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Bluesound Pulse Soundbar and Pulse Sub Review
Daniel Kumin | May 18, 2017
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.
Polk MagniFi Mini Soundbar System Review
Michael Trei | May 10, 2017
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.
Sonos Playbase Review
Darryl Wilkinson | May 03, 2017
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.
Soundbars on a Budget
Rob Sabin | Dec 08, 2016
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.
Samsung HW-K950 Soundbar System Review
Michael Trei | Oct 05, 2016
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.
Atlantic Technology FS3 and LCR3 Speaker System Review
Mark Fleischmann | Aug 25, 2016
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.
Yamaha YSP-5600 Soundbar Review
Darryl Wilkinson | Aug 11, 2016
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.
Definitive Technology W Studio Micro Soundbar System Review
John Sciacca | Feb 17, 2016
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’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’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— let alone actually enjoy the wider dynamics of movies or music— and the simple solution is adding a soundbar.
Atlantic Technology 3.1 HSB Soundbase Review
Mark Fleischmann | Nov 23, 2015
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $799 AT A GLANCE Plus Impressive bass without external sub Smooth, unfussy top end Suitable for TVs up to 100 pounds Minus Passive design requires use of an AV receiver THE VERDICT Atlantic Technology?s 3.1 HSB uses H-PAS bass technology to deliver real bass response along with enviable smoothness and dynamics. Visualize, if you will, a home theater system with a flat-panel TV and 5.1-channel surround sound. For many readers, this is nirvana. For others, it?s too much stuff—a TV, three speakers in front, two surrounds, and a subwoofer. How do you reduce the intrusion into the room? Wall-mounting the TV is a no-brainer. Now imagine that the three front speakers have disappeared, along with that pesky sub. What?s left, you?re probably thinking, is some kind of typical soundbase or bar. It offers bass hardly worthy of the name, fake surround, and a fraction of the features of a receiver-based system. For this Atlantic Technology model, you got the first part right—the 3.1 HSB is a soundbase—but the rest is wrong.
Arcam Solo Soundbar System Review
Mark Fleischmann | Aug 20, 2015
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,500 (updated 10/14/15) AT A GLANCE Plus HDMI, lossless surround decoding UHD-capable video passthrough Minus High-end pricing No HDCP 2.2 DRM for UHD THE VERDICT If you close your eyes, the Arcam Solo Bar and Solo Sub sound more like a decent component system than a soundbar. Soundbars take three forms. The main distinction among them is what serves as the heart of your system. With a passive soundbar, the A/V receiver—with all its features, joys, and woes—is the clearinghouse, and all signal sources go through it. With a less expensive active soundbar, the TV often replaces the receiver, and all signals go through the TV into the bar. But the Arcam Solo Bar is the type of active soundbar that replaces both the receiver and the TV as the heart of your system.