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sky soundbox

Sky is launching its first speaker. Called the Sky Soundbox, it's a joint venture between the broadcasting behemoth and audio specialist Devialet. And we've had a play with it. Here are our first impressions.

Build

The Soundbox is satisfyingly weighty – you wouldn't want to drop it on your foot. But that's not a problem, considering it's designed to sit underneath your telly and not go anywhere else.

Though because it has Bluetooth, it can double as a wireless speaker, so you can beam tunes to it from your phone. In which case, you might want to move it somewhere else in the house. So watch your feet.

The design sits somewhere between modern and uninspiring, depending on your point of view. But it's pretty sleek, and is nicely in keeping with the design language of the Sky Q set-top box.

Sound

But enough about the looks. It's how it sounds that's important.

Partnering with Devialet has been a smart move. The French firm has stuffed three of its technologies into the Soundbox, and they really make a difference.

It contains six subwoofers and three full-range speakers. That means you can get loud, clear sound without having to fill your lounge with a clumsy surround sound set-up. But for us, the headline feature is AVL (Automatic Volume Level).

Picture the scene: you're watching an action film late at night. One minute it's all hushed dialogue that you can't make out, so you have to crank the volume up to hear what they're saying. The next, all hell breaks loose, with explosions and gunfire galore, and you wake up half the street before you can turn it down.

AVL solves this. It acts as an equaliser, evening out all the audio. In quiet parts, it'll boost the dialogue so you can hear it. And in action scenes it tones down the explosions, so your neighbourhood won't think World War Three has just started.

In a scene from 'Skyfall', a series of gunshots actually seemed to get quieter as Bond approached the camera, which shows AVL at work.

It'll also stop the adverts sounding louder than the programme you're watching. Bonus!

Overall, we found the sound quality to be very good, with the spatial sound particularly impressive – it sounded like different dialogue and sounds were coming from different parts of the room. Which is pretty impressive, when you think the only speakers were the ones encased in the box under the telly.

Of course, this was just a demo. We'll have to wait for our full review until we can give a definitive verdict.

Exclusive features

While it's compatible with the Apple TV 4K and other streaming and set-top boxes, the Soundbox comes into its own when paired with Sky Q. This is thanks to Q Sound, a unique feature that only works with Sky Q.

Basically, the box detects what type of content you're watching and switches to a preset sound mode. In football, this brings out the sound of the crowd, while in F1, it makes the engine sounds more urgent.

There are also a series of modes you can choose from, including Kids Mode (which stops it being turned up too loud), Speech Enhance and Late Night, both of which are self-explanatory.

The Sky Soundbox goes on sale next month. It costs £799 for general punters, or £299 for Sky customers. It's only £249 when taken with a Sky multi-screen subscription.

Stay tuned for a full review.

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