to the ground with big dollops of bass and when it clatters into buildings and cars you really feel it in your chest.

Even smaller, subtler effects benefits from these superb bass drivers. Ron Perlman’s gruff voice, background ambience and the silky, fluid score boast irresistible richness and depth. What’s more, midrange frequencies snap from the speakers with aggression without sounding harsh or strident.

The combination of all these qualities makes for a completely absorbing performance that completely justifies the ASB-2’s price. If there’s a flaw it’s the 3D processing, which does a terrific job of spreading effects across the front soundfield but doesn’t really get behind you like real surround speakers. But the soundstage is so big and powerful you won’t really mind too much.

It almost goes without saying that the ASB-2 is a wonderfully musical performer. Streamed via AirPlay, songs sound natural and vibrant, boasting meticulously rendered detail, agile bass and silky vocals.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

Should I buy the Monitor Audio ASB-2?

If you have this sort of cash to splash on a soundbar, the ASB-2 is worth every penny. It’s beautifully built, looks stunning and delivers wonderful sound quality, the likes of which we rarely hear from a soundbar.

Throw in a first-rate feature list, which includes AirPlay, DLNA streaming and four HDMI inputs and you’ve got yourself one of the best soundbars money can buy – although the lack of Bluetooth is a little disappointing.

Verdict

Pricey it may be, but with stunning looks, features and performance the ASB-2 is one of the best soundbars money can buy.

Next, read our best soundbars round-up

Overall Score

10

Scores In Detail

  • Design 10
  • Features 9
  • Performance 10
  • Sound Quality 10
  • Value 8

S_Porter

May 23, 2014, 1:55 pm

I have sadly just returned my ASB-2 to my retailer. When I decided to buy a sound bar I reviewed and sound tested in the shop a number including the Sonos and Yamaha. The ASB-2 sound was fantastic across the dynamic range and head and shoulders above the others. However when setting it up in your home and plugging it into you devices things start to go wrong.
In theory all those HDMI and other ports give you so many options, in practice to make them work however, is a nightmare. The clumsy visual display only works when it is set HDMI subset HDMI 1 and not with any other HDMI, optical input or any other configuration for that matter. You therefore have to rely on a series of flashing coloured lights to work out which input the ASB-2 is set to. To add to the confusion HDMI and Optial are the same colour.
White is HDMI and as there are four HDMI options you have to count the number of flashes to work out which setting you want.
The remote is minimalist, too minimalist for its own good. to change source type you have to press the source button down for a second or so and it will change through each main source type, miss It, and you have to start again. Once you have selected the main source you then have to press the button again this time for a short period to scroll through each sub source type. Miss it and you start again. press it too long and its changed main source type again
Your still with me?
I spent my 20 minutes talking my wife and family through the options and button pressing just so they could watch TV. Why because it does not always default to TV when its switched on. Your smart TV remotes may change the volume but not the source, so keep them nearby.
The final straw is that every twenty minutes or so it switches automatically to airplay and kills the sound. you then have to reset, switch to the source you want. Audio Monitor know about this fault but have admitted to me they have not found a solution
.
This is a deeply flawed product whilst it sounds great and spec has all these extra options such as airplay for the £1,000 it costs it does not work properly. The next model needs a proper visual display on the machine, a proper remote with buttons for each source and be more intuitive to the devices that are plugged into it, not forgetting they need to fix the problem with airplay.
Unlike the Trusted Review I give this product 2 stars and now I am off to collect a Sonos sound bar and sub !!

sheizi

September 8, 2014, 5:52 pm

Hi all

I wanted to know which of the following are better

Monitor asb2
B&W Panaromoma 2

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