Sky Soundbox review: Awesome audio at a bargain price

£249
Price when reviewed

Sky is on a bit of a roll at the moment. Not only has the TV giant changed the way we think about mobile phone contracts with its innovative mobile network (data rolls over, and can be shared between family plans), but it’s trying to reward its subscribers with monthly rewards in a VIP scheme. This kind of brand loyalty is being rewarded once again with the Sky Soundbox – a soundbar made by the high-end audiophiles at Devialet and provided at a discount to Sky customers. A big discount.

So while the Sky Soundbox will cost £799 to regular customers, Sky customers can get one for £299 when it launches. And if you’re signed up to its all-singing, all-dancing Sky Q multiroom service, then it’s even cheaper at £249.

[gallery:1]

At the full price of £799, it isn’t the best TV audio setup we’ve heard, but at the lower price it’s as close to a no-brainer a piece of consumer tech costing hundreds of pounds can realistically hope to be.

Buy the Sky Soundbox now

Sky Soundbox review: Design and features

The Sky Soundbox is a bit of an oddity as far as TV speakers go, and that’s mainly down to its physical design. It’s not slim enough or low enough to be a soundbar, and it isn’t wide enough to be a sound base either. In fact, it sits somewhere in between those two types of speaker in terms of its form factor.

In and of itself, that isn’t a problem, especially if you have a TV with a relatively tall stand. But with so many more sets coming with those low-profile stands, the height could prove to be an issue for many: at 95mm from its rubber base to top panel, the Soundbox stands significantly taller than most soundbars.

It was certainly a problem in my living room, where the speaker blocked a significant portion of the lower part of the screen when I placed it where I usually put soundbars: on the shelf immediately in from of the screen.

In the end, I had to move the Soundbox down to a lower shelf beneath my Sky Q box to keep it central, which affected the sound quality somewhat, reducing the speaker’s ability to bounce audio off the walls to the rear of the speaker and, subsequently, narrowing what would have been a far more impressive soundstage.

It’s telling that, at my first demo of the Sky Soundbox, which was held in a hotel suite in central London, even the demo TV Sky was using had been raised on a plinth to avoid the speaker blocking the screen. And it isn’t wall-mountable either, so if you like to keep things “floating” it isn’t a good choice.

[gallery:2]

As for the rest of its features, the Soundbox is a bit of a mixed bag. It has only one HDMI and one HDMI output and one optical S/PDIF input, so connectivity is a bit limited, and it’s also worth noting that the HDMI output isn’t ARC (audio return channel) enabled either, so you’ll have to route any audio that doesn’t come from your Sky Q box via the optical output on your TV. There’s also no direct support for DTS or even Dolby Atmos, which is odd given the recent introduction of the latter for Premier League matches.

And, while Bluetooth pairing works beautifully well (put it in Bluetooth mode and wait – it enters pairing mode automatically), I’m much less keen on the way the Soundbox interrupts playback from other sources to announce “Bluetooth device is connected/disconnected” whenever a previously paired device goes in and out of range.

A recent update does soften the blow a little. As part of a raft of new features coming to Sky Q, Spotify will soon be joining the Sky Q family. From the spring (date TBC), Spotify will launch and customers will be able to listen to Spotify for free, with ads, or log in to their premium account.

In addition to it being available on Sky Soundbox, you’ll be able to stream to TV speakers via AirPlay or Bluetooth, too.

Sky Soundbox review: Sound quality

All of which is mildly irritating, but I hasten to add that these niggles don’t unduly affect the sound quality. In fact, for its size and price, the Sky Soundbox delivers quite a punch, with surprisingly wide and deep sound. The bass, despite this being a standalone speaker with no separate subwoofer, offers plenty of impact, too; it’s a world away from your regular TV speakers. If you’ve lived this long without any external audio setup, the payback will be instant and very impressive and even compared with rivals such as the Q Acoustics M3 (£300), the sound quality is highly impressive.

[gallery:3]

Now, the Soundbox can’t compete with a full surround sound system in terms of immersion and it’s obvious the sound is coming directly from in front of you, despite Sky’s proclamations to the contrary. But, y’know, it is, so that’s fair enough. And the most important things in a TV speaker – balance and the ability to present voices so you can hear them clearly – are all present and correct.

Plus, there’s more than enough going on under the hood to keep the audio sounding awesome. The speaker’s automatic volume level (AVL) algorithm is what keeps voices intelligible, subtly rolling off the intensity as soon as big action scenes kick in, then adjusting it back up again during quieter scenes. It can’t be disabled, but it’s effective and definitely isn’t too intrusive.

[gallery:4]

Then there’s the speaker’s “Q Sound” feature which adapts the EQ itself to different types of content automatically, playing up the surround elements in football matches, for example, to “put you in the scene”. A clip from the recent Manchester United versus Everton fixture proved that the crowd really does feel quite lively, and while commentary on the Formula 1 tends to sound a little muffled and enclosed, the engine noise is nicely heightened.

In total there are seven different Q Sound profiles: music, cinema, F1, football, cricket, golf and boxing, though note that these will only be available to content piped to the speaker from your Sky Q box. The Soundbox falls back on its default profile for any other content.

[gallery:5]

Not that this is a particular problem because, although this is predominantly built for TV, it sounds great with music too, either via the speaker’s native Bluetooth connection or the optical input at the rear of the box. And yes, you can get more crisp detail at the high end of the audio spectrum with more expensive speakers – and more grunt with a subwoofer-equipped setup – but for such a small, reasonably priced speaker it’s nothing short of astonishing what the Soundbox is able to achieve, with a nicely agile and very well controlled low-end, and a warm, sweet presentation throughout the rest of the audio spectrum.

In other words, it’s unbeatable sound for the Sky subscriber price, but not for the non-subscriber price of £799.

Buy the Sky Soundbox now

Sky Soundbox review: Verdict

Basically, that last line sums it up. The Sky Soundbox is a very good TV speaker indeed, and if you’re a Sky subscriber stuck using your built-in TV speakers or a cheap and nasty sub-£200 all-in-one soundbar, then this is about as easy a recommendation as it’s possible to give. Go ahead and buy it right now.

[gallery:7]

If you’re not a subscriber, that outlook changes dramatically. While it’s as good a speaker as ever, you can get much more for your money elsewhere, including full surround systems or more fully-featured soundbar systems like the superb Samsung HW-K850. That system, unlike the Soundbox, comes with a wireless subwoofer, a broader selection of connections, Dolby Atmos support and multi-room music streaming. It sounds more accomplished as well.

That isn’t to do down the Sky Soundbox at all, though. This is a brilliant first audio product, and Devialet – which has never partnered with another brand before – has delivered the goods in stupendous fashion. For Sky subscribers, it’s a bargain of immense proportions.

2 thoughts on “Sky Soundbox review: Awesome audio at a bargain price”

gojko segvic says:
What a brazen SKY soundbox sold for £ 700 to non-SKY TV subscribers. It’s just like selling the best Porsche for the highest price and you can’t change gears on that Porsche. The SKY soundbox does not have any sound change option if you are not connected to a SKY TV and its HDMI output is not compatible with any TV or audio amplifier. For £ 700 they should provide HDMI compatibility with any device and make an additional box and remote control that would allow normal use of the SKY soundbox for those who bought it and are not SKY TV subscribers.
Shame on SKY company and constructor Devialet.
Best regards
Chris Rodway says:
Can I operate the sound control of the sky sound box with my sky tv remote?

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos