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Definitive Technology W Studio Micro review: Sharp design meets great sound in a high-end bar

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The Good The Definitive Technology W Studio Micro's adjustable center channel makes it easy to raise or lower dialogue volume; The W Studio Micro offers a dedicated center channel which helps with dialogue intelligibility. Music playback is surprisingly good for a sound bar.

The Bad No Bluetooth or HDMI, fairly costly, and early versions are sharp enough to scratch yourself.

The Bottom Line Albeit expensive, Definitive Technology W Studio Micro sounds great and packs a wealth of features into a stylish sound bar and wireless sub system.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 7

So why buy a sound bar this expensive? The first reason is improved styling. Models like the Definitive Technology W Studio Micro use metals and wood instead of the plastics found on cheaper sound bars. And compared to separate systems, which combine an AV receiver and multiple speakers, a sound bar is sleeker and takes up less space.

The relatively high price of the W Studio Micro also gets you more features, including a multiroom music system from DTS called Play-Fi, which is interoperable with other brands including Polk and Paradigm. Much like Sonos, it allows whole-home audio controlled from an app on your phone or tablet, but of course you'll need compatible Play-Fi gear to take advantage.

Though the W Studio Micro sounds superb for a sound bar, its value proposition isn't straightforward. For this price you would inevitably get better sound and functionality from a separate 2.1 system, for example ELAC speakers (Debut B6 and a S10 subwoofer) and a Yamaha receiver (RSX-V479).

One of the Definitive Technology's competitors, the Denon HEOS HomeCinema, defines itself as a music streamer which can also do AV duties, but the W Studio Micro is aiming to be a sound bar first and streamer second. It's a small distinction, but one that the DefTech mostly succeeds at. If you don't mind paying extra for a stylish system that sounds good , the W Studio Micro is worth considering.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The W Studio Micro is a great-looking, low-slung sound bar -- less than two inches tall -- with futuristic angled lines. There's a "military-grade aluminum" top over a plastic speaker housing. On the unit we received, the edges were a little on the sharp side, though, and the rear corners hadn't been rounded at all. Once when reaching over it to plug in cables, I managed to leave a deep scratch on my arm. Definitive Technology advises us that this was a problem with early units, and it's since been fixed.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The wireless subwoofer that comes bundled in the package is a little brutish compared to the bar, but certainly attractive enough to keep in plain sight with its crosshatched vinyl wrap and large "D" logo.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote is quite swanky, and takes a few cues from Bose remotes of late. It is a candy-bar remote with a black, rubberized finish. Although logically laid out for the most part, it's hard to find some buttons -- like volume! -- especially in the dark. The remote is not backlit.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Features

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The W Studio Micro is a 3.1 sound bar which offers four 1-inch midrange drivers (two for the center, and one each for left and right) plus three 1-inch aluminum tweeters for each of the front channels. The wireless subwoofer features a ported design with an 8-inch driver.

It's compatible with surround sound formats including Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS (DTS-HD), and includes SRS TruSurround processing. It will also decode most music formats (MP3, WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, etc.) including hi-res 24-bit/192kHz via the Play-Fi platform.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The W Studio Micro lacks some of the connectivity we expect at this price. The first and most obvious is Bluetooth -- sure you're better off using Wi-Fi, but some people want quick and easy connectivity without worrying about learning another app -- and the second is HDMI. A distant third is Ethernet, and while you can use the USB port for connecting an Ethernet adapter, it's worth mentioning that rivals like the Denon HomeCinema already include the port.

What the does have however is a couple of optical inputs, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, a wired subwoofer and an IR input and output (for remote flashers).

DTS Play-Fi

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Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The W Studio Micro is part of DTS' expanding empire of Play-Fi products, which includes devices from Polk, HP, Paradigm, McIntosh and Wren. Streaming service support is competitive with Sonos too, and includes competitive, and includes Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody and Tidal. You can also play music files from your phone and a network device (DLNA), in addition to audio from your PC.

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