- Modern design looks great and fits in with flat-panel displays
- Fulfilling bass production
- Fully customizable EQ settings
- No HDMI input
- Simulated surround sound doesn’t fully envelope
- Cheap plastic controller
Today, technology is all about housing as much power as possible in small packages. The audio-enthused are seemingly no exception. While dedicated rooms are claimed by monolithic speakers and floor-shaking bass drivers, truly re-creating the theater experience in a residential setting, secondary viewing areas are becoming more capable of delivering a similar, albeit more diminutive, thunder. One way to accomplish this end is through soundbars.
True enough, single sheaths of speakers can’t replace the encompassing and pounding effects of multi-channel surround sound setups, something Aperion Audio knows full well as it enters the soundbar space with the SLIMstage30, an OEM solution from Soundmatters. As a self-powered unit (no amplifier needed), with two active woofers and four passive radiators, the SLIMstage30 is an effective instrument in adding needed oomph to your bedroom, office or small living space. After a single viewing with Aperion’s bar channeling the audio, it’s easy to hear just how underwhelming native display speakers are, especially in areas where aural fidelity can be an afterthought. Though not a wholly enveloping simulation, the Euphony HD surround sound algorithm creates a robust soundstage for casual use.
Shipped with a box full of attachments and accompanying necessities, the SLIMstage30 comes capable of affixing to an array of setups. Rocker-style rubber feet on either side of the 31 inch wide bar allow the device to be tilted appropriately when it sits atop cabinets and shelves (included foot spacers not only add clearance for wires, but secure the bar at desired angles when its above or below a TV); and a steel wall-mount bracket comes with needed screws and instructions for easier installation.
Effectively, the SLIMstage30 caters to nearly any permutation of viewing area. That said, the best way to hook up the unit is on a hard surface that’s complementary to downward pumping bass resonance. You’ll also want to allow space for reverberating waves to bounce off of walls parallel to the sides and top of the bar, too. Aperion boasts wall reflection as unnecessary, but by foregoing rear channels, you’re assuredly not going to have fully wrapping surround sound effect, just a deeper 180 degree front. Don’t expect to hear directional footsteps in first-person shooter games, or jets crossing overhead in film.
Coming in around 16.5 pounds in weight, the bar is a hefty piece of equipment that certainly looks like its $599 price tag. Other than the back and sides of the unit, the entirety is wrapped in a steel grating, allowing those sonic waves to easily permeate. Finished in piano black, the SLIMstage30 finds a comfortable aesthetic amongst modern displays, but its girth will make LED TVs seem all the more petite.
No matter your hardware, the soundbar accommodates up to six inputs, all accessible with included wiring: one RCA pair, one mini 1/8 inch jack, two digital TosLink, and one digital coax. Given the inputs, the bar can decode Dolby Digital, DTS Digital Surround and stereo well. It’s unfortunate that with so many modern TV’s opting for multiple HDMI receivers, Aperion couldn’t afford one here. Without the support of HDMI we’re left wanting of codecs like Dolby TrueHD.
Such criticism is really only made since the soundbar rides a fine line between being a casual consumer and audiophile product. A small LCD screen adorns the front of the bar where tweaks to equalizers, balancing and other options are made via a hollow and cheap-feeling controller (two triple-A batteries included). Surround sound presets put varying emphases on projection to accompany their titled utilization (Movie, Game, and Wide), but in situations where none are to your liking, through a bit of sub-menu navigation, full EQ adjustment is possible. I found these options helpful as the bar liked to pick up higher frequencies a bit too easily, tiring my auditory senses with high-pitched, digital shrills.
Monkeying around, however, I was able to settle in to clear, well-mixed options. While watching the Blu-ray version of “The Dark Knight,” a full range of sounds were picked up on a relatively low volume. The SLIMstage30 carried Han Zimmer’s bass-filled crescendos and undertones—they weren’t room-shattering, but they weren’t the cluttering backdrops they are on display speakers. This boomy structure didn’t cloud dialogue or make subtle sound effects inaudible either. Overall, it was fulfilling, but not jaw-dropping enthralling. Less impressive was the headphone output. Sounding thin, the SLIMstage30 shouldn’t be you’re go-to for canned listening. It works with stereo, but even partnering to Astro’s A40 surround sound headphones, there isn’t any bite to the bass and only vague audio direction.
Full of customizable settings, Aperion Audio’s SLIMstage30 by Soundmatters is a soundbar that packs a bit of bass punch in it’s self-powered design. By no means should it be a substitute for a full-on surround sound setup, but those partaking in a bedtime action flick wouldn’t be remiss to go with this as their audio option. It’s missing an HDMI receiver and can favor the higher frequencies by default, but nevertheless, the SLIMstage30 is capable of a strong, deep front-end soundstage.