Powered soundbars are a game of give and take. The benefits, of course, are that you get a self-contained audio solution that doesn’t involve complicated receiver setup, doesn’t require dozens of feet of speaker wire, and offers a huge upgrade over built-in TV sound. The downside is that not only are you generally getting a lesser-quality audio experience than even a decent component home theater system, you’re usually also locked out of things like high-resolution lossless audio formats and any sort of video routing. So it’s nice to see Monitor Audio delivering the best of both worlds with its new ASB-2 Soundbar.
The ASB-2 Soundbar comes equipped with four (count them, four!) HDMI ports, with three dedicated inputs and an output with Audio Return Channel capabilities and 1080p/3D video pass through. It also features AirPlay, DLNA, and UPnP capabilities with support for uncompressed high-res audio streaming from computers, smartphones, and tablets, along with digital coaxial and optical inputs and stereo analog RCA inputs.
The ASB-2 features five discrete power amp stages totaling 160 watts of power for its six drivers, and also features a subwoofer output, which, when employed, triggers automatic crossover filtering.
The real appeal of the ASB-2, in my opinion — as if all of that weren’t enough — is its pedigree. I recently finished a review of Monitor Audio’s MASS Speaker System for Home Theater (soon to be Sound & Vision) magazine, and although the review hasn’t been published yet, I can tell you I was highly impressed. The ASB-2 seems to rely on the same C-CAM driver technology, with two 5.5″ drivers, two 4″ C-CAM midrange drivers, and 1″ C-CAM tweeters. Even the shape of the ASB-2 seems inspired by the portly curves of Monitor’s beautiful MASS system.
It also sounds like the ASB-2 has some fancy audio processing built in. From the press release:
Monitor Audio’s own three-dimensional audio software provides the immersive surround effect of multi-channel movie soundtracks. Using a blend of Head Related Transfer Function (HTRF) technology and crosstalk cancellation, the ASB-2 accepts 7.1 discreet channels and processes them to left, right and centre, creating a wide and spacious front image involving a stable ‘virtual’ centre channel for precise dialogue. Rear channels are generated by applying crosstalk cancellation processing. Many soundbars rely on boundary effects to enhance their rear channel performance; the ASB-2’s proprietary algorithms are solely responsible for its ambient sound, delivering an even coverage irrespective of environment. The result is a powerfully convincing and enveloping soundstage from film, TV, games and network/online sources, consistent in level and frequency response in any room.
You can, of course, turn off said processing for stereo (or 2.1) music listening. And for enhanced ease of installation, the ASB-2 is designed to fit Sanus TV mounting systems, with an optional wall bracket for on-wall installation and a silicon rubber stand for cabinet placement. MSRP for the ASB-2 will be $1649 in the US.