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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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