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Hands On: Kitsound Stadium 120
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Jun 27, 2016, 03:38 PM
It's billed as being for making sport and movies sound great, but I can tell you now that it didn't help make the UK European Union referendum sound any better at all. You can't expect miracles, though, and the Kitsound Stadium 120 is far from the top end of TV soundbars that you can buy. Yet it did transform my television, and it did make it very hard to go back to watching anything without it.

What it does is connect to your TV set, which then routes all sound through to the soundbar, then optionally also wirelessly routes the audio on to a subwoofer. If I truly understood what a subwoofer was, I might be better able to measure the difference all this made. As someone who just likes TV, I can only tell you that the difference is loud. As someone who can read the spec sheet, I can tell you that it's 120 Watts and Dolby Digital 2.1 Channel Sound.

Have a look at Kitsound's promo video for this. It doesn't show you much, doesn't tell you much, but you'll get a sense of the scale of this next to a TV set in a far tidier living room than we've got.

It's vividly and clearly loud, though, not just bellowing. I watched some of the latest Mission: Impossible movie with the soundbar off, and then with it on. Certainly, yes, the heart-pounding music thumped through my living room, but now I could also hear a much finer sound quality with background details and little touches building to create an environment for all this action.

I need to explain that I have wondered about my TV set ever since I got it: sometimes music on live shows, for instance, sounds as if the mix is wrong. The vocals can feel buried in the music. So I've fiddled with the settings a lot over the years, and now I won't bother any more, because it's just all so clearly better through this soundbar.

There's no way for me to compare this to, say, a Sonos system, which is the soundbar I hear most about when I'm online looking for advice on how to fix my Toshiba TV's audio problems. What I can do is compare it to the regular sound I get from that TV, and Kitsound wins. My Toshiba TV's audio is rubbish.

I'm not damning every Toshiba TV set, but I do have one more criticism of the model I happen to have: it's an old and no longer sold one, so there's little point my trying to remember the ludicrous string of letters and numbers in its name. The key fact is just that it does not have the connectors you need to make this soundbar work -- whereas my new Apple TV does.

Connecting the Kitsound to the TV was confusing, the manual was unclear, and I was stupid -- so it took time to realize that I definitely couldn't connect the two directly. You need either a HDMI connector or an Optical audio cable; if my TV can output HDMI to another device, it would presumably be via the HDMI sockets that are currently occupied, and are going to stay that way.

Whereas the Apple TV (fourth generation) could recognize and connect to the Kitsound Stadium 120 via Bluetooth. Consequently, I had a very good time with all this: not only did the Kitsound Stadium 120 make everything from Mission: Impossible to The Good Wife sound great, but the Apple TV makes it look better too. I've used Apple Music via this route, but you can also send audio direct to the soundbar from other devices, so conceivably I could stream music from my iPhone. I'll never have to do it, because anything I'd stream is already available via the Apple TV that's connected to it, but I could.

I could also spend more money. The Kitsound Stadium 120 is available via Amazon UK, where it costs £170. Right now with the fallout from the UK leaving the European Union, it's anyone's guess what that converts to in US dollars, but it's going to be pretty good. Call it $230. Compare that to the first Sonos soundbar I could find on Amazon US: that's around $700. I can't possibly compare the two, but I can look at that price and know that if I can't afford the Sonos, I might be able to afford the Kitsound.

In which case, the question is not comparing one soundbar to another that may not be affordable, it's comparing having this Kitsound soundbar to not having one. In that case, Kitsound Stadium 120 is unquestionably better. Maybe I'm now going to investigate more expensive options to hear what the difference is, but right now I can tell you that I'm not going back to my TV's regular speakers if I can help it.

Who is Kitsound Stadium 120 for:
If you aren't happy with the sound from your TV set, then get this. That's perhaps especially true for movies and sports as the manufacturer claims, but we also enjoyed music through it. The sound volume is certainly one thing, but the clarity is another.

Who is Kitsound Stadium 120 not for:
The odds are that audiophiles won't be as happy with this as they would with more expensive items, but we're really only presuming there. It's a pretty fair presumption, though.

-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher)

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Jun 27, 2016, 05:23 PM
"It's billed as being for making sport and movies sound great, but I can tell you now that it didn't help make the UK European Union referendum sound any better at all."
_ _ _ _____________ _ _ _
Charles Martin
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Jun 27, 2016, 05:55 PM
Someone's sense of humour appears to have voted to Leave.
Charles Martin
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