Soundmatters' last virtual surround effort, the $400 MainstageHD, did an excellent job of delivering a faux surround effect from a single box. Now that more established players such as Yamaha, Polk Audio, Niro, and Sharphave joined the single-speaker surround-sound fray, Soundmatters has upgraded its product portfolio to compete accordingly. As evidenced by the name, the Slimstage promises to deliver a surroundlike effect from a thin, flat-panel-friendly form factor. Despite measuring a mere 39 inches wide by 3.3 inches high by 3.4 inches deep, the single enclosure encompasses four main drivers plus nine "bass drivers," including three that Soundmatters claims can hit 45Hz--low enough that some users may forgo the addition of a separate subwoofer.
The Slimstage is rated at 210 watts of power, and the combination of built-in amplification and Dolby and DTS surround processing allows it to be connected directly to an audio source. The Slimstage also offers ample connectivity options: three digital audio-ins (two optical, one coaxial) and three analog stereo inputs (including a front-panel jack for easy hookup of iPods/MP3 players) will obviate the need for an A/V receiver for many users. The Slimstage can be controlled with the included infrared remote or via its front-panel buttons (which include an LCD readout). Separate black and silver versions (both of which offer removeable--and paintable--grilles) guarantee that the Slimstage will match pretty much any TV, and the included "easy tilt" bracket should facilitate easy mounting.
Soundmatters is pledging that the Slimstage's price will be "under $1,000." Consumers won't get their hands on it until the second quarter of 2007, but it will be on hand at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.