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Sky offers cut-price high-end soundbar to customers – in partnership with the DVLA… sorry, what?

Thursday, July 27th 2017 by Dan Howdle
Odd phone call this morning. “It’s Sky on the phone, they want to know if you got the press release about them partnering with the DVLA?”. I spent the remainder with the helter-skelter eyes of a very confused man.

Turns out what has actually happened is that Sky’s teamed up with high-end, French speaker innovator Devialet – in my defence, pronounced almost exactly ‘DVLA’ – to ramp up the sound quality available to your average Sky TV customer.

In an effort to show how generous it’s being, and to offset a price-point that sounds almost exotically ambitious of Sky’s marketing department, the RRP for this device, nicknamed the Sky Soundbox, is £799.

Here, have a few seconds on me to recover from your coughing fit

This is what’s called an ‘anchor price’: An outlandishly high number which serves the dual purpose of enduing the product an air of high quality, while at the same time making the price at which Sky is actually flogging it look like a bargain.

Sky customers will be able to pick up the Soundbox for £299, while Sky Multiscreen customers will get it for £249.

To be fair to Sky, it does appear that, were you to purchase a similar box from the DVLA – sorry – it would cost you similar money (£800 or more). But it still has me somewhat confused.

Why do I need a soundbar?

As TVs got flatter, and therefore larger, it became challenging to integrate audio that could match the increasingly cinema-like experience offered by these giant HD and UHD panels.

The soundbar stepped in to selflessly rescue your TV’s feeble audio like Batman at a mugging. Albeit 60’s Batman: All garish rumble, POW, BIFF and tinsel-sharp treble – primary, over-saturated and hammy.

And that’s the thing about soundbars. They’ll do you better than your TV’s speakers in most cases, but they’re not a patch on a proper surround system. You just can’t emulate in one box what it takes six or more dedicated speakers – placed accurately around the room – to achieve.

Now, I haven’t heard one of these things in action. I can’t tell you how it directly compared with a multi-speaker system for around the same price. What I can tell you, however, is how the box intends to compete.

According to the blurb, the Soundbox combines six woofers (bass) and three full-range speakers (everything else) and attempts to emulate the surround effect by bouncing the sound off your walls. Skeptical we are. Oh yes.

Point is there’s a price point around which opting for a budget 5.1 surround system makes more sense than spending the same money on a soundbar, and that point is indeed around the £300 mark.

Take the Onkyo HT-S3800 – it’s currently available below the £300 mark if you shop around, and includes a discrete amplifier and six speakers to dot lovingly about. And despite being at the budget end, will produce an enveloping soundfield that no soundbar can compete with.

Not everyone can fit a full surround system in their lounge

But there are a lot of living rooms that are either too small to fit a full system, or in which a full system would do anything but compliment the decor.

And I’d have to say that if it sounds anything like other soundbars at around the £800 mark (mid-high end) – the LG SJ9 or Denon Heos come to mind – it’s going to sound pretty damn great. Just, perhaps, not full-surround great.

Conclusion? I want to hear one

If you want big sound for comparatively little cash, and you don’t want to or can’t opt for a multi-box option, Sky is offering what looks like a great deal here, though I would like to actually hear one before advising y’all to just go out and buy one.

The Sky Soundbox will be available to Sky TV customers for £299 and Sky Multiscreen customers for £249 from ‘this autumn’ – whenever in the hell that will be. The DVLA has thus far declined to comment.

Dan Howdle, Cable.co.uk

Dan Howdle is Cable.co.uk’s resident telecoms expert. Dan appears regularly in the UK press to talk about issues faced by UK consumers on matters of broadband, TV and mobile, and has appeared on BBC Breakfast, ITV News, Sky News, and on a number of BBC and non-BBC UK radio stations. If you have a question for Dan, you can email him at expert@cable.co.uk.

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