Soundbar Reviews

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Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 14, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Immersive 3D audio mode
Chromecast-built in plus Bluetooth
Stylish, wireless subwoofer
Minus
Imaging can be vague with stereo music
Remote control hard to read

THE VERDICT
Polk Audio’s elegantly simple and affordable MagniFi 2 delivers expansive sound from a system with a relatively small footprint.

Polk Audio's new MagniFi 2 soundbar hits a sweet spot of affordability, performance, and convenience. It features Polk's patented SDA Stereo Dimensional Array technology to enhance stereo imaging, a 3D Mode that adds virtual height and surround effects, and a Voice Adjust feature to boost dialogue levels in movies and TV shows.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Sep 30, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rechargeable, fully wireless surrounds
Upfiring speakers for overhead effects
Easy to use auto-calibration
HDMI with eARC and Dolby Vision pass-through
Minus
Smart Mode processing difficult to switch on/off

THE VERDICT
The JBL Bar 9.1 system combines soundbar convenience with a level of immersive performance only achievable through dedicated surround and overhead effects speakers.

The JBL Bar 9.1 soundbar system provides one of the easiest ways to get a realistic Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio experience. JBL's secret? The Bar 9.1 uses a pair of detachable wireless, battery-operated surround speakers that can be situated anyplace in the room that's convenient. In addition, the Bar 9.1 has an auto-calibration feature that will adjust the sound to compensate for speaker placement.

Rob Sabin  |  Aug 26, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000 (system bundle, minus installation; $4,000 as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonics
WiSA wireless connection for surrounds and sub
Integrated Savant automation platform
Control via app or touchscreen remote
Minus
No Dolby Pro Logic or other stereo surround mode
No HDMI-ARC connectivity
No processing for lossless surround formats

THE VERDICT
Savant's smart soundbar may be a gateway to home automation, but it distinguishes itself first through its excellent sound quality.

Sound & Vision readers will know Savant as one of two upstarts that, along with Control 4, arrived in the early 2000s to challenge Crestron and AMX in the emerging home automation market. Today, some 15 years after its founding by tech entrepreneur/billionaire Bob Madonna, Savant continues to expand its Mac-based smarthome solution, and with some recent acquisitions, to broaden its market reach. Most notable is the high-profile purchase this year of GE Lighting.

Al Griffin  |  Aug 12, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good sound quality with movies and music
AI Room Calibration feature
HDMI eARC connectivity
Chromecast built-in and Google Assistant
Minus
Could use an extra HDMI input

THE VERDICT
The Verdict: LG's affordable 3.1.2 soundbar performs well with movies and music and features new room correction processing.

It was around this time last year that I reviewed LG's SL8YG, a 3.1.2 soundbar equipped with upfiring 2.5-inch drivers and both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing. What was notable about that model, as well as other soundbars to arrive from LG in 2019, was the company's effort to go upscale via a sleek new design and custom audio processing from England's Meridian Technologies. The new SN8YG reviewed here continues that upward trajectory, mostly through the addition of a few key features.

Rob Sabin  |  Jul 01, 2020  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding music and movie sound
Impressive rendering of height information
Solid bass for standalone soundbar
Minus
May require latest eARC HDMI connection for Atmos
No DTS decoding

THE VERDICT
The latest home theater offering from Sonos delivers an impressive Atmos experience from a standalone soundbar. Add the company's Sub and bookshelf speakers as surrounds for even more intense audio immersion.

The new Sonos Arc soundbar is the company's fourth home theater product and the clear result of an evolution. Its first soundbar, the Playbar (currently $599 and being closed out), debuted in 2013. But with only a single optical input intended to ease installation and no HDMI port, it was already outdated on Day 1.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 19, 2020  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very good dialogue intelligibility
Wide stereo imaging
Multiple color options
Minus
Lacks front indicator lights
Pricey

THE VERDICT
The DALI Katch One 2.0 soundbar combines impressive TV sound with an attractive design and multiple color options.

DALI (Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries) isn't a well-known brand in the United States, but the company may get more notice once word of its Katch One soundbar gets out. Stylish and simple, DALI's soundbar ($999) strikes an interesting balance between price and sound quality—it's undeniably pricey, but since the Katch One fulfills the promise of an audiophile loudspeaker, you get what you pay for.

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.

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