The video switching was an easy task for the SoloCinema soundbar, and going from source to source took about five seconds. The video itself looked good and as intended. In my room, I never came close to breaking or exceeding the limits of the SoloCinema XTR soundbar or subwoofer, for both pieces of the puzzle were more than up to the task. What I heard from the bar was expansive, and the layering of the instruments was accurate and three-dimensional. I am amazed at how well the soundbar images and presents audio in an encompassing manner.
I started off with the Blu-ray disc of The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony). This movie allowed the XTR bar and wireless subwoofer to show off. Talk about putting the bar through some drills. The movie is full of action scenes and sequences fraught with explosions, gunfire, sirens and much more. The XTR wireless subwoofer was up for the challenge; it was fast and kept up great in the action scenes, not bad for a non-traditionally-shaped subwoofer. For my medium-sized room. there was plenty of hard-hitting bass. Spider Man's webbing shot out in a very clear and accurate way.
After I fed my superhero craving, I thought to watch The Shining (Warner Bros.) with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. "Redrum, redrum, redrum." (Sorry, I could not resist.) This 1980 movie, based on Stephen King's novel and directed by Stanley Kubrick from a screenplay by Kubrick & Diane Johnson, is creepy and heart-pounding. I love to watch stuff like this late at night to add to the freak-out value. It works, trust me. The Shining is a movie with bass that permeates the soundtrack throughout the intense scenes, and the SoloCinema XTR 5.1 did not fail at conveying the intensity and full-bodied bass, which felt a lot like my heartbeat. I swear Stanley Kubrick did that on purpose.
The SoloCinema soundbar proved adept at handling home theater duties, so I went for the jugular by listening to music, switching sources to my MacBook. First up for the XTR and wireless subwoofer was U2's Best of 1980-1990 (Island) and the first track "With or Without You," followed by "All I Want Is You." I played this in remembrance of a friend I just lost, so my emotions were running high, yet the bar had me singing out loud. Bono's voice was syrupy and dynamic through Definitive Technology's sweet bar of sound. The SoloCinema XTR is no slouch in the music department. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying and appreciating the music I was playing through Definitive's soundbar.
I still had a wee bit of rebel left in me, so I beckoned on Jack White and his White Stripes. Listening through the SoloCinema, White's guitar was superb for a soundbar, especially one so thin. The bass during "Seven Nation Army" was so intensely full-bodied and impactful, I had to play it again just to be sure I was not getting ahead of myself. Once I got that out of my system, Sade called to me, and what a great way to see how female vocals fare on the SoloCinema XTR soundbar. I played "Smooth Operator" from Sade's Greatest Hits (Epic Records). I love Sade and her sultry, melodious voice, and I hoped this would not be lost on a soundbar. Thankfully, the bar did not let me down; it really did Sade's voice justice.
The last home theater element I tried was playing a game on my Xbox 360 to see how well the surround sound experience could be replicated. I played BioShock 2 (2K Games). Due to its first-person nature, you need to hear the direction of enemies and/or clues. I have to say the XTR 5.1 fared better than expected with rear sound placement. Overall, the subwoofer kept pace with game's frantic pace.
One of the downsides I encountered was running out of HDMI inputs, because my Blu-ray player and Xbox 360 had to fight for turns - although, admittedly, many active soundbars don't have HDMI inputs at all, so Definitive is still a step ahead in this respect. I find the lack of crossover options and fine-tuning a bit maddening for someone who prefers to have choices and options in my sound, but the SoloCinema still does a great job considering the constraints. More importantly, isn't simplicity exactly what Definitive Technology is going for in this soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo?
Competition and Comparison
Definitive Technology decided to draw a line in the sand with the SoloCinema XTR 5.1 and take the active soundbar genre to another level. For $1,999, Definitive isn't marketing to everyone, but the company is selling ease of use, aesthetics and, best of all, its famous performance, so the XTR had better hit its mark. MartinLogan's Motion Vision Soundbar is another favorably reviewed soundbar and retails for $1,499. The MartinLogan does not come with a subwoofer, but has a wireless subwoofer feature, as well as hardwired subwoofer connectivity. The SoloCinema XTR soundbar and wireless subwoofer are married to each other, so there can be no other partners. The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama is another solid competitor, as is Yamaha's long-standing YSP Series of soundbars.
Lucky me, I was able to put the SoloCinema XTR through its paces and see if the XTR could make a believer out of a skeptic. Well, it did not take long for me to become a believer in Definitive Technology's 5.1 channel surround soundbar. At $1,999, not everyone will be able to afford this soundbar, but those who are will be thrilled to have Definitive Technology's SoloCinema XTR in their homes. It's one hell of a game changer in the simplified soundbar world. If you do not want the hassle of purchasing an A/V receiver or processor with five speakers, a subwoofer and tons of cables, I strongly suggest you go this route. For great sound and ease of use, the SoloCinema XTR is hard to beat.