The difference between a sound bar and an audio console is that the audio console not only functions as the TV's audio system, but can also serve as a platform for the TV. In other words, you can place your TV right on top of it, which further saves space.
One such audio console solution is the 4TV 2112 from AudioXperts. For a closer look and perspective, keep on reading this review, and afterwards, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile.
1. Design: Amplified Audio Entertainment Console with left, center, and right channel speakers. Features smoked glass top and aluminum enclosure which can support TVs weighing up to 125 lbs (with the 2112's swivel base attached), or 175 lbs (without swivel base).
2. Tweeters: Two .79-inch Dome type (one for each channel).
3. Midrange/Woofers: Four 1-3/8 x 5-29/32 inch HART (High Aspect Ratio Transducer) midrange/woofers (two for each channel).
4. Subwoofers: Four 4.5 inch long throw woofers (two for each channel).
5. Frequency Response (total system): Information Not Provided - but appears to have a good audible low point down to about 50 Hz to a high point of at least 17kHz (using the frequency sweep test on the Digital Video Essentials Test Disc).
6. Crossover Frequency: Not Provided
7. Amplifier Power Output: 200 Watts RMS
10. Preset EQ Settings: Music, Movie.
10. Audio Inputs: Two digital optical (one can be assigned to the digital optical output of an Apple Airport Express), One digital coaxial, Two sets of analog stereo (RCA and 3.5mm), One USB port, Wireless Bluetooth connectivity (built-in Antenna).
11. Audio Output: One set of analog stereo outputs (functions as a parallel Zone 2 setup)
12. Control: Top mounted onboard touch controls. Control compatible with learning remote controls (no remote control provided with unit).
13. Dimensions without swivel base (H x W x D): 2.13 x 40.24 x 17.20 inches.
14. Dimensions with swivel base (H x W x D): 2.56 x 40.24 x 17.20 inches.
15. Weight (with swivel base): 55 lbs
Hardware Used In This Review
Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-103.
DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.
TV: Vizio E420i 1080p LED/LCD Smart TV (on review loan).
Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.
CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.
Set-up and Performance
For audio playback comparison, I connected both the digital optical and analog stereo outputs of the TV to the 4TV 2112. In one setup session, the Blu-ray Disc and DVD players were connected to the TV via HDMI outputs - so the sound from those sources reached the 4TV 2112 via the audio outputs from the TV. In a second setup test session the digital optical outputs of the Blu-ray Disc and DVD players were connected directly to the 4TV 2112's digital optical inputs.
In listening tests conducted with the same content using each of the setup options, the 4TV 2112 provided very good sound quality from both Dolby/DTS-encoded Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, as well as from the audio output of the TV, with clear dialog and overall wide sound field. Also, with SRS StudioSound HD engaged, more sonic depth was added, but transient sound effect detail and spatial placement is definitely not as precise as you would get from a multi-speaker setup.
The 2112 also did a good job with music content, providing well-centered and distinctive vocal reproduction that balanced well with left and channel instrumental music portions of the tracks. I would have preferred more detail on acoustic instruments, but overall the sound was clean, with adequate bass response that was lower and tighter than I expected.
What I Liked
2. The stylish thin design and size of the console matches well with the appearance of LCD and Plasma TVs.
3. Inclusion of SRS audio processing (StudioSound HD, TruVolume).
4. Incorporation of wireless streaming from compatible Bluetooth playback devices.
5. Easily accessible touch controls.
6. Well spaced and labeled rear panel connections.
7. Very good low frequency response - enhanced by separate rear panel subwoofer volume control.
8. Excellent build quality - very sturdy.
What I didn't Like
1. No HDMI connectivity - resulting in lack of access to Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio decoding possibilities.
2. Minimal projected surround sound field.
3. No Subwoofer preamp output.
4. No remote control provided (compatible with third party and TV remotes with learning capability).
5. Touch panel and top surface very susceptible to fingerprints and smudging.
6. Physically heavy (weighs in at about 55 lbs).
The AudioXperts 4TV 2112 definitely has an interesting, stylish look, and provides surprisingly good sound quality from within its thin profile.
The power output is sufficient for both small and medium size rooms and the clarity and detail at the mid and high frequencies served both movie and music listening well.
The channel separation within the confines of the sound bar, and also extending up to a foot or so from the ends, was good, but being a 2.1 channel system, the surround sound field was limited.
I was also disappointed that the sound bar does not HDMI connections or video pass-through capabilities. For Blu-ray or upscaling DVD players, this means a separate audio connection to the 4TV 2112 Sound Bar, while your HDMI or other video connection needs to be made to a TV.
Another interesting thing about 4TV 2112 is that although it has a Zone 2 preamp output, the audio output is only parallel with what is accessible from the 2112's own console. In other words, you can't play one source on the 2112 and send a second source to Zone 2, both zones will play the same thing.
One additional quirk is that when the 2112 goes into standby mode, just pressing the standby/on button does not automatically turn it back on - you need to wave your hand in front the unit'a front panel IR sensor. This motion wakes up the unit so that when you press the on button, the system becomes fully operational (See Wake-Up Instruction Sheet).
Despite despite the lack of HDMI connections, no additional subwoofer output, and the odd wake-up procedure, the AudioXperts 4TV 2112 sounds great and also provides enough connection flexibility to satisfy most users. At $2,000 is it certainly pricey for a 2.1 channel audio system, but for someone that already has a high-end home theater system in the main room, this system is a great alternative to a sound bar for getting better sound from your TV in a second room.
However, even in a small or medium size main room, if you are looking for a space-saving, simple alternative to a multi-speaker home theater system, but don't want to settle for a sound bar, the AudioXperts 4TV 2112 might be just the ticket for you.
For an additional close-up look at the AudioXperts 4TV 2112, check out my supplementary Photo Profile.
In addition, if you desire a more immersive surround sound experience than the 2.1 channel 4TV 2112 can deliver, you might want to check out the 4TV 5122, which features full 5.1 channel audio reproduction from the same type of audio console design, and it comes with an external wireless subwoofer to boot!