No one knows quite what to call these new soundbar-type systems that are sturdy enough and deep enough to set a big TV on top of. They're really more sound chunks than sound bars. Some people call them sound bases. Others use the term sound pedestal. OSD Audio calls the tabletop surround sound system reviewed here the SP2.1 Sound Platform. The company also gives it an MSRP of $449.95, with a street price around $380.
The SP2.1 is a four-inch-high, 28-inch-wide, 16.5-inch-deep box with a matte-black finish that's designed to sit underneath and support TVs weighing up to 85 pounds. But the SP2.1 is more than a boring piece of furniture. It's also a compact sound system to connect to your TV and two other audio sources, including Bluetooth audio devices. The SP2.1 offers simulated surround sound or stereo playback, depending on your selection. Underneath the nondescript black cabinet are two 5.25-inch, down-firing paper-cone woofers, while the front face of the SP2.1 holds four 2.5-inch paper-cone midrange drivers and two one-inch silk dome tweeters all behind two rounded, black grilles. The entire system is powered by four 20-watt internal amplifiers with a dedicated amp channel for each subwoofer, and OSD Audio says the system can produce bass response as low as 35 Hz. The SP2.1 has RCA analog inputs, optical/coax digital inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity. The SP2.1 also includes a small, thin IR remote control that provides on/off, volume/mute, input selection, treble/bass adjustments, and simulated surround on/off functions. OSD Audio notes that the advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) built into the SP2.1 enhances the bass output of the relatively small cabinet and is specifically tailored to create a wide soundstage with simulated surround effects.
The soundbar and its more portly cousin, the sound platform, have come a long way in recent years. In order to maintain the slim and shallow design of the traditional soundbar, most companies employ the use of a discrete subwoofer, but two-piece systems have the disadvantage of requiring that the user find space in the room for the typically ugly subwoofer box, along with finding a way to get power and -- unless it's wireless -- cables to the sub. One big advantage of OSD's Sound Platform is that it's an all-in-one solution with enough amplifier power and woofer surface area to generate a good amount of bass. Certainly it's not the sort of thing that's capable of outperforming a more-expensive system with a dedicated powered subwoofer, but for the money the SP2.1 is surprisingly good. No, make that amazingly good.
I found that, despite the pocket-sized drivers and diminutive cabinet, the SP2.1's simulated surround processing was able to create an extremely wide soundstage across the front of the room. In the movie 2 Guns, the explosion of a building at the naval base generated the distinct sensation of glass flying out of the screen and forward into the room. Near the end of the same movie, a CIA helicopter that's up to no good flew and spun its way along the walls. Where many simulated surround systems can seem artificial and draw attention to themselves by an uneven emphasis on different elements of a soundtrack or song, the Sound Platform 2.1 easily outperformed the majority of the equivalently priced competitors. Even something as seemingly restrained as a PBS documentary on Lincoln's use of the telegraph during the Civil War, called Lincoln@Gettysburg, came across delightfully alive and vibrant. Most importantly, the SP2.1 was able to expand the music in the soundtrack to fill the entire front wall while simultaneously maintaining a rock-solid image of the narrator's voice in the center of the soundfield. The best way to describe the SP2.1's performance is that it's incredibly organic in wrapping the sound around the room, whether it's playing a movie soundtrack or music. Comparatively, the SP2.1 sounded narrow and flat when the simulated surround was turned off.
In addition to the skillful handling of the music, narration, and surround effects, the bass response of the SP2.1 was remarkable considering the price and size of the product. Hollywood-enhanced explosions, fireworks, trains -- whatever source of low frequencies I tested -- sounded full and deep with quite a bit of impact. Granted, it wasn't capable of rattling the windows or the rafters, but that would be asking for way too much out of such a compact speaker system. Overall, though, even in my large listening room, the SP2.1 absolutely rocked, and I have no doubt that it will definitely kick the butt of any TV's speaker and the majority of $500-or-below soundbars.
� The OSD Audio SP2.1 Sound Platform provides both extremely believable simulated surround performance and superior bass performance from a compact cabinet.
� Discrete analog and digital audio inputs, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, make the SP2.1 an audio system rather than merely an upgrade to TV speakers.
� The SP2.1's cabinet is densely constructed and is large enough to support TVs weighing up to 85 pounds.
� The OSD Audio SP2.1 does not have HDMI inputs or outputs, so it can't be used as a video source selector for your HDTV.
� The SP2.1 does not have an onscreen display, and there are no indicators for volume level, surround on/off, or bass/treble level on the front panel or remote control.
Comparison and Competition
The OSD Audio SP2.1 Sound Platform isn't alone in the category of TV sound bases/sound platforms. It has healthy competition in its price range, including the Speakercraft CS3 ($599), the Klipsch SB 120 ($499), and the Onkyo LS-T10 ($499). Zvox's SoundBase 580 ($499) is what Zvox cleverly calls "Bluetooth Ready," which means you can buy another company's Bluetooth music receiver and connect it to one of the SoundBase 580's two audio inputs. The somewhat smaller Bose Solo TV Sound System ($399) does not offer Bluetooth connectivity, either. But you could certainly follow Zvox's advice and use one of the Solo TV's analog or digital inputs with a music receiver. You can read more soundbar reviews in HomeTheaterReview.com's Soundbar review archive.
The OSD Audio Sound Platform SP2.1 isn't the splashiest-looking TV sound platform/sound base on the market, but then again nearly all of the these products are basically plain, black boxes. Frankly, that's a good thing because you don't want the look of a sound base under your TV to distract your eyes from what's on the screen above it. In terms of sound quality, on the other hand, the SP2.1 has plenty of panache, with plenty of solid bass output and exceptionally smooth and panoramic simulated surround performance. It's an ideal TV audio upgrade and convenient basic sound system for a secondary room, such as a den or bedroom. Moreover, it can even do a respectable job as a main system for someone who wants the TV to sound as good as possible without having a separate subwoofer, or for the person who doesn't want to fuss with power buttons, confusing remote controls, and input switching. If you're thinking about using a soundbar that's going to sit on the cabinet in front of the TV rather than being mounted on the wall, the OSD Audio SP2.1 could be a sonically superior and more ergonomic way to go.