Alternate Mode: Stealth Jet
Height: 6.5cm Length: 19cm Width: 17cm
A blue stealth bomber with a black cabin area, Soundwave has painted gold highlights along the wingtips, silver tailfins, a transparent purple cockpit window and some grey robot kibble at the back of the fuselage. While it's about as far from a microcassette recorder as you can get, the colour scheme here is mainly faithful to the Soundwave's G1 namesake. It works well visually, although the grey kibble isn't welcome. Stealth jets are usually black, but Soundwave is dark enough that the colour scheme still works.
The smooth surfaces usually seen on stealth jets aren't really a feature here - there are a lot of tech details in the sculpt. The ankles are mostly right - Soundwave is modelled on the F117 but isn't quite a true stealth bomber. The detailed sculpt is good, even if the robot junk between the tailfins looks poor. There's a key slot sticking up behind the kibble, above where the jets would be (if he had any). Soundwave sits on three small black wheels, which are ridged, ensuring he rolls noisily. While the kibble doesn't impress me at all, Soundwave's overall shape is pretty good.
There are two bomb bays underneath the wings, and Soundwave comes with two hexagonal prism bombs that can clip underneath. Both are uneven mixes of transparent purple, black and grey plastics (they unfold as robot mode weapons). The bombs slide out backwards, but are intentionally loose enough that they can dislodge and fall down with a little manipulation. In truth this doesn't really add to the play value of the plane - but it does provide a novel way for Soundwave to store his robot weapons. The orange Planet Key (code: vmj8) plugs into the slot and sticks out quite noticeably. Doing so releases a bomb bay door underneath, dropping a third, black bomb of the same shape. This last bomb is actually a folded up Laserbeak - you have to wonder why anyone would want to transform into a bomb. The mechanism is quite clever, but it's hard to see this is a useful attack strategy (especially from Laserbeak's point of view). In jet mode at least, this is a bizarre and disconcerting gimmick, but at least it gives us something different - and it beats yet another bad sound ship.
While this jet mode has some significant flaws, it comes off okay. The kibble on the back and the odd choice of bombs hold this jet back. This jet doesn't hold together quite as well as it should - while it'll sit fairly firmly in the end, lining everything up when transforming into jet mode is annoying. The colour scheme and sculpt are both good and the overall shape looks good, but this is a very static jet with little real play value, and is Soundwave's weaker mode.
TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE
Detach the sides of the fuselage, swing back as legs, fold the grey section back and clip into the rear of the plane as his groin. Swing the canopy and nose out to either side - both are attached to arms. Fold the main body of the robot into the cavity where the arms were, pushing the head into the shoulders as you go. Rotate his head, forearms and boots into position, flip out his feet and give Soundwave his weapons (which unfold - I'll cover those later). You can leave all three bombs stowed in robot mode if you want to. Push the tailfins down against his wings and you're done.
Height: 22cm Width: 17cm
A blue robot with grey groin, thighs, elbows and shoulderpads, Soundwave has a gold painted chest, silver face with transparent purple eyes and some red highlights here and there. While the jet mode might only be loosely reminiscent of the G1 character, the colour scheme and layout strongly evokes the cassette recorder now. There's a transparent purple window on his chest which sports a stamped Decepticon logo, adding to the G1 tribute. Soundwave's blue and silver wings sit behind the shoulders, sticking out and up. While the wings are a departure from the G1 figure, the overall colour scheme is quite distinct and since both the face and chest are copied, there's no mistaking the similarity.
Soundwave has long, lanky legs and the wings sticking up from behind his arms make him even taller. While his proportions aren't really bad, his body shape contrasts with the original character. The canopy sits underneath his left forearm as a kind of shield while the nose of the jet hangs off the right arm as kibble. There's a small moulded seat on this piece, which is underneath the canopy (but not visible) in jet mode. The shield is on a double hinge and as a result will happily stay out of Soundwave's way, but the nose does get in the way.
The two gun-bombs unfold and fit into either hand. One ends up with two grey barrels (one over the other) with a purple stock and a black sight. The other ends up with three purple barrels (a smaller barrel above twin large ones). The third bomb transforms into Laserbeak, but I'll cover him separately. There's a socket on his left shoulderblade and two more on the top of each wing - the tri-barrelled gun can plug into his shoulder while either gun can plug into the wings. The wings holes are really intended for Laserbeak, and he perches quite well. I suppose the best "tribute" would be the double-barrelled gun as a handgun, the tri-barrelled as the classic Soundwave shoulder cannon and Laserbeak on one wingtip.
Soundwave's poseability is reasonable but by no means spectacular. His head is on a restricted ball joint, and the base of his neck should sit flush with the chest itself (Hasbro's own photos get this wrong). The shoulders swing and lift out to the sides while the elbows are hinged with rotators just below the shoulders. The effective range of the arms is limited by the kibble hanging off the back of the forearms, with his left arm more being the more versatile thanks to the double joint on his shield (which looks better in action poses than the chunk on his right arm). The hips are ratcheted in two directions and covered by armour plates - his legs can click out to the sides and forward, while Soundwave's knees are also ratcheted with smooth rotators also present. There are stiletto-like heelspurs, which offer some help but conspire with his pointy feet to limit just what we can do with the legs. There are transformation hinges just below the knees which cause them to bow inwards (giving Soundwave rickets!), and these don't really help. The end result is a poseable robot with a limited range of meaningful poses - especially in the legs,
While it's far from a perfect robot mode, Soundwave's robot mode is quite satisfying. The chest cavity and weaponry will please G1 fans while the unusual accessories are interesting in their own right. Granted, he's quite lanky and the poseability could be better, but the flaws aren't enough to ruin a fun robot mode, based around a really nifty homage.
Alternate Mode: Bomb
Height: 2cm Length: 3.5cm
A black hexagonal prism, Laserbeak is 2cm high and just over 3.5cm deep. This would have to be one of the most non-sensical alternate modes ever - akin to a Decepticon kamikaze pilot. It's hard to see the G1 Laserbeak being brave enough to sign up for something like this. Short lifespans aside this is pretty much a folded up bird, with red turbine fans at either end being the most notable features.
The play value here is pretty straightforward - Laserbeak drops on things (presumably Autobots), and ceases to exist in the process. He also stows away in Soundwave's chest, as part of the key gimmick, and this far more useful (both for us and Laserbeak) than the explosive facet of this mode.
TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE
Surprisingly detailed for such a small Transformer, but not difficult. The wings, legs, tail and head all fold out, with the wings consisting of five separate hinges.
Height: 3cm Depth: 4.5cm Width: 9cm
A black bird of prey in a "landing" pose, Laserbeak has wings stretched out to the sides. His tail and legs are grey plastic while the eyes are red along with the turbines now on top of his wings. The feet are black with five moulded digits while there are low detail moulded flight feathers on the back of his wings. While this bird is clearly robotic, I'm impressed with the level of detail we see here.
Without the limitation of having to flatten out, this bird has a better bodyshape than the G1 version, although Laserbeak's colours are a decent match for those of the original and there are two small moulded lasers on either side of his neck, a subtle but nice tribute.
The wings can lift up and down, although you can't really achieve dynamic poses. There's a post underneath that allows Laserbeak to plug into Soundwave's wingtips (or his hands, if you prefer) - which is a nice effect, tying these two together well.
While it's quite straightforward, this is a great bird mode. Sure, the alternate mode doesn't limit this bird much, but at this size I'm still impressed. The play value is really all about the post underneath - and while it's hardly revolutionary the post makes Laserbeak a great accessory (ok, partner) for Soundwave.
None that I'm aware of, although there is a Japanese repaint called Soundblaster, another G1 tribute.
A decent plane mode, a good robot mode and a fantastic G1 tribute make Soundwave a worthwhile Transformer. He's not without his flaws - the jet mode has its fair share - but the tribute is great and the bombs in jet mode and weapons in robot mode provide unusual and welcome play value. His sidekick Laserbeak blurs the line between a proper Transformer and an accessory, since the bomb is not exactly a conventional alternate mode, but Laserbeak's transformation and robot mode are excellent. The pair combine well, Laserbeak forming the basis for Soundwave's key gimmick and can perch on Soundwave's robot mode. There are better action figures in the Cybertron line but this set is easily the best tribute in the series, with a refreshing approach to play value - 7.5/10