Orbitsound A70 airSOUND Bar Review
Stereo sound, no matter where you sit
What is the Orbitsound A70?This soundbar is very hot of the press with the A70 package just released. The system features a compact soundbar with a wireless subwoofer unit and a good set of features, including apt-X lossless Bluetooth streaming with NFC, touch controls, remote control learning and a hidden light up display. We have to admit we were a little taken aback by the suggested price of £500 (August 2015) because soundbars of this size typically for closer to £300, so the A70 best live up to its promises or else it’s going to look somewhat over-priced.
Design & ConnectionsAs you would expect from a product costing £500, the finish of the A70 is very nice with a solid wooden cabinet all glossed up in piano black. As we said above, however, it is far more compact than most in the price sector, measuring just 75cm x 7.4cm x 6.5cm (WxDxH). This is a good thing for those that want the most unobtrusive a speaker solution, as possible, and hopefully the airSound technology can do its bit so that we don’t lose the sense of stereo separation inherent in wider soundbars. There is no HDMI connection on-board the A70 so you are limited to digital audio through a Toslink connector, stereo via an all-purpose- 3.5mm jack and Bluetooth but that will do for most and HDMI can bring its own issues to the party.
Specs & FeaturesThe manufacturer says that with their patented airSOUND technology, we can forget worrying about the stereo sweet-spot as the custom driver array ensures you hear a stereo sound-field, wherever you are in the room. The idea is that the soundfield is created through the drivers placed at the centre of the bar and, most importantly, through two which fire directly out from the either end. The front speaker array fuses modern digital amplifiers with a classic Hi-Fi analogue crossover, to drive the custom designed 2x2-inch drivers and ‘high definition’ tweeter; the side-firing speakers are digitally driven neodymium. Given our experience with other airSOUND products, we can say that this has been pretty successfully implemented by Orbitsound and with the A70 built from the ground-up with completely custom drivers, we’re expecting even better things.
The A70 also features an infra-red learning capability, so you can use your TVs remote to control it and another modern convenience, in the shape of Near Field Communication pairing; this allows your phone or tablet to establish an immediate Bluetooth connection by simply touching it to the NFC tag on the speaker bar. The claimed 300W output should be enough to fill the average living room and even the subwoofer is claimed to be ‘Smart’ with a newly optimised driver and low profile cabinet that can be positioned in a variety of ways, without compromising its power. Utilising the latest Bluetooth technology, the subwoofer connection features an optimised digital bandwidth to achieve greater range, higher speed (lower latency) and zero interference with Bluetooth performance.
SetUp & ControlThe preferred set-up requires just one optical cable to connect to a television, which will then pipe sound through it from any sources connected to the soundbar. You will probably want to take advantage of the learning capabilities of the soundbar to use your TV remote to adjust volume and it’s very easy to do; you simply hold the LRN button down on the soundbar and press the relevant buttons on your TV’s remote when prompted. There’s nothing at all wrong with the Orbitsound remote, in fact it’s pretty stylish but do you really need yet another controller about the place – we know we don’t. Everything that can be done with the remote can be done via some touch-sensitive buttons on the front of the A70, in any case, and, rather neatly, the buttons don’t illuminate until touched which makes them non-distracting.
One thing to note during setup is that you must set your TV, or device connecting to the TV and then out to the A70, to output PCM/Stereo rather than Dolby Digital audio, else you will get either no sound or a loud machinegun like interference noise. We encountered exactly that with default audio settings of the Virgin TiVO box, although in fairness this is mentioned in the FAQ section of the supplied Quick Start Guide. Still, the lack of Dolby Digital decoding will cause some customer issues but Orbitsound assure us that their support staff are fully trained in navigating around TV menus, although we would expect a £500 soundbar to support DD decoding.
Audio PerformanceSo let’s get the airSOUND claims dealt with first; well, it definitely works and in an almost uncanny way. Almost no matter where you are sat in the room, the soundstage appears almost exactly the same, so regardless of seating position you will be hearing a very convincing representation of stereo sound. Strangely, the worst place to sit is actually dead in front where it seems more centre-focussed and a tad narrow. That’s possibly because the A70 was teamed with a 65-inch Sony during the review but, given the dimensions, we would expect the same effect from anything above a 50-inch TV. So, in some ways the A70’s sound projection capabilities are much better than of soundbars much wider than it but, in another, they aren’t.
The actual sound fidelity of the A70 is very good with it putting in a particularly impressive performance with music. We would always advise you to go with a couple of bookshelf speakers, over a soundbar, if music is an important medium for you but the A70 is one of the more musical soundbars we’ve encountered with a crisp high end underscored by relatively fast and crisp bass notes. There’s a little lacking in the mid-range, but then we would expect that given the driver array, but Orbitsound has made an excellent job in handling crossovers so the deficiencies are rarely easy to notice. The aptX Bluetooth capability also makes a difference, here, with streamed content from TIDAL sounding markedly better on the A70 than it did with another, non-apt-X capable, soundbar we had in for review at the same time.
The airSound tech certainly lives up to its billing
With movies and TV the A70 package also sounds really good but with something like Gravity, with its complex and multi-directional sound design, we did find it lacking somewhat. Regardless of whether a given soundbar has enough drivers for 5.1, if it can accept the signal it almost always sound more convincing than one that can’t. That said, less taxing material represented no problem for the A70 with dialogue clear and easy to hear and effects generally well placed. The Oribitsound A70, despite the lack of dedicated ‘Night Mode’ also impressed at lower listening levels so it’s a good choice for the considerate late night viewer.
- Really effective elimination of the usual stereo sweet spot
- Well made
- Sounds really good with music
- aptX Bluetooth streaming
- It's too expensive
- No Dolby Digital
- No HDMI (not necessarily a big loss)
Orbitsound A70 airSOUND Bar Review
Should I buy the Orbitsound A70?If you’re looking for an extremely inconspicuous audio solution which delivers great sound with both music and TV, then the Orbitsound A70 makes for a pretty enticing package. This is especially true if your living room tends to have a lot of listeners, as the airSOUND projection technology is pretty impressive in delivering a convincing stereo soundfield, regardless of where your sat; slightly ironically that’s not quite so true if your sat directly in front, when it can sound a little too centralised.
Orbitsound has made a great job of setting crossovers and tuning the A70 to make best use of the custom diver set, however, with an unexpectedly full range sound. The A70 is also robustly built and attractively finished but the lack of HDMI connection and Dolby Digital decoding count against it in the price sector it occupies; the inclusion of aptX Bluetooth capability is some compensation for both omissions with top-notch music streaming on offer. There’s no doubt that the Orbitsound A70 is one of the more interesting soundbar packages on the market but at its current suggested price, you could at least match the sound quality with an alternative whilst getting a few more nice-to-have features in to the bargain.
So, what else is there?The product that comes instantly to mind as an alternative is the Q Acoustics Media 4 (M4) which is currently (August 2015) available for at least £150 less than the Orbitsound and boasts an almost identical feature set but manages to sound a little better. The Panasonic SC-HTB880 is another good option and is currently doing the internet rounds for under £400 and it offers HDMI connectivity and multichannel audio decoding in to the bargain. For a more general look at the soundbar market, check out our hub.
Ease of use8
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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