Orbitsound T12v3 review

4 out of 5
£299

For

Easy to use, excellent audio, good iPod usability, compact

Against

No wireless connectivity on subwoofer, slightly plasticky finish on soundbar, no HDMI support, no on-screen prompts

Not to be confused with the upcoming T14 soundbar with separate iPod dock and wireless subwoofer, which Orbitsound debuted at CES in January 2010, the Orbitsound T12v3 is the third version of the maker's T12 model. Boasting the same spatial sound technology as its predecessors, the T12v3 sports several technical improvements including new drivers for a clearer sound at higher volumes and an improved subwoofer with a smoother bass response.

Orbitsound's main selling point is the aforementioned spatial sound technology. Developed by Ted Fletcher, a former musician and renowned audio electronics designer who has worked with The Eagles, Elton John and maverick producer Joe Meek. The on-board wizardry is desgined to deliver stereo sound from a single unit, while doing away with the concept of the 'sweet spot'. What that means is that you can stand or sit anywhere in the room and get the same stereo effect.

The T12v3 soundbar is designed to be used as an add-on sound system for a TV, or simply as a iPod speaker, thanks to the built-in docking station. The main unit measures a reasonably compact 600 x 100 x 100mm with a speaker grill covering the front and both ends, while the top is finished in glossy black. It certainly looks the part, but it's something of a fingerprint magnet, so you might want to keep a cleaning cloth handy. The soundbar also feels a little bit plasticky, although at least this means that's it's nice and light, so you won't give yourself a hernia trying to lift it into place.

The back of the unit reveals a range of connections - including ports for hooking up the subwoofer, along with the power input, optical and coaxial ports and an alternative analogue connection for your TV (both optical and analogue cables are provided). There's also a 3.5mm input so that you can connect any non-Apple music devices, and cable is included so you want have to scrabble around to find your own.

The back of the unit is home to the power switch and there was also a stereo width switch on our pre-production review sample, but the manufacturer assures us that this won't be present on T12v3 when it hits the shops in September. There's also a 21-step volume dial, which will be increased to a 31-step version for the final product. The dial can also be pushed in to flick between sources - the order of which will also be modified for the final unit, with optical input being the default source when the power is switched on. 

The separate subwoofer measures in at 230 x 460 x 200, so it's not quite as compact as the soundbar itself, but it still has a relatively small footprint and can be hidden out of the way. As the sub is wired, you're slightly limited when it comes to how far away it can placed from the soundbar. Wireless connectivity would have been nice here - but that's something we can expect to see on the upcoming T14 model. 

The remote control is small and lightweight and while some more sausage-fingered gadget fans may struggle a little with the closely-spaced buttons, we found them perfectly manageable. When listening to your iPod or iPhone, you can control all the basic functions, such as play, stop and skip, but the good news is that the iMenu button will also enable to access your music library so that you can scroll through the menu screens - a feature not always on offer with iPod speakers. The T12v3 carries the official Made for iPod and Made for iPhone badges, and comes with a selection of plastic adaptors to house your chosen iDevice model.

Hooking up to the TV is a cinch, although with no HDMI support, you'll have to go for the optical or coaxial inputs (or alternatively, the analogue connection). There's no visual support so don't expect any onscreen menus either. When connecting to the TV we found that it was a case of switching through the sources using the remote until we found the TV output.

The overall sound quality is certainly impressive and the 'no sweet spot' concept works perfectly. We found that the audio remained constant no matter where we were in the room. This makes it ideal for watching TV in a group, or gathering numerous players round for a quick game on the Xbox, because it's not necessary to sit directly in the middle of the speakers to get the best out of them. Even whacking the volume up didn't produce any of the dreaded 'tinny' sound that's so common on cheaper products. The subwoofer is a also a tidy addition, offering a meaty low-end response that was smooth and stable, without sounding too overcooked or overshadowing the mid-range sonics.

Verdict

The Orbitsound T12v3 is very easy to set up, which is part of its charm. This is a great choice if you're looking for a simple way to beef up the sound on your TV but don't have the room (or money) to invest in a full home cinema system. Orbitsound's excellent spatial surround technology offers another compelling reason for investing in the T12v3.

At £299, the product is slightly more expensive than many rival soundbars, but the innovative spatial stereo technology certainly helps to sweetnen the pill. We would like to see a wireless sub (something which is due to land on the brand's upcoming T14) and the lack of HDMI support and onscreen guidance may put some off, but this is a great product that sounds fantastic, takes up very little room and is extremely simple to set up.