Eight... spatial soundbars
Product Round-up TV’s have been getting thinner and thinner over the last few years, with some of today’s LED sets almost impossibly slim. Although picture quality has been improving, the tight amount of space available in these slim-line chassis means that they tend to house tiny speakers that produce audio that’s got less bottom end than most size zero models.
Of course, one way to improve sound quality is to twin your TV with a full surround sound system. However, the Wife Acceptance Factor is often low for surround sound systems as they generally involve dotting lots of speakers around your front room as well as trailing cables across the floor. A more agreeable alternative for many will be a soundbar. These long, thin speakers sit beneath your TV and produce beefier stereo audio and sometimes also virtual surround sound. Here we’ve rounded up the best models currently available.
Harman Kardon SB16
Harman Kardon has built up a considerable name for itself when it comes to audio and its latest soundbar does little to tarnish its good reputation. The SB16 consists of a soundbar and a subwoofer that connects wirelessly to the main unit. Be warned, though, the sub is huge, measuring 48x38x38cm. However, as it’s wireless it can quite easily be place out of sight. The rear of the soundbar has stereo phono inputs as well as optical and coax digital inputs.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a full surround sound decoder built-in. Instead the system relies on Harman Kardon’s own 3D sound processing. Nevertheless, the system sounds beautifully balanced, producing powerful, yet precise results with music, excellent clarity for dialogue in movies and enough bass punch to lend action sequences some real kick. That said, at this price, its shame that it lacks HDMI inputs and the surround effects are a long way off what you get from Yamaha’s YSP-2200.
Reg Rating 80%
More Info Harman Kardon
The BA1E certainly isn’t the most stylish system in this test, as its centre speaker looks and feels a bit plasticky. There are no HDMI inputs on the rear. Instead you get two optical digital inputs along with a pair of analogue stereo phono connectors. The soundbar houses four speakers and is twinned with a wireless sub to add a bit of extra impact in the bass department. The remote may be small, but its well designed as it has dedicated buttons not just for the main volume controls, but also for the subwoofer and centre channel volume levels.
Alas, the subwoofer isn’t all that powerful and doesn’t produce the deep sonic thrills you’ll get from most of the other 2.1 system in this test. Also, it can be difficult to get a good balanced sound from the system. Dialogue is, for the most part, clean and distinct, but it doesn’t always sit comfortably with background music and the bass effects from the sub.
Reg Rating 65%
More Info JVC
Next page: OrbitSound T12
I agree 10000%!!!
LG LED and Plasma TV's are the same way ... The sound sucks!
... the flat-tv speakers sound pretty tinny. A pair of decent stereo speakers is a huge improvement. Unfortunately with this comes the inconvenience (& the modern plague of umpteen remotes (*)) of controlling the amp separately as one wants to share them for music too. Most TVs have an RCA output where changing the TV input automatically results the related audio to be connected to that output; works with stereo sound only, of course. A subwoofer adds to the music as well as movie soundtracks as well as games, even the relatively modest/inexpensive AudioPro B1.35 was a revelation for me. That with a basic stereo amp and a pair of old KEF C20s has been very nice for sound quality, yet fits a normal apartment without sweat; so far having to place / route wires to all the speakers (and the price of having decent ones, not to mention the potential headaches from wire formats/codecs/incompatibilties) has easily been enough of an deterrent getting a surround kit.
(*) Universal remotes help, but then the very concept of having to control and coordinate even a separate DVB box is too much for many people; I suppose we technically oriented people sometimes take some of understanding (resulting from sweat/toil/time motivated by a genuine interest in gadgets/technology) granted :)
single speaker unit....misnomer
Calling something like the Yamaha a "single speaker unit" is quite off the mark.
As it contains 16 precisely placed and angled speakers, a microphone (for setup) and some clever electronics it can easily ask for 700 quid, because it sounds as good as other 700 quid systems after they've had some serious setup-love. The funny thing is, the Yamaha only needs a single button push for all that complicated setup.
Of course if you think that surround means buying a Logitech 7.1 system and plonking the speakers wherever is convenient then you've kind of missed what surround (or even stereo) is about. For spatial accuracy the speakers must be placed correctly, with room acoustics and all that crap taken into account. Setting up a simple pair of stereo speakers can easily involve playing around with location for a few days. And I'm NOT an audiophile, this is just to get a good and precise stereo image out of decent-ish speakers used for mixing music (nearfield monitors). Even cheap plasticky speakers can be improved by good placement, but in the end they'll always be crap.
180 quid is where decent speakers start, and toys stop. Unless you just want sound to emerge from an old transistor radio with a single crackly speaker, which is a perfectly valid approach. But if movie surround is the issue, then it's hard to beat the Yamaha soundbar without a lot of effort.
(I used to sell this stuff, older models, and was always blown away by the quality/ease of operation.)
I bought the PS3 sound bar.
I consider it a entry level sound bar with no subwoofer but its great for my gaming and I do not use it with my PS3. I have hooked it up to my pc and it sounds great for the price :-)
its a shame
Our sitting room is a walkthrough lounge/dining room, so we can't get one of those funky soundbars as we're lacking a wall (within 20 ft) to bounce it off on one side :(