The M10 soundbar offers a smart, convenient way of upgrading your TV’s sound quality without swallowing up loads of living room space. The key selling point of Orbitsound’s systems is their use of proprietary airSOUND technology to eliminate the idea of a sweet spot, offering the same sound quality no matter where you’re sitting.
The sleek, compact soundbar is paired with a similarly compact wireless subwoofer to give bass frequencies a helping hand. It’s relatively expensive, but we’ve been impressed by previous Orbitsound systems like the SB60 airSOUND Base and M9 so we’re optimistic that the M10 can justify the price.
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The first thing we noticed after pulling the two components from the box is how diddy they are – the soundbar measures just 500mm wide and 95mm deep, which makes it nice and easy to accommodate. The sub stands 340mm high by 130mm wide and can be easily tucked away.
And like Orbitsound’s previous soundbars, the M10 is beautifully made and gorgeously styled. The main body is dressed in a luxurious black lacquer finish with curved edges, finished off by a thick removable cloth grille on the front and speaker mesh on both end panels (more on those later). It’ll make a fetching partner for any flatscreen TV.
The solid, chunky build is commensurate with the price. The soundbar is made from wood as opposed to plastic, which not only bolsters the solidity but is also claimed to bring acoustic benefits. The subwoofer’s hard wearing matt black PVC finish is perfect for the rigours of on-floor placement and looks attractive.
Front clutter is limited to a single status LED that shines through the grille, while a control panel is found on top. The input, volume and power buttons sport a tactile rubber finish, demonstrating more impressive attention to detail. The inputs are listed on top (Bluetooth, Aux, Optical) and a small white light indicates which one is selected. This brilliantly streamlined design is perfect for technophobes.
The limited array of sockets on the back underlines its simple plug-and-play approach. There are optical, analogue stereo and 3.5mm minijack inputs, which let you hook up your TV and a couple of portable devices. But if you hanker after HDMI ports and ARC then this not the soundbar for you. Built-in Bluetooth provides another means of playing music on the M10, though.
The M10 isn’t teeming with tricks but the most significant feature is airSOUND technology, which uses a range of drive units to ensure the same listening experience no matter where in the room you’re sitting.
The four speaker drivers at the front handle the bulk of the sound – speech, effects, music etc – while two spatial drivers located in the end panels ‘bounce’ sound around the room, theoretically resulting in a spacious, enveloping soundstage no matter where you sit. Inside the wireless subwoofer is a 6.5in bass driver and total power output is quoted as 300W.
Setup is easy. Just place the soundbar on your TV stand, hook up the optical cable and away you go – just make sure your TV’s SPDIF output is set to ‘PCM’ and not bitstream.
The presence of airSOUND means the M10 isn’t fussy about where it’s placed – as long as the side speakers aren’t obstructed. The M10 isn’t designed for wall mounting.
The wireless sub talks to the soundbar automatically and there are pairing buttons on both components to reset the connection in case it drops out. The lack of cables makes everything neat and tidy.
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Orbitsound has improved the remote based on feedback from previous reviews and it’s a winner. Its angled, ergonomic shape and pleasing rubberised finish feel comfy in the hand, while the nicely-proportioned buttons cover all bases, including volume control, Bluetooth playback and even bass and treble adjustments. You can toggle through the three inputs using a single button at the top.
A couple of minor complaints to report – the unit hesitates briefly after remote commands and there’s no visual aid when tweaking the levels, apart from the LED flashing briefly. It’s all done by ear.
The M10’s lively sound is a cut above many similarly-priced rivals. Much of the credit for this should go to airSOUND, which delivers on its promise with an enveloping soundstage.
Unlike most virtual surround modes (which are generally useless) airSOUND doesn’t try and replicate a 5.1-channel effect – instead it concentrates on expanding the sound as a whole, offering the same quality from every listening position. It succeeds.
We span Marvel action-fest Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray, and the M10 kicks out a loud, invigorating sound when Cap and friends face the Winter Soldier on the freeway. Deep, bassy explosions and rumbling engines engulf you, while gunshots and crashing cars fire into every corner of the room.
We’re also impressed by the soundbar’s full-bodied, natural sound. Some of the soundbars we’ve tested recently offer a thin, hard tone with practically no bass extension whatsoever, which makes the accompanying subwoofer sound detached and disjointed.
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But here the M10’s wider frequency range ensures a fuller and more cohesive output. There’s a seamless crossover between sub and speakers, which is helped by the presence of a dedicated volume dial on the back of the sub to get the level just right.
So as a result, the sub’s bass notes are tight and punchy. When the 4x4 smashes into the back of Cap’s car, there’s impressive slam and weight behind the impact.
At the other end of the spectrum the M10 digs out lots of detail and conveys action effects with plenty of bite. There’s a crisp leading edge to rifle blasts and the delicate tinkle of shattering car windscreens is beautifully clear. The tone is easy on the ear, not sharp and abrasive like some soundbars, although when pushed to high volumes it’s not entirely comfortable with some the scene’s more aggressive effects.
The M10 does a decent job with music, offering a nice balance across the frequency range, incisive high frequencies, natural-sounding voices and nimble bass work.
However, the use of airSOUND will divide opinion – on the plus side, it accentuates treble and widens the stereo stage, making everything sound bigger and more layered. But it also adds an echoey effect to vocals that reduces the overall focus, and it also sounds ‘phasey’ at times. Audiophiles will no doubt roll their eyes, while others will find the effect quite enjoyable. Either way, you can’t turn airSOUND off, so you’re stuck with it.
With its luxurious build quality, simple operation and big, enveloping sound, the M10 is a fine soundbar for the money. Its performance is dynamic without sounding brash, with lots of top-end detail and deep, punchy bass.
There’s a satisfyingly cohesive union between soundbar and subwoofer that puts some rivals to shame, and the presence of airSOUND makes it sound great regardless of placement or seating position.
We have reservations over using airSOUND with music though, and if you want HDMI ports then you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The M10 is another impressive soundbar from the Orbitsound stable, boasting a delectable design, easy operation and room-filling sound.
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