SOUNDBAR REVIEWS

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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  |  0 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.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 18, 2017  |  0 comments

Pulse Soundbar
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Pulse Sub
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,598 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent musical sound quality
Notable bass extension, with or without sub
Many streaming capabilities, including hi-res audio
Multiroom system architecture
Visually outstanding
Minus
Some level and dynamics limitations
Occasional cumbersome or inconsistent operation

THE VERDICT
Accurate, dynamic musical sound, lifelike stereo imaging, and remarkable bass extension and control—plus extensive multiroom streaming abilities—easily counterbalance the few ergonomic quirks of a lovely, ultra-compact design.

Don’t look now, but the soundbars are gaining on us. Hardcore home theater heads like you and me can scoff all we want, but consumer electronics’ all-inone answer to audio for video is getting better, smarter, bassier, and popular-er, by leaps and bounds. High-end-ier, too.

Michael Trei  |  May 10, 2017  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Big sound from a tiny speaker
Carefully voiced with neutral tonal balance
Minus
No HDMI video passthrough
Sub’s performance limited by its small size

THE VERDICT
Despite its diminutive size, the MagniFi Mini speaks with a loud and clear voice at a bargain price.

Why is it that every year, TVs seem to get bigger while speakers seem to get smaller? Back when Stereo Review became Sound & Vision, a nice home theater had a 34-inch tube TV and a decent 5.1channel surround sound system with floorstanding tower speakers. Now, many years later, the TV has grown to 65, 70, or even 80 inches, but the speakers have shrunk to the point where they’re small enough to get lost at the bottom of the massive screen.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  May 03, 2017  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Only 2.28 inches tall
Utilizes Sonos Trueplay acoustic tuning technology
Can be part of a Sonos multiroom audio system
Minus
No volume level indicator
Optical digital and network audio inputs only

THE VERDICT
For the folks who don’t mount their TV on a wall—that is, for the overwhelming majority of TV owners—the Sonos Playbase is an elegant way of creating an excellent-sounding home theater system that’s nearly invisible, super-easy to set up, and blessedly simple to use.

A surprisingly salient special survey by Sonos says that something like 70 percent of slender-TV owners select to stand their set on a flat surface rather than sticking it on a wall. (Say that silently seven times.) Seriously—OK, that’s enough of that—Sonos says that the vast majority of people who own a flat-screen TV don’t mount it on a wall. Instead, they set it on a cabinet, cart, table, shelf, the floor, or just about any other semi-sturdy, close-to-flat surface that isn’t already covered with useless sh-tuff.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Apr 28, 2017  |  0 comments
I have never been a fan of soundbars. How can a little row of speakers replace the full-range sound of a true home-theater speaker system? It just can’t. However, soundbars heavy-set cousin, the soundbase, provides an interesting middle ground. I was skeptical of the Fluance AB40 Wide Angle soundbase when it first showed up, but after spending some time getting to know it, my opinion has changed—dramatically.

Rob Sabin  |  Dec 08, 2016  |  0 comments
There was a time when audiophiles bemoaned “cheap” soundbars as the bane of our existence. We had good reason. Many early examples of the genre, sometimes from companies we’d most closely associate with clock radios, compromised the home theater experience in every way possible. Along with dramatically shrinking the front soundstage and sacrificing the discrete rear channels required for adequate reproduction of a surround field, they just sounded bad. By which I mean bright, boomy, fatiguing, and amusical. Frequently, “helpful” surround processing to enhance imaging just added echoey reverb and messed with the natural timbre of vocals and instruments.
Michael Trei  |  Oct 05, 2016  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Full surround, including Dolby Atmos, from just four boxes
Rich, punchy sound
Minus
Limited connectivity
Pricey for a soundbar

THE VERDICT
A soundbar with Dolby Atmos may seem like an oxymoron, but Samsung has done a masterful job of pulling it off. The HW-K950 delivers a hefty slice of the performance you can get from a carefully tuned component system, but without most of the complexity or a room full of speakers.

Sometimes it seems like the people who develop new surround formats are completely out of touch with what real consumers actually want in their homes. Over the years, we have seen a seemingly endless parade of multichannel surround formats, such as Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIz, DTS-HD Master Audio, Audyssey DSX, and now Dolby Atmos—all guaranteed to strain your domestically acceptable loudspeaker limit. It’s no wonder that so many folks have decided to just pull out of this arms race and go instead with a simple soundbar. The good news: It appears that someone at Samsung is paying attention. The company’s latest top-of-the-range soundbar-based system tries to let you have it all, combining the compactness and simplicity of a soundbar with the tangible spatial effects that only really happen when you have discrete rear speakers and the vertical expansiveness of Dolby Atmos.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 25, 2016  |  0 comments

LCR3 Speaker
Performance
Build Quality
Value

SB-900 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value

FS3 Soundbar
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,550 to $2,075 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Slim-profile passive soundbar, or...
Compact LCRs in front, with...
One sub or two
Minus
AVR required for passive bar
Inherent limits of 8-inch sub

THE VERDICT
Whether configured with a three-channel soundbar up front or compact LCRs all around, this system delivers deeply satisfying performance for the price, with plenty of listening comfort.

How should your 5.1-channel system handle the three channels in front? You might use the traditional approach of three separate speakers. Then again, you might simply use a passive soundbar with left, center, and right drivers. We’ve reviewed both kinds of systems—but until now, we haven’t reviewed both options at once. In this Test Report, that’s just what we’re going to do. We’ll start with Atlantic Technology’s new FS3 soundbar in the front and two voice-matched LCR3 satellites in the surround positions. Then we’ll swap out the soundbar for three more satellites to see what that brings to the table. To make it even more interesting, we’ll start with a single 8-inch SB-900 subwoofer, then contemplate the advantages of adding a second one.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Aug 11, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Dolby Atmos and (via future upgrade) DTS: X
MusicCast, AirPlay, Bluetooth (both in and out), and Wi-Fi for music streaming
Minus
Larger than most soundbars
Remote control isn’t backlit

THE VERDICT
It’s pricey, but outstanding sonic performance and an impressive list of useful features makes the Yamaha YSP-5600 one of the best overall soundbar values on the market.

It had to happen: Somebody took Dolby Atmos and superglued it to a soundbar. It looks like Dolby Atmos in a Bar (DAIB) is the new Home Theater in a Box (HTIB). Oh, joy of joys.

I jest, of course. I’ve reviewed some really great soundbars—and Yamaha, the company behind this groundbreaking Atmos-enabled model, is no slouch when it comes to all-in-one theater systems. At $1,700, the new YSP-5600 is the most expensive, and most extensively featured, soundbar in Yamaha’s lineup. Measuring in at 43.25 inches wide x 8.38 high x 3.63 deep (without its stand), it looks to be the largest, too. From the size, heft (almost 26 pounds), and quality of construction (including a metal—not cloth—grille), it should be obvious to even the most unshakable soundbar skeptic that this aspires to be a serious speaker system, with or without the Atmos-enabling bits.

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