A great sub £300 package
What is the Cambridge Audio TVB2?Considering just about every other audio manufacturer has already jumped aboard the soundbar gravy train, it’s taken Cambridge Audio quite a while to release their first in the TVB2. The package comprises the main speaker bar and a wireless subwoofer unit and is capable of receiving Ultra HD 4K signals through its HDMI inputs. According to the manufacturer, the development process for the TVB2 has been exhaustive and it contains speaker technology found in their (£1,000) Aeromax speakers so, considering the TVB2 is priced at £299.00 (January 2016), it would seem like a very promising product. Let’s find out if it is…
Design, Connections & ControlThe Cambridge Audio TVB2 is very discrete and understated and sits just 46mm high in its table-top formation, so it shouldn’t obscure your TV screen nor its infra-red receiver for the remote control. Connections are housed in recesses around the back and, for this price category, are extremely generous. You wouldn’t normally expect more than a couple of HDMI ports in a sub £300 soundbar but the TVB2 has four. What’s more, the three HDMI 1.4 inputs can take an Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 @ 24/25/30) signal and so are somewhat future-proofed for 4K video sources. The fourth HDMI connection is the one to take advantage of the Audio Return Channel (ARC) feature built-in to most TVs in the last five, or so, years. ARC allows a single connection between the TV and soundbar to play audio from any device connected to the television, as well as allowing you to control the soundbars’ volume using the telly’s remote. If your TV supports ARC, it’s usually only one HDMI port that does so and it should be clearly labelled – if not check the manufacturer specs.
You also get a Toslink digital audio input, an all-purpose 3.5mm jack for assorted stereo sources and Bluetooth 4.0 for streaming audio from your phone, tablet, or whatever device. The supplied remote, continuing the pervading feel of the package, is well organised and features discrete buttons for all the inputs, as well as the four listening modes. Naturally, there’s volume changing and mute buttons, too with one for powering on and off right at the top. The TVB2 does also feature an infra-red learning capability letting you use your TVs remote for volume control which will be useful for those with TVs not featuring ARC. We should also mention that the TVB2 comes with a wall-mounting bracket if you don’t want to place it in a unit
Features and SpecificationsThe TVB2 uses two 4th generation, patented Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) speaker drivers which, we know from experience, give a much wider sound than traditional drivers and should help eliminate the sweet-spot problem you get with some soundbars. The BMR speakers create sound by moving not just back and forward (as you get with ‘regular’ speakers) but also with horizontal and vertical vibration as well. The wireless subwoofer feature a 6.5-inch driver with ported bass reflex and there’s 120W of class D amplification built-in to the speaker bar.
The TVB2 is designed to be more than just a TV sound system with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity from phones, tablets and computers and NFC (Near Field Communication) one touch pairing also makes it extremely easy to pair with compatible devices. You get four adjustable EQ modes - TV, Music, Film and Voice and the TVB2 also has an auto-power-off feature which is a bit smarter than most. The fact it switches itself off after 20 minutes of receiving no signal is nothing special but that it will switch itself back on again in under 3 seconds is quite noteworthy; we know from experience that many soundbars take quite a lot longer to do so.
Audio QualityWhile the idea of Balanced Mode Radiator drivers aren’t all that new, thus far they’ve only really been deployed in soundbar products costing a fair bit more than the Cambridge Audio TVB2 and the deployment here is just as good. There is an easily noticeable extension to the sound-field, compared to competing products with conventional drivers and, while we can’t say the sweet-spot phenomena is eliminated completely, it is greatly reduced; meaning you will get a really good listening experience even if you’re not sat flush on to the bar. We had it paired with a 65-inch Samsung JU7000 and we never once got the suggestion that the TVs speakers – fitted right at its edges – were any further apart than the TVB2’s when the reality was of, course, very different.
We put the Cambridge Audio through its paces via directly connected HDMI sources – Panasonic Blu-ray player, Minix U1 media player, Xbox One & NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV – as well as checking out the comparative performance of the same using the Audio Return Channel connection; there is no question the TVB2 performed better when directly fed with multichannel (5.1/7.1) audio via the HDMI inputs so if you have those sources, we’d urge you to use those. Even the sound modes work well with a more enveloping acoustic available from Film, a richer, slightly warmer tuning via the Music mode and, well, clearer dialogue using the Voice mode, which is especially useful for late night viewing. We’re not really sure what the point of the TV mode is, and it didn’t seem to change much, so it’s not something we would use.
The BMR drivers really give the TVB2 some width in the soundstage
With more and more of us listening to music from streaming services, via smartphones and tablets, virtually all soundbar products have provision for Bluetooth streaming. The Cambridge Audio TVB2 is no exception and puts in a solid, if not stunning, performance with clear high frequencies and a solid low-end presence afforded by the subwoofer. Almost as ever with a soundbar, there’s a certain thinness to the mid-range but at least there is some definition there. The sub also performed impressively with the low frequency effects found in movies and TV shows, bringing a nicely taut and timely response with no little thud, thanks to the 6.5-inch driver.
- Sounds really good with movies and TV
- 3 HDMI inputs
- Very competitively priced
- Lacks a bit of mid-range
Cambridge Audio TVB2 Soundbar Review
Should I buy the Cambridge Audio TVB2?The Cambridge Audio TVB2 has lots going for it; there’s an unobtrusive design that won’t obscure the TV; you also get great connectivity, including 3 HDMI inputs, Audio Return Channel (ARC) and Bluetooth; the TVB2 comes with an easy to use and effective remote but, above all, the Cambridge Audio TVB2 puts in a great sonic performance with both movies and TV.
The front soundstage is far more expansive than the breadth of the speaker bar, with plenty of definition in the high and low frequencies and with multi-channel sources, the TVB2 sounds particularly great. The package also puts in a good effort with music although there’s a lack of nuance in the mid-range so, as ever with a soundbar, it’s no replacement for a stereo pair of speakers. All things considered, however, the Cambridge Audio TVB2 is comfortably worth the money and well deserving of an AVForums Recommended Award.
What else is there?The sub £300 soundbar category is fierce but the TVB2 more than holds its own and, as things stand in January 2016, we are awaiting a lot of the new models to be released. The Q Acoustics Media 4 (M4) is a definite competitor, however, and is priced the same as the Cambridge Audio TVB2. The M4 lacks any HDMI connectivity but then, from memory, it does sound that bit better – especially with music. Another one worth checking out is the Yamaha YSP-1400, which boasts similar audio capability, at a lesser cost than the TVB2 but it also lacks HDMI connectivity. For a more general idea, take a look at all our soundbar reviews.
Ease of use8
Value for Money8
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