: 14cm (robot mode); 15.5cm x 18.5cm (vehicle length x wingspan)
: 21 total points - Double jointed neck; Swivel waist; 4 points each arm: Swivel shoulder, ball joint + swivel + hinge elbow; 5 points each leg: Ball joint hip, upper thigh swivel, double hinge knee, hinge ankle.
: Molded steel blue, black, dark grey; Painted silver, purple, gunmetal grey, black, pink.
: Released in early 2012 in the US at a retail price of US$12
The ridiculous distribution problems in the US with First Edition Prime toys have definitely helped decrease the desire of a very vocal portion of the fandom towards subsequent, easier to find figures. I must admit I've been suffering from this myself to a degree. But even so there was one figure in the first batch that I had quite an inclination towards even as the rest of the assortment would consistently elicit little more than a "meh". Which makes it only natural this figure was packed one to a case, and so far has not turned up in later assortment lists, last I checked.
Part of my interest in Soundwave was because the vehicle form was styled after a UAV - an unmanned aerial vehicle typically used for recon jobs. They're small, often quiet, and perfect for gathering enemy intelligence. Seems like a great fit for the Soundwave archetype to me! The recon drone alt mode also offers a less conventional vehicle form, but not quite as off-the-wall as a toaster, for instance. Creativity in vehicle selection is a big plus to me in Transformers, when the same string of sports cars, semicabs, and fighter jets can be a bit monotonous after a while.
The steel blue dominates the color scheme, with small amounts of structural black and tiny bits of bright pink as an accent, indicating illuminated components under the armor. The simple coloring is correct to the style of vehicle, and this particular main color could be used as partial camoflage when flying over an expanse of water. ...y'know, if not for the pink highlights. From below, there's a little more variance in color, but also a whole lot of visible robot, so that's not the best example.
We should talk about that, though. Soundwave's vehicle mode has a very narrow build, so there's limited space to hide robot elements. As a result much of it gets pushed to the undercarriage. But even at the same time, an effort is made to tie them in to the vehicle. What will be the knee covers for the robot make passable intake vents, just as one example. The biggest offender in this regard is the engine, which is comprised of the robot's torso. It would be generous to say it is even minimally disguised. The stabilizers should, and to a limited extent do help cover for it, but it's hard to look past this as the single most exposed portion of the robot form, remaining equally visible regardless of viewing angle. There's a small jet nozzle at the very back end, though it's not sculpted to even imply an opening, so it's more like there's a sealed cone driving the drone along. Anyone familiar with Gundam 00 would probably join me at this moment in speculating whether Soundwave might have a GN Drive.
A positive of the vehicle mode is that it holds together very solidly. This comes at the cost of having no intentionally moving parts in this form, save for one landing gear under the nose; there does not actually seem to be any other landing gear, though. The wings tab firmly in place along the fuselage, and once set will not simply fall loose. That is very important given the wingspan by default is roughly equal to the overall length of the vehicle. I say "by default" because if you choose, you can increase the wingspan even further. A panel is folded under each wing, and can be opened out to match perfectly with the lines of the standard wings, even having a small projection that fits in to a gap left by opening these panels. The spindly robot fingers are now present at the tips of the wings, but otherwise this functions so perfectly, I can't help but believe this was at least partly intended, versus the abbreviated wing configuration depicted in the instructions and on the packaging itself.
Largely intuitive, and for about half of it, kind of on the simple side. Transitioning the wings to arms is only confused briefly when the shoulder hinge resists turning initially, but once that would be cleared, it all movies exactly how it would be expected. The legs are really the only part that won't be immediately obvious. I'll admit I had to resort to the instructions to figure out the disposition of the nose of the vehicle mode, since it did not seem a clear outcome to leave those parts slightly folded against and hanging from the backs of the legs.
It kind of reminds me of Animated, where seeing the screen designs of characters it was very difficult to envision how transforming toys could be made and retain their media resemblance. But just like Animated, it is somehow accomplished. Soundwave has a very strong likeness to the Prime CGI model, right down to the disturbingly thin limbs. The arms especially so, since they're just the fully extended wings with nothing done to build up thickness such as with Classics-style Lugnut. Though as being wings, the articulation is a little limited, and peculiar. The shoulder uses a combination of a swivel and a hinge, but not in an arrangement that would qualify as a universal joint. The main shoulder articulation is the swivel joint, while the subsequent hinge is almost entirely to the service of transforming. It can be used a bit to get some extra angle on the arm - useful for perching Laserbeak, but little else. The shoulder swivel is itself set at an angle relative to the torso, so it will sweep inward some as the arm is raised, or more helpfully it spreads away from the body at a relaxed pose. The elbow is a riveted hinge ...in concert with a swivel and a ball joint. This odd collusion of joints seems to be again largely for the benefit of compressing the arm in to a solid wing. It has to be the case, because trying to utilize it all otherwise does nothing but give you really awkward looking arm positions. Though if the shoulders were more flexible, Soundwave would be able to arrange his arms as a pretty decent shield. As it is, it's only good for blocking things from falling on his head. The hands - or rather, fingers - are thin, soft plastic, not designed for any gripping action. Each hand is preceded by a 5mm peg hole, meant to attach Laserbeak.
The legs are less weirdly skinny being they're not flat panels, but they're still on the thin side. . Thanks to being made of more parts, they're a bit more traditional in joint construction. The hips have an adequate but not especially extraordinary range of movement with ball joints and upper thigh swivels. The knees are a bit of a Sad Trombone, though. While built as a double hinge, the shape of the legs as well as some of the sticky-out bits first mean that the knee has to be moved a very specific way in order to be able to move at all. Once you get the knee to bend, you'll discover it only bends a short distance overall - less than 90 degrees total between the two hinges. Frankly, it's downright pitiful when a double jointed knee cannot bend as far as an average single hinge does. The only kind of ankle is the hinge around which the toe and heel move while transforming. This is another potential downfall of the toy. The heel relies entirely on friction to keep its place. If that friction is not adequate to hold the heel, the toy will be toppling backward and there'll be nothing to do about it. While the feet are very narrow, they have a surprising ability to support as dynamic of a pose as the toy can manage with its limited knees. There's also a funny little hinge about midway down the thigh, and it can move all of about 5 degrees. As far as I can tell, it's just to help give the figure a slightly wider stance, making up for how the legs have to fit next to each other for vehicle mode.
The head is similar to the show model, but seems to be placing a higher emphasis on the fins flanking the "cheeks", kind of making Soundwave look like he has a thick, wide beard. The mild resemblance to the Decepticon insignia is present in the design of the head as it's supposed to, but due to material needs and a bit of safety, all the antennae and narrow points are much thicker and more blunt than you'd maybe expect. The neck is attached to a spring to sort of "automorph" the head out of the body at the end of the transformation. As a result, the neck is pretty solidly pitched forward by the spring, and it makes the mobility of the head suffer somewhat. One other note, it looks like the mold was designed so the visor could be a light-piping feature, but this was changed to an opaque plastic and painted over instead.
There's little going on with the torso by itself. The relatively simple transformation leaves room for a waist joint - though mine was so solidly fused in place that at first I thought it didn't have a swivel there at all. The feature of Soundwave's chest is the just like in the show Laserbeak can integrate and hide there. The downside is that when Laserbeak is removed there are a number of deep gaps left behind and it's clear something is missing. It's the realities of design at this scale, but I'll admit it's still a little disappointing Soundwave can't appear more "whole" while Laserbeak is absent.
Soundwave has a little more color variation in robot mode, notably with large fields of purple on the interior surfaces of the arms, and another area on the chest that is hidden very effectively by the head. But besides the structural black elements being a bit more prominent the colors are still blue dominated. It's a little disappointing there couldn't have been more of the pink highlighting, since the CG still used for the package art is quick to demonstrate Soundwave is absolutely aglow in robot mode with all the internal lighting, and it would have done quite a bit to break up the fields of bare plastic steel blue.
Normally decorating Soundwave's chest, Laserbeak holds very firmly in to the robot mode. In fact, it can sometimes take an uncomfortable level of force to pull Laserbeak off. I'm glad it's not falling off the toy at no provocation, but having to pull it off at the wings, I'm understandably worried about breaking something.
Laserbeak is more of a flying thing than it is anything resembling a classic idea of Laserbeak. Rather than an immediately discernible head, there's a tiny projection that vaguely resembles Soundwave's face like it's just a framed visor. The main set of wings is articulated to allow for on-body storage, but as a side effect, you get a Laserbeak with flappable wings. The sub wings don't move, and really just sit looking like awkwardly positioned stabilizers or backward tail planes.
Laserbeak can perch on either of Soundwave's wrists with the irregularly shaped peg used to store on the chest. The benefit of that is Laserbeak can only store one way on Soundwave, though I'd like to think the correct orientation would be obvious anyway.
Soundwave is smaller in terms of body mass than earlier Deluxes, which makes the $12-and-up pricetag a little hard to live with. But the figure is built very well, even with the could odd design choices. There's no discernible loss of material quality between this and, say, Sky Shadow, or any given earlier Deluxe. The robot mode is a great likeness of the character, and if you want to portray it as Prime the cartoon does, the figure offers you everything you need (well, aside from being able to secretly record all your friends' conversations. But you should be doing that anyway!). It's ultimately not as dynamic as I'd hoped, but as long as you're not paying the $15 Toys R Us is trying to squeeze out of the Prime Deluxes, I think you'll be happy. Plus he comes with a little buddy toy! Everybody loves little buddy toys! Soundwave gets a Good
on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Rating Scale.
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