SOUNDBAR REVIEWS

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Mark Fleischmann  |  Aug 09, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $2,350 At A Glance: 41-inch-wide soundbar contains three front channels • Remote-controlled sub with presets • A smooth, warm, unhyped, high-fidelity sound

Genius Bar

Quad is one of those great speaker companies whose pedigree encapsulates some of the fascinating and significant parts of audio history. The name is an acronym for Quality Unit Amplifier Domestic. Born in London in 1936, the company first produced publicaddress equipment, then moved into hi-fi after World War II. It eventually became known for producing relatively thin electrostatic floorstanding speakers that are considered classics—heirlooms, even—and are still produced today. That our sister publication Stereophile named the Quad ESL-2805 Product of the Year for 2007 should indicate how much Quad’s current owner, IAG, venerates this Anglo-Chinese brand. It produces its products at a state-of-the-art factory in Shenzhen and ardently defends its historic reputation. Have I mentioned that Quad also produces both tube and solid-state electronics for the two-channel market? Now get ready to change gears.

Brent Butterworth  |  Dec 28, 2011  |  0 comments

“It looks like a car ran over it,” a visiting friend said. But I doubt Definitive Technology employed that technique in the creation of the Mythos XTR-SSA3 soundbar.

Brent Butterworth  |  Jun 10, 2013  |  0 comments

Calling the PSB Imagine W3 a soundbar is like calling the Red Bull RB6 F1 racer a car. Technically, the description is correct. But the item in question differs so much from most in its category that the comparison seems silly.

Brent Butterworth  |  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.

Brent Butterworth  |  Nov 13, 2013  |  4 comments
A Satisfying Substitute for Real Home Theater Sound?

I’ll assume that you, as a Sound & Vision reader, would prefer a conventional 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system to a soundbar. But I’ll also assume that you don’t have 5.1 or 7.1 in every room of your home. Or in your vacation home, or your parents’ home, or your kids’ rooms. For these situations, even the cognoscenti—that means you—might be tempted by the convenience and low cost of a soundbar. Still, though, you’re probably not going to risk your status as an audiophile by buying one of those bottom-of-the-barrel, $150 cheapies at Costco.

Michael Trei  |  Oct 05, 2016  |  2 comments

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.

Rob Sabin  |  Apr 12, 2013  |  4 comments

Sonos Playbar Soundbar
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Sonos SUB Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
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.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  May 03, 2017  |  3 comments

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.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 03, 2014  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $800 (updated 12/10/14)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
HDMI 2.0 and lossless surround decoding
7.1 channels of amplification
Fairly deep response
Upward-angled rubber feet
Minus
No HDCP 2.2 DRM

THE VERDICT
The Sony HT-ST5 provides up-to-date HDMI 2.0 connectivity along with great-for-a-bar sound, including excellent subwoofer integration.

OK, I admit it. When I signed up for audio-critic duty in the late 1980s, about a decade into my tech-journalism career, I envisioned a glamorous world of gleaming waxed wood-veneered speakers, precocious multitalented receivers, and dressed-to-kill home theaters designed by Theo Kalomirakis. Soundbars weren’t even on the horizon then. Even so, step by step, I have committed myself to the conceptual principles underlying soundbars: audio-for-video, compactness, minimal footprint, maybe a little surround magic, and user-friendliness, that last item being glaringly absent from AV receivers.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Dec 10, 2013  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Well made metal bar
Wireless sub, Bluetooth
Solid performance
Minus
Pricey for a soundbar

THE VERDICT
A high-performing soundbar with HDMI connectivity and lossless-surround support.

Like a pilot fish feasting on a shark’s leftovers, the soundbar has occupied a secondary role since its inception. You might imagine a TV without a soundbar but never a soundbar without a TV. Even so, secondary doesn’t necessarily have to mean second-rate. What if your soundbar were as good at producing audio as your TV is at producing video? What if it were better than your TV?

Rob Sabin  |  Dec 08, 2016  |  0 comments
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.
Brent Butterworth  |  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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 19, 2011  |  0 comments

I have something that I must confess: I’ve got a love/hate thing with soundbars. On the love side, these one- or two-piece, flat-panel-pandering “surround” systems have rescued tens of thousands of innocent suburbanites from the horrors of tinny TV tintinnabulation.

Brent Butterworth  |  Jan 30, 2012  |  0 comments

Improving TV sound is easy: Add a soundbar. But getting the soundbar to work seamlessly with the TV? That’s hard.

Rob Sabin  |  Dec 11, 2014  |  4 comments
Home theater enthusiasts know that when it comes to performance there is no real substitute for an AV receiver connected to discrete speakers spread around the room. But soundbars, those popular standalone TV speaker systems, have been getting better and better with each passing year, and some very respectable options have been turning up in the premium category. Here’s our current list of the best you can buy, with recommendations under $500, from $500 to $1,000, and above $1,000. For the full review (where available), click on the title of each product. —Rob Sabin

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