It’s time to review one of my favourite Transformers, and that is everyone’s favourite Decepticon intelligence officer – Soundwave. Having recently acquired one of my grails in the way of Transformers Masterpiece Soundwave, I figured it would be a good opportunity to compare what is arguably the best incarnation of Soundwave with a pretty good runner up. That runner up being Titans Return Soundwave (with Titan Master Soundblaster). If you’re unable to get your hands on Masterpiece Soundwave, is the Titans Return offering a worthy substitute? Well, he may not be a worthy “substitute” as such, but he definitely has enough going on to tide you over until you can acquire the Masterpiece version (and some tapes 😉 )
“Soundblaster is a master of cyber infiltration. He drops a backdoor code into the systems of any bot he unites with, giving Soundwave a way in. With that access, Soundwave raids their processors – completely undetected – and steals a constant stream of information.” With a name like “Soundblaster” he doesn’t exactly sound like a covert operative, and what bots is he uniting with to get any worthwhile information (unless he’s spying on his fellow Decepticons)? It’s not like he can run up and attach himself to any old Autobot. He even looks like a mini Soundwave.
The Masterpiece line prides itself on bringing us Transformers that are as show-accurate as possible, featuring flawless alt-modes and robot modes that look like they stepped right out of the screen and into our hands. MP Soundwave’s robot mode certainly fits that description. His appearance is definitely what you would expect to see in a Masterpiece. He’s very show-accurate and the design has been tweaked to give him more poseability over his G1 counterpart.
The Titans Return version also definitely looks the part. All the familiar design cues are there so you can instantly tell that this is Soundwave, although in a slightly lighter shade of blue. The tell-tale chest window is ever present and his face retains all his usual features. In true TR fashion, he has that “classic, but updated” feel. However, what the TR version lacks in cartoon/G1 accuracy, he makes up for in playability with an extra “base” mode.
This is where all (most?) incarnations of Soundwave most certainly shine as a Transformer. In this case – it’s all about the “tapes”. Ever since he started out as a micro-cassette recorder in his G1 days, Soundwave has always had an arsenal of tapes (discs, objects, etc.) that can be called upon to do his bidding or to provide additional firepower on the battlefield.
At present I only have the one tape for MP Soundwave (Laserbeak), but it is possible to buy separate packs that have multiple tapes in them to fill out the ranks. MP Laserbeak is very true to form in that he’s a very good representation of the character in both modes.
What is also great about this Laserbeak is that his weapons/boosters are incorporated into the transformation. They’re not separate and removable like in his original form. It’s really very clever how they got that to work.
The TR version is also no slouch in the tapes department. This time around the tapes are replaced with different portable electronic devices (tablets, phones, etc.) and each of these is a triple-changer in its own right.
Laserbeak and Ravage could have been handled better in this regard as each figure suffers in some way by becoming a triple-changer when it really isn’t necessary. The TR “tapes” would have fared much better if they had just retained their original forms, but with the modern twist that the TR line is known for. As much as I like the TR line, I’m not a fan of the tacked-on 3rd mode that some of the figures suffer from (Galvatron, looking at you).
Both Soundwaves come with the customary shoulder-mounted rocket pod. The TR version’s rocket pod can be detached while the MP version has it fixed to his shoulder. It can be stowed away in alt-mode form, but it can’t be removed.
MP Soundwave comes with his usual gun with its familiar cylindrical shape (that turns into a “battery” that can be stowed away in his alt-mode), whereas TR Soundwave comes with the same rifle that comes with TR Blaster, only a different colour.
This placeholder piece can also be used in his “base” mode as a weapons platform/deck of sorts. MP Soundwave comes with a little box that connects to his chest to replicate the “energon cube creation” effect (and it has a “lid” so you can seal it up), and an alt-mode Megatron (because why not?).
While the MP version wins out in this regard (articulated fingers, anyone?), the TR version is certainly no slouch. The TR version is a tad bulkier than the MP version and is also slightly taller. There’s even a decent amount of solid ratcheting going on in both figures that enables both of them to hold some dynamic poses.
Starting with the TR version, without the “mask” on, since the head borrows Soundblaster’s neck joint it can rotate fully but only has a very minimal tilt left and right as well as up and down. However, once the mask is in place, the head can only rotate. At least it can rotate fully which is something.
The shoulders can rotate fully and the arms can only raise up to 90 degrees. The hinge at each elbow gives a 90 degree bend and the swivel allows for full rotation. Disappointingly, there’s no swivel at the wrists and the hands can only turn in due to the transformation. There’s no movement in the waist area, but the hips have a fairly decent range of movement which is helped by the movable hip covers. The thighs have a swivel in them and the knees can only bend to 90 degrees. The ankles can tilt left and right as well as up and down which really helps with stability. Despite his limitations, TR Soundwave can pull off some nice dynamic posing.
Now on with the MP version. The head can rotate fully, but can only tilt up and down. The shoulders have a good range of movement – they can rotate fully and the arms can raise up to around 180 degrees, although it looks kind of disjointed when he does that due to the nature of the shoulder joint. There’s a swivel in the bicep and the elbows can bend to a full curl which is pretty cool. And speaking of pretty cool – the aforementioned articulated fingers!
Each finger is jointed as you would expect which means you can open and close the hands at each finger. While the fingers can open and curl like normal, they can’t spread out/splay. As cool as it is to have these articulated fingers, it makes it near impossible for Soundwave to maintain a proper grip on his gun. The gun itself has a tab on the grip that slots into his palms, but it can be tricky getting it to stay in there. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, it’s just something to look out for when you’re working with the hands. Oh, and there’s wrist swivels.
Unlike the TR version, there’s a waist swivel. The hips have a very good range of movement, helped along with some sturdy ratcheting. There are swivels at the hips and just above the knees. The knees themselves have some very strong ratchets, even though they can only bend to 90 degrees. There’s some funky engineering going on in the ankles and they have a combination of hinges to allow the ankles to tilt left and right as well as up and down to some degree.
There’s not a lot going on for both versions in alt-mode, it’s pretty much just the tape/device storage windows. The MP version has some buttons that you can press, a slide switch and a dial that only slightly moves.
One area where the MP version falls down in alt-mode is the back side of his tape deck mode. Since the back area is not closed in, it looks kind of untidy and not really convincing at all (and not what you’d expect from a “Masterpiece”). The front and sides are as well done as you would expect, but that messy back end is a bit of a let-down. It seems funny that the TR version makes for a slightly more convincing audio device overall – even if it looks a bit more “toy-ish”.
TR version’s base mode makes for an interesting option. The Titans Return range comes with lots of little Transformer figures and additional Titan Masters that can interact with all the new base modes that are being released. You don’t need to shell out the big bucks to get the larger city/base transformers like Metroplex, Fortress Maximus or even Trypticon (awesome as they are) when you can get a few Voyager/Leader class figures together and create your own bases. Transformers fans are even creating base modes from figures that don’t even have an official base mode.
If you absolutely have to choose between the two, then the MP is definitely the one to go for. Especially if you’re a Soundwave fan. But that doesn’t mean that the TR version is worth completely passing up. While the MP brings the G1 accuracy with modern engineering, it’s clearly aimed at the more adult end of the collector’s market. The TR version on the other hand, offers a G1-esque flavour with the added benefit of a 3rd mode that can actually be quite fun. Even more so if you have other TR figures that have base modes which means that you can create quite the miniature city with enough figures. The size and heft of the TR version means its more suited for fans of all ages, plus it’s a lot cheaper than the MP version so there is that.