Maxell extends UK audio product range with a soundbar that will sit under a very heavy TV
What is the Maxell MXSP-SB3000?
We’ll admit that the last time we thought about Maxell is when considering our last blank tape cassette purchase.The company is actually owned by Hitachi, whose range of budget TVs are sold almost exclusively through Argos. But the MXSP-SB3000 is tied down to no such deals and is freely available through online outlets. It’s the latest in a line of soundbars we’ve seen that are designed to sit directly under your flatscreen TV by acting as a plinth.It’s certainly a tidy way of beefing up the usually awful sound quality we get from our fancy TVs but can they compete with more ‘traditional’ soundbar solutions that feature separate subwoofer units? If so, this Maxell is packed with connectivity options and at less than £230, certainly at the inexpensive end of the market. Let’s see if Maxell has it taped.
Maxell MXSP-SB3000 Design & ConnectionsWe’ll start off by saying the MXSP-SB3000 is much larger than we expected. They did say that it was designed for large screen tellies but we weren’t expecting it would be able to accommodate a 65-inch Ultra HD TV without too much bother. There is the caveat that your TV will really need a base stand that is considerably less than its own width, however, as the top of the unit tapers away at around 12cm from either end, giving an effective width of 71cm, or thereabouts. Depth wise, there’s between 36 and 40cm to play with, dependent on whether you want to retain use of the touch-sensitive buttons on the top. We have to question whether the target market – i.e. those looking for a neat solution – will welcome the bulk of the package but having lived with it for a while, it does blend in to the environment quite well.
It's very well connected!
Rather in a throwback to the days of ‘tapes’, the MXSP-SB3000 is styled to look like black ash out of an unspecified wood type and the unit feels weighty and solid as a result. Maxell says it will take up to 80Kg without buckling and if you have a flat-panel heavier than that, we’d be very surprised. Considering the price-point, the unit is remarkably well connected with 3 HDMI ports plus singular S/PDIF and Coaxial digital, RCA stereo and a 3.5mm aux inputs situated in a recess at the back. There’s also a HDMI out that will enable you to take advantage of your TVs ARC capabilities, allowing you to send its audio ‘upstream’ - meaning any devices connected can have their audio routed to the Maxell without a direct connection. This does mean the TVs circuits will do the down-mixing for multi-channel audio so a direct connection is usually best.
Maxell MXSP-SB3000 Setup & ControlSetting up couldn’t be much easier. It’s simply a case of choosing your appropriate input to plug in and then selecting that from the remote or front panel buttons. We found that the ARC implementation was very good and fail-safe with both the Samsung and Panasonic plasmas it happened to be connected with during its stay. Maxell even throws in a (fairly short) HDMI cable as well as a 3.5mm line cable and a RCA to RCA lead. Bluetooth operation was also excellent with the SB3000 syncing straight to a number of our devices and hardly ever dropping the signal. You can even charge your phone or tablet whilst streaming via the USB port on the front, should you need to.
The bundled remote doesn’t really share the build quality of the speaker assembly and it’s one of those that you know is destined to be frequently found down the sides of the recliner. It has a good array of buttons, however, with direct links to inputs, rather than a toggle, but the text on them is small and difficult to read, as a result. It does have a trick up its sleeve in being able to ‘learn’ IR commands. This is done by assigning one of seven keys to a command and then pointing and pressing the corresponding control on the TV's remote, whilst pointing at the top of the Maxell’s. It works really well but we’re not sure you’d want to have this remote as your main controller.
The Remote is lightweight and flimsy but will learn IR commands.
Maxell MXSP-SB3000 Audio QualityWe put the MXSP-SB3000 through its paces in a number of locations and tested it with varied source material. As this is primarily marketed as a device through which to route your TV and movies, that’s where we began with a brisk trot through some of the more challenging scenes in Oz the Great and Powerful. The movie has lots of impressive low end effects which the two down-firing sub drivers coped with them well enough but the SB3000 does tend mumble rather than rumble, meaning there’s a slight lack of definition and impact. It’s not bad, by any means, but comparable soundbars with separate subs will usually fare better in that respect.
There’s a really good sense of integration, however, with the mid-range and sub drivers working pleasingly together so even if it does lack the ultimate punch some will be seeking there’s good cohesion and a nice sense of immediacy. The soundstage is wider than comparable products we’ve tested too, the wide construction of the cabinet certainly helps here and the relatively deep proportions means there’s a good sense of space with plenty of room to breathe.
The subs mumble rather than rumble
We tend to shy away from DSP (Digital Sound Processing) modes with the typical soundbar as they usually make content sound unnatural but that was not so, in all cases, with the SB3000. Whilst the SRS ‘surround sound’ processing is pretty much a waste of time, the music mode entered by toggling the EQ Button on the remote sounds great for both music and movies, giving a little extra clarity to voices and a sense of more detail being presented. In fact, we probably enjoyed the Maxell a little more for music than we did its TV & film efforts but it’s still the best ‘soundplate/soundplinth/soundbase’ product we’ve heard to date.
- Nice wide soundstage
- Loads of connections
- Good for music
- Bluetooth is robust
- Bass is a bit muffled
- Size might put some off
- Naff remote
Maxell MXSP-SB3000 Soundbar ReviewThe Maxell MXSP-SB3000 is a slightly curious looking product with its, relatively, very large retro black ash cabinet but that bulk means you can, apparently, place a TV that weighs anything up to 80Kg upon it. It also allows for a superb set of connections including 3 HDMI in, 1 out for ARC, 2 digital audio inputs and connections for stereo and auxiliary sources. There’s also a very robust support for Bluetooth built-in and a USB port, to the front, where you can charge your mobile device. The remote isn’t the best but at least it can learn some basic commands from your TV’s handset.
It’s thanks to its size that the SB3000 is able to deliver quite an impressively wide soundstage. The chassis design gives at natural advantage over its competitors here and that same edge is there in terms of it giving a sense of space and freedom. We found ourselves going with the ‘Music’ EQ setting, regardless of source material, more often than not and it delivers clean, detailed audio which, whilst lacking in slam, is pleasingly coherent and snappy. If you want a little more from your low-end – and don’t we all? – you’ll perhaps be better looking at a soundbar package that comes with a separate sub but this is the best product, of its type, we’ve seen so far and at less than £230 it represents very good value. The Maxell MXSP-SB3000 is certainly worthy of a recommendation for anyone considering this kind of solution.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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