Orbitsound M9 review
After proving that you could build a tiny soundbar with room-filling stereo sound last year with the Orbitsound T9, the company's back again this year with an even more advanced product, the M9.
This takes the same case and speakers as the T9, but has several tweaks for higher-quality sound and convenience. Most obviously, this is the first product we've seen from Orbitsound not to use an iPhone dock, relying on Bluetooth instead.
This makes a lot of sense, as Apple's decision to ditch the old 30-pin connector and move to Lightning with iPhone 5, makes it harder to make a physical dock. Besides, switching to Bluetooth means compatibility with practically any smartphone, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, or tablets that won't even fit in the dock, such as the iPad 4. Of course, there's also an optical digital input, as well as stereo phono and 3.5mm minijack inputs, so you can physically connect your mobile device or TV.
As well as Bluetooth, you can physically connect devices via the optical S/PDIF and analogue line-in and phono inputs
Bluetooth isn't the only wireless technology on display, as the subwoofer now has a digital wire-free connection. This may not sound like a complicated device to add, but behind the scenes a lot of work has gone into it, primarily because of the issues of delay. Delay, also called latency, is the time between the sender (the soundbar in this case) transmitting audio and the receiver (the subwoofer here) getting it. If that delay is above 30ms, as it frequently is in digital systems, then the soundbar and subwoofer would noticeably be out of sync.
A wireless subwoofer might not sound complicated to add, but getting it working this well is harder than you think
There are ways around this problem, with the easiest solution to simply introduce a delay to the soundbar, so it syncs with the subwoofer. However, this has a major problem when you hook up a TV, though: all of your sound is then out and you lose lip-sync.
Orbitsound's method was to replace the wireless antennas in the soundbar and subwoofer with hi-gain models. This improves reception and means that a smaller buffer is needed, reducing delay. In fact, the company states that the subwoofer has less than 10ms of delay. Subwoofers come pre-paired with their soundbars, although they each have connection buttons on them, should you need to re-pair them. Technically, the soundbar is one-to-many, so you could even connect up multiple subwoofers, if you think that the bass is too directional.