Orbitsound T12 review

Full review: Soundbar and iPod Dock speaker system

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Can a single speaker produce stereo for your iPod and TV viewing pleasure?

Either as an iPod dock or a sound bar for your TV, Orbitsound’s unique talent is to deliver convincing stereo sound from its second generation single speaker the T12, the And that’s stereo all around the room rather than in a single sweet spot. So is the patented ‘spatial stereo’ technology a cure for puny TV speakers or a waste of space?

It looks like your average sound bar, with six drive units housed in a long ported cabinet, but the there’s an important difference. Two more full-range drive units are mounted at the sides and it’s these side-firing speakers that supply the special stereo effect.

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The iPod/iPhone dock is on top and all of the connections and controls are at the rear. Yes, that does rule out any plans you had to wall-mount this thing under your TV. The high gloss lacquer looks great, but behind the detachable grill is a hastily attached naked circuit board, which makes it look a bit like a science project.

We’re delighted to see that Orbitsound has added a pair of digital inputs and thrown in a free optical cable since the first version launched in 2008, but we notice the price has actually gone up by £50 to cover it. The remote and passive subwoofer, both look like they were built to a strict budget.

Orbitsound T12: FEATURES

The T12 couldn’t be any easier to set up and use. Just plug your TV and Blu-ray player into the two digital inputs and connect the sub using the supplied speaker cable and you’ll be able to toggle between the two using the supplied remote. The remote only has basic source, menu and volume controls, so that’s easy.

You can use the phono inputs if your TV doesn’t have a digital output and there’s a minijack for an MP3 player. The brilliant iPod dock is an obvious bonus as it gives you immediate access to your tunes with full remote control and charges your device at the same time.

Orbitsound T12: SOUND QUALITY

So does it work? To a degree yes, but the effect works better with some sources than others. Listening to a Clash CD with the spatial effect on (there’s a switch at the back) the performance does indeed sound like it’s in proper stereo and you don’t loose the image when you walk around the room as you would with conventional speakers. It’s quite an achievement by Orbitsound’s creator and former musician Ted Fletcher.

The broad stereo sound is ideally suited to TV too. Turn down your TV’s own speakersand the sound bar will deliver a much wider and clearer sound that will fill the room much more effectively and without any left/right disparity. The spatial effect is less successful is with very compressed MP3 files, which can sound even less dynamic and monotonal.

The real limitation is more to do with the quality of the speakers. The treble is nicely detailed, but it doesn’t integrate so well with the mid range and the bass sounds really quite disjointed. Tone controls on the remote allow you reign in the wayward subwoofer, but it just lacks the punch and pace to keep up with the tiny drive units in the centre speaker.

What that means is that while it can make a TV show sound far clearer and more compelling than the TV’s own speakers, it won’t replace your hi-fi quite so satisfactorily. Sure it can fill the room with a warm and mostly stereo-sounding performance, but it won’t be as refined and realistic as the sweet spot of a reasonable hi-fi.

Orbitsound T12: VALUE

Orbitsound’s T12 will make a fine upgrade for a big TV with disappointing speakers of its own. The wide soundfield and bass reinforcement will certainly help to drive a large room. We’d love to see the technology built into a more refined and cohesive product though. Or better still, why not license the spatial tech to the TV manufacturers and let them build it right into the set?

The Orbitsound T12 is available now, buy it directly from Orbitsound

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SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVERS: 4x mid-bass, 2x tweeters, 2x full-range (spatial)
POWER: 40W + 40W + 20W RMS
SUBWOOFER: Passive 6-in reflex woofer
FREQUENCY RANGE: +/-3dB 40-16k Hz
CONNECTIONS: Optical/coaxial digital in, analogue stereo in, minijack in
IPOD DOCK: controllable for iPod/iPhone with video out
POWER IN STANDBY: 2.3W
DIMENSIONS BAR: 100(h) x 605(w) x 110(d) mm
DIMENSIONS SUB: 460(h) x 230(w) x 230(d) (sub)
WEIGHT: 8 kg
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