Soundbars are all the rage in today’s modern living room era. This trend tickles from the usual 5.1 or 7.1 surround systems into a manageable form. Let’s be honest, not a lot of people fancy dealing with many wires connecting to different speakers across the room. Not to mention that the placement of such speakers need to be calculated according to the room size and properties. Well, people, technology has caught up and now if you are thinking of upgrading the sound that comes out from your television, blu-ray player or even any audio playing device, you can start researching on the soundbars that fit your needs. For me, I have a small living room combined with the kitchen at the back, so I had started looking into smaller ones. Turns out, I managed to find one that is really ‘mini’ and I present to you: Toshiba Mini 3D Soundbar II!!
note: This review is concerning the 2014 edition which is different from 2013 edition in minor ways.
(this review is written with excessive care to avoid any errors, however, there might still be some appearing due to human error)
The soundbar comes in a simple rectangular box that is just filled with pictures of the products. As you can see from the above image, immediately, you are bombarded with the features that Toshiba boasts. The box is made of normal cardboard that feels sturdy, and while holding it, the weight feels reassuring that you are getting something of good quality.
Along with the usual specification lists on one side, there is an additional information located at the back which is written in other languages. Overall, the box looks okay and is kinda expected design for a soundbar. Inside, it is packed neatly with styrofoam protector and in plastic cover. You will be delighted that they do, indeed, do a very good job ensuring the products arriving in your place in one piece.
Now this is where Toshiba has managed to design a soundbar so small that it actually can be held using one hand. Both the subwoofer and the soundbar is made of hard matte plastic that does not represent cheapness. For once, they may even seem to cost more than its price. The surface is smooth and does not seem to be able to attract much dust(which manages to seem to be dustless for 2 months). There is a certain weight in the soundbar that gives a firm confirmation of its quality. The same goes for the wireless subwoofer.
The soundbar is included with the most buttons. As you can see from image above, the buttons and indicators are built neatly parallel to each other. From the most left button to the right: Change HDMI 1 or 2, Bluetooth, Decrease and Increase Volume and finally the Power button. There are two HDMI ports available at the back of the soundbar. I use the HDMI1 which has ARC to connect to the TV, and then the HDMI2 acts as input from my Macbook Pro or other laptops with HDMI output port.
The Bluetooth works together with the NFC, which is located to the far right. You can just use any phone with NFC enabled to link with the soundbar and be able to play wirelessly up to maximum range of three to five metres. There is also an additional optical input for other audio devices such as mobile phone and Digital Audio Player for better musical clarity and maximum quality. A 3.55mm to 3.55mm cable is included for immediate usage, which is very convenient and I love to be able to use it immediately with my iBasso DX90 DAP.
The indicators for volume is shown by the number of green lights shone, the lesser the lights, the softer the sound and vice versa. Additionally, there is a way to control the subwoofer, activating the 3D sound and changing of playing modes of Music, Gaming and Movie. These are all controlled through the provided remote control.
The remote is small and only slightly longer than my hand. You can pretty much do everything using the remote and the buttons on the soundbar can be left untouched. There are colour indicators for different playing modes. Music is Green, Gaming is White and Movie is Blue. The same goes for the Subwoofer, Light Bass is Green, Medium Bass is White and Heavy Bass is Blue. There is only an on/off button at the back of the subwoofer. All of them are built with quality in mind and look absolutely classy but in ‘mini’ size.
Now, this is probably the most important part: SOUND QUALITY. I mean, you buy this to improve your listening experience in the first place, right? And let me tell you this, they don’t disappoint.
The Sound is tested in the following ways:
Optical input : Motorola X 2014 Edition Phone, iBasso DX90 DAP
Bluetooth/NFC: Motorola X, Samsung S6
HDMI: Macbook Pro 2014 15-inch (direct HDMI output), Wii U (direct HDMI output)
We will begin with general music listening experience:
—Motorola X— optical input—
All songs are played through the Android Youtube App, based on Android Jelly Bean. The song I have chosen is Ed Sheeran’s “I see Fire” , “Show Me the Meaning of being Lonely” by Backstreet Boys with “Numb” by Linkin Park.
(Motorola X volume set to Loudest)
I dial up the volume to acceptable loudness around lvl 5 out of possible 8, and set the subwoofer on with Medium Bass, with 3D sound activated. Ed Sheeran’s “I see Fire” brings about a clear vocal with pretty strong guitar bass. I can hear him singing his soft voice but sometimes the deeper voice is lost and almost inaudible, though his high notes are displayed wonderfully. The same goes for both Numb and SMtMobL, the bass is good and I can feel the ground tremble a bit at the most bassy or deepest part. Also, both vocals are brought about with sufficient details.
—iBasso DX90— optical input—
I played the same three songs from iBasso DX90 using the FLAC lossless quality version, with the same settings.
(iBasso DX 90 volume is set to 240 out of 250 possible loudness)
Ed Sheeran’s voice seems to have deeper details that brought out some of the inaudible parts in the Youtube version. Previously unheard or barely hearable tonal changes are now projected clearer. The guitar for the bass feels a bit more satisfying and I can actually close my eyes and imagine he is singing in a small room right in front of me. Guess that’s the power of the 3D sound (but its not surround).
Numb is improved more clearly during the bassy part and the overall smooth vocal. The bass is more prominent now that the floor starts to tremble harder and Chester’s clean sounding and emotion filled vocal is now much evident as well. Overall, this one is improved by quite a bit compared to the youtube version played with Motorola X.
SMtMobL is yet another one that shows marked improvement. All of the members sing with clean sounding and sadder/angry emotion and I just stopped reviewing and actually started to enjoy the music. The bass does not change much but that’s to be expected from this boyband’s musics.
—Motorola X— Bluetooth/NFC—
Truthfully, the listening experience doesn’t change much from input version, until you move further than 5 metres from the room, where you will get muddy and crackled sound from the bass and subwoofer. Nothing much to say here.
Alright, this is the weird part, I’m not sure whether it’s due to the better hardware or new Bluetooth Protocol, the sound seems to be better a bit than the Motorola X. By a bit means just that, there is no marked improvements compared with the input version from iBasso DX90. The bass from the Numb seems to hit harder compared to Motorola X’s. Otherwise, vocals are mostly the same but may have slight tiny improvement in clarity.
I have hardly used the Macbook Pro for proper music listening and so I will only review the MOVIE sound quality.
Movie is streamed and my own downloaded movie. We will test out using martial art movie Ip Man 2 and Looper.
Ip Man 2 is streamed and the quality is set to 720p with stereo track, with all the same settings. The dialogues are rendered clearly and can be heard amid the several punches and other special effects. What gave me goosebump was when I heard they play the theme song and the grandeur of it just came out perfectly from the subwoofer and soundbar. Every note and low bass is enhanced to such a point that you will be immersed into the movie. The sound effects deserve a special mention as being strong and powerful. Each hit, punch, kick, knife hitting and falls from punches are spot on. You can feel your heart thumping when all of these began playing out. Safe to say, I came away much satisfied watching Ip Man 2 using the soundbar in 3D mode compared to normal stereo from TV or Macbook Pro Speakers.
Looper is downloaded with the quality of 1080p with stereo tracks enabled. This is where guns and other special sound effects are tested with the soundbar. Straight off the film, the gunshot is handled pretty decently, though when it’s too loud or too many is projected, the soundbar struggled and made them muddy. The bass is still strong but not rendered as clearly and cleanly as simple sound effects. However, the dialogues are handled brilliantly and I could listen to most of them without relying on subtitles. One thing to note is that softer dialogue maybe drown out from the louder background tracks in this movie. Though I really enjoyed the movie much more as compared when watching with TV-projected sound.
Now we will begin the review on Gaming sound quality.
The following games are tested:
Mario Kart 8 & Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, both PAL version. All settings for the soundbar and subwoofer are the same, with only the playing mode change to Gaming.
Mario Kart 8 is played with 4 players split-screen. With this setup, it fully tested the capability of the soundbar with handling multiple audio sources from different players. The bad news that I’m going to give out is that you will probably not be able to hear your own vehicle’s or POV audio. There are just too many sound effects from other players happening at the same time and everything will mostly drown out one another. However, there are still good news among the bad ones. For one positive thing, the sound effect of the weapons feel satisfying. This is especially so when you manage to throw a bomb, red shells, bananas or just a supersonic speed blast through your friends. I love the impact it game as you will jump a bit when they happened to your avatar. All I can say, is that the playing experience is enhanced but not the grand way you want it to. For better experience, you might have to shell put big bucks to get notable improvement from this.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is a different beast (pun intended) all together. Perhaps it’s due to the single player experience( or multiplayer but the POV only comes from one player), that the soundbar managed to elevate the playing experience and deepen the immersion. As this game is all about you hunting big monsters, you will feel the impact of the beast’s attacks when the bass hits hard and the ground trembles under its roar. The weapon will produce a satisfying cutting, poking, shooting and other elemental effects while you concentrate on bringing the monster down. Each battle seems like a real battle that keeps your heart racing and seating on the edge. Even the battle background music, which is already epic, is now brought to life and improves on the fighting experience. Finally, the winning theme also happened to be the one music cue where I will just smile, sit down and then admire my accomplishments and celebrating with the music.
Well, what can we say after reading the top chunky list? My answer will definitely be that this ‘mini’ soundbar sounds beyond its size! It’s the more impressive that Toshiba is able all of them into this compact form. They have even provided us with a Wireless Subwoofer that performs well for its size. You will definitely enjoy using it to play music out loud that fills the house for a house party or just for self-listening pleasure(but this is not for audiophile or extreme bass lover). Movies are enhanced with clear & clean dialogues(depending on the file quality) and badass sound effects and soundtrack are rendered with enough oomph behind them. Even gaming is improved through better immersion, but it depends on the type of games played, with single player games receiving more enhancement than multiplayer split-screen games. Regardless, this ‘mini’ soundbar earns my praise for its style, function and form!
For the quality/experiences that it gave me, I would give it 8/10!
Categories: Products Review