Soundbar Reviews

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Leslie Shapiro  |  Nov 19, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $150

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Decent sound for the price
Slim, wireless subwoofer
Bluetooth for music streaming
Minus
Confusing LED display
Lacks deep bass
Hard-to-read remote control

THE VERDICT
Vizio's 2.1 soundbar system with wireless subwoofer delivers better sound than built-in TV speakers without breaking the bank.

Vizio's latest soundbar is a compact system with a wireless subwoofer that sells for $150. If you just spent big bucks on a new TV and realized that its built-in audio is horrific, this 2.1 package will deliver significantly better sound without consuming what remains of your budget.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 30, 2019  |  1 comments
Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $3,100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Open, detailed sound
Excellent dialogue intelligibility
Flex can be configured as wireless surround speaker
Minus
Some ergonomics issues
Inconsistent system stability

THE VERDICT
The B&W Formation system performs admirably in a number of respects. But unreliable stability, limited processing features, and no HDMI input make it a less-than-ideal option for 5.1 surround sound.

Blame it on Sonos. In the early 2000s, at what was then the Los Angeles headquarters of the Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, we were visited by a gentleman from that then largely unknown company who had a product he was eager to promote: a wireless speaker in a single, relatively compact box. I politely declined. It wasn't a good fit for our publication at the time, but I should have at least asked him about stock options!

Al Griffin  |  Aug 27, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good sound quality with movies and music
3.1.2 Atmos playback
Chromecast built-in for music streaming
Minus
Wireless surround speakers not included
Center channel lacks some clarity on dynamic scenes

THE VERDICT
LG’s 3.1.2 soundbar offers a solid, relatively affordable option for those seeking a dose of immersion minus the heavy hardware investment.

LG has been in the soundbar game for many years, churning out mainly lower-priced bars designed to mate with the company's TVs. The focus on affordable product has likely been a strategic one for LG—the average consumer reeling from the sticker-shock of an OLED TV purchase isn't likely to shell out another grand for a soundbar system, no matter how good it performs. For 2019, however, LG opted to go high-end, releasing a feature-packed trio of soundbars with commensurate price tags.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Aug 21, 2019  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Convincing immersive sound
Powerful bass
Chromecast built-in for music streaming
Minus
Heavy and large
Expensive

THE VERDICT
Sennheiser's first foray into home theater was worth the wait. The Ambeo soundbar, with Ambeo 3D processing, is currently the best soundbar on the market.

The compactness and convenience that soundbars offer has always been appealing, but their actual sound has too often been a letdown. Many have failed to create an authentic sense of surround and most also require an external subwoofer to provide substantial bass. Sennheiser's new Ambeo soundbar looks to buck that trend by delivering an immersive 5.1.4 surround experience while confidently eschewing a separate subwoofer. On paper, it looks to be the first soundbar designed to truly replace a standard home-theater surround setup. But does it deliver the goods?

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jun 12, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499 (BAR 400), $499 (MusicCast 50)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
MusicCast 50 can be used for wireless surround
DTS Virtual:X simulated surround processing
Simple setup with multi-room capability
Minus
Unnecessarily complicated user controls
No Chromecast built-in

THE VERDICT
A powerful system with expansive sound and deep bass that's further enhanced by the addition of Yamaha's MusicCast 50 as a wireless surround speaker.

At just under $500, Yamaha's MusicCast BAR 400 soundbar/subwoofer system is a great value. When you add the company's MusicCast 50 wireless speaker ($499) to use for surrounds, you get a stellar wireless 5.1 system that creates an immersive experience while easily integrating with your streaming music apps. The system connects via Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth.

Bob Ankosko  |  Mar 28, 2019  |  0 comments
Audio Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $270

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Super compact
Nice build quality
Easy to set up and use
AccuVoice modes aid the hearing impaired
Minus
Sound could be fuller
Surround sound is subtle

THE VERDICT
The AV203 TV speaker just might be a godsend for viewers with hearing loss who have difficulty discerning voices and movie dialogue.

The small rectangular box sat in my foyer for days before I realized it was the Zvox soundbar I’d been waiting for. My god, this thing is small, I thought as I pulled the AccuVoice AV203 TV Speaker out of the box. I was immediately impressed with its heft and build quality and as curious as ever about how the diminutive bar would perform.

Al Griffin  |  Jan 29, 2019  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Potent sound for the price
5.1.4 Atmos playback
Chromecast built-in for music streaming
Minus
No wireless surround speaker option
No DTS:X decoding

THE VERDICT
Vizio's 5.1.4 soundbar system delivers powerful, immersive sound plus Chromecast built-in streaming at a reasonable price.

Vizio's top-of-the-line Atmos soundbar comes with a cumbersome model number: SB46514-F6. Outside of that, this $1,000 Atmos system is a sleek, well-designed package that delivers surprisingly potent sound for the money. The addition of Chromecast built-in and Bluetooth streaming, along with Google Assistant compatibility, make it a compelling option for anyone seeking an all-in-one immersive audio solution to pair with their new TV.

Rob Sabin  |  Sep 27, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Alexa voice control
Flexible connectivity
Good sound quality
Great value
Minus
No multiroom music functions

THE VERDICT
Polk’s feature-packed soundbar offers Alexa voice control and above-average sound quality. For $300, there’s plenty here to like.

A couple of Consumer Electronics Shows ago I was visiting the booth of Sound United, the parent of Polk Audio, when a friendly executive invited me up a narrow staircase to a private meeting room. Once I was sworn to secrecy, a long, thin, black travel case was brought out and laid on the ground, and its buckles were snapped open for the big reveal. I half expected it to house a bazooka of some sort. Instead, what popped out was the prototype of a thin spear of a soundbar that appeared to have an Amazon Echo Dot sunk into its middle. Polk’s team was rightfully excited about their new project. The smart speaker was just beginning its explosive push into people’s homes, and no one had yet combined Amazon’s increasingly popular Alexa voice control technology with a soundbar. It seemed liked a perfect fit for the emerging market. So, in a way, it really was Polk’s new secret weapon.

Al Griffin  |  Jul 12, 2018  |  0 comments
Performance
Build Quality
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $900 ($1,200 as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Atmos and DTS:X sound from a compact package
Easy setup
Minus
Limited overhead effects capability
Performance with music less impressive than movies

THE VERDICT
Sony’s soundbar offers an easy way to get Atmos, but you’ll need the optional wireless surround speakers for best performance.

Soundbars designed to deliver Dolby Atmos sound in an all-in-one package offer a convenient alternative to complicated—and pricey—setups that require in-ceiling speakers or “elevation” modules. We’ve checked out a few such specimens in Sound & Vision, including Sony’s HT-ST5000 ($1,500). Now, the company’s new HT-Z9F ($900), aims to deliver the same object- based Atmos—and DTS:X—experience from a more compact and notably less costly soundbar.

Rob Sabin  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Affordable price
Alexa voice control
Links with other Sonos speakers
Minus
More optimized for TV sound than music
Requires HDMI ARC for voice control of TV

THE VERDICT
Sonos’ compact, Alexa-enabled soundbar offers impressive performance for the price. All in all, a smart value.

Without knowing history, you might dismiss the Sonos Beam as just another budget soundbar dropped into a largely undistinguished field. But as with most things Sonos, this attractive yet intentionally non-descript oval is significant both for the company and the audio business. Sonos execs have long seen the living room television as the most logical gateway for their wireless multiroom music system.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Jun 15, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Even coverage from unusual drivers
Down-firing bass driver
Minus
No Dolby or DTS decoding
Limited EQ options

THE VERDICT
The Q Acoustics M2 soundbase is a well-built and well-voiced product whose cleverly constructed flat-diaphragm drivers provide wide dispersion and excellent overall sound.

I will never forget my first flat-panel TV. Its substantial metal chassis included large side-mounted speakers that sounded, by TV standards, pretty good. Sure, I used my surround system for movies, but it never would have occurred to me to use an external audio system just to watch the news. My next flat-panel TV was flatter, though not in any way that especially benefitted me, and its back-firing speakers were too awful to survive more than a single newscast. I hooked up a good pair of powered speakers and called it a day. Since then, TV enclosures have only gotten slimmer and flimsier. With rare exceptions, their speakers sound worse than ever. That’s an opportunity for companies like Q Acoustics, which offers two soundbars and the new M2 soundbase ($350), reviewed here.

Michael Trei  |  Dec 27, 2017  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Wide array of wired and wireless connections, including Play-Fi
Room correction with included microphone
Wireless subwoofer connection
Minus
Confusing and non-intuitive setup
Soft-sounding highs

THE VERDICT
Paradigm’s PW Soundbar ticks a lot of boxes with its long list of desirable features, but its complicated wireless setup and ergonomic difficulties make it frustrating to use.

Consolidation is one of those things that can be either a good deal or a bad deal, depending on the context. For example, with big corporations, consolidation often means less competition, which can be a bummer for the consumer. Just ask the guy who pays through the nose for 2,000 cable channels he’ll never watch, or the guy who has tried to make a mini-sized bag of peanuts last through a six-hour transcontinental flight on one of the four remaining major U.S. airlines. But when it comes to consumer electronics, consolidation can be a wonderful thing.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 05, 2017  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generally neutral sound reproduction
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X spatial enhancement
Ample level for serious listening to both music and movies
Minus
No physical surround-speaker option
Subwoofer-to-soundbar integration is tricky

THE VERDICT
Sony’s high-end soundbar-subwoofer twosome delivers natural, tightly imaged, Atmos/DTS:X-abetted sound along with striking, understated good looks.

Soundbars are marching relentlessly up-market, and Sony is right there with the Dolby Atmos- and DTS:X-capable HT-ST5000, which carries a list price of $1,500 and is being widely promoted this holiday season at $1,298 from the major retailers. It checks all the latest boxes: scarily slim, seriously wireless (including a wireless subwoofer), and no-rear-speakers faux surround sound.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Nov 30, 2017  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
DTS Virtual:X mimics height/surround
HDMI in and out with ARC
Pleasant voicing in most modes
Minus
Only one video input
3D Surround mode can be slightly harsh

THE VERDICT
The Yamaha YAS-207, which uses DTS Virtual:X processing to simulate height and surround effects, sounds pretty good and is easy on your checkbook.

When Dolby Atmos and, shortly thereafter, DTS:X made their debuts, I expected I’d soon be reviewing a flood of speaker systems and receivers supporting object-oriented surround in a 360-degree soundfield. My hope was that height-capable surround would spark renewed interest in surround speaker packages and receivers — and in home theater overall.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 17, 2017  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
11 drivers in system, including side tweeters
Separate surround speakers
8-inch wireless sub
Minus
Cabinet resonance in sub and sats
No stereo mode
Odd remote volume-key positioning

THE VERDICT
The Shockwafe Pro 7.1 is a beautifully designed soundbar that delivers solid surround performance, especially with movies.

Founded in 1948, Nakamichi became best known in the 1970s for building the booming audio industry’s highest-end cassette decks, both under the company’s own name and for other brands. Nakamichi pioneered three-head decks, which used the extra head to read and monitor a recording in progress. The company has also dabbled in CD changers, A/V receivers, and even TVs, and they provided audio systems for the Toyota Lexus from 1989 to 2001.

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