You may remember seeing Orbitsound's T12 iPod dock / soundbar pop up in our summer buyer's guide. Today, the firm's just unveiled the latest in its product family: the Orbitsound T9. As you'll see, it's a very similar deal, but with an obvious difference -- its size. At 300mm (about 12") across, it's almost exactly half the length of its bigger brother (605mm) -- but not everything is a straight cut down the middle. Power-wise, this diminutive dock has a power output of 140W RMS (split 80 on the subwoofer, 35 on the front speakers and 25 on the sides,) and carries the same in- and output options. That means optical, line (phono and 3.5mm) and an iDevice connector going in, and a composite video (for piping those movies on your iPhone to your telly) in the other direction. The included subwoofer helps the device perform the dual roles of iPod dock, and TV soundbar. It's launching in mid-July in UK retailers, and internationally online for £200 / $249. Luckily, we managed to get our hands on one of the first production models, and took it for a spin, so boogie on past the break for our impressions.
Orbitsound T9 hands-on
The design of both hardware parts is elegant and simple. The main unit is discreet, yet visually pleasing and the glossy finish looks great, but might catch the odd fingerprint or smudge. The build quality is good, and feels reassuringly solid. Much the same can be said for the 'woofer too, which is essentially a black box, about the size of a cereal pack, with minimal features, bar the front speaker and side hole. The remote control follows suit, and mimics the lines and curves of the main unit, it feels a little light and plasticky, but it is a remote.
The first question is, dock or soundbar? Maybe you don't consider there to be a difference? In short, Orbitsound has pitched this device to be both a straight-up dock, and a home cinema / TV enhancement. The original T12, with its long, sweeping form was ideal for larger tellies. The T9, however, has those "other" screens in its sights. Dens, bedrooms, small offices; anywhere you might have a smaller TV, you might find a use for a T9. Likewise, it's the ideal size for sitting on a desk, shelf or side unit. Orbitsound claims that its proprietary spacial-sound technology isn't affected by the different distances between the speakers on this and the T12 model, and that the sense of "wide" sound is just as effective. Certainly in our time with it, we never felt like we were experiencing a narrow field of sound. While traditional docks sit in the corner and throw sound at you, the T9 uses the subtle differences in the left and right channels through its side-speakers to work its magic, and give it its depth. This technique is also claimed to eliminate "sweet spots," sharing the goodness to the whole room. Something which seemed to match our experience while watching films, and moving about.
The sound itself is surprisingly weighty, given its footprint. Mids leap out at you with particular crispness, and there's plenty of throb in the low-end. This, is in no small part, thanks to that subwoofer. This is great if you have the space required to bring this along with it, especially if you are using it for home cinema, but for more casual dock use (kitchens, bedsides etc.) it potentially adds some unwieldiness, to an otherwise smoothly designed and convenient unit. So, in these situations, when you can't plug into the subwoofer, you'll have to forfeit the 80 watts of low-end oomph that comes with it. On its own, bass frequencies -- understandably -- don't punch in the same way, but that's not to say they are lacking. Low-frequency lovers will definitely want to keep that extra black box nearby though, and find space by whatever means necessary. Given that there's no Bluetooth or Airplay options, you'll also need to make sure you can tuck away those cables.
While Orbitsound could be charged by some with hedging its bets -- for trying to appeal to two audiences -- you can understand why. Firstly, it performs both roles with equal poise, and secondly, there's likely a large number of people who will benefit from a product that is germane to such needs. As we upgrade the screens in our secondary spaces, something like the T9 should capture the imagination of those looking to sprinkle some audio spice in their living space. At $249, it comes in well under the likes of the JBL, and even iHome's iW1, the trade off being any wireless functionality. If your main priority is solid sound, in not a lot of space, then the T9 will be waiting for your call upon launch next month.
Orbitsound extends range with revolutionary compact T9
Versatile soundbar and mini-speaker in one - fills the room with great sound
London, UK: 00.01AM, GMT, Thursday 14 June 2012: Leading British audio technology company Orbitsound announces the revolutionary new T9. Launching to market in mid-July, the compact T9 is a neat, versatile unit with the capacity to fill a room with Orbitsound's unique spatial sound. A soundbar and mini-speaker dock in one, this ground-breaking system is a first for the market. No other audio manufacturer has developed a compact unit capable of delivering such impressive audio. The T9 significantly enhances TV and home-cinema audio from smaller screen TVs; whilst also producing stereo definition and powerful sound to surpass the quality available from any similarly-sized docks currently on the market.
Available in both black and white, the T9's compact form means it will fit perfectly within any room in the home, particularly those where space is at a premium. Ideally suited for bedrooms, conservatories, kitchens and studies, the T9 will dramatically improve TV audio and it is also a fantastic iPod/iPhone dock and mini-speaker system in its own right. Thanks to Orbitsound's patented spatial sound technology, the size of the soundbar does not compromise on the audio performance, as would inevitably be the case with a soundbar based on traditional stereo technology. And, unlike complex, multi-speaker set ups, such as the 5.1 systems which were so popular for home cinema a few years ago, with the T9 no matter where listeners are positioned in the room they will still enjoy the same incredible audio.
Orbitsound's COO John Cameron comments, "Talking with customers at consumer shows and hearing what they have to say on the shop floor, we realised that a product with a reduced form factor would be well received for smaller rooms within the home. And for those families who have a smaller TV in their living room. Let's face it, the sound from large screen flat panel TVs simply doesn't deliver. Everyone knows this, and unfortunately it is even worse for smaller screen models. And, for obvious reasons, consumers do not want to invest in complex bulky systems for areas where space is at a premium. They also frequently find the soundbars currently available are too big relative to the size of smaller screen TVs. Having heard loud and clear what consumers have to say, we are highly confident that the T9 will really appeal to buyers. Not only does it combine a compact soundbar and iPod/iPhone dock in one, there simply is nothing else of this size and quality on the market. Our spatial stereo technology means that the audio performance is unaffected by the T9's smaller dimensions; users will now have the opportunity to experience a phenomenal sound experience no matter the space they have available. We have already enjoyed great success with our award winning T12 soundbar and Orbitsound is currently the UK's bestselling soundbar brand*; a huge achievement for a British company that launched just over four years ago."
At just 30cm in length the T9 soundbar is similar in size to a centre speaker of a 5.1 system. Designed to sit comfortably in front of smaller TVs or on its own and with 140W RMS of power, the T9 consistently delivers great sound. As a result of Orbitsound's spatial stereo technology, audio is carried without interference throughout the room, creating an infinite sweet spot. And, unlike complex 5.1 systems with numerous speakers and wires, the neat T9 is made up of the unit itself, and a small subwoofer. Orbitsound has redesigned the subwoofer for the T9, to compliment the tonal character and smaller dimensions of the soundbar.
The T9 features an integrated charger so users can power-up their iPhone or iPod whilst watching TV or listening to music. Its remote control gives users access to the full iMenu, as well as controlling the T9's volume, bass and treble settings. Made from lacquered wood, the T9 cabinet is almost completely non-resonant, delivering a pure and clean sound whether running at high or low volume; and free from buzzes, rattles or resonances that would spoil your music or speech audio. The T9 is finished with a magnetically attached damped metal front grill and comes complete with a full set of cables; including optical, AUX, speaker, AUX in and VID out phono cable for the ever popular video out function which allows users to watch video content (eg YouTube or BBC iPlayer) from their iPod or iPhone on their TV screen via the T9.
With its practical nature, the T9 is likely to appeal to a variety of audiences; including those looking to improve their TV audio from smaller screens or TVs in secondary rooms, and also for consumers who want an iPod dock that delivers powerful auditorium quality spatial stereo sound that really fills the room but at a highly competitive price. Gamers will also benefit from the small footprint of the soundbar, perfect for bedroom games consoles and PC set ups. The T9 produces a realistic landscape of sound that is highly dynamic. Multiplayer gamers will feel immersed in the vibrant range, creating convincing atmosphere and audio for any game situation.
* GfK RT UK, Sound bar market, May 2011 to April 2012, Sales Units % www.gfkrt.com/uk
Pricing & Availability
The T9 soundbar will be available from mid-July 2012 from John Lewis and selected independent retailers, priced £199.99.
Speakers: 2x2.5" mid-high drivers, 1x1" tweeter, 2x1" midrange spatial generators
Enclosure: Single enclosed infinite baffle arrangement
Power: 140W RMS. 80W Sub, 35W Main, 25W Spatial Crossover Frequencies: 160Hz/5
Type: Tuned ported enclosure
Speakers: 1x6.5" long throw subwoofer