Humax STA1200BSW soundbar review

The world's slimmest soundbar is decent but not brilliant

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Our Verdict

Soundbars don't come much (if at all) more discreet than this one and for that Humax should be commended. It's not perfect in terms of design, build quality and performance but the system as a whole is still well worth considering if your TV speakers aren't up to scratch.

For

  • Very slim soundbar
  • Surround Mode
  • Good with TV, films and games
  • Bluetooth

Against

  • A few build and design issues
  • Bass Booster can sound excessive
  • Music playback from our iPod touch failed to impress
Ratings in depth

Design 3 5 5
Features 3 5 5
Performance 3 5 5
Usability 4 5 5
Value 3 5 5

Humax, usually known for producing Freeview and Freesat boxes in the UK, is aiming to make quite an impression on an increasingly crowded soundbar market with this 'Blade' soundbar.

The 'USP' is that it is, or so the manufacturer claims, the slimmest product of its kind in the world.

Costing £199.95, its appealing black form houses four speakers generating a combined 80W of audio grunt and forms part of a 2.1 channel system with a separate passive 100W subwoofer also included in the package.

Measuring 1200 x 37 x 20mm, it may be eye-catchingly slim but it's still fairly wide so should be a good match for large TVs.

You have the option of positioning it on a 'stylish', if not particularly sturdy shelf stand, or wall mounting it using brackets that are also provided.

The front panel is also streamlined to the point that it lacks a graphical display. Instead there's a row of LED indicators and touch keys that can be used for turning it on and off, adjusting the volume, switching on the (virtual) 'Surround Mode' and 'Bass Booster' options and pairing it with Bluetooth devices.

If you don't fancy moving from the sofa while using it, you'll be pleased to learn it comes with a small remote control, which doesn't look all that classy but does the job regardless.

Remote
The remote isn't attractive but it does the job

Also black and adorned with the Humax logo, the subwoofer is fairly solidly built and incorprates a 'Bass Enhancer'.

Connections

Unlike some other soundbars, the Humax STA1200BSW doesn't have HDMI connections. Instead, tucked away around the back, are a 3.5mm mini stereo jack, an optical digital audio input and a connection for the subwoofer.

Subwoofer
The subwoofer is included with the soundbar and comes with a 3m cable

Cables are provided for all, including a 3m cable for the subwoofer, but there's no getting away from the fact that their presence looks somewhat untidy, especially when the soundbar is so slim to begin with.

Wireless

The ability to stream audio from devices (such as phones and laptops) using Bluetooth is something you've probably come to expect from a soundbar and its inclusion in the Humax STA1200BSW is most welcome. The aforementioned pairing functionality makes connecting devices an easy process. There's no support for using Airplay or network streaming though and it's a shame that the subwoofer isn't wireless too.

Sound quality

Provided you don't crank the volume up too high (where results can sound a tad distorted) performance is above average for a system of this type with a few caveats. Hooking the soundbar up to my Virgin Media TiVo's optical digital audio output system it proved well-suited to making the day-to-day business of TV viewing more audibly exciting.

Humax STA1200BSW

While watching a recording of The Stone Roses: Made of Stone the funky bass licks during a live performance 'Fool's Gold' really stood out in the mix, while turning on the Surround Mode added to the 'being there' feel. Similarly, while viewing an episode of Da Vinci's Demons, the latter brought sound effects such as a creaking ship to life.

As for movies, the thunderous machine gun-peppered action of The Raid was handled pretty effectively giving the sub a real workout, as was the more subtle fare such as the quieter moments of The Hunger Games.

Firing up my Xbox 360 and whacking on stealth game Dishonored, the depth added by turning on the Surround Mode amplified the game's already tense atmosphere.

Humax STA1200BSW

However, whether it was the twinkling ambience of Vangelis's Blade Runner soundtrack or more up-tempo fare such as indie rockers Bombay Bicycle Club, music played from my iPod touch sounded somewhat flat even with Surround Mode enabled.

I also found the Bass Booster sounded over the top sometimes when used with noisier sources. It would help if there was some way of controlling the level of enhancement.

Verdict

I have a few grumbles with certain aspects of its design and build quality but the soundbar's slimness is certainly a talking point and it should still look great wall-mounted. The system's overall performance isn't going to 'knock your socks off' and it can't be considered a substitute for a proper multi-speaker set-up (a criticism that, in fairness, could be levelled at many other soundbars). However whether you're watching TV, a movie or playing a game it's liable to sound a definite improvement on many user's TV speakers.

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