(Pocket-lint) - Of all the British brands out there, Orbitsound might not be the first one to pop into your head. But since the London-based company's conception back in 2005 it's forged forward with decent audio products and, in the Orbitsound A70 Airsound Bar, it's finally ditched slightly "British bulldog" looks with its most stylish and sophisticated product to date. The A70 is Orbitsound going pedigree.
The A70 Airsound Bar combines soundbar and subwoofer as two separates, including a remote control (which can even sync with many TVs for a one-control solution) and wall-mount kit in the box. All for £500.
It can't cater for more than pseudo-surround sound from its stereo handling, but for beefing-up TV audio and delivering bassy, balanced punch to music (via Bluetooth or AUX) there's a lot to shout about. If you're thinking of investing in a soundbar then does the Orbitsound A70 Airsound Bar deliver pedigree audio without the typically huge price tag?
We've long accused Orbitsound products of being rather uninspiring-looking boxes, but the A70 Airsound Bar soundbar really steps things up a notch. From its subtle inset curve and subtly protruding centralised speaker grille, to its piano black gloss finish and exposed left and right end speakers, this wooden-built soundbar is one stylish bit of kit.
It's not just a dull box either, with the front left side containing light-up touch-sensitive button controls – comprising on/off, volume up/down, Bluetooth sync, LRN (that's "learn" – more on that later) and source; they switch off after use to avoid being distracting – while the right side shows volume/bass/treble levels with a visual +/-5 display. It's subtle, it's simple, and it's absolutely what was missing from earlier Orbitsound products.
The rear contains the DC input power port, a USB socket (for software updates as there's no Wi-Fi), and all-important optical and 3.5mm AUX inputs – all of which are recessed to avoid being unsightly by poking out from the rear. There's no HDMI port if that's how you like to handle your audio from TV, but as the A70 Airsound bar isn't a full receiver system that's unlikely to be a huge issue.
The separate subwoofer, which contains a 6.25-inch driver, is a simpler arrangement, minus the glossy finish of the soundbar, which auto syncs once switched on via the switch to the rear. There isn't a manual level control like with the older Orbitsound M12's subwoofer, but as the sound profile adjusts based on whether the A70's woofer is plugged in or not (to avoid crossover muddying the sound; an audible difference) and there's separate bass/treble control anyway, it's not an absence we've missed at all.
Hide the sub away and put the A70 soundbar proudly on display. It's as stylish as any competitor we've seen and, at 75cm long and around 7cm both deep and tall, it's not overly obtrusive either.
Key to any audio product is just how good it sounds. Orbitsound has it own patented technology at play within all its products, which delivers stereo from a single point system by minusing one stereo channel from the other to produce a "spatial sound" (as output from those left and right end speakers on the A70 soundbar). It might all sound overly scientific but the end result is a genuinely wide soundscape that adds depth to the listening experience.
The overall quality of the audio is excellent too: with 22 levels of volume and a 300W output it's loud and we were barely scratching the surface (didn't want to annoy the neighbours too much), while the subwoofer adds bass that will be entirely absent from TV sets otherwise. Those pitch-down "woooom" sounds in movies take on a mini-cinema feel thanks to a minimum 45Hz output.
But perhaps what we've used the A70 Airsound Bar for the most is music. With a single press of the Bluetooth touch-button on the soundbar we've had either laptop or phone paired for a week-long listen (there's even NFC for quick sync should you want it). Indeed it's so good thanks to the added bass that we've often uprooted from the office to the living room, shunning our Mordant-Short setup for a bit of Orbitsound. Can't say better than that.
Bass delivery is tight thanks to CSR's Smart technology, while aptX lossless quality ensures everything sounds crystal clear. Should you want to tweak audio beyond the standard setting then there are independent bass and treble adjustments, which can be boosted or reduced by up to five points, as shown by visual light-up "dots" on the soundbar display.
However, there's no more complex equalisation presets on the device itself (you can implement such things from, say, iTunes or via your TV's presets though) but otherwise the only true downside we've found is that all sources have the same bass/treble settings applied. Typically we'll boost the bass a bit for music via Bluetooth, but want a flatter listen for TV via optical (otherwise voices tend to sound wrong).
Another criticism, in a way, is that the A70 Airsound Bar isn't ever going to be part of a true surround-sound system. That's just not the way it works, and not the technology that the company is trying to push. So if you buy it and think some rear additional speakers might be fun at a later date then, well, it's not going to happen, not with this brand anyway (although treating the soundbar as a front centre speaker via AUX is plausible, but all seems a bit hotchpotch to consider).
When we first saw the A70 Airsound Bar at Orbitsound's headquarters we were shown how it likes to play nice with various tellies. You know the deal: you've already got a set-top box remote and a TV remote, you don't want yet another one to confuse the whole family.
Which is where the LRN function comes into play. It's possible for the system to detect its accompanying TV type and your remote will then default to adjust the Orbitsound's volume, without interfering with the TV volume separately (which can be a frustration depending on how its setup, we had to mute speaker output within TV settings to cease duplicated sound output).
However, the LRN function doesn't apply to all TVs, with Panasonic on the list of non-compliant. And guess what? We're also reviewing a Panasonic TV at present, so beyond seeing the LRN feature in full swing at company HQ, it's not something we've been able to dabble in ourselves.
When it comes to music control we've found the accompanying Orbitsound remote to do a pretty decent job. Its rubberised grey coat and simple set of controls – comprising on/off, volume up/down, mute, bass/treble up/down, play/pause and fast-forward or rewind – is much better looking and altogether simpler than the older and busier Orbitsound remotes. The play/pause also works for synced Bluetooth, so if the phone's out of reach then you can skip to the next playlist track nice and easy.
Orbitsound has found its design swing with the A70 Airsound Bar, producing not only an aesthetic ace but a top-sounding soundbar and subwoofer combination.
Although £500 might sound like a lot of money to fork out for such a product, it's actually pretty good value in the bigger picture: less cash than the Bose, Dali and Onkyo products of this world, but of comparable quality. It could easily be used as a stereo replacement thanks to great Bluetooth too, further adding to the value.
If you're in the market for a soundbar then don't overlook this slice of British pedigree. Finally Orbitsound can offer a soundbar good looking enough to complement its excellent and immersive pseudo-surround sound. Unless you're fixated on buying a true surround sound system, you'd be hard pressed to find better than the Orbitsound A70 Airsound Bar at this price point.