There are more and more people who want a good audio system but no speakers in sight. Various manufacturers come up with solutions for this, including Spectral. This company, which is known for its design furniture for av-installations, has the possibility to process a high-end soundbar in a piece of furniture. Last year we looked extensively at the BRA2 soundbar and in this review we look at the larger Spectral VRA2.
What is the Spectral VRA2?
Like its smaller brother, the Spectral VRA2 is a soundbar in a ‘naked’ version. In simple terms, this means that the speaker has no attractive appearance, but is precisely made to be concealed in a piece of furniture. The VRA2 is the top model in Spectral’s soundbar range. The elongated speaker consists of a left and right part with multiple tweeters and mid-drivers and built-in woofers. The two parts (active and passive) are connected to each other by means of speaker cables. This soundbar is suitable for the Spectral model lines Ameno, Scala and Twenty.
Apart from the number of drivers and the wider design, the VRA2 corresponds to the BRA2. The soundbar is also this time made by Canton, one of the most prominent loudspeaker manufacturers. The speaker is equipped with 300 watts of power, built-in woofers so you do not have to lose a big cupboard in the room, 2.1-channel virtual surround sound and bluetooth for streaming music. In addition, the soundbar comes with three HDMI inputs (HDMI 2.0, 4K supported, no HDR), an HDMI ARC output, an optical input, a digital coaxial input and an analogue cinch input. The speaker supports Dolby Digital, DTS, and PCM 24 bit / 96khz audio. You control the soundbar with the included simple remote control. You can also use the remote control of your TV to operate the system. If you want to control all the equipment including the soundbar via an app, there is the optionally available Spectral Smart Control for IOS and Android.
The price of the VRA2 amounts to 2,599 euros. This is still without furniture, but you have so many different options and options that you can make it as crazy as you want in terms of price. One of the most sold models is the SCALA SC2600, available from 5,999 euros. The SCALA 2601 is a higher model with more space for your equipment. This version costs you at least 6.399 euros.
We can of course look at the design of the soundbar itself, but that is not of great importance in this case. The soundbar is in fact processed in one of the compatible furniture from Spectral, for example the furniture in the Scala series. The flap of the furniture is covered with fabric so that the audio quality remains optimal and you have ‘invisible’ sound. The speaker is only visible when you open the lid, probably to put a disc in the drawer of your Blu-ray player. The soundbar’s display is visible through the fabric so you can comfortably operate it.
Incidentally, it must be said that this soundbar is a lot wider than the BRA2 and therefore leaves no space at the sides for example to place DVDs. Also, the space above the soundbar, depending on the piece of furniture you choose, is tighter so you have to take the height of your existing equipment into account. However, furniture with more space can also be purchased.
You can have the VRA2 integrated into three Spectral furniture series; the Ameno, Scala and Twenty. Every piece of furniture has its own integration. For example, the BRA2 in the Scala furniture can be found behind a fabric flap and in the Twenty and Ameno series you can hide the soundbar in a separate part of the wall unit and cover it with a fabric cover. With every choice it is important to mention that the speaker is specially tuned to this furniture and will therefore also offer the optimal audio quality.
We can not light every piece of furniture, certainly not because with a lot of furniture you can also choose from different materials, finishes and combinations. In this review we have at least used the Scala furniture. This piece of furniture can also be bought in different combinations but we have the variant with fabric upholstery (behind which the soundbar is located) and a white finish. The part in which the soundbar is placed has a special mounting frame, which is wider than with the BRA2, so that the soundbar occupies the entire width of the cabinet. Above the soundbar there is still room for equipment such as players and set-top boxes. It is an all-in-one installation, and especially when you also have a TV stand on the cupboard so that your TV corner really becomes one and completely furnished.
The quality of the furniture is as we are used to from Spectral; high-end and complete to your own wishes. We indicated it before; Spectral is the Apple of the av furniture and you can see that in everything. In the connections, the materials, the mechanisms, the durability and even the support. The Spectral furniture is of extremely good and high quality. They are not cheap furniture but you can also see that on every element of the furniture, from the used material and the concealed connections to the mechanism of the valve and the personal installation. The way you open the lid of the closet and push it shut you will never find an IKEA cabinet, it just feels a bit smoother and more luxurious.
Also the legs that are adjustable and of high quality, the glass parts that are scratch resistant, the (optional) subtle mirror over the top and the seamless finish are all parts that contribute to a premium look and feel, a premium product. And we are not even talking about the fact that many of the parts are assembled or manufactured manually.
With a soundbar that is integrated into a piece of furniture you have of course already taken a step in ease of use, but that does not stop there. The soundbar is also very simple in terms of installation and use. The two parts of the soundbar are already placed in the furniture by Spectral and connected to each other, so it is purely a matter of linking the soundbar with your existing equipment and your TV. All necessary cables are included, including even two HDMI cables and three audio cables. All you have to do is place it between the various components.
The VRA2 comes with a simple remote control that gives you direct access to all the features of the speaker. You can easily switch between the connected devices, you can use the bass and treble settings to get started, you can make a bluetooth connection between for example your smartphone and the speaker with the touch of a button, and you can of course adjust the volume. However, if you want to use the remote control of the TV, the VRA2 offers the possibility to learn infrared commands from the remote control of your TV. This simple process allows you to operate the soundbar within a few minutes with the remote of your television.
The soundbar also has a number of basic functions with which the audio reproduction can be further optimized. You can choose from three EQ settings, based on the position of the soundbar, you can activate Dolby Dynamic Range for watching films in the late hours, and there is a lip sync function for when audio and video are not equal walk. The VRA2 has a fairly strong bass, but if you still want to connect an extra subwoofer, you can do this via the SUB OUT connection. You do not have to adjust or adjust much; the soundbar does what it has to do, actually directly from the box (or in the furniture).
The VRA2 looks sleek in a piece of furniture, probably fits perfectly with your interior and is easy to set up. But, of course, it is also about the audio quality. How does such a (built-in) sound of a soundbar sound? That question is actually easy to answer; you pay a lot for the design but you also pay for the sound quality. The VRA2 knows how to impress and blows away almost every soundbar that we’ve tested.
The VRA2 is in every respect a premium soundbar, both in terms of music reproduction and film reproduction. It is that you know that a soundbar is hidden in the furniture, but because the furniture has no negative influence on the audio reproduction, it is a perfect integration. The speaker knows how to provide an average room with convincing room and dynamic sound.
Partly thanks to the length (or actually width) of the soundbar you get a convincing separation between left and right presented. Especially with music this creates a broad soundstage that is full of dynamism. Singing sounds warm and tight, and subtle details in music are clearly audible. It is a very clean and at the same time accurate reproduction of both classical music and pop music. If we increase the volume and put on music with quite a few bass, the VRA2 also knows how to keep up perfectly. There is enough low to deliver that bit of ‘punch’ and, for example, the album The Resistance by Muse with emotion and power. It is not entirely unimportant that the furniture does not shrink at all.
Of course we are dealing with a soundbar and that means that surround sound is virtual. There are no speakers in the back of the room. However, once again the width of the speaker, virtual surround mode creates a slightly deeper and more lively sound field that makes you feel closer to the action. No, you are not completely in it, but that is and remains the disadvantage of a soundbar; a compromise. But, the VRA2 compensates for this with power, flexibility, vibrancy and a true-to-life reproduction. The dialogue display is also rich, warm and full of emotion. In the virtual surround mode, the soundstage is drawn slightly more towards the viewer, so that as a viewer you get pulled into the film a bit more.
If we take everything together it is clear that we are dealing with one of the best soundbars of this moment in one of the most beautiful design furniture for av-installations. The VRA2 costs a lot of money in combination with a piece of furniture, but it offers you a stylish solution that you can fully adapt to your interior and with which you get an impressive sound quality. It does not matter whether you like to listen to music or watch movies; in both areas the VRA2 offers more than value for money. If you have the budget, this is one of the most chic and best-sounding solutions for both the eye and the ear.