The Signature SLIMstage30 is officially Aperion's first entry into the sound-bar market, but in reality the SLIMstage30 is largely a rebranding of the Soundmatters SLIMstage30, which made its debut back in 2007. That helps explain its somewhat outdated feature set. At $600, it lacks any HDMI connectivity, which is available on the Sony HT-CT150 and the Panasonic SC-HTB10.
That being said, the SLIMstage30 has some perks that put it ahead of competitors. It's one of the few sound bars that doesn't necessarily need a subwoofer, as it puts out an adequate (although not overwhelming) amount of bass on its own. It also does a decent job with standard two-channel music, which most sound bars just can't handle convincingly. In all, most mainstream buyers will probably be better off with less-expensive options, such as the Samsung HW-C450 and the JVC TH-BA1, but the SLIMstage30 is worth considering if you don't want to deal with a subwoofer or expect to listen to a lot of music on your sound bar.
Most sound bars opt for a cylindrical or flat design, but the SLIMstage30 breaks from the ranks with its rectangular look. It's also a good deal heavier than competing sound bars in HTIBs, coming in at 16.5 pounds. Most sound bars only feature speaker grilles on the side that faces forward, but the SLIMstage30 is nearly completely covered in grille on the front, top, bottom, and back.
Though the SLIMstage30 has an extensive feature set, it doesn't quite have all the features available on the latest sound bar home theater systems. For example, there's no video pass-through at all, let alone 3D video pass-through, which is available on the Sony HT-C150. It also doesn't come with a subwoofer like many of its competitors, although that's more acceptable considering the SLIMstage30 is one of the few sound bars that produce a respectable amount of bass on its own--more on this in the performance section.
The big missing feature on the SLIMstage30 is HDMI connectivity, which is available on the similarly priced Sony HT-CT150 and the Panasonic SC-HTB10. If you don't need HDMI, however, the SLIMstage offers more connectivity options than most competitors, with the ability to connect six total devices. Our only nitpick here is that all of the analog audio connections use minijack connectors. Yes, Aperion throws in a bunch of adapter cables for free, but we'd still prefer the more common stereo RCA jacks.
The SLIMstage30's rounded rubber feet mean it won't lie flat on a TV stand. Aperion includes accessories to slide over the feet, but we don't understand why the rubber feet aren't flat in the first place.
We weren't fans of the included clicker. There are some nice elements, such as buttons to directly access each input, but there are too many confusing design choices, such as two diamond-shaped directional pads, one for navigating menus and the other for bass level and volume. Even more confusing is that the volume up/down buttons are horizontal, rather than the more standard vertical alignment. On the upside, we did like that some buttons featured helpful icons--like a moon for night mode--which are easier to see than tiny text.