A sound bar that can play music well is sort of a white whale. Most sound bars are designed to be cheap and only play explosions and dialogue well. The nuance demanded by music is beyond their capabilities. Even the decent ones, like Sony's HT-NT5 or the high-end Definitive Technology W Studio, involve some degree of compromise.
What about a system that's built from the ground up for music, but can also act as a sound bar? That's the intriguing idea behind the House of Marley One Foundation. The system is designed around wireless music -- Bluetooth and Qualcomm's AllPlay -- but it also features a wealth of inputs for connecting your TV or other device.
We're fans of the company's design approach, down to the real oak facade, but the sound just doesn't measure up to the price. Its bass is relatively anemic compared to systems with subwoofers. Further, treble sounds a bit harsh at volume, so despite being able to play louder than competitors, it doesn't sound better. Add in the high price and massive size, and it's tough to see who the One Foundation would appeal to.
Guess we'll have to keep combing the seas a little longer in search of that elusive whale.
They don't make speakers like this anymore.
Unlike other one-box speakers or sound bars you may have seen, the One Foundation is large. It's like a log, the part-of-a-tree kind. A thick slab of varnished oak is bolted onto the front, which holds in place a pair of 3.5-inch paper drivers flanked by 1-inch silk dome tweeters.
If you mount it as a traditional sound bar beneath your TV it will block part of your screen if you don't have 9 inches of clearance (and sadly, it lacks wall-mounting capabilities). It measures 8.75 inches tall, 31 inches wide and 4 inches deep.
The speaker features a volume control on the top right of the device which glows in a color corresponding to the input -- which, of course, is blue for Bluetooth. This is also echoed by another light at the base of the unit.
The remote control that comes with the speaker is a simple rectangular slab with a couple of large sculpted buttons for volume and input selection.
The One Foundation uses chipset-maker Qualcomm's comparatively lame answer to Sonos, called AllPlay. As far as proprietary multiroom systems go it's pretty low on the pecking order, with only Monster, Fon and House of Marley supporting it in the US (Hitachi and Panasonic are available in other markets for what it's worth). Though the speaker was announced way back at CES 2013 the version with AllPlay onboard only appeared in the last 12 months.
The number of streaming services AllPlay supports is low when compared to rivals, with only Napster and Spotify appearing. The application itself is pretty easy to use though, with a familiar "file tree" arrangement. It enables you to play songs from your phone and network in addition to the streaming services.