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Steljes Audio Calliope review: A budget soundbar with plenty of connections

Richard Easton
21 Apr 2016
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Steljes Audio Calliope lead
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
169
inc VAT

The Steljes Audio Calliope sounds fantastic for the money with plenty of connection options

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Specifications

Speakers: 4, RMS power output: 60W, Dimensions: 850x80x89mm, Weight: 3.5kg, Dock connector: None, Networking: None

For £170, the Steljes Calliope soundbar manages to pack in several features you wouldn't normally expect at this kind of price. Chief among them is its plentiful supply of connections. Not only do you have two HDMI 1.4 inputs, but you also get an HDMI ARC port as well. This means you can have two devices connected to the Calliope while only having one cable going to the back of your TV, helping you cut down on the number of wires trailing round your AV cabinet. It also has optical and coaxial connections, as well as Bluetooth with aptX support as well. 

The HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) output is a particularly big coup for Steljes, as many soundbars under £200 simply don't have one. It's also unusual to see more than one HDMI input at this kind of price, and it gives the Calliope a surprising amount of flexibility when it comes to using it as your main sound system. 

Steljes Audio Calliope front

Budget soundbars also don’t usually have many setting options either, but the Calliope bucks the trend here as well. It has three dedicated presets in the form of Movies, Voice, and Music, but it lacks any kind of EQ adjustment, so what you hear is what you get. It’s a little limiting for those who want to fine-tune their audio experience, but all three modes work well for their corresponding use cases. It's a shame there's no dedicated night mode for when you don't want to upset your neighbours, but this isn't really that surprising given the Calliope's price. 

Where the Calliope starts to show its budget origins is in its design. Measuring 850mm in width and 89mm in height, it’s not particularly sleek, but it should still sit happily below most TVs without obstructing the screen. Its width makes it a good pairing with 40in TVs and above if you’re interested in maintaining a sense of visual balance, but it also comes with the necessary mounts if you'd rather fix it to the wall. 

It's certainly not the most attractive soundbar to have ever sat below your TV, but its all-black finish isn't particularly offensive at a glance. Instead, it's the small LCD display and glossy black buttons that look and feel a little cheap, and the display has particularly uneven backlighting. It's so bad, in fact, that it ends up illuminating its plastic enclosure, making it appear translucent so you can see the circuit board underneath. Fortunately, the display dims after a few seconds of inactivity, so it's not a permanent distraction, but it's still something I wouldn't normally expect to see even on a budget soundbar. 

Fortunately, the Calliope makes up for its design flaws with its excellent sound. Inside, it has two 2.75in mid-high ferrite magnet drivers with two 2.75in bass ferrite drivers and two passive bass radiators to give more presence to the low-end, and the resulting sound quality was a real surprise given the price.

Steljes Audio Calliope ports

It’s undoubtedly a step up from the built-in speakers of our test TV, as the whole soundscape was much richer and wider, particularly in the low-end. Watching films, the Calliope did a great job of producing clear voice dialogue that was audibly separate from the sound effects and music tracks, but with no dedicated subwoofer, you don't get quite the same level of physicality from explosions, for instance, as more expensive soundbars.

However, the Calliope proved a good match for my music test tracks as well; coping with a fanfare of jazz with a great amount of control and tonality. All things considered, the Steljes Calliope sounds excellent for its price, and a small, simple remote control is included that mimics the same functions available on the front of the soundbar.

Steljes Audio Calliope remote

Conclusion

The Steljes Audio Calliope might not be the most attractive soundbar out there, and its display is infuriatingly poor, but there's no denying it sounds fantastic for its price and has a brilliant array of connections. It faces some competition from the slightly more expensive Evolve Audio SB-2501, as this is arguably more attractive and includes a wireless subwoofer and a pair of headphones, but you do lose the HDMI connections as a result. If you want a great-sounding soundbar that has plenty of flexibility, then the Steljes Calliope is a great choice, but if you're desperate for floor-shattering explosions, you'd probably be better off choosing the Evolve. 

Hardware
Speakers4
RMS power output60W
Subwoofer optionNone
Rear speaker optionN/A
Dimensions850x80x89mm
Weight3.5kg
Ports
Audio inputsHDMI, Optical S/PDIF, 3.5mm auxiliary
Audio outputsHDMI ARC
Video inputsHDMI 1.4
Video outputsHDMI 1.4
Dock connectorNone
USB portNone
NetworkingBluetooth (SBC, aptX)
NFCNo
Features
Video playback formatsN/A
Image viewing formatsN/A
Audio playback formatsN/A
Smart TV appsN/A
Buying information
Price including VAT£169
WarrantyOne year RTB
Supplierwww.steljesaudio.co.uk
Part codeCalliope

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