Sky Soundbox full review
Following the successful launch of Sky Q, the broadcasting giant thought its set top box could do with a friend. Sky has teamed up with Devialet to offer its own soundbar to improve on your TV’s audio. Here’s our Sky Soundbox review.
We’re accustomed to a single price for gadgets like this, but the Soundbox has three different prices.
The cheapest is £249, available for those who are Sky multi-screen customers. Regular Sky customers can get the Soundbox at a still reasonable £299. You'll need to order directly from Sky.
If you like, you can choose to pay £149 upfront then pay the rest across your next three bills.
The final option is for those who are not Sky customers, but you’ll have to pay a whopping £799 for the Soundbox. That makes it one of the most expensive soundbars around and you can save £100 by opting for the Sonos Playbar or Playbase.
So, really this is only a good value product for those who are Sky customers - or you’re going to join.
Design and build
TV speakers tend to come in one of two styles: soundbars and soundbases. The former is long and thin so it can sit in front of your telly while the other is designed to have your TV sit on top.
Oddly, and as the name suggests, the Sky Soundbox is neither. It’s a chunky box closer to the shape of a high-end Bluetooth or multi-room speaker than one made as a TV companion.
Build quality is good - although a flash of metal wouldn’t go amiss - but the shape and size of the Soundbox makes it awkward.
The instruction manual explains you should not put the Soundbox on top of any other set-top boxes or similar. You also can’t put anything on top and furthermore it needs a decent clearance either side due to the way speakers are side-mounted.
These restrictions will make it awkward for most users to find somewhere suitable for the Soundbox. If you have a TV stand, putting it underneath where boxes and consoles are meant to go will mean there’s only space for the speaker.
For most the easiest place will be in front of the TV, but for us this meant pushing the TV right to the back of the furniture and raising it up on some thick books due to the 9.5cm height - it will almost certainly block the screen.
There are some push buttons on the top of the speaker - power, source and volume - but you shouldn’t need to use these unless you lose the remote control. Even then, you can set the Sky Q remote to control the volume of the Soundbox.
However, you will need the remote for power as it just doesn’t switch off without being told and also to adjust the AV sync if the audio doesn’t match up to what’s happening on screen.
Most of all, you’ll need it for source as the Soundbox doesn’t automatically switch. So if you stop watching a show on Sky Q and then fire up your console for some gaming, the speaker won’t intelligently swap to the optical input. In fact, the audio from your Sky box will carry on if you didn’t switch it off.
Sound quality and features
Setting up the Soundbox is easy enough - you need only plug in the power, your HDMI cable from the Sky Q box, a second HDMI cable to your TV input and an optical cable from your TV.
The optical cable is optional but if you have other media players or consoles connected to your TV, the audio won’t come through the speaker without it. A nice addition is Bluetooth so you can easily connect a smartphone or other gadget to play music.
Once you are setup, the sound quality of the Sky Soundbox is very impressive. For a compact box, the speaker is able to provide both a powerful and detailed sound.
It’s somewhat remarkable that Devialet has managed to fit no less than six woofers and three full-range drivers. A total of nine matches the Sonos Playbar.
When watching regular TV like Masterchef, the Soundbox sounds good but really comes into its own when you watch a blockbuster movie. The speaker exhibits forceful bass and sub-bass and both the mid- and high-end are both detailed and rich.
Like many, the Soundbox is designed to give a ‘360 degree’ soundstage without the use of satellite speakers. This is partly achieved by the way the drivers are placed around the unit facing in different directions.
It works fairly well but is by no means the Soundbox’s forte. We prefer the of the Sonos Playbar which is more immersive and dynamic. Perhaps Dolby Atmos support would have swung it in the Soundbox's favour.
If you’re buying at the prices available to Sky customers you’re getting amazingly good bang for your buck.
Better with Sky Q
The Soundbox is designed to work best with Sky Q but you can also use it with Sky+ or people without Sky at all. As mentioned, the latter means the device is a whopping £799.
Not only do you get it at the much more affordable price, connecting it to a Sky Q box provides extra features.
The Soundbox can automatically detects what you’re doing and adjusts the sound profile accordingly. It can do this for sports, film and music based on the broadcast - you can’t select these ‘automatic listening modes’ from a menu.
What you can choose from is some profiles including an impressive night mode that reduces the volume of loud aspects while boosting quiet things. This means you can hear dialogue without annoying neighbours with the sound of explosions.
There’s also a kids mode that stops the volume getting too high and speech which prioritises dialogue.
All of these work very well, but it’s a little awkward to switch between them. It can only be done via a menu on the Sky Q box rather than a button on the remote which would be preferable.
Sky Soundbox: Specs
- 6x 3in woofers
- 3x 2in full-range drivers
- Dolby Digital+ compatible
- HDMI in
- HDMI out
- Optical in
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Remote control
- Exclusive Sky Q sound profiles
- 37.5 x 21 x 9.5cm