Leslie Shapiro

Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 26, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $429

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Most affordable Sonos subwoofer
Compact, attractive
Controlled, restrained bass response
Minus
No Trueplay for Android
Fixed crossover
Only useable in the Sonos ecosystem

THE VERDICT
The Sonos Sub Mini is a great way (albeit, one of only two ways) to add deep bass to a Sonos soundbar or speaker in a small listening room. Considering that Sonos is a closed system, the Sub Mini only works with Sonos products, and Sonos products will only work with Sonos subwoofers. While not exactly a budget item, it's the most affordable subwoofer in the Sonos ecosystem.

What is the number one complaint about almost every soundbar? Let’s say it together: lack of deep bass. Even soundbars as sonically competent as the Sonos Beam and Ray could benefit from more. So here comes the Sonos Sub Mini (MSRP $429), a compact subwoofer that perfectly bonds with all of the non-portable, amplified Sonos products. It should be noted that while the Sub Mini will work with the larger Arc soundbar, Sonos recommends using that configuration only in a smaller room and at low-to-moderate listening levels. Fair enough.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 12, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $279

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fantastic vocal clarity
Small footprint
Forward-firing design for easy placement
Minus
Trueplay tuning app only for iOS
Basic surround processing
Limited connectivity

THE VERDICT
The Ray is an affordable entry into the Sonos ecosystem—one that excels in meeting the most basic requirement for any soundbar: dialogue clarity.

Sonos always seems to be one step ahead of the competition, coming out with new products before people even realize they need them. That playbook hasn't changed with Sonos Ray, a new budget-friendly soundbar small enough to fit on a shelf or under almost any TV. While it's a simple design that lacks a ton of features and input options, its sound quality and price ($279) more than make up for those omissions.

Leslie Shapiro  |  May 25, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Soundstage-widening Dirac Virtuo processing
Adjustable Ambient Sound mode
Smart Noise Cancellation
Solid build quality
Minus
Overly sensitive touch controls
Bass lacking in certain modes

THE VERDICT
Cleer's Alpha Noise Canceling headphones are a good-sounding, airplane-ready offering packed with enough features to make them a top value compared with similar models from Sony and Bose.

Cleer Audio's new Alpha headphones, the company's flagship wireless noise-canceling model, is jam-packed with extras to augment its very good overall sound quality. At $250, the Alpha isn't a budget offering, but its many advanced and customizable features make it worth the price. With everything from app-controlled ambient audio level adjustment to smart noise-cancellation and Dirac Virtuo processing, the Alpha is primed to take on any travel adventure.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Nov 16, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Convincing DSP-based surround
Excellent sound quality
Compact footprint
Minus
Built-in Amazon Alexa
Limited front panel feedback
Requires HEOS app for best results

THE VERDICT
Denon’s soundbar scores with convincing virtual Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, along with excellent performance on music playback.

I rarely have very much good to say about soundbars with DSP-based simulated surround. But the Denon Home Sound Bar 550 ($599) instantly impressed me by delivering convincing immersive sound. Add in the built-in HEOS multiroom platform, which lets you stream from music apps over Wi-Fi, and Denon's Sound Bar turns out to be a winning proposition.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Oct 19, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $280

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Includes wireless subwoofer and surround speakers
Good clarity with movie dialogue
Low price
Minus
Bright LED display
Cable required for surrounds
Music playback can sound thin

THE VERDICT
Monoprice's SB-500 delivers near-wireless true 5.1 surround at a very affordable price, making it one of the best soundbar options in its class.

Value-priced audio products usually come at a, well, price. A user can typically expect to sacrifice sound quality and/or features, but the Monoprice SB-500 soundbar system breaks that mold by offering true Dolby Digital 5.1 with a wireless subwoofer and surrounds, all for $280.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Sep 01, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great value
Impressive dialogue clarity
Voice Assistant input
Minus
Lacks bass impact
Complicated LED display
Narrow soundstage

THE VERDICT
With its strikingly clear dialogue delivery, Vizio's V21d-J8 might just be the best $100 soundbar you can buy.

Whoever complained that you get what you pay for never listened to Vizio's V21d-J8. The company's latest 2.1-channel soundbar is a $100 entry-level model offering strikingly clear sound. Although the V21d-J8 lacks a dedicated subwoofer, it delivers a fair amount of upper-bass impact. For the price, it can't be beat.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Apr 21, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $169 (Shadow Black or Lunar White)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rich, warm, sound
Impressive bass
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and AirPlay 2
IP67 water- and dust-proof
Minus
Lacks treble clarity at high volumes
Pricey for a portable speaker

THE VERDICT
If portability and sound quality are important to you, the Sonos Roam smart speaker is an outstanding choice.

When a company known for inventing the multiroom speaker announces a new fully portable model, we sit up and take notice. The new Sonos Roam ($169) is an ultra-compact, IP67 water- and dust-proof smart speaker that weighs less than one pound and links with your phone or tablet via Bluetooth 5.0. But that's not the whole story. The Roam can also connect with your home Sonos ecosystem, automatically making the switch between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as you come and go.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Mar 10, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $130

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Long battery life
Comfortable fit
Compatible with SonarWorks SoundID app
Minus
Complicated LED indicators
No track controls on touchpads
Sound quality reduction with ANC off

THE VERDICT
Affordable true wire- less earbuds that work with the SonarWorks SoundID app might seem too good to be true, but that’s exactly what you get with the Monolith M-TWE.

Monoprice is an affordable direct-to-consumer brand, and its Monolith product line features sophisticated A/V gear including speakers, amps, surround sound processors, and now the new Monolith M-TWE earbuds. The M-TWE touts aptX Bluetooth audio, active noise cancellation (with cVc Echo Cancelling and Noise Suppression for phone calls), and SonorWorks SoundID, a feature that lets you customize sound to your preference, all at a very budget-friendly $130.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 10, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $749 (Black Matte or White)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive kick from a slim, elegant cabinet
Refined sound
Extensive control via smartphone app
Minus
No remote control
No auto-calibration/room EQ feature

THE VERDICT
Designed to work with or without Bluesound’s Pulse soundbar, the new Pulse Sub+ is a bigger and better take on the company’s original Pulse subwoofer.

What's the one thing lacking in even the best soundbar? If you said "deep, realistic, room-filling, floor-pounding bass," then you are absolutely correct. Bluesound is known for its wireless multiroom audio components and speakers, a family that includes the Pulse soundbar.

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.

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