HAVING MOVED FROM a CRT telly that was the size of a small windowless building to a flat panel LCD screen quite some time ago, I felt a lot like the guy who invented the rear view mirror – I’d never looked back. With a completely flat screen that’s sporting a true 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, the difference between my old CRT that was too heavy for one person to pick up and the featherweight panel that now sits in my lounge was like night and day.
Unfortunately there’s one issue that flat panel screen makers don’t seem to have ever addressed – audio.
With a chassis so capacious that it could easily accommodate an elephant’s scrotum, my old CRT telly also packed a speaker driver that was so big it could belt out teeth-rattling audio. While it was hardly cinematic or audiophile-grade sound, it was a magnitude of an order better than the anaemic audio coming out of my flat panel TV whose anorexic form factor means there’s no room for anything bigger driver-wise than what would pass for a tweeter on most speaker set ups.
Enter stage left the BOSE Solo. Essentially a slim (a Jabba the hutt it isn’t) back rectangular slab, the solo’s whole reason for being is to supply more robust audio than is possible with run-of-the-mill flat panel screen speakers. BOSE has cleverly designed the Solo to sit under the base of a flat panel TV, and once installed, it all but disappears.
At least that is, until you power it up. It may only measure just over 71mm tall x 525.78mm wide and 304mm deep, but its pint sized small footprint gives little to no hint at the surprisingly good audio being dished out once it’s powered up.
This feat of ingenuity is achieved using a hint of digital signal processing and several servings of some clever proprietary speaker array technologies. In use the audio being delivered sounded a whole lot fatter than the tiny little box delivering it, and was certainly a step up from the audio equivalent of a gnat’s fart previously being delivered by the underpowered speakers built into my flat panel TV.
What an Ear-full
While the Solo didn’t loosen any ceiling plaster with its bass output, it did manage to hint at bass while mids and highs sounded warm and natural instead of the chipmunk punk being being screamed out of a neighbour’s transistor radio.
Getting set up was such a no brainer that even I managed without any RTFM (Read The F***ing Manual) time involved. Using the supplied power cable I connected the Solo to the mains and then using a set of RCA leads connected it to the audio out on my flat panel. Unfortunately, while BOSE provide RCA and optical audio cables, no HDMI cables were included, so even though my TV has an HDMI out and the Solo has an HDMI input, I was unable to use it. These admittedly minor grizzles aside, getting set up was easier than falling off the proverbial log.
Although Bose also thoughtfully included a small simple remote, I had no problem getting it up and running using a universal remote (which handily meant I was able to use macros to automatically power the Solo up along with my DVD player/Freeview/Skybox and the TV).
There’s a lot I liked about the Solo. For a start, the audio it delivered was a definite step up from the shrill treble-laden rubbish my current flat screen telly was dishing out, and installing it was nothing short of dead easy. There are however, a few negatives that also need to be weighed up. Firstly simplicity comes at a price and as such the Solo is a single unit – there are no rear drivers or a separate sub so forget about home cinema surround sound. Secondly, it is BOSE gear. While this means it is well constructed and can deliver ear pleasing audio, it does command a price premium at $749 (which could easily get you a no brand 5.1 surround home theatre set up, which would admittedly sound like crap). This said, the Solo is an elegant solution that is unobtrusive and dead easy to get set up that will make a difference to the audio supplied by most flat screen TVs. As much as I’d love to be able to show you the audio specifications, however, BOSE do not publish specifications, which is a real shame. PAT PILCHER