What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Sun, 13 Oct 2013, 1:30pm

Monitor Audio ASB-2

Tested at £1000
100100
5

Best soundbar £800+, Awards 2013. It’s a brave move making your first soundbar £1000, but Monitor Audio pulls it off

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For

  • Solid build
  • Three HDMI inputs
  • AirPlay and DLNA
  • Sensational sound quality
  • Good bass despite lack of separate subwoofer

Against

  • Nothing of note

The market for soundbars is booming. And yet, although we’ve reviewed our fair share of these discreet speaker systems, there aren’t many we’d consider a complete solution. Some pack in the features but lack sound quality. Others do the opposite. Here, though, Monitor Audio has managed to get the balance just right.

It’s an ambitious feat when you consider not only is this Monitor Audio’s first soundbar, but also that it’s been built from the ground up, and it has a £1000 price tag.

MORE: Awards 2013

Sound quality

But feed Gladiator on Blu-ray through one of the three HDMI inputs and the ASB-2 displays an abundance of power and weight, doing a good job of recreating the atmosphere of the Colosseum. As Maximus dispatches one gladiator after another, the reception from the baying crowd is direct and dynamic.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

You get a decent spread of sound out to the sides with the soundbar’s 3D Audio mode engaged, but that’s not vital to enjoy movies.

There’s a fantastic sense of scale among all the commotion of Gladiator, and the ASB-2 digs out a superb level of detail. During the calmer, more emotive chapters of the movie, the Monitor Audio simply shifts down a few gears to capture the subtle details and nuances of the soundtrack.
 
If you find the ASB-2 a little boomy out of the box (as we did), you can dial down the bass level via the unit’s on-screen menus and supplied remote control.

What's more, the sense of drama and excitement is enhanced by the ASB-2’s ability to communicate the film’s musical score.

This level of musicality is difficult to pull off in a soundbar, but as we watch and listen to U2: 360° At The Rose Bowl, the Monitor Audio comes across as enthusiastic, with a good sense of timing. During Where The Streets Have No Name, the guitar intro sounds sharp and precise but there’s still a lovely flow to it. And, when the song bursts into life, so does the ASB-2.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

Tech specs

The fact that the ASB-2 has got AirPlay and DLNA compatibility included is a real bonus and the ability to stream music this way just adds another dimension to the ASB-2’s already attractive feature count.

The only thing you really need to be concerned with is how you’re going to accommodate it – the ASB-2 is a solid, chunky-looking unit. Measuring 18cm tall, and more than a metre wide, it’s probably going to have to live on a wall or on a shelf below your TV.

An optional wall-mounting bracket adds £20 to the price, while the soundbar comes with a rubber pad for extra support and stability when placed on a shelf.

Monitor Audio ASB-2

Verdict

You can buy a decent 5.1 speaker package for £1000, but the reality is that people looking for a soundbar often just can’t (or don’t want to) accommodate all those speakers and boxes.

If you are one of them, and have this kind of budget, the Monitor Audio ASB-2 is well worth the investment.

MORE: Best soundbars to buy in 2014

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