- Excellent sound quality
- Dashing design and high-quality construction
- Easy to install and operate
- Sub not wireless
- Bass a tad boomy at times
- No HDMI inputs
- Review Price: £249.99
- Spatial stereo technology
- Optical and coaxial digital audio inputs
- Supplied subwoofer
- Built-in iPod dock
- Bass and treble adjustments
The T12v3 is the third generation of Orbitsound’s impressive stereo soundbar, successor to the OrbitSound T12 v2. We were impressed by how well its proprietary ‘spatial stereo’ technology worked, generating a convincingly wide sound no matter where in the room you’re sitting, eliminating the traditional idea of a sweet spot.
This new, upgraded version of the T12 brings an improved subwoofer with smoother, tighter bass response, plus the inclusion of higher-quality components within the main speaker are said to achieve a cleaner, more rigid and balanced sound, with louder volume.
It’s a great solution if you want hi-fi quality sound in the living room for TV, movie and music listening, but don’t like the wires and clutter associated with a 2.1 or 5.1 system. It’s discreet too – the compact main unit (605mm wide) can easily be placed on a TV stand and the vertically-orientated subwoofer should be easy to tuck away in a corner.
It’s luxuriously built and highly attractive to boot, boasting a lustrous gloss black finish and a metal speaker grill that gives the unit a stamp of quality – remove it and you’ll expose the six front drivers in all their glory. A red/blue LED flashes when it receives commands from the remote.
The coup de gras is the iPod/iPhone dock found on top, which makes it mega-simple to play your tunes through the system. On the back is a surprisingly generous selection of sockets, including coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, 3.5mm stereo input, analogue stereo input and two composite video outputs that allow you to watch videos from connected iPods.
Orbitsound missed a trick by not providing HDMI inputs, which means you can’t sample the delights of hi-res Dolby True HD or DTS HD Master Audio though this unit, which may have benefitted from Orbitsound’s audio talents, even in stereo.
The spatial sound technology, invented by Orbitsound founder and renowned audio electronics designer Ted Fletcher, generates the main audio information from a wide-bandwidth mono transducer, while two smaller spatial speakers, directed at 90° to the main speaker and 180° from each other, produce the spatial information. The interaction between the three speakers means that it sounds like proper stereo when it reaches your ears.
These spatial speakers are 2in full-range drivers located at either end of the soundbar, while behind the grille you’ll find two 1in tweeters and four 2.5in midrange drivers. The soundbar offers a frequency range of 40Hz – 16kHz.
There’s a volume dial on the back, while treble and bass can be adjusted using the remote. On the back of our pre-production sample is a switch that allows us to switch between Off, Normal and Wide settings, but this isn’t found on the retail version – it will be set to Wide at all times.
The T12v3 is a breeze to install and operate. Placement is easy due to the compact nature of the components, while the passive subwoofer (which features a 6.5in woofer) simply connects to the main unit via the supplied speaker cable, sadly using springclip terminals. It’s a shame Orbitsound couldn’t have upgraded to a wireless sub which would have made installation even easier – something to think about for T12v4…
You can press the volume dial on the back to toggle through sources. But day-to-day operation is much easier when using the remote, which has also been upgraded from the previous generation. It features volume, bass, and treble plus/minus keys, centrally placed menu controls and buttons for controlling an iPod (play, stop, skip).
A lot of clever-sounding audio modes promise the world but fail to deliver (naming no names, virtual surround) but Orbitsound’s tech really works. In fact, it makes any source sound amazing, making this an ideal upgrade if you’re tired of your TV speakers.
Although it’s not found on the production version, the spatial stereo switch on the back allows us to gauge its impact on sound quality. And we have to say, the difference is revelatory – set to ‘off’ the sound is dull and lifeless, yet in Wide mode, audio suddenly bursts into life with a crisp, sparky and immersive quality.
The effect is natural and smooth, and you don’t have to strain to hear the benefits like you do with most virtual surround modes. Lengthy listening isn’t fatiguing either, and as claimed the effect works no matter where you’re sitting in relation to the soundbar.
With movies, the soundstage is wide and spacious, giving individual effects room to breathe. It inevitably doesn’t deliver the immersive soundstage of a 5.1 system, but it comes a lot closer than you might imagine a stereo soundbar to.
Dialogue sounds clear, while explosions and other bass-heavy effects are reproduced with gusto. That said, the sub suffers from a touch of boominess when really tested, which lets the side down slightly, yet the rest of the sound is so absorbing that you might not notice.
We also tried out the T12v3 with some Rugby World Cup matches on ITV1 HD from a Sky box and even CBeebies, and we were really impressed by the clarity and expansiveness it brings to any content.
Even music comes up smelling of roses, with a delightfully detailed and open presentation of songs from our docked iPod. Vocals and instrument solos sound clear but sit nicely in the mix, while hi-hats are crisp and kick drums are powerful, if slightly loose.
The Orbitsound T12v3 is a sonic revelation. Not only is its fundamental sound quality of the highest order, but the spatial stereo tech also works a treat, giving you immersive, engaging audio no matter where it’s placed in the room.
What’s more, it’s beautifully built, boasts a luxurious design and installation is a cinch, while the plentiful connections and iPod dock cater for lots of sources.
There are certainly areas for improvement on the next generation – a wireless subwoofer, even tighter bass performance and HDMI inputs please – but as it stands the T12v3 is a fantastic soundbar that’s ideal if space is at a premium.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9
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