"Studio Series" Soundwave (83) Toy Review

12/30/21

General Information:
Release Date: December 2021
Price Point: $31.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General Release (Amazon, BigBadToyStore, Entertainment Earth, Target, Walmart etc.)
Accessories: Shoulder Cannon, Rifle

Official images and text below in italics are from Amazon.com:

  • STUDIO SERIES VOYAGER CLASS: Voyager Class figures are 6.5-inch collectible action figures inspired by iconic movie scenes and designed with specs and details to reflect the Transformers movie universe, now including The Transformers: The Movie!
  • 6.5-INCH SCALE SOUNDWAVE: Figure features vivid, movie-inspired deco, is highly articulated for posability, and comes with blaster and shoulder cannon accessories inspired by the film
  • 2 ICONIC MODES: Figure features classic conversion between robot and Cybertronian hover spacecraft modes in 29 steps. Perfect for fans looking for a more advanced converting figure. For kids and adults ages 8 and up
  • REMOVABLE BACKDROP: Removable backdrop displays Soundwave figure in the Cybertron Falls scene. Fans can use the backdrop and pose their figures in the scene with their own style

This Studio Series 83 Voyager Class Transformers: Bumblebee-inspired Soundwave figure converts from robot to Cybertronian hover spacecraft mode in 29 steps. Remove backdrop to showcase Soundwave in the Cybertron Falls scene. In the Cybertron Falls scene from Transformers: Bumblebee, the fate of Cybertron is sealed as Soundwave orders the Decepticons to launch a final attack, causing the Autobots to fall back. Pose the figure out with the included blaster and shoulder cannon accessories and imagine recreating this classic movie moment!

When the Bumblebee movie debuted, fans were treated to an opening scene set on Cybertron showing Autobots and Decepticons duking it out in one of the last battles of their war before coming to Earth. This scene (embedded below) showed off a ton of G1 inspired movie designs for classic characters such as Brawn, Ratchet and Starscream. Since that film's release, some fans have wanted these designs to be made into action figures. In November 2021, Hasbro announced it would be doing just that! One of the first figures in this sub-line of Studio Series figures is Voyager Class Soundwave. Interestingly, while pre-order sites list the figure as becoming available either in February or April of 2022, Walmart stores in the United States began to get shipments of him in December 2021 (shipping with a repack of '86 Hot Rod), which was quite a pleasant surprise.

 

Packaging:
The end of 2021 saw a change in the design of the Studio Series boxes. Overall the design is still similar to previous boxes. The boxes are rectangular. They feature a window showing the figure inside while underneath that is artwork for the figure. The Generations and Transformers logos appear on the right and towards the top of the box is the logo for the Bumblebee movie. Artwork for the character appears on the sides of the boxes. The back of the box shows the figure in both modes calling out a 29 step transformation (you read that right). Instead of a function, the term "Cybertron Falls" appears next to Soundwave. Under the vehicle mode photo is an image of Soundwave standing on the cardboard backdrop included with this figure. This backdrop shows Cybertron as it appeared in the Bumblebee movie wich will definitely appeal to those who enjoyed the opening sequence on Cybertron.

So what about changes to the packaging? First, the window is much smaller than before, with the character art taking up more room than before. I believe this is an effort to reduce the amount of plastic used in the box. Mind you, there is still plastic over the window, but in the past they showed off more of the figure in box. On the inside, the designers have eliminated plastic trays. Instead, Soundwave sits on a piece of cardboard with the same Cybertronian landscape found on the backdrop printed on it. The cardboard backdrop is actually set behind the piece Soundwave is attached to.

Accessories:
Soundwave includes two weapons. The first is a rifle based on the one he carried in the film. Unlike his traditional tube shaped weapon, this looks more like a scifi version of a military rifle complete with a scope attached to the top. This piece is made of blue plastic but painted a shiny grey (but the handle is left unpainted).

The other weapon looks much more like the ones carried by G1 Soundwave. This looks more like a bazooka, with a tube shaped design that has a wider barrel end in front and back. A small fin is found in the middle of the front end, based on the design seen in the film. This weapon can be held two ways. It has a 5mm peg on the bottom, but that piece can also swing out to reveal a different peg that attaches to Soundwave's back, making this a shoulder cannon! This piece is blue and grey plastic with silver and red paint details, another callback to G1 Soundwave.

Robot Mode:
Traditionally, Soundwave has a very blocky design, largely being made up of lots of rectangular shapes. When it comes to the live action movies however, the Transformers designs are far from "blocky". Instead, they tend to emphasize angles and sharp shapes with lots of overlapping details. In the past, some fans felt the live action movie Transformers designs went too far in that direction. For the Autobots and Decepticons featured in the Bumblebee movie they pulled back from that aesthetic in an attempt to balance the two design philosophies. Soundwave is a good reflection of this design choice.

Soundwave does have some blocky parts. His chest is rectangular in shape, his shoulders are square-ish and boxy. Meanwhile, parts like his forearms are angled, with wide sections at the elbow angling downard towards the wrists. However, the panels are not as sharp and layered looking as previous live action movie designs. His legs are similar with the result being a wonderful blend of the two aesthetics.

In terms of movie accuracy, the designers used the Paramount Pictures CG models as the foundation of this figure. That means that a lot of smaller design elements were carried over right from the film, creating a very "movie accurate" look. This includes his interesting head design which looks like the traditional G1 head design with a lot of extra details on top. He also has the traditional "cassette door" on his chest and the waist/hip area hs designs that look like buttons on a recorder.

Soundwave is a combination of blue, white and grey translucent plastic, all of which are classic Soundwave colors. The paint deco also takes cues from G1 Soundwave including gold trim around the chest panel, silver on the mouthplate, red strips around the wrists and a Decepticon symbol on the chest. I really love the deco on this figure. All he's "missing" is the dirt/weathering seen on the CG model but I'm actually okay with him looking "clean".

There are thirty points of articulation on this figure which is really impressive even for a Voyager Class. This includes six points in each arm and eight in each leg. He also has waist articulation but not wrist articulation, but I'm okay with that.

Soundwave has a 5mm port on each forearm and two on his back. His hands are designed to look a bit open instead of being balled up into fists, but basically there are 5mm slots there to hold his weapons.

Of course, one of Soundwave's most iconic action features is the compartment in his chest opening up to reveal one of his minions inside. Press the grey button on top of the chest and the chest panel springs open. The compartment inside is designed to be big enough to accommodate the upcoming Core Class Ravage figure. Together, the two help you recreate one of the key scenes from the Bumblebee film where Soundwave launches Ravage into battle!

Transformation to Vehicle Mode:

  1. Detach the weapons and set them aside for now.
  2. Straighten out the arms and legs.
  3. On each forearm, swing the panel on the back out, then swing the fists in and push the panel back into place.
  4. Lift up the front and back panels of the shoulder armor.
  5. Rotate the arms (including the shoulder armor) up.
  6. Swing each shoulder section up towards the sides of the head.
  7. Swing each arm out to the sides, leaving the shoulder armor sections in place from the last step.
  8. Rotate the forearms so the slots on them face down.
  9. Swing the forearms in, connecting them to the tabs on the sides of the chest.
  10. Swing the panels on the back of each lower leg out, the swing out the smaller pieces inside.
  11. Point the feet down, then rotate them around.
  12. Swing the small panels from inside the lower legs in against the lower legs.
  13. Move each lower leg up so it covers up the thigh sections.
  14. Adjust the robot feet so the slots on the bottom of the feet attach to the tabs on the forearm pieces.
  15. Push the two smaller pieces from the insides of the lower legs together. These are the small pieces with the "L" shaped silver designs on them.
  16. Swing the knee armor forward.
  17. Lift up the back panel and rotate it around, then do the same with the smaller panel attached to it. Then push these panels down.
  18. Attach the weapons to the sides by connecting them to the ports on the forearms.

Vehicle Mode:
Long before this figure hit shelves, the preview images of both modes were released. The vehicle mode pictures led to a near universal question among fans: "What the heck is that?!". I will say that after you get it in hand and transform it in person...you may still be wondering! Originally intended to be a hovercraft/vehicle of some sort, the concept art shown by Hasbro in early December does indeed look very much like a hovercar. However, the end result in toy form is...less successful. Part of the issue is that the front of the "hovercar" is not as well defined in the final product as it is in the concept art. In the artwork the front section narrows a bit and looks a bit more cohesive than it does in the final toy. Also, the rear section has parts on the sides that look like wheel wells, but the toy does not.

It is important to keep in mind that when Paramount designed the movie models for the Bumblebee film they did not create alt-modes for most of the models, so Hasbro had to take the existing robot form and figure something out. They kind of succeeded and honestly given the robot form I have a hard time picturing how they could have manipulated the parts of the figure into a more cohesive vehicle without potentially increasing the cost of creating the figure.

This mode mostly shows off blue plastic with some gold and red details painted in. The gold is most ornate on the windshield where gold is painted in a different pattern than the chest compartment in robot mode.

Final Thoughts:
This was an odd review for me to work on because I really dig this figure even though it has a less than successful vehicle mode. I really loved the Soundwave design when he appeared on screen in the Bumblebee movie and I'm super happy to have it in action figure form. The transformation and alt mode are basically "neat extras" in my book. Recommended!

Pros:

  • Excellent sculpt in robot mode.
  • Design is a nice combination of G1 and live action movie aesthetics.
  • Fun play features.
  • Good deco.
  • Excellent articulation.

Cons:

  • The vehicle mode is pretty unsuccessful. I give it an "E" for "Effort".
  • The transformation can be fiddly, with parts having to line up just right for tabs to fit into place. Be warned.