Sound bars make a lot of sense, especially now that TVs have gotten so thin. There’s no space for large speakers or heavy-duty audio amplification of them. So a stand-alone set of speakers that don’t take up the space of a traditional arrangement that requires speaker stands, strung out wiring and room, sounds good. And since more people than not have their TV on a cabinet, not wall-mounted, being able to put that sound bar right up against the TV makes sense too. But being able to put the sound bar beneath the TV makes even more sense, because it doesn’t take up any space to speak of (about all it doses is raise the TV a few inches higher than it was). Of course the TV’s pedestal shouldn’t exceed that of the top of the sound bar as that way lies madness (or a really bad accident).
Hence the mindset of Proficient Audio’s MaxTV MT2 TV Sound Speaker which, by the way, is 28-inches wide but only 4-inches high. Now while there are others that might look similar from the outside, what is found inside the MaxTV is pretty different. And it’s that difference that makes for some really good audio to accompany whatever you are watching.
The chassis is solid — it had better be since it’s rated to hold a set of up to 160 pounds! That’s a real issue with a tabletop speaker — yes it’s a sound bar for sure, but since it’s designed to go under the TV, the options of wall mounting or seating it in front of the TV don’t exist so it better be able to handle some weight. Then again today’s flat panel TVs don’t weight nearly that much, even if we’re talking about a pretty large screen. So that’s all good. As is the black finish that doesn’t call attention to itself.
Proficient requires that you connect the MaxTV to your TV’s output using either a digital optical cable, coaxial or RCA stereo plugs. Of course the best output will be that which can send a digital PCM signal to the MaxTV. But since there could be a TV that doesn’t have this capability, there could have developed some pretty angry owners if not for Proficient including a Gefen digital converter (PCM to analogue stereo). This AC-powered stand-alone device converts the digital audio signal into analogue one that can be used. So regardless of your TV, you’ll be able to use it with the MaxTV.
The MaxTV has two “sets” of speakers, if you will: there’s 4 2.5-inch midrange and 2 tweeters facing you from the front; these provide the “sound” in that it’s here you get the nominal effects when watching a television broadcast or recorded content off a Blu-ray player, DVD, game console, etc. By that I mean the dialogue and left/right stereo effects, similar to that of having a left and right front speaker with a center channel between them.
The second “set” are a pair of 5.25-inch downward-firing subwoofers — one at each end on the bottom. Subs are omnidirectional, so their placement doesn’t matter, but I wondered whether being in the same cabinet as the other speakers would hurt — I know that it’s had this effect in other sound bars. But the other sound bars didn’t have the sub (or subs in this case) firing down, so there’s a difference right there. Even more to the point, the subs are in their own enclosures so they’re separated from the rest — this is the case with the speakers too as they are also in their own internal enclosures.
Now how do the subs sound? If left on default, they really make their presence known, even though the purpose of deep bass isn’t to exactly stand out and scream at you, normally speaking. And since they’re firing down, in effect the cabinet or stand that it sits on becomes one big subwoofer enclosure for amplifying the effect, aided by bass ports on the back of the chassis (as an aside, the overall bass effect will suffer if you can’t leave at least 4 inches of space between the ports and any wall or such facing it — this isn’t an issue to be concerned with as regards the front facing bass ports). I played a couple of missions of Activision’s James Bond game, 007 Legends, through my PS3 with the bass way up. Which is exactly how it should be when playing this video game. I’m talking lots of “big booms” here so the subs were working overtime to provide that. Teeth shaking stuff — just the way I like it (and my dental work doesn’t). This didn’t allow for the speakers to show off, but who the heck cares? Save that for the movies….
Now this is as good a place as any to note that there’s no LCD panel so you’re relying on a series of different colored LEDs to tell you what is going on, for example, a solid red that tells you the MaxTV is off or a slow blue flash to indicate Mute has been selected. The included remote handles this directly for change settings, such as the volume or mute, which input is being used, adjustment of treble and bass and whether the simulated surround mode is on or off. So start with the MaxTV at its default settings and go from there: in my case I lowered the bass settings a bit as it wasn’t appropriate for my watching in the bedroom in the evening (which is when the TV here is mostly used). Had I been using it with a TV in the living room, I would have notched the bass setting up a bit to compensate for the larger space — there’s a built-in limiter to keep the bass from becoming too “Boomtastic,” by the way, which was good during my Bond fantasy.
Let me add one thing here — you’re doing yourself a disservice by being right in front of the TV when you’ve the MaxTV beneath it. While this can be normal behavior for those watching in the bedroom (and especially when playing a video game), being right on top of the MaxTV makes the stereo effect, to start, less effective. It also makes the simulated surround puny to nonexistent. When I tried it out with my 55-inch, I was a good 8 feet back at minimum and that worked fine. But when I was up close and personal playing the video game, “meh” is all I can say about getting any “surround” to hit me.
And perusing the specs to see that the total wattage for the MaxTV is 80 watts — okay that might not sound like a whole lot, but each of the 4 20-watt digital amps are designed to work in concert so as to really pump out a vibrant sound. This they do partly because of the enclosures that the speakers are encased in, and partly due to the fact that Proficient makes really good speakers and what’s being used here isn’t the leftovers.
Oh — the wood-framed front grill can be removed to expose the speakers. Doing this can enhance the sound, according to some, but looks pretty cool according to everybody. It might not be the best way to go, considering the level of airborne dust you can get on it, but looks always takes precedence over sensibility. Ahem — back to that grill, rather than nubs or tabs, it’s held in place magnetically — that’s cool in itself but even more to the point it points to how Proficient isn’t making just “another” vanilla plain sound bar.
But getting back to how the MaxTV sounds overall. Good, really good. In the basic mode (meaning no simulated surround and bass set back to a reasonable level), you get “clean” dialogue and a well modulated sound-field where music and sound effects are concerned. Watching broadcast TV sitcoms brought out voices which were clear and easily understood, while “canned” content, being Blu-ray movies, sounded more intense — taking the volume up didn’t’ bring in any distortions or hiss. The subs meanwhile didn’t have as much to do with TV shows, but pulled more weight with the “canned” content.
Switching to the simulated surround and watching a Blu-ray movie, in this case Dark Shadows (Johnny Depp), tells a different story: here the subs really get a chance to “stretch” and the “surround sound” effect is more evident. You can definitely increase the volume in this case — I did and yeah it really helps the film to be nice and loud, neighbors be damned. Suggestion: don’t have anything small and lightweight on the cabinet if you boost the subwoofers towards the high end — they will start shaking and could fall off. The speakers, meanwhile, didn’t hide behind the subs — a scene with pounding surf came through distinctly with that “whoosh” that water makes for example.
You’re probably used to listening to your smartphone’s playlist using Bluetooth on some rinky-dinky wireless speaker. Me too. But since MaxTV can do Bluetooth, using it shows just how crappy the lorez stuff I have on my iPhone sounds. But when I ran with higher bit-rates, boy does it sound good. Pretty much as good as if it was coming off a pair of tower speakers through a reasonably powerful amp. Plus the advantage here is that you’ll probably have the MaxTV in the bedroom, which makes perfectly good sense for listening to your music to begin with. The pairing is initiated via the remote and then done in the normal fashion we’ve all gotten used to for iOS/Android devices
Bottom line: A tabletop speaker that holds a TV can be the best sound bar you can get — providing that you’ve a cabinet-based TV and you’re using the MaxTV MT2 TV Sound Speaker. The retail price of $599 reflects the fact that Proficient packed the insides with quality audio components. They definitely do the job.
- Handy EQ reset button on remote
- Dual 5.25-inch subwoofers
- Subwoofer grills can be removed for cleaning
- Top surface can be scratched/marred by careless placement of TV
- LED indicators requiring memorization
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.