How much is too much to pay for a soundbar? "Anything over $500" seems like a fair answer for most buyers. But a few are willing to fork over much more for better audio quality without having to deal with multiple speakers.
If you do find yourself in the lofty post-$1,000 sound bar stratosphere, there is some stunning sound to be had. Until we heard the $1,299 Definitive Technology W Studio, our favorite was the $1,499. Despite costing less than the Soundscape, the W Studio trumps it in features, fit and finish, and performance.
The W Studio offers discreet looks and packs a real wallop with movies and deep bass music tracks alike. It is also one of the first sound bars -- alongside the Polk One -- to feature, and after a year of false starts it seems that this technology is finally ready.
Yes, you can get a very good sound bar for a thousand dollars less than this, but it won't sound anywhere near as good. While the Paradigm is a step above most sound bars, the Definitive W Studio is the best we've ever heard. A good dedicated multi-speaker will still outperform it, but if you're looking for ease of setup and "best in class" performance, the Definitive W Studio is the way to go.
Prices for the UK and Australia are not yet available for the W Studio, but the US price of $1,299 converts to around £815 or AU$1,475. The sound bar will be released in Australia in mid-November with the UK as-yet undetermined.
If there was one word to describe Definitive's design aesthetic it would be reserved, but there are touches of flair that help it stand it out. While the main speaker might look nondescript, it is finished on each end with two weighty, brushed-aluminum caps. There is seemingly no plastic to be found anywhere on this sound bar, and the chassis is constructed from steel.
At 43 inches (1.1 meters) across, it is designed to sit flush with your typical 50-inch TV. If you're not wall-mounting, be sure the speaker's 3.3-inch (8.3cm) height doesn't block your TV's remote control sensor or screen.
The top of the unit houses a couple of controls including power, volume and wireless setup. Meanwhile the display is a series of LEDs across the front of the unit. It's not helpful in telling which source you're using, but is able to indicate the volume setting at a glance.
The subwoofer that attends it is a little more flashy, with a large silver Definitive stamp on the side. It's a relatively compact 8-inch (20cm) subwoofer at 14 inches tall by 12.5 inches wide and 12.8 inches deep (35.5 by 32 by 32.5cm).
The remote control that the company pops in the box is a welcome change from the slim credit card-style numbers you usually get. This is a proper remote! It has a simple, almost nursery-school-style layout and it's likewise fun to use.
As the W Studio has an HDMI output and impeccable build quality it's reasonable to expect it has a decent menu system. Sadly it doesn't deliver. It's a blue on black affair and very stripped down. Thankfully you probably won't need to use it much beyond setting the unit up.
In another design incongruity, you can't use the menu to set up the Play-Fi component -- it must be done via an app. No mention if made of this omission in the menu itself.
The Definitive W Studio is a 5.1-channel "pseudo-surround" sound bar with a separate 200-watt subwoofer. The sound bar itself features six 3-inch (7.6cm) woofers in addition to three 1-inch (2.5cm) aluminum-dome tweeters for left, right and center.
The sound bar includes the company's Solo Surround Array (SSA) technology to simulate surround effects, and the amount of surround effect is controllable via the menu.
Unlike many sound bars, which offer only optical inputs for "simplicity," the Definitive delivers a broader set of connections. It includes three HDMI 1.4a inputs plus one output, the obligatory optical input and analog 3.5mm mini-jack.
The device also includes a USB port for firmware updates and phone charging.