What do you even call this thing? AudioXperts’ 4TV Model 2112 occupies a class so new that it doesn’t really have an established name yet. Ultimately, the industry decided to embrace the name “sound bar” instead of “speaker bar,” and we figure the same consensus will eventually come along for the products we now call “speaker bases,” “sound platforms,” and “sound consoles” as well. We’re still crossing our fingers for “sound pancakes.” Whatever you call them, you can count on seeing lots more of this type of product in the coming months. It is less likely, however, that you will come across very many designs as ambitious as the 4TV’s.
As we noted during our first-look video, the 4TV Model 2112 is built like a tank. And although solid cabinet designs are often the hallmark of a well-performing speaker, it isn’t a guarantee. Since the Model 2112 demands a premium price, we demanded some premium performance from it across the board. Here’s how it held up.
Out of the box
If you’re going to charge $1,500 (originally $2,000) for a one-box audio system, you had better deliver a seriously confidence-inspiring out-of-box experience. Thankfully, AudioXperts manages to do just that. In fact, the in-box experience leaves an impression of its own on anyone who decides to tangle with it without some help. Sure, 60 pounds (shipping weight) isn’t a lot, but when spread out over the 2112’s sprawling dimensions, it can put the hurt on you if you’re not careful.
When you pop open the 2112, you’re greeted by a stout piece of board hiding yet another box, and beyond the flaps of the inner box is preponderance of non-degradable EPE foam. Chances are good that this speaker will arrive in pristine condition if passed through the hands of the good folks at FedEx or UPS.
When you pull the 2112 from its protective cloth sack, it is immediately apparent where your money went. The glossy, smoked glass that sits atop an even glossier lacquered black cabinet gives the piece the look of fine furniture, not consumer electronics. The only downside is that this sort of finish is a magnet for dust and fingerprints. We recommend investing in a nice microfiber cleaning cloth and plan to clean thoroughly and clean often.
The glossy, smoked glass that sits atop an even glossier lacquered black cabinet gives the piece the look of fine furniture.
With such a gorgeous appearance, we had reservations about placing a TV on top of the 2112. But once we did, we immediately recognized the appeal. The 2112 actually made whatever we set on top of it look even classier. It didn’t matter if the TV stand was made of shiny black plastic or chromed, metal, the TV always looked as if it had just replaced its sneakers with a pair of fine Italian-leather shoes.
True, the 2112 is big. It measures a little over 40 inches wide and 17 inches deep, but its 2.25-inch height (make that 2.5-inches with the swivel plate) keeps its profile down a bit. And besides, all that depth and width pays off big time when it comes to potential sound quality.
In the box with the 2112 we found a high-quality set of RCA cables, a USB to 30-pin adapter for compatible iOS devices and a 6-foot Toslink cable.
Features and design
The 2112 comes with two optical inputs, one coaxial digital input, a stereo pair of analog inputs, a 1/8-inch mini input and a USB audio input for use with mobile devices. One of the optical inputs is intended for use with an Apple Airport Express, which is complimented by a dedicated power outlet for just such a device. The system does not include built-in support for Apple AirPlay, but it does offer on-board Bluetooth with aptX for easy wireless music streaming.
While that’s a comprehensive list of inputs, we ultimately found ourselves wishing for HDMI support. Because of the 2112’s super-easy remote control learning capability, we would have gladly used the console as a source switcher, much like we do with an AV receiver. And by using HDMI, wiring would have been streamlined while keeping audio quality at its best possible level; but more on that in a moment.
The 2112 packs two 3/4-inch dome tweeters, four long, oval-shaped “HART” drivers for the midrange, and four 4.5-inch woofers. All 10 speakers are driven by an amplifier that delivers 200 watts or constant power and 350 watts peak power – in other words, more than enough.
We ultimately found ourselves wishing for HDMI support.
The only sound adjustments onboard are three EQ settings: one for music, one for dialog enhancement, and one for movies. Switching through them requires a visit to the console itself, or you can program some random button on your TV or set-top box (cable or satellite) remote.
Getting the 2112 to learn your remote codes is a snap. Simply press the remote learning key on the top of the console, press the function you wish to control (say, volume up in this case) and then press the associated button on your remote control four times. The 2112 will blink with a confirmation and you move on. We had to get creative when figuring out which buttons on our cable remote would be responsible for input selection (you can’t just cycle through all inputs with one button, you must assign a button for each one) and EQ adjustment (which you can cycle through.)
We figure most folks will want to connect all of their components to their TV, and then send one audio signal down to the 2112 with a digital optical (Toslink) cable. While that is certainly desirable from a standpoint of convenience, it is rarely the preferred option for sound quality. Most TVs will take the Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound signals they get from a cable box or Blu-ray player and dumb them down to a shadow of their former selves, usually a lossy stereo signal nowhere close to the quality of the original. This is why even one HDMI input with ARC (audio return channel) would have been a good idea, let alone three HDMI inputs and one output.
But, since HDMI wasn’t an option, we decided to connect our Blu-ray player via coaxial digital cable and our cable box via optical digital cable. That’s when things got a little messy for us, because the 2112 doesn’t offer any clear way to switch among its digital inputs. Since our cable box is almost always on, it was what we’d hear by default. Getting the 2112 to switch to the Blu-ray player required turning off the cable box, turning off the console, then turning the console back on and sometimes switching to another input, then back to the digital input in order to hear what was being played from the Blu-ray machine. If there is a way to switch between the digital inputs, we weren’t able to find it easily in the product literature. We can imagine this frustrating some people – it certainly did us.
Once we got past that issue, we paired up our iPhone 4S via Bluetooth and plugged in the provided USB to 30-pin cable for a hard connection to our mobile device.
Test material for our review included music delivered by our iPhone 4S and by CD, Blu-ray and CD discs played back by an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray universal disc player, and TV and movie content delivered through a Comcast cable box.
The 2112 benefits from some break-in time. Out of the box, the console lacked the kind of bass response we’d hoped for and exhibited some stiffness to the upper midrange/lower treble region. We let the console play for about 48 hours straight before coming back to have another listen. When we returned, we played the same three music tracks we had listened to earlier and were struck by the difference.
This console’s bass response is nothing short of spectacular.
What astonished everyone who heard the 2112 while it was part of our system was its low-frequency prowess. This console’s bass response is nothing short of spectacular. Not only did the speaker emit bass that went lower and was more powerful than anyone would imagine by looking at it, but the musicality of the bass exceeded even our most demanding expectations. We haven’t heard a single sound bar system’s included subwoofer come close to the melodic bass capabilities this speaker offers. And when it came to movies, it’s ability to pulsate the room made the soundtracks immersive in a way that we’d expect only from high-quality, compact subwoofers. No, this speaker won’t move enough air to make your pant legs quiver, but the bass it does deliver is refined and glorious.
Dialog delivery was, for the most part, clear and intelligible. We did not have the best experience with the 2112 connected to our TV’s digital audio output – we found that dialog was obscured by the unit’s efforts at virtual surround sound processing – but once we switched to a direct connection with our Blu-ray player, things snapped into focus. We never felt the need to use the dialog enhancement EQ setting, but it was nice to know it was there just in case. The console’s movie mode never blew us away with convincing surround effects, but then again, neither has any other virtual surround system that didn’t employ a large array of speakers. The movie mode did, however, manage to expand the stereo image enough that we felt movie soundtracks were more engulfing than when in “music” mode.
While we enjoyed the 2112 very much for movies and TV shows, we were less enthralled with its music performance. While the bass remained tuneful, and the midrange uncongested and largely impressive for a speaker of its size, there was a bite to the lower treble and upper midrange region which nagged at us. Granted, we’re pretty persnickety when it comes to music reproduction, and it is entirely possible most listeners won’t notice, but considering this piece begs an audiophile price, we felt it deserved a little audiophile scrutiny. Take that for what you will.
We’re always tempted to put a piece of audio equipment’s price-to-performance ratio under a microscope, and it was tough not to do so in this case. Yes, the 2112 is expensive. But it’s intended to be as much a luxurious piece of furniture as it is a speaker, and it succeeds on that front. Let’s also not forget that the level of fidelity this piece is capable of far exceeds what you expect to be possible from speaker of its stature, and that’s worth a lot as well. We continue to be impressed by the quality of the 2112’s bass output, and were it not for that pinch in the upper frequencies, we’d probably do a lot more gushing about its sound quality.
With that said, the speaker did exhibit some connection and control issues that give us some pause. Those are the only reasons we are holding off on bestowing the 2112 with our Editor’s Choice award. To be sure, we can wholeheartedly recommend this speaker, but we qualify our recommendation by saying this piece isn’t for everyone. If big sound from a low-profile, elegant-looking package is your priority, the 4TV Model 2112 should fit your bill; just be prepared to pay for it.
- Outstanding bass performance
- Clear dialog delivery
- Expansive sound stage
- Gorgeous design and build quality
- Solid Bluetooth sound quality
- Supports Apple Airport Express
- Can’t cycle through available inputs
- Can’t switch among digital inputs
- No HDMI connectivity