We’ve reviewed plenty of soundbars here at TrustedReviews, but the ones we’ve seen tend to be a substitute for a full 5.1-channel speaker system. But Monitor Audio has taken a different approach by launching a soundbar that’s designed to be incorporated into a 5.1-channel speaker system.
The Radius One HD is Monitor Audio’s first soundbar and it incorporates the left, right and centre channels into one sleek, compact cabinet, which not only cuts down on clutter but also allows you to mount it on the wall below a flatpanel TV (using the supplied bracket).
It’s a sumptuous-looking unit, boasting a piano black lacquer finish and curved speaker grilles arranged in a pleasingly symmetrical layout. On the back of the unit are three separate pairs of high-quality binding posts for the left, right and centre channels.
You could quite easily use the soundbar on its own and enjoy a high-quality front soundstage, but for the proper home cinema experience you’ll need to add rear channels, and that’s where the Radius 45HD speakers come in. Measuring just 100 x 100 x 100mm, these gorgeous compact cubes are small enough to stick on the ceiling or wall (using the supplied mounts) or they can be perched on the bespoke Radius floor stands.
Of course, no home cinema system would be complete without a subwoofer, and handling this system’s bass duties is the Radius 360 HD. Like the other components it’s admirably compact, which is great news if you’re keen to hide it away in a corner, but we don’t think you’ll want to as it’s styled in the same elegant piano black lacquer finish as the other speakers. It’s also fitted with silicon rubber feet that aim to reduce resonance, plus the back panel is covered in knobs and switches that give you a lot of control over the bass output.
You’ll find volume and crossover frequency controls (the latter can be set from 40Hz up to 180Hz) plus a switch that flips the phase 180 degrees and another that lets you select between music or movie settings, which changes the sub’s response accordingly. You’ll also find stereo phono inputs, a power switch and a light that tells you when the sub’s active.
It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t a one-box package – all of these speakers can all be bought separately and there’s a wide range of other Radius HD models to choose from, all with different drivers and sound characteristics, so you can mix and match speakers to suit your needs. The models selected here are all designed to complement each other in terms of crossover and voicing. Although our samples feature the piano black lacquer finish, they’re all available in silver and piano white lacquers, while the 45HDs and 360HDs additionally come in Walnut and ‘Rosemah’ real wood veneers.
And now here’s the science bit. Inside the soundbar, each of the three channels has a dedicated braced compartment and individually specified crossovers. The centre channel boasts twin 4in Metal Matrix Polymer (MMP) II mid/bass drivers and a 1in Ceramic-Coated Aluminium Magnesium (C-CAM) gold dome tweeter, while the left and right channels house single 4in MMP II drivers with a 1in C-CAM tweeter – all magnetically shielded and arranged in the D’Appollito layout to aid dispersion.
These newly-developed MMP drivers are designed to offer higher sensitivity, improved linearity and low distortion, while the new C-CAM tweeters achieve frequency extension of over 35kHz, which means detailed Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks should be in safe hands. The unit also features an Anti-Resonance Composite front baffle, which provides the necessary structural rigidity and vibration damping, while the PTC auto-reset protection circuit kicks in when the speakers are over driven to prevent any damage being done.
As for the R45HDs, they feature the same PTC circuit as the One HD and are equipped with a 3in mid-bass driver and rear-firing 3/4in gold dome tweeter, while the 360 HD sub features a downward firing 8in driver and musters up to 100W of pure bass muscle.
The net result of all this impressive audio tech is that the Radius HD system can deliver fantastic sound quality. We started our audition with a range of CDs and with stereo material the One HD proves to be an adept and versatile musical performer, equally at home with the fast-paced pounding rock of U2’s ”Get On Your Boots” and the energetic jazz noodling of George Benson’s ”Breezin”.
Corinne Bailey Rae’s mellifluous voice on her version of ”Since I’ve Been Loving You” also sounds sublime, proving that these speakers aren’t scared to show their sensitive side when it comes to the more delicate stuff. They offer a highly detailed sound with terrific timing and loads of emotion, plus there are no ill effects from the front trio living in such close quarters – the sound is clean and free from distortion.
The system also delivers the goods with movies, giving an electrifying performance with ”I Am Legend’s” Dolby True HD track. As a whole, the Radius HD system is slick and cohesive, moving up and down the sonic frequency range like a Formula One car moves through gears – the sub steps in for beefy bass effects but never outstays its welcome, while high-frequencies are smooth and easy on the ears.
The gentle ambience during shots of the deserted New York streets is meticulously presented, with the R45’s superb top-end response conveying the sounds of chirping birds and swirling wind with effortless precision and sharpness.
But when Will Smith shatters the silence by bombing round in his car, all six channels snap into life, injecting the roar of the engine and clatter of escaping deer with aggression and intensity, and delivering the jump-out-your-seat jolts with real bite.
Later scenes demonstrate the system’s other virtues – Smith’s voice is smooth and velvety with a rich, full bodied tone, and the system’s open, expansive soundstage perfectly conveys the sense of eerie tension as he searches for his dog inside the pitch-black building – a scene that culminates in a fantastically crisp and forceful crash as Smith bursts through the window.
The only flaw lies with the subwoofer, which is much better suited to music than movies. We love its ability to serve up deep, well-integrated bass tones with admirable dexterity, but we can’t help feeling that it’s a little too gentle and laid back during some of the above action scenes. You need to turn the dial up quite high to make its presence felt, and even then bass isn’t quite as up-front as we’d hoped.
Although the combined price of this Radius HD system makes it seem quite expensive, rest assured that the refined sound quality it delivers makes it worth the money. The only caveat surrounds the subwoofer – if you like your movie bass to be big and beefy, you might want to opt for something a little more aggressive.
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