Reviews

Majority Everest 5.1 Surround Sound System Review – Peak Performance?

The Everest 5.1 surround sound is the latest product from Majority, the relatively small audio company that recently sent me their D40 speakers which I really liked despite a couple of negatives. The Everest is a 300w soundbar boasting Dolby Digital designed to fit under your TV or monitor, and its party trick is that it comes with two wireless speakers to provide surround sound to help immerse you in games, music and movies, plus a chunky wireless subwoofer. That’s a tempting package, especially if, like me, your setup is in a small room where space is at a premium. However, it all comes at a reasonably hefty price of around £230. That’s, like, at least two bags of sweets! So, is the Majority Everest worth that many bags of sweets, or like climbing the mountain itself ,should you just not bother and stuff your face with Jelly Babies instead?

Before we go any further, this setup was provided to me by Majority for review. Take that however you want when reading the rest of this article.

Setup is nice and easy provided you aren’t defeated by the cardboard packaging, the Everest offering all the connection options you’d expect of a soundbar in 2022. HDMI remains the simplest method of hooking up multiple devices provided you have an ARC compliant port on your TV, and was the method I used so that the TV, Xbox, Playstation and Switch could all make use of the Everest. But there’s also an optical connection if you need it, and RCA ports, too. Given the price of the Everest, I do find it frustrating that only an RCA cable and a 3.5mm AUX cable is included in the box. Sure, you probably have an HDMI or Optical SPDIF lying around, but it’s still dumb not to include them in the package. C’mon, guys, this is a £230 soundbar, could you really not stick in a few more cables?

There’s also that magical Bluetooth thing so you can pair your phone and belt out that questionable playlist that you dare not put on with anyone else around, or a 3.5mm jack for that more intimate, old-school connection. Finally, there’s a USB port that’s useful for plugging in an external drive full of tunes – not something I’ve ever heard anyone actually doing, but I’m sure there’s probably at least one person out there who values this feature.

One thing the Everest lacks is HDMI passthrough, or in other words it has no HDMI output. That means you can’t use the soundbar as a hub for everything else, which could be a major downside for certain people.

Stock image provided by Majority

The boxy wireless subwoofer (L 20cm X W 20cm X H 25cm) and surround-sound speakers (L 6.56cm X W 9.83cm X H 16.8cm) all connect to the soundbar (90 x 9.83 x 6.56 , without speakers attached. More on that later) via Bluetooth and didn’t require any fiddling – they connected as soon as the bar was fired up for the first time and never once lost that connection. Not even when I poked it with a stick. God, technology is so impressive these days.

However, setting up 5.1 audio in 2022 isn’t as simple as it probably should be, with a host of things complicating the process, none of which are the fault of the Majority Everest but that warrant discussion anyway. For a start, getting a PS5 or Xbox Series console to output in 5.1 involves some faffing around in the settings, and on top of that regular old ARC can’t handle uncompressed 5.1 audio. That means you may have to select something like Dolby (which is what the Everest supports) in the audio settings, but that can result in a notable audio delay. It’s fine for movies and even gaming at 30fps, but once you hit 60fps or higher the lag between the on-screen actions and the sound becomes very noticeable. In fact, I found myself swapping back to stereo a few times. There are ways around this such as using the newer eARC format that requires a compatible TV, or you may be able to use optical connections, but neither the PS5 nor the Xbox Series machines actually have those connections.

The point is that getting surround sound to work can be a time consuming and irritating process. Do yourself a favour and conduct some research before buying anything to make sure you can properly use surround sound audio. And even once you’ve done that, be prepared to do a lot of fiddling around in TV settings, console options and media player menus. I can recommend checking out some of the surround sound apps that let you test out your system to ensure everything is working correctly.

With it’s solid black colouring, plastic shell and rounded mesh front that hides the speakers themselves, the Everest is a decent looking piece of technology that is content to blend in rather than draw attention to itself, which is what I typically want from something like this. On the top there’s a row of rubber buttons for turning the soundbar on and skipping tracks. There are no buttons for adjusting volume or changing the input, a slight annoyance if the remote runs out of juice and you don’t have any spare batteries. My personal soundbar is a Sony CT-SA290 and I have to say I prefer its capacitive controls – they have a sleeker feel than rubber buttons, and make the Sony seem a more luxurious product, y’know?

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The front of the soundbar has a small screen used to indicate volume level and connection type. It’s a little on the bright side. I would have liked it to be a touch dimmer or adjustable because in a dark room it does catch the eye. However, it’s not a huge problem.

Considering the £200+ price-tag, the light, the plastic remote is a bit disappointing, too. It does the job, but hardly feels like something that came with a premium product. There are options to separately control the volume levels for the subwoofer, front speakers and surround-sound speakers, plus buttons to swap between sources. Treble and bass can also be tweaked. You can also use the remote to power on the surround speakers separately, although for some reason it can’t turn them back off – you have to use the physical buttons on the wireless speakers instead. Weird. Finally, there are three presets for movies, music and dialogue.

Of course, if you’re hooked up with ARC it’s possible to use your TVs remote to control the soundbar. But I did notice that the Everest doesn’t seem able to save volume settings if its powered off, so whenever I fired it back up I’d have to use the Everest’s remote to tweak individual speakers back to my preferences. Again, a small detail but one I think is worth mentioning.

The Everest’s neat little party trick is how its little satellite speakers are charged. You can opt to use the mini-USB and run them directly off a mains supply or charge them using a plug. Or you can connect them directly into each end of the soundbar using a simple push and twist. It makes keeping them charged up pretty easy, especially if you’re doing something like playing a game that doesn’t make use of the 5.1 audio, and then whenever you want them you can pop them off and stick them on their little stands. Since my gaming setup is in a small room, I love the fact that these speakers are small enough to put up and take down so easily and that I can keep them charged with minimal fuss.

Stock image provided by Majority

One niggle, though, is how you plug them into the soundbar. Because of the way they have to be pushed into the bar and then twisted to lock them into place, it means you have to pick up each end of the soundbar in order to fit the speaker into place. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s a slightly annoying design niggle that could have been solved in a few different ways, even with something as simple as taller feet on the soundbar itself.

Also keep in mind that the the satellite speakers add 16.8cm to each end of the soundbar, so if you’re working with limited room that could be pretty important. Personally, I had to shove my TV backwards a bit so that the satellite speakers could be hooked up without hitting the TV’s pretty little legs.

Alright, let’s talk about the actual sound and how I tested it out. On the gaming side, I tried out a few different titles, starting off with Hitman 3 because the opening Dubai level has crowds of people, a speech being delivered and plenty of small details. Standing in the middle of the crowd with the 5.1 in full effect was a great experience because the chatter felt like it was coming from all around. The Everest also picked up on the speech giver nicely, including the echo of the large room. Closing my eyes, I could almost believe the echo was coming from my own room. As I walked away I swung the camera around to get a feel for the audio shifting around the speakers and was impressed by how smooth it was. The subwoofer got a moment to shine, too, thanks to the roaring waterfall.

Forza Horizon 5 was another fun title to experience in 5.1. Playground Games gave the latest Horizon title a lot of audio work, resulting in far fewer cars sounding the same. Listening to the whine of a supercar versus the low-down snarl of muscle car was a pleasure, and the directional audio got a solid workout in races. It was easy to pinpoint an opponents car coming up behind, and if a car swapped from one side to the other the transition sounded smooth. It added a whole extra layer to the game versus a regular stereo setup because I found myself more quickly identifying a rival coming in for an overtake and being able to block it effectively.

Aside from the obvious boost in directional audio that the Everest provided, a real boon in multiplayer titles, I was most impressed with the sub-woofer which consistently delivered the goods. Shotguns erupted with a low-down punch and explosions could probably have been detected on Richter scales miles away. It never felt like those rumbles were lacking in definition, either, which is something that can often get lost in other subwoofers. There was a texture to the bass rather than just pure noise.

Stock image provided by Majority

Switching over to movies, I watched a bunch of physical media to ensure there wasn’t any loss of quality, but my first choice was Baby Driver, a fantastic movie from Edgar Wright. The opening bank-heist sequence and subsequent getaway features a kicking soundtrack, and then the excellent driving sequence makes great use of the 5.1 sound by having the screech of the car’s tyres go from speaker to speaker. Again, the Everest impressed me with its punchy bass and the level of detail I could pick out in the audio. The mids were perhaps a little fuzzy in places but not enough to bother me. One of the most interesting things is that the lead character, Baby, suffers tinnitus which causes a constant buzz in his hearing. You can go the entire movie without realising that the sound is actually present throughout the entire movie, but it is there. The Everest picked it up perfectly, and the surround sound added to the effect of it being constantly present without having a definitive source.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a really fun romp filled with fan-service, and it happens to have a strong 5.1 track. The highlight here was the car chase scene where the kids are bombing through town after a metal-chomping ghost. The Ecto-1 has a really satisfying engine noise, there was plenty of use of the rear speakers and the Proton gun was a freaking beast, the bass again giving it such a punch.

For music I went with one of my favourite bands, Nightwish. Ghost Love Story is basically a classic piece of music written as an rock odyssey, and the mix of instruments and mind-blowing vocals can give any sound system a good run for its money. The vocal highs came through nicely and the heavy guitar riffs packed plenty of raw oomph. Again, the bass gave the drums a pleasing thump, the kind that I deeply appreciate as a drummer. The only thing I noted was the mid-range vocals were a little weak in places. Again, nothing serious but far from amazing.

I chucked on a bit of Eminem as well because those speedy lyrics are a good test for the clarity. I didn’t have any problems picking out individual words as they were vomited from Em’s mouth at speeds that would make Sonic give up and go home.

So let’s break it down without using technical jargon, because I don’t know any technical jargon: they sound good. That’s probably too vague: the bass was the star, the 5.25-inch driver pumping out some beautiful low frequencies that added so much oomph to guns, explosions and music. The soundbar handled everything else with aplomb. Dialogue came through crisp, clear. And the audio as a whole leaned toward the warm side.

As for the performance of the surround speakers themselves, it could best be described as adequate, albeit rather quiet. Being wireless they don’t pump out a lot of sound, a trade-off for having a decent battery life of 4-8 hours, depending on the volume. However, in most cases you’re going to be looking at 4-5 hours because even at max volume I did find myself wanting a little more from them at times. To counter that I turned down the central speakers to let the surround speakers come through more, and moved them a bit closer.

I did notice a buzz coming from the right surround-speaker. It would make itself known any time audio wasn’t coming through the speaker or at very low volume, and could become quite annoying. I can’t say whether this is a fault in my test unit only, or something that will effect all of the Everest units. A quick check of the Amazon reviews reveals a single customer who has experienced a similar problem. I turned off nearby wireless devices to see if I was getting any interference and that didn’t solve the problem, but I also noticed it didn’t seem to do it consistently.

To be clear, I don’t have heaps of experience to draw from. I’ve never had enough money to afford multiple surround sound systems against which I can compare the Everest. Instead, I was putting it up against my existing Sony 2.1 soundbar system, although to its credit the CT-SA290 is actually very good for the money. It’s a stereo system, though, making a direct comparison tricky.

Overall, I found the Majority Everest impressive, delivering good sound quality across the board, including a meaty bass that I really appreciated in shooters. The wireless surround speakers don’t pack the power and clarity that a more substantial setup would have but for small rooms they’re still great and I think the flexibility they offer makes it a fair tradeoff. If you have a particularly large room, the speakers may struggle more, something you can counter by moving them closer, if possible, or you might want to get a system with more powerful surround sound that is hardwired. But for a bedroom or maybe a small apartment, the smaller, portable speakers of the Everest are a boon and should be able to do everything you want.

A few smaller niggles aside, this is a great soundbar and I’d have no problem recommending it to anyone looking to upgrade from a cheaper soundbar or their TV speakers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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