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Published: 2022-10-04 11:07 am
Definitive Technology's Studio 3D Mini is a good $899 soundbar, but you can do better
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The Studio 3D Mini from Definitive Technology is an odd beast. This soundbar’s lengthy catalog of features is impressive, and its design is minimalist and stylish. But all that is undercut by a disappointing sound that muddies movie dialogue and creates a smaller, thinner sound space.

While Definitive Technology doesn’t boast the pedigree of audiophile companies like Klipsch, Bose, or McIntosh, it has a reputation for providing home theater speaker systems at a good value. And while the Studio 3D Mini ($899) isn’t bad, it feels like its sharp design and extensive streaming features don’t quite make up for its lack of expansive and full sound.

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I really liked the design and the connectivity of the Studio 3D Mini. I also feel that it offers a pretty good value for a setup that costs less than $1,000.

The subwoofer with its 8-inch driver is a beefy black cube that can be safely tucked out of the way, thanks to wireless connectivity with the main soundbar, a sleek black trapezoidal wedge measuring 26.5 inches long. (It can be either wall mounted or left on the TV table.) It’s a good complement to modern living rooms, but it’s not so flashy as to attract attention.

Additionally, the Studio 3D Mini does not lack connectivity. It’s got Toslink Optical input, a 3.5mm analog jack, and one in- and one out-eARC HDMI port that supports both 4K and HDR video. There’s also a USB input for accessing local music storage, but it’s awkwardly positioned on the back of the soundbar. If this were mounted on the wall, it would be totally inaccessible. It also sports Bluetooth, 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi, and an Ethernet port if you don’t mind wires. Finally, in addition to the HEOS streaming protocol, it also supports Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2.

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Let’s address this upfront. My two original HomePods, which cost $600 together when they were available, sound better and have a wider, fuller sound than the Studio 3D Mini with a dedicated subwoofer. Even my non-audiophile partner and her daughter could tell the difference, especially when listening to movies. (“It sounds like they’re underwater,” my Gen Z co-reviewer said.)

The Studio 3D Mini has punchy bass, yes, but the soundbar delivers a narrow stereo separation that doesn’t fill up the room. The highs tend to sound a bit thin and tinny, while the mid-tones, especially in movie dialogue, sound muffled.

It’s surprising since the Studio 3D Mini sports a six-driver array on the soundbar itself (two 1-inch aluminum dome tweeters and four 1 x 3-inch racetrack drivers—two of them side-firing) and an 8-inch down-firing driver with a 100-watt amplifier on the subwoofer.

Things got better when I turned on the Dolby Atmos setting in the control app (see below). The sound field widens a bit, but it never quite matches the room-filling sound of two separate speakers. However, listening to music was deeply disappointing, with minimal stereo separation. Expansive pop like The Weekend sounded like he was performing between the stacks in a library, and John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” sounded like it had been squeezed through a garden hose.

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Despite the soundbar’s slick design, it’s held back by an inscrutable front panel with just four LEDs to let you know if you’re connected, what volume you’re at, and what input port you’re listening to. Most of the functionality has been offloaded to the HEOS App on your phone. (HEOS stands for Home Entertainment Operating System.) HEOS is a “wireless multi-room audio platform from Denon” that uses your home’s Wi-Fi network to interact with the Studio 3D Mini. It’s Denon’s answer to Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol, but more complicated.

This is how you set up and control the device. I had a difficult time setting it up, however. It took several tries to get it on my wifi network, but I was presented with many musical choices once it did. The HEOS App uses wifi or Bluetooth to stream music to speakers, no matter where they are in the house. It supports Amazon Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, Spotify, TIDAL, TuneIn, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, and Napster, in addition to managing playing tunes directly from your phone (if you have the digital files available), off of home servers, or from USB storage devices attached to your network. If there’s a music file somewhere on one of your devices, HEOS can probably take a crack at playing it. I’m sure it can be a powerful control center for audiophiles who live alone and don’t have to explain “push this button to turn on the TV, and download this app to play your Spotify” to family members and friends. But for most people, I suspect it will be confusing.

There’s an included remote for the Mini, but I never really used it and instead stuck with the app.

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Dimensions

26.5 x 4.5 x 2 inches (soundbar),
13.98 x 12.52 x 12.52 inches (subwoofer)

45 x 4.5 x 3.4 inches

Drivers

Two tweeters, four midwoofers

Three tweeters, eight midwoofers

Connectivity

HDMI eARC, USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Optical, 3.5mm analog

HDMI eARC, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Infrared Receiver, Optical

Streaming

HEOS, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth

Sonos App, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect

Surround Formats

Dolby Atmos, DTS:X

Dolby Atmos

Colors

Black

White, Black

I really wanted to love the Studio 3D Mini. It looks great, and the flexibility you get with its various formats and music offerings is impressive. But in the end, it just didn’t sound as good as a pair of discontinued HomePods. You can’t buy them anymore, so if you’re in the market for a decent, mid-range sound setup to go with your home entertainment system, you can go with our upgrade pick for best soundbar in the excellent $899 Sonos Arc. But if you’re an audiophile with a vast collection of media that wants the more robust functionality of the HEOS app, you’ll find a lot to like in the Studio 3D Mini.

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