SOUNDBAR REVIEWS

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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 10, 2013 2 comments
FS-7.1 Soundbar
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SB-900-BLK Subwoofer
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Price: $1,300 At a Glance: Multichannel speaker reproduces all seven channels • No onboard amplification or processing • Optional subwoofer

Writing about consumer electronics for the past two decades has taught me a few things: Always take good notes, don’t believe everything you read in press releases, and at least try to keep an open mind. Case in point, the soundbar. The very idea of a single box containing the amplification, processing, and all of the loudspeakers necessary to adequately present home theater audio was met with early disdain. But hearing was believing, and now it’s a viable (and thriving) product category.

Then a crate recently arrived containing the Atlantic Technology FS-7.1, a redesigned, upgraded version of the company’s well-regarded FS-7.0 seven-channel home theater soundbar.

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Rob Sabin Posted: Apr 12, 2013 4 comments

Sonos Playbar Soundbar
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Sonos SUB Subwoofer
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Price: $699 At A Glance: Excellent sound quality for music and movies • Powerful optional subwoofer • Mixed surround-sound performance

Since its launch in 2005, the Sonos wireless music system has won accolades and an extensive fan base thanks to an early focus on tapping into the digital music libraries that consumers built after the iPod’s launch in 2001, and an evolving graphic interface that, in today’s version, brings the benefits of room, source, and track selection to intuitive touchscreen apps that run on smartphones and tablets.

For those unfamiliar, you start by plugging one Sonos component into your network router to create a bridge to the Internet and to your home PC or hard drive where your personal music is stored. It can be any component the company sells. Sonos offers several powered speaker systems (Play:5, Play:3, the SUB subwoofer) and two player modules that feed music into either an existing hi-fi system (the Connect) or into a pair of speakers (Connect: Amp). If none of these devices can be placed near a live Ethernet jack, you can plop the aptly named Bridge wireless adapter next to your router.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Mar 26, 2013 2 comments

Performance
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Price: $800 At A Glance: Learns commands from your TV’s or other remote control • Wireless subwoofer with automatic pairing • Built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoding

Addicted, as millions of us are, to the near instantaneous gratification of loaded DVRs and streaming services capable of providing lifetimes of mindless entertainment, it’s no surprise that we want speed and simplicity to apply to the entire process of watching TV. In fact, digging the remote control out from under the couch cushions ought to be about the limit of the physical and mental effort involved.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Mar 03, 2013 0 comments

I've evaluated at least 57 soundbars. That experience has taught me there are two attributes a truly great soundbar should possess. First, it should sound good. Second, it should work like it's part of your TV-i.e., it should power up and shut down when your TV does, your TV's remote should control volume and mute on the soundbar, etc.

By this measure, there's never been a truly great soundbar.

Sonos-known for network-based audio devices such as the Play:3-has attempted to create a soundbar that would meet my definition of "truly great." How confident is Sonos that the new $699 Playbar will work perfectly in concert with your TV? Pretty confident: The Playbar doesn't come with a remote.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 26, 2013 0 comments

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Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Three folded-diaphragm tweeters, four woofers • 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS processing • Wide dispersion, limited dynamics

My system is perpetually a work in progress. The speaker stands are always serving new guests (with martinis). Surround receivers slide in and out of the rack’s guest-receiver berth to bedevil me with the GUI of the week. But once in a while, I can’t resist the temptation to yank every cable out of every back panel, throw them onto the middle of the floor, and marvel as the mountain of copper snakes gets higher and higher. Last year, my system spring cleaning yielded a record haul: More than half the cables I pulled out didn’t go back in.

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Brent Butterworth Posted: Feb 13, 2013 0 comments

Home theater nuts can never have enough subwoofers. But the average household isn’t run by a home theater nut. Usually, the decisions about what goes into the living room are made by someone for whom audio gear is only slightly more welcome than cockroaches. For that person, even one sub may be too many.

Atlantic Technology built its PowerBar 235 soundbar precisely for households split by the conflict over good sound versus bulky audio gear. The PowerBar 235 is one of only a couple of soundbars designed to deliver satisfying bass response without a subwoofer.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 31, 2013 1 comments
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Price: $300 At a Glance: Renders 5.1 signals as "7.1" • Multiple digital inputs, no analog • An easy form factor to live with

The valley between most televisions' woeful onboard audio and the glory of a full-on 5.1-, 6.1-, or 7.1-channel audio system is a broad one indeed, and wending its way through the middle like some bittersweet creek is the much-maligned soundbar. Once dismissed by the techno-elite as home theater for the lazy, the soundbar has since evolved into a viable compromise bet ween…well, something great and nothing at all.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 21, 2012 0 comments
Soundbars promise to deliver a full home theater experience with much less complication and confusion—and usually at a much lower price—than a traditional home theater system with an A/V receiver and multiple speakers. But how close can a svelt 43-inch-wide cabinet with nine drivers crammed in it come to actually pulling it off? Veteran speaker reviewer Darryl Wilkinson hooks up Definitive Technology's new SoloCinema XTR to find out.
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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Nov 20, 2012 1 comments

Soundbar System
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ForceField 3 Subwoofer
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Price: $2,000 At A Glance: 3D sonic-image optimization technology • Passive LCR design • Aerospace-grade extruded-aluminum cabinet

Women. They’re the problem. They’re the ones who have ruined home theater for all the manly men out there whose only vice was reclining in front of a set of towering speakers that dominated the room like a pair of long-faced Easter Island monoliths—speakers so masculine, they used testosterone instead of ferrofluid to cool the voice coils and were topped with skeleton-ugly horn tweeters so efficient Joshua could have used them to bring down the walls of Jericho the first day (before lunch!). For additional aural excitement, in a front corner of the room, openly begging for attention and not girlishly hiding behind a couch or doing double duty as a plant stand, would be a massive subwoofer with a magnet assembly so powerful that localized rooftop occurrences of the aurora borealis would happen from time to time. Techs from the local hospital would often bring patients to the house and use the subwoofer for testing when the lab’s MRI machine needed repair. But no more. The man cave has been emasculated and replaced by the female grotto, complete with bowls of potpourri and seating geometries that would make Euclid weep with grief. The coup de grâce, however, the fatal blow to any home theater’s manhood, is the now near-obligatory soundbar. Long and falsely phallic, it mocks the real men in the room as it preens itself under the flat-panel HDTV.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Nov 20, 2012 0 comments

Here are two words I never thought I’d use together in a sentence: audiophile soundbar. Yet MartinLogan’s new Motion Vision model indisputably qualifies.

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Al Griffin Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments

Say what you want about soundbars, but the category counts as one of the more active areas of speaker design. Sure, many products pumped out over the last few years are low-end ones designed to be sold as accessories for flat-panel TVs. But plenty of serious speaker companies have also gotten into the game, and the performance of the resulting products, while not yet at a level to make audiophiles toss out their tower speakers en masse, has proven more than sufficient for casual home theater use, as well as for background music listening.

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Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Oct 12, 2012 1 comments

Performance
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Price: $899 At A Glance: H-PAS bass enhancement technology • Multichannel DSP for two-, three-, or five-channel soundfield simulation • Switchable display for top or bottom orientation

Frank•en•bar [frang-kuhn-bahr]: noun 1) a soundbar with parts and pieces taken from traditional home theater systems—processor, switcher, amplifier, remote control, speaker drivers, etc.—which are bolted together into a single cabinet and shocked into life with one power cord. The typical Frankenbar has a dual purpose: a) to provide much-improved sound quality over that produced by the speakers built into modern televisions (such an easy task, by the way, that it could seemingly be accomplished by a couple of tin cans and a string); while at the same time b) significantly reducing the number of boxes in the system, as well as dramatically simplifying the installation process. 2) The ultimate example of an all-in-one integrated system, except for the fact that virtually every Frankenbar—or any soundbar, for that matter—usually requires a subwoofer in order to sound acceptable to the human ear. This mandatory subwoofer, by virtue of being a physical object that takes up floor space, is more often than not considered both an eyesore and may in some areas be legally acceptable grounds for divorce.

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Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Aug 13, 2012 0 comments
TVs are lonely. A beer-soaked barstool at 2 a.m. kind of lonely. They cry out for companionship, their tinny, bass-less voices difficult to hear, even harder to enjoy. When they were young, they held so much promise: high definition, good times, low cost. How quickly came the onset of disappointment?
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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: May 30, 2012 0 comments
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Price: $350 At a Glance: Disappointing sound quality • Minimal feature set • Awkward wall-mounting provisions

AudioSource might not be a household name, but anyone who has been involved in the world of custom A/V installation for any length of time will be familiar with the Oregon-based manufacturer's extensive line of in-wall speakers and multi-room audio-distribution electronics. Given AudioSource's expertise with compact speakers and amplifiers, combining the two in the form of a soundbar seems like a smart move for the company.

The S3D60 under review here is a single-piece, 2-channel soundbar, which means it must rely on virtual surround technology to impart a surround-sound experience. In this case, AudioSource is using a third-party solution called Sonic Emotion Absolute 3D. Given the S3D60's relatively hefty 5-inch cabinet depth (6 inches if wall mounted) and width of 38 inches, this soundbar is scaled to match TVs measuring roughly 46 inches and up.

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Lawrence E. Ullman Posted: Mar 08, 2012 4 comments
Performance
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Price: $320 At A Glance: 2.1 channels with effective virtual surround • Wireless subwoofer • HDMI 1.4a connectors • Easy to set up and install

If Star Trek's Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott was handed one of today's ultra-thin flat-panel HDTVs and warned, "You have eight minutes to get decent sound quality out this thing or the Enterprise is going to burn up in the atmosphere!," he might take one look at it and once again utter those immortal words: "I canna change the laws of physics!"

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