Kevin Hunt: A Big-Time Soundbar: Definitive Technology's SoloCinema XTR

Definitive Technology's SoloCinema XTR, a long and appropriately lean soundbar with a wireless subwoofer, costs more ($1,999) than the everyday HDTV and looks equally striking in its slick black finish. Definitive Technology has somehow put its soundbar on a diet to match the best HDTVs: It measures less than 2.5 inches deep while spanning 43 inches wide and slightly more than 5 inches high.

No soundbar is as good as full-blown surround system. For all its technical sophistication, the XTR still can't produce true surround-sound effects. You'll hear more from's $80 5.1-channel system, Model No. 8247, with five speakers (including two for the rear-channel surrounds) and a subwoofer.

Yet the XTR goes where no surround system can: on a wall, under or over an HDTV. With essential contributions from the subwoofer, which has an 8-inch driver built into an unusual cabinet that's only 6.5 inches deep, the XTR approximates a surround system — everything, of course, except the actual surround effects.

The XTR is Definitive Technology's first soundbar with built-in amplification, audio processing (including high-resolution Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD available on Blu-ray releases) and HDMI video switching. It's more than a basic soundbar, which typically uses an audio-only connection when paired with a cable or satellite dish box. The XTR does that, too, with either a digital (Toslink) or analog audio connection, but it sounds distinctly better with HDMI.

Definitive Technology encourages the user to treat the XTR like an audio-video receiver by sending both audio and video signals via HDMI to the television from up to three sources (like a cable box, Blu-ray player and gaming console). A fourth HDMI connection outputs all signals to the television, with switching from source to source using the XTR's remote control.

The soundbar comes with wall mounts, and two types of stands if it's placed on a shelf. Another feature: If it's placed in front of the HDTV, blocking the television from the remote control's signals, the XTR passes the signals with built-in remote "flashers."

The subwoofer, meanwhile, is powered by a 250-watt Class D amplifier. So the XTR has some kick. In the menu, you'll find an XTR bonus, Dolby Volume, which controls playback volume so that advertisements do not shock with their sudden loudness.

The XTR's most difficult assignment is reproducing movie surround effects and music. Definitive Technology does its best, with user-adjustable settings for each. At maximum SSA Immersion, the default setting for movies, the XTR sounds remarkable for a single-box speaker (with subwoofer).

The surround charade, however, never sounds like the rear-channel effects reproduced by actual back-of–the-room speakers. But it comes close. The music setting calms the subwoofer and brings the sound back to reality — more two-dimensional.

For big sound at a lower price, I'd also look at Atlantic Technology's PowerBar 235 at $899.

What: Definitive Technology SoloCinema XTR soundbar

Price: $1,999,

Hot: Only 2.5 inches deep, excellent sound, auto-pairing subwoofer.

Not: With only a one-box speaker, cannot replicate surround effects. Expensive.

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