- Sleek premium design
- Huge soundstage and powerful bass
- Transparent, detailed sound
- No Bluetooth
- No HDMI connections
- DTS Play Fi app problems
- 4 x 3-inch mid/bass drivers, 3 x 1-inch aluminium dome tweeters
- Wireless subwoofer with 8-inch woofer
- Dolby Digital and DTS decoding
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- DTS Play-Fi support with DLNA, Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Deezer, Napster, Tidal
- Manufacturer: Definitive Technology
- Review Price: £899.00/$1348.50
WHAT IS THE DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY W STUDIO MICRO?
With soundbars now available at your local supermarket or bundled free with new TVs, you don’t have to break the bank to boost your TV’s sound quality. But if you have a bigger budget and demand superior performance from a soundbar then there are plenty of high-end models that might fit the bill, including this offering from US brand Definitive Technology.
A slimmed-down version of the company’s flagship W Studio, the W Studio Micro is a 3.1-channel soundbar and wireless subwoofer that promises premium performance in a space-saving design. It’s compatible with the DTS Play-Fi multiroom streaming platform, and can be upgraded to a 5.1 system by adding a pair of Definitive Technology’s wireless surround speakers.
DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY W STUDIO MICRO – DESIGN AND CONNECTIONS
As you’d expect at this price, the W Studio Micro is a well-built system. Get up close and personal with the soundbar and you can feel its quality; the aircraft-grade aluminium enclosure is rigid and robust, while the black fabric grille, brushed top panel and engraved logo are classy touches. The plastic back-end lets the side down a little, though.
With its modern, angular design it’s an appealing soundbar, but not quite the jaw-dropper I was expecting for the money. However, soundbars are more about blending in than standing out, and the bar’s slender design should have no problem integrating with any living room. At just 45mm high, it sits below the bottom edge of my TV and doesn’t block its remote sensor.
Similarly, the subwoofer’s compact size makes it easy to accommodate, while the all-black styling is easy on the eye and matches the soundbar perfectly. Its patterned finish is interspersed by a brushed silver panel on the front bearing the “D” logo, while on the back is a power switch and 3.5mm input that connects the bar and sub if you have problems with the wireless connection. It’s a solid ported box with an 8-inch woofer and chunky rubber feet that provide excellent stability.
The soundbar sports a row of buttons on top to adjust the volume, toggle through inputs and pause playback, while a row of illuminated dots on the front displays the volume levels. It’s a bit small and not a patch on a text-based display, but it’s easy to follow. The lights pulse hypnotically when you switch sound modes.
The soundbar’s socketry includes two optical inputs, a USB port (which doubles as an Ethernet port with an adapter, not supplied), a 3.5mm subwoofer output and a 3.5mm analogue input. There are IR input and repeater ports, too, in case the bar blocks your TV remote sensor. The lack of HDMI sockets will no doubt raise a few eyebrows at this price, but it’s understandable given the soundbar’s svelte dimensions.
DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY W STUDIO MICRO – FEATURES
Cheaper soundbars trade on hi-tech tricks but for Definitive Technology it’s all about performance. To that end, the W Studio Micro is equipped with a formidable seven-strong driver array, including four 3-inch mid/bass drivers and three 1-inch aluminium dome tweeters, all with neodymium magnets.
Crucially, two of the mid-range drivers are deployed in a dedicated centre channel with a tweeter, with the left and right channels getting a mid-range driver and tweeter each. Each one is powered by an individual amplifier, but Definitive Technology is being coy with its power ratings. There’s on-board Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, and two sound modes: Movie and Music.
Built-in Wi-Fi and DTS Play-Fi support let you create a multiroom system with other Play-Fi-enabled speakers across a variety of brands, including Klipsch, Onkyo, Paradigm and Pioneer. You can stream music from DLNA servers – with hi-res audio support up to 192kHz/24-bit – and a healthy range of streaming services, including Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Deezer, KKBOX, Napster, Tidal, QQ Music and SiriusXM.
Play-Fi Surround makes it possible to use two Definitive Technology W7 or W9 speakers as surround channels, bringing you true 5.1-channel sound. That’s the good news; the bad news is that the W7 and W9 cost around £400/$600 and £600/$900 a piece respectively. Ouch.
The biggest disappointment features-wise is the lack of Bluetooth, which is inexplicable on a product such as this. Play-Fi’s lossless transmission may grant you better sound quality, but not everyone wants the hassle.
DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY W STUDIO MICRO – SETUP AND OPERATION
With its straightforward optical input and wireless subwoofer connection, setup is remarkably simple. The two components pair instantly, getting you up and running in minutes.
It’s controlled using an unusual-looking remote, clad in a pleasant rubberised finish with buttons below the surface. The keys are nicely spaced out and clearly labelled, with a simple 1, 2 and 3 denoting the three inputs.
There are individual controls for the main, bass and centre-channel volumes. They’re quite hard to see given the lack of a backlight, but the raised “+” and “-” symbols help you find them in the dark.
When using the DTS Play-Fi app, your smartphone or tablet becomes the remote, and it’s here that problems begin. It’s attractive, but the layout is clumsy: the homepage splits apps across two pages, even though there’s a large space at the bottom. The multiroom functionality could be more clearly signposted, too.
Things improve once you start exploring a NAS drive. The straightforward structure makes it easy to find the music you want and it scrolls quickly through big libraries.
DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY W STUDIO MICRO – PERFORMANCE
The Def Tech delivers a performance that’s head-and-shoulders above any budget soundbar. Its hi-fi driver array – split into mid-range drivers and tweeters across three channels – offers a broader, fuller sound than the full-range drivers employed by cheaper soundbars.
The result is a transparent, multi-layered sound with outstanding clarity. The opening sequence from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a terrific example: as the Simians stalk a herd of deer in the woods, the soundbar renders falling rain with a feather-light hiss and teases out the apes’ gentle grunting and sniffing. As they give chase, the rustling foliage and wooden “thunk” of hands grabbing tree branches is remarkably detailed. You simply don’t get this level of subtlety when you buy budget.
The W Studio Micro backs up its dazzling detail with plenty of muscle. Its huge, room-filling soundstage feels more like a full 5.1 system than a soundbar. Naturally, the superb subwoofer deserves most of the credit – deep, visceral bass shuddered through my room and made the windows rattle – but the soundbar plays its part, too. Big dynamics and impressive attack had me on the edge of my seat as explosions and gunshots fired across the room.
When Gary Oldman detonates a bomb in the movie’s climax, the explosion has plenty of weight but there’s no booming or overhang. And as the metal towers topple, the sense of scale is off the chart; you feel dwarfed as they clatter to the ground.
Also impressive is the W Studio Micro’s expansive soundstage. Thanks to the soundbar’s generous physical dimensions, it offers a pleasing spread of sound, but effects are clearly placed and the dedicated centre channel keeps dialogue anchored to the middle. The centre channel volume controls make voices audible over the din of an action scene, projecting them with excellent clarity and detail.
It’s also a dab hand with music, offering the same open, transparent character that makes movies so enjoyable. The tweeters let you hear every detail, while the solid mid-range lends body and warmth. And thanks to the tight, responsive bass, kick drums are dispatched with no flab.
Flaws are minor. It strains a touch when pushed to the limits of its volume, and you’ll only get true surround sound if you fork out for the extra speakers. But otherwise, I really can’t speak highly enough of the W Studio Micro’s performance. Its sound is powerful, transparent and detailed – all the ingredients of a thrilling movie night.
SHOULD I BUY THE DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY W STUDIO MICRO?
Although £900 is a lot of money for a soundbar, the W Studio Micro largely justifies the expense if you can afford it. It’s stylish, robustly built and the epitome of living room-friendly.
Even more importantly, it delivers superb sound quality, combining ribcage-rattling power with exquisite detail and clear dialogue. In terms of performance, it’s right up there with Arcam’s Solo Bar and the Denon Heos HomeCinema.
But the W Studio Micro is less impressive in other areas. For starters, there’s no Bluetooth, which is nigh-on criminal in this day and age, while the lack of HDMI ports might be a turn-off for some. What’s more, DTS Play-Fi isn’t a particularly intuitive music streaming interface.
But if none of that bothers you then the Def Tech’s stellar sound quality makes it money well spent.
The W Studio Micro delivers sensational sound quality, but missing features and streaming woes are a blot on the copybook.