Orbitsound T9 : Music of the spheres

8/17/2012 11:37:36 AM

Soundbars are in vogue at the moment and to improve stereo separation and create room-filling audio has seen manufacturers making them bigger and bigger, and therefore awkward to position. Not so Orbitsound, which has made its T9 soundbar as small as possible without compromising on sound quality.

Description: Orbitsound T9

The T9 is an incredible feat of engineering, with its compact form producing jaw-droppingly good audio. It’s available in either black or white

This extraordinary feat is possible thanks to Orbitsound’s spatial stereo technology, which is about creating high-quality audio, but removing the directionality of it. In short, it means that wherever you stand in a room, you should get the stereo effect, eliminating the sweet spot of normal stereo systems.

Although the system uses some rather clever processing to achieve this, the concept is pretty easy to understand. As well as two mid-high drivers and one tweeter at the front of the soundbar, there are two midrange spatial generator speakers on the side. It’s the way that these interact with the traditional speakers that creates the spatial stereo. Forward-firing speakers mix their audio with speakers mounted on the side to create the spatial stereo effect.

As it’s the clever spatial stereo technology that fills a room with audio, Orbitsound has been able to use its engineering to make the T9 smaller than traditional soundbars. What’s impressive is how small it actually is: the T9 soundbar is around the same size as a centre speaker on a high-end home cinema system, and there’s also a slimline subwoofer you can tuck out of the way.

To look at the product, you certainly wouldn’t think that it’s capable of producing such amazing sound. In fact, something this small simply shouldn’t be able to produce sound that big.

We had our first brush with the T9 in a crowded bar showing a Euro 2012 match, with the audio from the TV pumped through the soundbar. Even in a loud space filled with shouting football fans, the T9 cut through everything, producing loud, detailed sound that completely filled the room. Impressive doesn’t even begin to cut it.

Getting the product into our labs let us test it in anger. In short, it sounded brilliant and maintains the high acoustic quality we’ve come to expect from the company.

The balance between the soundbar and the subwoofer was absolutely perfect, with the sub adding that extra bit of bass into the mix without being boomy and overbearing.

Vocals were clear and distinguished from the backing track, but that’s not to say that everything else disappeared, as the full detail in a song was really brought out. From the individual plucks of a bass guitar to a subtle high-hat or triangle, the full range was brilliantly reproduced. Orbitsound’s spatial stereo is simply brilliant. No matter where you stand in a room, you feel as though the audio is surrounding you and you don’t have to try and find that sweet spot.

Standing in front of the soundbar still gives the best stereo separation to our minds, but moving out of this area doesn’t cause a dramatic loss of sound quality, as with a traditional stereo system, and the audio still seems to envelop you.

Sound quality is certainly helped by Or-bit sound’s decision to go with a lacquered wooden case for the T9. The company claims that as well as making the T9 look like a high-end product, wood also produces the best sound and is far ahead of plastics and other man-made materials.

Description: Orbitsound T9

You have minimum control over the audio and the simple, responsive remote control simply has controls for bass, treble and volume, in addition to full navigation controls for an iPod or iPhone. In truth, you don’t need any more than these three controls and we say use the bass and treble with care: push either one two far and you throw out the balance of the system, making it either a little too tinny or too bass heavy. A click or two on the controls’ + or - button is all you’re likely to need.

As well as the iPod dock, there are plenty of other inputs, making the T9 a highly versatile device. The rear of the soundbar contains 3.5mm and stereo phono inputs, and there’s an optical S/PDIF input, too. There’s even an optical cable in the box. All of these inputs mean that you can hook up the T9 to pretty much any other audio device. Where it really appeals is to boost your TV or Mac’s audio quality when watching movies or playing games. It’s a vast improvement the built-in speakers in your Mac or TV, providing clearer audio, a much wider range and a generally more immersive experience.

ALTHOUGH THERE’S NO HDMI input, SO Blu-ray audio has to be down sampled to DVD quality, audio quality is still fantastic. The stereo effect helps fill the room and put you in the middle of the action.

Explosions sound thunderous, while the ping of bullets in action films reverberates around the room. For quieter films and scenes, the T9’s crystal clear dialogue reproduction makes sure that you’ll never lose the plot. Where you don’t have room for 5.1 or 7.1 speakers, the T9 can make all the difference.

Nominally Orbitsound has positioned the T9 for use in smaller rooms placed near smaller, secondary TVs, with the slightly louder T12 stablemate for larger rooms and that more cinematic experience. However, the T9 is more than capable of filling the largest of living rooms with high-quality audio that you simply wouldn’t expect from something so small. It’s hitting the shelves in mid-July, and with the ability to produce high-quality audio from every input source, we can’t recommend it enough.


Price: $320 inc VAT



Pro Incredible audio * Compact * Lots of inputs

Con None

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