Cliffbee.com: 6" Titanium Soundwave w/ Laserbeak Toy Review

Toy Reviews
Individual Review




Name: Soundwave
Series: 6" Titaniums
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function: Communications
Alternate Mode: Microcassette recorder



CASSETTE RECORDER MODE
Height: 4.5cm Depth: 4.5cm Width: 9.5cm

   A blue cassette recorder similar to the original Soundwave toy with a gold-framed transparent purple cassette door and some grey running along the bottom and on the upper edges of the sides, Soundwave's basic colour scheme is what you'd expect of the character. There's a stamped purple Decepticon symbol on the door, along with a gold tape direction arrow (painted on raised relief, unlike the arrow on the original) and five moulded, painted tape function buttons below the door (this time, they're not a separate piece). There are a couple of red, gold and silver painted ridged areas which are just for decoration (or to increase the complexity of his sculpt). The colour scheme is distinctly Soundwave, with an increased prominence of gold.

   There are a few differences here in the shape and style of the alternate mode, some are better and some are worse. The sides are much wide and the grey areas at the top resemble speakers - a feature which was much reduced on the original. They effectively make this Soundwave more of a personal stereo than a dictation machine, which makes his alternate more appealing to those of us who aren't PAs. It does represent a departure from the traditional Soundwave idea, which I welcome since there's not really much here that's new to the character. More on that later. The door actually sticks out from the main unit, rather than opening out from within - Laserbeak effective sits in a cradle outside Soundwave rather than within his chest. This is a feature close to Soundblaster than Soundwave, although it's the same character so this aspect doesn't especially bother me - although it will bother some.

   The other main difference is the prevalence of die-cast metal, which is a feature of the Titanium line. The main section and both side sections are die cast, making Soundwave one of the heaviest in this line (and I guess the best value in terms of raw materials), although all off the added parts are plastic - including the speakers, door and various robot parts. Included in those robot parts are the arms, which aren't especially well concealed on the back of the unit - a feature of the original, although on this occasion no attempt is made to hide the black batteries (the weaponry) or the hands, so he doesn't work as well from behind as the original did.

   The play value here is not as good as on the original, which is disappointing, although understandable given the emphasis on die-cast parts. The door opens simply by pulling on a gold tab at the top of the door - rather than a button tab releasing the door via an internal latch as on the original. The door does still open to reveal a cassette (we only have the option of Laserbeak this time, but I'm not going to hold that against the toy). The dial and slider on the sides of the original are stripped away although there is a moulded, unpainted dial on the right side (as you face him). Given the 20 years of toy technology behind this toy, it's not unfair to expect more play value. Granted the Titanium line isn't really about play value, but many of the toys in this line have focused on improving the concept introduced in the original (such as the integrated forms of , Ultra Magnus and Rodimus Prime or the improved wing design of Scourge). I don't see any real improvement on the original concept here - other than the change to his speakers which isn't really an improvement anyway, rather a reinterpretation.

   The weight of the sides, and their die-cast metal means they rely on the strength of their transformation joints (at the bottom) to stay in place, which generally works fairly well, but the tabs that anchor them to the main section are far less effective than they should be, which is the sort of design flaw that was too common in this line.

   On the whole this is a disappointing cassette deck mode. I personally like the change in speaker setup, so I do like this mode, but the play value is a distinct step back from the original, the loose sides are a problem (mine are okay, but if the joints are loose it's a major issue) and the lack of a battery compartment door of any sort is just cheap. More than anything, this toy should really offer something that the original didn't and Soundwave's cassette player mode doesn't do that.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Fairly similar to the original - which is to be expected - but with a few arbitrary changes. Detach the sides and fold down to form his legs - they no longer rotate but now the bottom edges come doen to form the groin. Slide the hips down and extend the telescopic legs (which extend twice), flip down the speakers to form feet and flip out the grilles to form heelspurs, which actually sit underneath the boots. The head lifts out and rotates and the arms swing out from the back - both the same as the original, with the fists swinging down rather than sliding out from within the forearms. The forearms actually extend slightly, which is another change to the transformation. The black batteries become his weapons - the left one (viewed from the back) extends to become a handgun while the right one clips into a socket on his right shoulder as the trademark shoulder cannon.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 15.5cm Width: 8cm

   Again Soundwave's colour scheme is faithful to the original with a blue chest (and the gold and purple door), blue upper arms and fists, blue boots and a blue head while the forearms are silver. The thighs have switched from silver to grey and the groin from blue to grey while the feet have switched from the gunmetal of the original die-cast feet to silver. If they bothered painting the insides of the speakers silver, I do wonder why the thighs are only partially painted - and then in red. The paint mask is quite detailed and the reds and silvers again fit the character, despite the odd choice to leave his thighs grey. His distinctive silver mouthplate is there and the eyeslit is gold, matching the door. The Decepticon logo is now central on his chest, which centres on the door.

   While the colour scheme is pretty good overall, it's the highlight of a poor robot mode. The groin is very tall, it looks like he's wearing a nappy (diaper for those in the USA). The thighs don't actually click into place, so the groin - and everything above it - will slide down, only serving to accentuate his huge groin (I wish I could think of a way to make that sounds less suggestive!). The telescopic legs aren't a whole lot better - they have internal notches to prevent them collapsing, but they're not really effective against the weight of the die cast torso. The lower slides (the knee area) on mine are okay but the upper ones (basically mid thigh) are all but useless. I've actually put about 50cm of sellotape inside these various joints on my Soundwave, which means while he would slump maybe 4cm before, now he stands only a few millimetres below his theoretical height, although the left hip still tends to slide. I may need to buy some more tape - but then I shouldn't have to - this is a ridiculously bad oversight on the part of the design team.

   The poseability is about the same as the original - concentrated in his arms. His head turns while his shoulders swing, the elbows bend and swing out to the sides. His wrists rotate (they're actually ball joints, but effectively work as rotators). The hips can swing and there are knee joints just above the higher extending joints, but there's no real point trying to pose the legs - since you're going to struggle to keep them extended anyway, and the heelspurs are so far forward that they don't anchor poses. Frankly, while the telescopic legs were always going to limit his leg articulation, you'd expect greater effective poseability than this. Yes, we get hip joints and knee joints, but they're pointless.

   The gun is just a gun, not a missile launcher this time around, but then I can live with that within the context of the Titanium line which focuses its play value on display poses rather than firing projectiles and other action features. This also explains the simplified door, although in this instance it would have been easy enough to maintain the spring loaded mechanism. I'm not critical of this omission as such, but it serves to compound the other issues that make Soundwave feel half finished.

   As with the cassette deck mode, this robot mode fails to really improve on the original design. Yes we do get improved articulation in the wrists and legs, but the leg articulation doesn't translate to poseability since the transformation joints in the legs are so astoundingly bad. It's very rare to encounter a Transformer than struggles to stand up on it's own in a default robot mode pose - the other examples are the two guises of Beast Machines Cheetor - and that design was fixed in the Titanium line! If they'd actually bothered to engineer legs that worked, this would be a decent robot. Sure, he doesn't offer much other than extra die-cast metal and a little more poseability, but I doubt too many fans would actually complain, since Soundwave has always been one of the more popular characters. Sadly, this robot mode is dominated - and ultimately ruined - by an inexcusable design oversight.


Name: Laserbeak
Allegiance: Decepticon
Alternate Mode: Microcassette

CASSETTE MODE
Height: 2cm Depth: 0.5cm Width: 3cm

   A black little rectangle with some red lines on him, Laserbeak makes no real attempt to actually look like a cassette from either side - unlike the original which bore stickers on what would become the underside of his condor mode. There are no spool holes either, which bothers me more than the lack of stickers, since while I can accept that trying to make a workable Laserbeak at this reduced scale means a loss of detail there is room for at least circular false holes. A cassette face would have been possible here, to be honest - I suspect it was omitted for production cost reasons. I'm not that fussed about the end result since you're either going to leave him inside Soundwave's chest or display him in Condor mode, but I would have liked to see an effort of some sort made.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Swing down his feet from underneath, swing the sides out to form wings, swing the head up from underneath. As with Soundwave, the transformation is fairly similar to the original, although on this smaller version its somewhat simpler. There are no attached weapons.

CONDOR MODE
Height: 1cm Length: 3cm Width: 5cm

   Black with the same red lines, Laserbeak's eyes are unpainted - only sculpted, along with his beak. There are no stickers, no lasers and no tailfins, but he still looks fairly good, really, since all the detailing on this top side is dedicated to this mode. Yes it's a very simple representation of the character, but considering that it's effectively an accessory for Soundwave, this is a passable effort - if not a spectacular one. Basically, he's a good accessory (even though he qualifies as a Transformer on his own) but you wouldn't buy this on its own.

   The claws underneath are designed so that Laserbeak can grip ridges on the too of Soundwave's upper arms, which is a nice feature than makes him a pretty good accessory for Soundwave overall. Within the context of a bundled cassette, I would have preferred Buzzsaw, but Laserbeak is better known thanks to his more prominent role in the cartoon, so I don't really object to Buzzsaw being swapped out this time.

OVERALL

   A very simple Transformer on his own, and while I'm disappointed with the total lack of effort put into making the tape mode look like more than block, as an accessory to Soundwave Laserbeak serves his purpose well.
VARIATIONS

   None that I'm aware of.

OVERALL

   There's really no compelling reason to get this toy. The overall play value is diminished compared to the original despite 20 years of toy technology, and it's far behind that of the Music Label version, so if you're after a more playable Soundwave there's a better option out there. The articulation is slightly better than the original but it is well and truly ruined by the disgustingly unstable legs. I'm astonished that anyone would approve production of a toy with such a fundamental flaw - it speaks volumes for the mindset of some at Hasbro, sadly. The groin looks pretty bad also - and while this is a notable flaw, it's not the dealbreaker that his telescopic legs are. Laserbeak is a nice accessory and the perches on Soundwave's shoulders are a thoughtful touch. I personally like the change from reduced speakers to personal stereo style speakers - along with the perch they represent new features for a Soundwave toy, but overall this is a distinct step backwards. I picked this guy up as part of a bulk lot, and paid about half the retail price, even then I'm neutral about my purchase of this toy. Unless you want to display Soundwave in cassette recorder mode, or are willing to go through the considerable effort of fixing his legs, I'd recommend against getting this toy - 2.5/10 (and that's mainly for the alternate mode)

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