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&rsquo;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&rsquo;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.
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 &mdash; and in home theater overall.
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&mdash;plus extensive multiroom streaming abilities&mdash;easily counterbalance the few ergonomic quirks of a lovely, ultra-compact design. Don&rsquo;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&rsquo; all-inone answer to audio for video is getting better, smarter, bassier, and popular-er, by leaps and bounds. High-end-ier, too.
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&rsquo;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 &amp; 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&rsquo;re small enough to get lost at the bottom of the massive screen.
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&rsquo;t mount their TV on a wall&mdash;that is, for the overwhelming majority of TV owners&mdash;the Sonos Playbase is an elegant way of creating an excellent-sounding home theater system that&rsquo;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&mdash;OK, that&rsquo;s enough of that&mdash;Sonos says that the vast majority of people who own a flat-screen TV don&rsquo;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&rsquo;t already covered with useless sh-tuff.
There was a time when audiophiles bemoaned &ldquo;cheap&rdquo; soundbars as the bane of our existence. We had good reason. Many early examples of the genre, sometimes from companies we&rsquo;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, &ldquo;helpful&rdquo; surround processing to enhance imaging just added echoey reverb and messed with the natural timbre of vocals and instruments.
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&mdash;all guaranteed to strain your domestically acceptable loudspeaker limit. It&rsquo;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&rsquo;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.
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&rsquo;ve reviewed both kinds of systems&mdash;but until now, we haven&rsquo;t reviewed both options at once. In this Test Report, that&rsquo;s just what we&rsquo;re going to do. We&rsquo;ll start with Atlantic Technology&rsquo;s new FS3 soundbar in the front and two voice-matched LCR3 satellites in the surround positions. Then we&rsquo;ll swap out the soundbar for three more satellites to see what that brings to the table. To make it even more interesting, we&rsquo;ll start with a single 8-inch SB-900 subwoofer, then contemplate the advantages of adding a second one.
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&rsquo;t backlit THE VERDICT It&rsquo;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&rsquo;ve reviewed some really great soundbars&mdash;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&rsquo;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&mdash;not cloth&mdash;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.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $899 AT A GLANCE Plus Ultra-thin form factor Triple-threat with movies, music, and wholehouse audio Great sound Minus Awkward handling of network media THE VERDICT The W Studio Micro&rsquo;s strong performance and tons of streaming music features make it an easy recommendation. The soundbar is one of the fastest-growing market segments in recent years, and that&rsquo;s no surprise. As consumer demand grows for ultra-thin TVs with virtually zero bezel, display manufacturers are in the quandary of where to put the built-in speakers. The answer for most has been placing shallow speakers behind the screen, firing away from listeners. Obviously, these sonic compromises make it increasingly difficult to understand dialogue&mdash; let alone actually enjoy the wider dynamics of movies or music&mdash; and the simple solution is adding a soundbar.