We haven’t seen a Maxell thing in our testing rooms in a very long time, so we were pleasantly surprised when the company put forward the MXSP-SB3000 in the new soundbase category.
And then we were pleasantly surprised again when it sounded pretty damn good.
We quickly warmed to the Maxell MXSP-SB3000’s crisp, clear and incredibly easygoing sound. Run it in, connect it to your telly, and simply enjoy a smooth and engaging performance.
What we like most about the Maxell is how easy to listen to it is. It doesn’t try to exaggerate the bass performance, nor does it over-rev the top end.
It keeps an even balance across the frequencies too, which is lovely to hear next to soundbases that try just a bit too hard to generate a ‘surround’ experience.
It isn’t the most thrilling, open or spacious sound, but we’ll take a smooth balance over boom or brittleness any day.
The MXSP-SB3000’s midrange performance is particularly strong – voices are loud and clear on TV shows and in songs streamed over Bluetooth.
We’d like a touch more weight and power for a more solid sound, but we like the clarity and agility on offer. The volume has to go quite high for maximum impact, though.
At low volumes, the Maxell’s crisp edges sound just a little subdued, making it hard to hear clearly. In this case, it’s the louder, the better.
If you do want to inject some width to the Maxell’s sound, turn on the ‘SRS’ function. It claims to enhance the stereo field and deliver 3D sound, but what it actually does is pull apart the SB3000’s naturally cohesive sound – not a good thing in the slightest.
The sound is bigger and peripheral sound effects are given more attention, but at the cost of that wonderfully expressive and focused midrange. We’d keep it turned off.
There are five EQ presets to choose from, with the Standard mode being our favourite for its balanced sound. Cinema adds more (unnecessary) bass, while Music lends a touch more punch and rhythm to streamed songs.
Both take away outright clarity. We’d avoid the Speech mode as it puts voices in sharp focus and it sounds unnatural and bright.
More after the break
Maxell calls the SB3000 a ‘soundbar’, but it looks more like a hoverboard to us. The slender box’s tapered edges prevent it from looking like any old rectangular unit, while the matte-black finish and fluorescent display look smart.
We like it, but it lacks the outright quality of finish and solid build to compete against the likes of the Canton DM 50.
It’s big, though. We suspect not everyone will have a big enough TV or AV rack to accommodate this soundbase.
It’s simply too large to be practical to many people. While the definitive soundbase design hasn’t been decided yet, it’s safe to say we think the ideal size is more in line with the Canton, Cambridge Audio Minx TV and Denon DHT-T100.
On the plus side, the Maxell’s 80kg weight limit and sturdy build will support TVs that have a wide stand – such as the latest OLED screens from Samsung and LG.
The Maxell has a proper, informative display, making it the most user-friendly soundbase we’ve come across so far.
The Maxell’s fluorescent display is more similar to the ones found on AV receivers, informing us in one glance which input is being used, the current volume, which sound mode is turned on – all without looking cluttered. It even has four dimming levels.
You can also mute, adjust the bass level, employ the ‘SRS’ mode and pair your smart devices to stream music via Bluetooth – all options are clearly displayed on the Maxell’s front panel.
There are responsive touch-sensitive control buttons on the top panel, too.
The remote control follows the standard (tiny, slightly flimsy) blueprint, but the numerous buttons are responsive, and easy to use without having to press hard.
You do have to point the remote directly at the soundbase, though, as it wasn’t very effective when we were using it from the sofa at an angle.
This first generation of soundbases is pretty scant when it comes to connectivity, but the Maxell MXSP-SB3000 breaks the mould by offering a generous helping of digital and analogue connections.
The inclusion of three HDMI inputs is the highlight; the Panasonic SC-HTE80 is the only other soundbase to offer HDMI connections.
It also has optical and coaxial inputs and an HDMI output (with ARC) on the digital side, while a pair of phono connectors and a 3.5mm input are available for analogue sources.
Rival soundbases have been picky when dishing out connections, so we like the choice Maxell offers.
You can stream from smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth (which is easy to set up and supports the higher-quality aptX codec), and a USB port on the front panel will charge your smart device (but won’t play music from it).
Its size might be ludicrous, but that excellent feature count and affordable price is hard to ignore. Most of all, we just really liked listening to the Maxell MXSP-SB3000.
It lacks the insight and dynamism that comes so easily to the rival Canton and Cambridge Audio soundbases, but it’s such a pleasant sound overall that we can forgive its shortcomings.
For £220, the Maxell’s clear and balanced sound is well worth a listen.