Phase Technology Teatro TSB3.0 Soundbar Review Page 2

I preferred the new model with its smaller woofers, mostly because—for whatever reason—it sounded bigger than I remembered the PC3.0 to be, creating an even more convincing, even more blast-worthy soundstage. The top end was polite all the way down into the middle range, mitigating digital nasties from the presence region. And it sounded wider than the physical dimensions dictated, with credit most likely going to the side-firing drivers. I should add that my asymmetrical long-wall speaker placement worked against the side-firing drivers by denying them access to nearby, unobstructed side walls—but they improved width anyway, even when firing different distances at highly diffused side walls.


I watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (DTS-HD Master Audio) twice, first with an 80-hertz crossover, then at 100 Hz. I knew the first option was wrong for the 3-inch woofers, though to the bar’s credit, the disconnect wasn’t obvious until the aggressive effects kicked in. With either crossover, the bar did brilliantly with voices, delivering them with natural tone color that remained consistent on or off axis, something that was especially apparent in the wild trajectories of the jabberjay attack. While voicing was on the gentle side—with movies or music—the bar refused to roll off the nerve-shredding assault of the baboons.

Escape Plan (DTS-HD Master Audio) has Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger behind bars in an action-packed prison thriller that puts the following words into Ahhhnold’s mouth: “You hit like a vegetarian” (easily the best line that screenwriters have given him since “Hasta la vista, baby”). While no one will ever accuse Sly’s burly baritone of being a musical instrument, it did give the bar a chance to sound deep-voiced, playing against type as a small-woofer weakling. The bar rebelled against its width in more than one way. Yes, it sounded wider than it looked, but it also was spatially deeper—and the localization was less speaker-bound than just about any other soundbar I can recall.

Parkland (Dolby TrueHD) dramatizes the assassination of President Kennedy, and even with half a century of perspective, the film is deeply affecting as it uncannily humanizes all-too-familiar figures and events. Fittingly, the bar responded by treating dialogue as a human, not mechanical, phenomenon, free of obvious artifacts and coloration. It was hard to keep my analytical hat on during this movie, so my notes stopped there.

Vocals Out Front
Moving back to happier territory: The original Beatles CD releases, circa 1987, are much maligned by some audiophiles. Having grown up with the generally inferior U.S. vinyl, I’d say the old CDs compare favorably. Sure, they do have a bit of a bite, but a lot depends on how the speakers treat it. Here the Teatro shone. Not only did the soundbar make the mildly acerbic midrange on Help! palatable, but it also detached the lead vocals from the instrumentation, pushing them out front, where they belonged. And it was consistent enough to let me use a single volume level for material ranging from the declamatory vocals and clarion electric guitar of “Ticket to Ride” to the reserved acoustic guitar and voice of “Yesterday.”

Cellist Nancy Green and pianist Frederick Moyer performed Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Complete Works for Cello & Piano on a superbly recorded Biddulph CD. “Best bar for music, ever,” I enthused into my notebook. The cello was rich, full, warm, and not unlike a human voice—and well imaged in context with the just slightly more diffused piano. It was a big, generous sound, the kind that makes you fall in love with the music, if you weren’t in love with it already.

Youssou N’Dour’s Nelson Mandela is a fun listen, full of rollicking rhythms. The Teatro made the percussion snappy and incisive, and once again it rendered the voice as a warm human presence. If you don’t think Senegalese music translates into an American milieu, you haven’t heard N’Dour’s cover of “The Rubberband Man.”

It’s not uncommon for some people who love sound to conflate product category with product quality. These are usually the folks who insist that all soundbars are bad because—well, they’re soundbars. But like loudspeakers in general, bars can be good, bad, or in between. Phase Technology’s Teatro TSB3.0 is the kind of soundbar that ennobles its product category with great performance and even, dare I say it, audiophile voicing. It rocked the Beatles and survived The Hunger Games—and if you’re not willing to listen to it before you judge it, you probably hit like a vegetarian.

Phase Technology