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Samsung Q990D review: the best Dolby Atmos soundbar, and now perfect for PS5 and Xbox Series X, too
8:00 pm | May 4, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Two minute review

The Samsung HW-Q990D follows in the footsteps of one of the best soundbars in recent years, the Samsung HW-Q990C, but adds gaming features including 4K 120Hz and VRR pass-through, along with a more refined and controlled sound profile. 

Filled to the brim with features, the Q990D offers plenty of settings for those who like to experiment. AI enhancements including Adaptive Sound and SpaceFit allow the Q990D to analyze sources and the viewing environment to create the best possible experience. Alongside these, the new gaming features enable users to get the most from their PS5 or Xbox Series X. And for those with a Samsung TV, there’s also Q-Symphony and a wireless Dolby Atmos option.

Carrying 22 speakers across four units, with an 11.1.4 channel configuration, the Q990D confirms Samsung's continued domination of the soundbar market, especially when it comes to immersive Dolby Atmos sound. But, it’s not just immersive sound where it succeeds, as bass levels are punchy yet refined and trebles and mids can breathe easy over the bass.  The Q990D also serves as an excellent music streaming option whether over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, with its wide soundstage giving every aspect of a song the space it needs.

Although on the bulkier side, the Q990D feels every bit its premium price thanks to its solid build quality, and it has a sleek, modern look. The main soundbar’s size may be an issue for some and its front LED display is not the most user-friendly, but for many, it will beat the mess of cables you get with a wired home theater setup.

With a variety of control options including a supplied remote and the Samsung SmartThings app, the Q990D is easy to use and tailor settings to how you like. Initial setup is a breeze, making it simple to get great sound. 

The Q990D may be a premium soundbar, and there are cheaper options such as last year’s Samsung Q990C and this year’s Samsung HW-Q930D, but neither of those carries the full range of features or the performance found in the Q990D. Although pricey, it delivers the best Dolby Atmos soundbar experience you can get today. 

Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar, subwoofer and rear speakers

The Samsung HW-Q990D comprises a soundbar, subwoofer and two surrounds, with 11.1.4 channels across 22 speakers. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Price & release date

  • Release date - March 2024 
  • Price - $1,799 / £1,699 / AU$1,995 

The Samsung HW-Q990D is Samsung’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2024. Released at $1,799 / £1,699 / AU$1,995, the Q990D is a premium soundbar package.

For context, that’s roughly $400 more than the JBL Bar 1300X, an older soundbar that includes wireless rear speakers and a powerful subwoofer, but is roughly $500 more than the most widely available Sonos home theater package, which features the Sonos Arc, Sonos Sub (Gen 3) and a pair of Sonos Era 100s as rears.

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Specs

Samsung HW-Q990D in front of the Samsung S95D

The Samsung HW-Q990D (connected to the Samsung S95D TV) now has gaming features including 120Hz and VRR. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Features

  • 11.1.4 speaker channels 
  • HDMI 2.1 with 4K 120Hz support  
  • Wireless Dolby Atmos  

The Samsung Q990D has many of  the same features as its impressive predecessor, the Samsung HW-Q990C, including 11.1.4 speaker channels and 22 speakers spread across the four units (soundbar, subwoofer and two rear speakers).

One new feature is HDMI 2.1 ports for gaming, with both HDMI inputs supporting 4K120Hz and VRR. Both HDMI ports also pass through HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats.

Supported sound formats include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Dolby 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. 

The Q990D is stacked with sound-enhancing features including Adaptive Sound, which analyzes what you’re watching and intelligently adjusts audio levels; SpaceFit Sound Pro, which analyzes your environment and tunes the Q990D’s audio output for the space; and Game Mode Pro, which tailors directional sound to optimal levels when gaming.

Wi-Fi streaming on the Q990D supports hi-res audio formats including ALAC, FLAC and WAV and also Dolby Atmos music tracks found on streaming services such as Apple Music and Tidal. Speaking of streaming, there is also Spotify and Tidal Connect support. 

There are some Samsung-exclusive enhancements alongside these features (meaning they only work with compatible Samsung TVs). The first is Q-Symphony, where the Q990D works with the speakers of a Samsung TV to boost sound even further. The next is wireless Dolby Atmos, where a Samsung TV can stream Dolby Atmos soundtracks - albeit a compressed version - to the Q990D.

Last is Tap Sound, where you tap your Samsung smartphone on the Q990D and it starts playing the music you’re streaming. 

Control options include a hardware remote control and the Samsung SmartThings app. With the app, you can make EQ adjustments, activate voice and bass enhancement, and select Night Mode, which adjusts the sound to a suitable level for late-night viewing or listening. The app also isn’t just for the Q990D, but can control any compatible Samsung product.

  • Features score: 5 / 5

Samsung HW-Q990D main bar

The Samsung HW-Q990D main soundbar  (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Performance

  • Exceptional immersive sound
  • Powerful, yet detailed audio 
  • Impressive gaming performance 

For years, Samsung’s flagship soundbars have continually impressed, serving as a pinnacle of what a soundbar-based home theater audio system is capable of, and the Q990D continues this trend. 

With 22 speakers across the four units, including four height channels, in an 11.1.4 channel configuration, the Q990D creates an outstanding immersive experience, with expert reproduction of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks and real surround sound.

Watching Star Wars: A New Hope on Disney Plus, the final attack and ensuing space battle involving the Death Star was every bit as cinematic as it should be. As X-Wings and Tie Fighters shot across the screen from every angle, the direction of the soaring engines glided across the speakers impeccably and John Williams’ iconic score in the rear speakers kept the tension high without drowning out other effects. Dialogue was crisp and clear, cutting through the densely packed mix of engines, lasers and music. Watching this, I truly felt like I was in the cockpit, as the iconic screech of the Tie Fighter passed over my head. 

Although immersive sound is where the Q990D succeeded the most,  bass levels from the weighty subwoofer also impressed. The rumble of the Batmobile’s engine in The Batman during the Penguin car chase sounded meaty with plenty of low-end punch. On previous Q990 generations, the bass could get carried away on occasion, but the Q990D’s bass feels more nuanced and controlled - dynamic but without overwhelming the rest of the mix.

Even when watching movies with a stereo soundtrack such as The Amazing Spider-Man on DVD, the Q990D boosted the sound through upmixing and gave more oomph to every fight sequence and web swing through NYC. 

Other parts of the audio mix are well-balanced on the Q990D. High notes come across without being too shrill whilst mids sit comfortably where they should in the mix, with everything combining to create a full, detailed sound. 

Although it’s not as impressive with music as with movies, the Q990D is still a triumph. When I streamed tracks from Tidal and Spotify in uncompressed hi-res and compressed formats respectively, the Q990D did a good job of balancing instruments and handled every genre well. Listening to Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World, the bass and drums sounded punchy, and the trebles of the synths and guitars sliced through evenly.

Listening to Dolby Atmos music tracks via Tidal, the Q990D again showed its prowess. Thelonius Monk’s Monk’s Dream (Take 8) spread out across the Q990D’s speakers, with every instrument given equal room to breathe - from the twinkling piano to the bright sax and the warm bass notes. 

Sometimes the mix would sound forced on these Dolby Atmos tracks, with some instruments pushing a little too hard. But the Q990D generally continued to shine and even tracks streamed over lower quality Bluetooth sounded good. 

The Q990D was connected to a Samsung S95D TV during my testing, with Samsung-centric features such as Q Symphony available. And while this did provide an extra layer to the sound, adding a greater sense of space and power, the Q990D gave a great cinematic experience without it. 

As for gaming performance, when playing Battlefield V with an Xbox Series X, gaming was smooth, as switching between targets felt easy and the action suitably pacy. 

The most surprising element of the Q990D’s gaming performance was the low 9.2ms input lag time, meaning its HDMI pass-through didn’t add any latency. For those needing 4K 120Hz, VRR and low input lag for their console, the Q990D can provide. 

  • Performance score: 5 / 5

Samsung HW-Q990D front display

The Samsung HW-Q990D's front display isn't the easiest to read... (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Design

  • Solid, premium design 
  • Front display isn’t easiest to read
  • Slightly wider than a 55-inch TV  

The Q990D comprises four units: a soundbar, subwoofer and two rear speakers. The subwoofer is sizable and hefty, but its wireless connection allows it to be placed anywhere in the room (as long as there’s a mains socket nearby to plug in for power). The rear speakers, meanwhile, have a compact yet sleek design. 

The soundbar itself measures 1309.0 x 595.0 x 277.0 mm, making it slightly longer than a 55-inch TV (which roughly measures 1200mm). At 595mm, it isn’t the tallest soundbar, but could still cut off the bottom of a lot of TVs. The soundbar is also weighty, although that demonstrates its premium quality. 

The soundbar and rear speakers sport a gray/navy matte finish that gives them a minimalist, modern appearance. A mesh grille on the soundbar’s front makes it quite difficult to see what input you’re using and other information provided on the front panel LED display, however.

  • Design score: 4 / 5

Samsung HW-Q990D supplied remote

The Samsung HW-Q990D can be controlled with the above supplied remote, the Samsung SmartThings app or your TV remote via HDMI-CEC. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Setup & usability

  • HDMI eARC connection to TV
  • Wireless connection between units  
  • Remote or SmartThings app for control  

With four separate, wireless units, setting up the Q990D seems like it would be daunting, but the Q990D makes setup almost effortless. Once all units are plugged in and the soundbar is connected to the TV by HDMI eARC, the subwoofer and rear speakers connect by simply pressing a button on the back and you’re ready to go.

You can either use the supplied remote or the Samsung SmartThings app for control, with adjustments for boosting voice, bass and more. The Q990D can also be controlled via the TV remote using HDMI-CEC. Finally, there are control buttons and an LED display on top of the soundbar. 

For those looking to optimize audio based on their room’s layout, there is also the SpaceFit Pro calibration system, which can be performed during initial setup or on the fly using the SmartThings app. 

  • Setup & usability score: 4.5 / 5

Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar

The Samsung HW-Q990D is pricey, but you get an entire Atmos experience across four units. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Value

  • Premium price 
  • Best home theater soundbar option
  • Samsung Q990C still available   

Priced at $1,799 / £1,699 / AU$1,995, the Q990D is a premium soundbar. And although its features and excellent all-around performance justify the price, it is no doubt going to push some people’s budgets.

The Samsung HW-Q990C, the Q990D’s predecessor, is still available and sells at a reduced price that’s only going to fall further - I’ve seen it selling for roughly $400 / £600 cheaper than the Q990D. It does miss out on the Q990D’s gaming features, but if they’re not relevant to you, the Q990C is fine. Another option is the Samsung HW-Q930D, the step-down model from the Q990D which comes with fewer channels and features. 

Still, in terms of features and performance, the Q990D offers a Dolby Atmos home theater experience no other soundbar can offer. To beat it, you’d need to look at full AV setups that don’t allow for the same tidy installation or ease of use.

  • Value score: 4 / 5

Should I buy the Samsung HW-Q990D?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Samsung HW-Q990D review: Also consider

How I tested the Samsung HW-Q990D

Samsung HW-Q990D in front of TV

(Image credit: Future)
  • Connected to the Samsung S95D 
  • Tested with variety of sources 
  • Both surround sound and stereo sound tested

To test the Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar, I connected it to the Samsung S95D - the flagship 2024 OLED TV from Samsung. The majority of testing was done with Q-Symphony and any other Samsung-centric features turned off to see how the Q990D would fare if connected to sets from other brands. 

After some run-in time, I selected reference scenes from both streaming and 4K Blu-ray to test spatial sound, mainly Dolby Atmos. I then used lower-resolution sources such as DVD to test the Q990D on its handling of non-surround movie audio. I analyzed the Q990D's spatial sound but also bass, trebles, mids, and dialogue clarity. 

After this, I streamed music through both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to test the Q990D's music playback quality. I played hi-res audio and Atmos music tracks from Tidal and lossy quality tracks via Bluetooth from Spotify. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Samsung HW-Q600C review: a soundbar and sub combo with underwhelming Dolby Atmos
6:00 pm | January 21, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: | Comments: Off

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Two-minute review

The Samsung HW-Q600C is a usefully compact, usefully specified soundbar/subwoofer system, and is ideal for use with smaller (think under 55-inch) TVs in less-than-cavernous rooms. Because it’s a Samsung product, it’s properly built from decent materials, and because it’s a Samsung product it’s simplicity itself to set up and operate (even though the control options are somewhat limited).

Because it’s a Samsung product it pretends there’s no such thing as Dolby Vision HDR, too – but that’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker for anyone who doesn’t want to use its 4K HDMI passthrough functionality.

In many ways it’s an admirable performer where movie soundtracks are concerned. Certainly the integration between soundbar and subwoofer is smooth, and there’s detail aplenty available throughout the frequency range. The Samsung grips and steers effect well, and organises a coherent and convincing soundstage like some of the best soundbars

It’s far from the last word in sonic height, though, and is unlikely to blow you away with the spatial audio aspect of its reproduction. Slightly less critically, it’s a less-than-inspiring listen if you decide to use it as a music system, too. Rhythmic expression, in particular, is a bit lumpy. 

If you can live with its mild-but-undeniable shortcomings, though, the Samsung HW-Q600C is a solid option for those with smaller TVs in smaller rooms and who are on a smaller budget. 

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Price and release date

A close up of the Samsung logo on the Samsung HW-Q600C

Branding on the soundbar is minimal.  (Image credit: Future)
  • September 2023
  • $599 / £549 / AU$799

The Samsung HW-Q600C launched in September of 2023. In the United States, it sells for a maximum of $599, in the United Kingdom, it’s no more than £549, while in Australia it costs AU$799, tops. Anyone with half an idea of how to operate a search engine should be able to better those prices without too much effort.

Even if you end up paying top whack, though, there’s plenty of product here for your money. But you should be aware that a similar spend gets you the similarly specified Sony HT-G700, the subwoofer-less Bose Smart Soundbar 600 or the Philips B8905, though – so the Samsung is not what you’d automatically call a ‘no-brainer’...

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Features

A living room with the Samsung HW-Q600C set up

The Samsung HW-Q600C is a nice match, size-wise, for a 48in Philips OLED TV.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Nine speaker drivers in the soundbar
  • Single 165mm driver in the subwoofer 
  • 360 watts of power

Samsung isn’t exactly making with the specifics, but it’s prepared to divulge the number, if not the size or composition, of the drivers in the soundbar. There are three on either side of the front face, dealing with left- and right-channel information. Another sits in the centre, where it takes care of – hey! – the centre-channel stuff. Two more fire upwards from the top of the soundbar via Samsung’s ‘Acoustic Beam’  technology, and are charged with creating the ‘height’ aspect of Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X movie soundtracks. The subwoofer, meanwhile, has a single forward-facing 165mm bass driver doing the low-frequency business. Amplification is of the Class D variety, and there’s a total of 360 watts shared out between the drivers.

As far as connectivity is concerned, it’s easiest to deal with the subwoofer first. It connects wirelessly to the soundbar, so should really only need to be plugged into the mains using the figure-of-eight socket on the rear (below the gaping bass reflex port). There’s also a little button to initiate pairing in the unlikely event it doesn’t happen automatically.

There are a couple of recesses at the rear of the soundbar. One has an input for mains power and a USB slot that’s purely for servicing. The other features a digital optical input and a couple of HDMI sockets, one of which is eARC-enabled. That means 4K passthrough (with HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision HDR) is available. For wireless connections, the HW-Q600C has Bluetooth 5.0, with SBC and AAC codec compatibility.

There are four sound modes available: ‘standard’, ‘surround’, ‘game pro’ and ‘adaptive’. Those first three are pretty obvious – ‘adaptive’ attempts to assess the content you’re watching in real time and adjust the soundbar’s output to suit. The HW-Q600C is also compatible with Samsung’s ‘Q Symphony’ technology, so if it’s paired with a suitable Samsung television then the TV’s speakers can complement the soundbar’s output rather than be overridden by it.    

Features score: 5/5 

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Sound quality

A close up of the controls on the Samsung HW-Q600C

There are a few physical controls on top of the soundbar.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Open, robust and quite detailed sound
  • Well-supervised wallop from the subwoofer
  • Limited 'height' aspect to performance

Given an opportunity to show what it can do by playing a Dolby Atmos-boosted 4K UHD Blu-ray disc of Jordan Peele’s Nope, the Samsung HW-Q600C is all business. There’s no teasing out different aspects of its performance over an extended listen – the Samsung is unequivocal, and will give you everything it’s got right from the off.

‘Everything’ in this instance turns out to be an impressively neutral, naturalistic tonal balance and a very decent amount of width to its presentation. Straight from the box, the subwoofer is altogether too confident – but it’s a matter of moments with the remote control handset to bring it under control. Once that’s done, the balance from the top of the frequency range to the bottom is smooth and convincing. 

The Samsung is a spacious, confident listen that can organise a soundstage properly. The nature of this movie soundtrack means there’s plenty of emphasis given to spaces and silences as well as to actual sounds, and the left-to-right and front-to-back layout here is convincing. Effects move through these two planes with real positivity and, despite being outnumbered when it comes to the driver-count, the centre channel does good work in projecting even whispered dialogue to the front of the stage where it’s direct and easy to follow. 

Once suitably balanced, the subwoofer proves quite an adept little performer too. It hits hard, sure enough, but its output is properly controlled and doesn’t just mindlessly thump along like less capable alternatives tend to. The attack of bass sounds is straight-edged and certain, and there’s plenty of detail and texture to go along with the out-and-out wallop. 

In fact, detail levels are gratifyingly high throughout the frequency range. It seems likely that some of the drivers in the soundbar are tweeters, as high frequency response is crisp and bright, and in the midrange there’s plenty of character and expressiveness to voices.

What the HW-Q600C can’t do with any great positivity is generate meaningful height to the presentation. A lot of Nope concerns unknown things from above, but when described by the Samsung system ‘above’ becomes a very relative term. Even though I’m testing in a space with unremarkable ceiling height, the HW-Q600C struggles to position sound any higher than the top bezel of the 48in Philips OLED TV it’s accompanying, and consequently the overall presentation isn’t quite as immersive as you might be hoping.

Switch to a TIDAL-derived digital audio file of Cool About It by boygenius streamed via Bluetooth and the HW-Q600C loses just a little of its composure. The light and shade that’s apparent from the subwoofer when dealing with movies (even those parts of the soundtrack that include music) goes astray somewhat, and its inputs become a little hazy and monotonal. Rhythmic expression suffers as a result, and the upshot is that it’s hard to recommend the Samsung as a true all-rounder of an audio system.    

Sound quality score: 4/5 

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Design

The remote of the Samsung HW-Q600C

The remote control covers every eventuality.  (Image credit: Future)
  • 56 x 1030 x 105mm (soundbar); 343 x 184 x 295mm (subwoofer) [HxWxD]
  • 11.7kg (soundbar plus subwoofer)
  • The perfect size to site beneath a 48-inch TV

Out where the mainstream shop is not the place to be taking risks where design is concerned - and Samsung is far too sensible and pragmatic a company to take any chances. So both the soundbar and the subwoofer that constitute the HW-Q600C are discreet (if you enjoy the way they look) or utterly unremarkable (if you don’t).

At 56 x 1030 x 105mm (HxWxD), the soundbar portion is almost exactly the same width as a standard AV rack and will fit nicely beneath a 48in - and it won’t start looking a bit lost until you try to pair it with something bigger than 65in. As the price strongly suggests, it’s made almost entirely from plastic - but it’s the sturdy, almost tactile kind of plastic I’m talking about, and as such is entirely fit for purpose. The front and top panels of the soundbar are perforated to allow the speaker drivers behind to do their thing, while the corners are racily angled to hint at side-firing drivers – alas, there are no side-firing drivers on board.

The subwoofer, meanwhile, is an equally manageable 343 x 184 x 295mm (HxWxD) – and the unassuming nature of its boxy design is enhanced by the fact that it communicates wirelessly with the subwoofer and so can be positioned anywhere you like (as long as it’s within reach of mains power). It’s built of vinyl-wrapped MDF with some acoustic cloth covering the forward facing driver, which is pretty much par for the course.

Uninspired (or, to be fair, safety-first) design does not, of course, mean that either element of this system is anything other than properly built and finished. This is Samsung we’re talking about, after all… 

Design score: 4.5/5 

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Setup and usability

The back of the Samsung HW-Q600C subwoofer

The subwoofer features a rear-firing bass reflex port.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Remote control handset 
  • Extremely brief on-bar display
  • Plug-and-play to all intents and purposes

There’s really not a great deal to setting up the HW-Q600C. Both the soundbar and the subwoofer need connecting to mains power – from there, they should pair automatically but there’s a little ‘pair’ button on the subwoofer just in case that doesn’t happen. After that, it’s simply a question of making the relevant connection from the TV to the soundbar – most likely this will be done using the television’s HDMI eARC output, but you’ve the option of digital optical or the HDMI passthrough too if that’s more appropriate.

Usability, too, is of the ‘child’s play’ variety. The Samsung is supplied with a small, unremarkable but comprehensive remote control handset which puts you in charge of every function, from ‘power on/off’ via ‘initiate Bluetooth pairing’ to adjusting the output of each individual channel (including the subwoofer). Confirmation of exactly what’s what is available from a little dot-matrix display at the front/right edge of the soundbar - if you squint, and if you’re able to read the quick-scrolling information as it passes through its little window. There’s also access to volume control, power on/off and input selection via some physical controls on the top of the soundbar. 

If you’re hoping for app-control, though, you’re out of luck. It’s possible to use Alexa with the HW-Q600C – but it involves quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with Samsung’s SmartThings app and the Alexa app. The determined user with an Alexa smart speaker can enjoy a little voice-control, though.     

Setup and usability score: 4/5

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Value

A close up of the Samsung logo on the Samsung HW-Q600C

(Image credit: Future)
  • Decent specification 
  • Properly made and finished
  • Not quite a Atmos-y as it reckons it is

There’s plenty to like about the Samsung HW-Q600C, and in many ways it represents very decent value indeed. As is usual with Samsung products, build quality and the standard of finish are well up to par. Specification, too, is quite comprehensive at the price. The lack of wider control options will probably rankle with a few customers, but the bigger problem - and what makes this Samsung slightly less compelling value than it otherwise would be - is the relative lack of action where the ‘height’ element of a Dolby Atmos (or DTS:X) soundtrack ought to be.

Should I buy the Samsung HW-Q600C?

The Samsung HW-Q600C in front of a TV

A right-channel driver is just about visible beneath the perforations.  (Image credit: Future)

Buy them if...

Don’t buy it if...

Samsung HW-Q600C review: Also consider

How I tested the Samsung HW-Q600C

Samsung HW-Q600C

Almost exactly the same width as a standard AV rack.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for over a week 
  • Used in conjunction with a Philips OLED TV
  • Multiple styles of content

I positioned the soundbar element of the HW-Q600C in front of my 48in Philips OLED TV, and positioned the subwoofer next to the system rack the TV stands on. The sub and soundbar connect wirelessly, of course, and the soundbar was connected to the TV’s HDMI eARC socket. And there it stayed, for well over a week. 

During the course of testing I listened to a variety of content, from bog-standard broadcast TV to Dolby Atmos soundtracks via a Panasonic UHD 4K Blu-ray player. I streamed content from Amazon Prime and Netflix, and even gave YouTube a shot (although the majority of YouTube content is compressed to the point of non-existence).  

Samsung HW-Q700C review: a great cheaper Dolby Atmos soundbar beaten only by Samsung itself
12:30 am | January 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Samsung HW-Q700C: Two-minute review

In a bid to become one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars to have graced our testing process, the Samsung HW-Q700C presents itself as a similar TV-boosting soundbar solution as the HW-Q800C. Essentially, it too is a mid-tier offering capable of pumping out Dolby Atmos from a single bar and subwoofer combination. Like its slightly bigger brother, there are no rear speakers, nor do you get the truly insane levels of power exhibited by the top-of-the-range HW-Q990C. Differentiating it from the 800C, the Q700C on test here adopts a 3.1.2-channel output – compared to the 5.1.2 layout of the 800 – making it a good option for those wanting to boost the sound coming from their TV in a smaller-sized room. And, as with all Samsung soundbars, you can take advantage of extra features if you own a compatible Samsung TV such as Q Symphony, which is explained in greater detail further down. 

At $549.99 / £599 / AU$899 – although you can regularly find it for less in all territories – it’s what could be deemed affordable, and while some may wish they had the extra couple of channels found on the 800C, the 700C delivers a loud, dynamic and impressive performance – particularly where vocals are concerned. If you want those extra channels and a more authentic Dolby Atmos surround sound experience at a later date, you could wirelessly connect the SWA-9500S speakers for $299 / £249 / AU$349.

The Samsung HW-Q700C supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X by way of two up-firing drivers to deliver the all-important height effects, and it will happily double up as a music system, accepting a range of music files including high-resolution FLAC. In practice, it is a formidable bit of kit, and certainly passes the test when it comes to the task of boosting your TV’s sound and bringing a cinema-like experience into your main room. Bass levels are insanely good considering the size of the 'bar and sub, Dolby Atmos height effects are convincing – as much as they can be given the speaker configuration – and as already alluded to, vocals  are crystal clear. 

However, considering you don’t need to spend a lot more money to pick up the HW-Q800C, it does beg the question who would take the 700 instead. This review intends to answer that one for you. 

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Price & Availaibility

  • $549.99 / £599 / AU$899
  • Released April 2023

The Samsung HW-Q700C received a global launch in April 2023. In the UK and Australia, it appears to have maintained its original launch price of £599 and AU$899, whereas in the US, it’s undergone a price cut from $699.99, down to $549.99, at the time of writing. 

However, this is only the MSRP, and you’ll likely find it’s been discounted a fair amount at many third-party retailers, making it seemingly better value for money. But you’re also going to find the slightly more powerful Q800C has been discounted too, and so if you can afford the extra spend, that would ultimately be our recommendation. 

This is because the Q800C gives you a couple of extra speaker drivers for a bigger, wider sound. An alternative would be to use the money saved by buying the Q700C and spending it on the optional rear speakers for a more authentic 5.1.2 surround sound setup. 

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Specs

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Features

  • 3.1.2 channels
  • 4K HDR HDMI passthrough
  • Exclusive features for Samsung TV owners

The Samsung HW-Q700C’s 3.1.2 channel arrangement comprises a center, two wide-range tweeters, two dedicated upward firing drivers and a wireless 6.5-inch subwoofer, delivering a total power output of 320 watts. This is another area where the Q700C differs from its higher-specced siblings. The Q800C and Q990C are paired with an 8-inch subwoofer, which is capable of making your room shake even more with low frequencies. A larger sub is going to be useful in larger rooms and consequently, could be overkill if your living room, bedroom, media room, whatever it may be, is on the smaller side. The 6.5-inch sub included with the 700C is still plenty capable, it must be said, and in my time using it I didn’t feel short changed.

If you’re in ownership of a compatible Samsung TV, you can effectively increase the channel count by way of integrating the TV’s speakers into the equation via Q Symphony. The aim is to create a bigger, more detailed soundstage, since you’ll be using all available speakers. If you are able to connect to a compatible Samsung TV – 2021 - 2023 QLED Q70 TVs and above – then you can take advantage of SpaceFit Sound room calibration. This uses the microphone in the TV to automatically calibrate the sound without any user intervention. SpaceFit Sound Pro, which doesn't require a Samsung TV to be connected, is available on the Q800C soundbar and the flagship Q990C.

The vast majority of audio formats are supported, including the aforementioned Dolby Atmos, alongside DTS:X, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby True HD. As for music, there’s across the board support for AAC, WAV, FLAC, MP3 and ALAC. Put simply, the Samsung HW-Q700C will be able to playback virtually anything you wish to throw at it. 

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar sitting beneath an LG G3 OLED TV showing Barry Can't Swim music stream via Apple Music

(Image credit: Future)

And since there’s Wi-Fi onboard, you can also play music via Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2 and Tidal Connect. Amazon Alexa is also supported, although it’s not completely built in. You’ll need a separate Alexa device, such as an Echo, through which you can bark commands, such as asking the soundbar to skip a music track or adjust the volume.

Further proving the fact that it’s the physical features that separate the Q700C from other Q-series soundbars, Samsung has given its mid-range soundbar its full suite of audio technologies. These include Adaptive Sound 2.0, which claims to intelligently analyze the content you’re watching, whether it be sports, a movie or the news, and adjust the audio output accordingly.

There’s a separate audio mode for gamers, in the form of Game Made Pro, which aims to more accurately place various sounds, such as another player coming from behind you. Do note that the Samsung HW-Q700C doesn’t support 4K 120Hz pass through. It will support 4K pass through, but if you want to make the absolute most of your next-gen console, you’ll need to plug the console directly into your TV and send audio to the soundbar via eARC.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Audio Performance

  • Surprisingly deep bass from the wireless subwoofer
  • Vocal clarity a particular highlight
  • Impressive, if not totally authentic, Dolby Atmos effect

The Samsung HW-Q700C took the place of the more powerful and much more expensive JBL Bar 1300 in my living room. The JBL does have genuine rear speakers, therefore capable of delivering a more authentic Dolby Atmos experience, so I was keen to hear how Samsung’s single-bar solution would fare. Truth be told, I was impressed. 

To get things started, I fired up a stream of Lightyear on Disney Plus, and the opening scene alone proved the HW-Q700C could deliver power that belies its size. Buzz’s rocket ship blasted through space with ferocity, and the subwoofer provided plenty of low end rumble to highlight just how powerful the ship’s jet propulsion was. So much low end rumble in fact, that I felt compelled to turn the volume down a few notches, not just so as to not annoy my housemate, but the neighbors in the units above and below me. 

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar sitting beneath an LG G3 OLED TV, playing Avengers Endgame

(Image credit: Future)

The bar itself also impressed. What was immediately apparent – positively for Samsung and negatively for JBL – was how much clearer dialogue was. No matter the movie or TV show, I never once felt the need to make a beeline for the subtitles menu, as voices came through with impressive clarity. I toggled the voice enhance feature on and off too, to hear if it made dialogue any clearer and sure enough, it did. I did find the rest of the audio presentation took a slight backseat when this feature was turned on however, so for the most part I had it turned off.

As for Dolby Atmos effects, it’s a mixed bag. Yes, the Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar did indeed fill my room with sound that evidently had greater height, and during Avengers: Endgame in the main, epic battle at the end, sounds of various spaceships and otherworldly beasts flying in from the sides of the screen did sound as they had come from my side or behind me. But when compared to a soundbar with dedicated rear speakers, or a fully-fledged home cinema speaker system, there is a noticeable difference.

But, this should pretty much be expected. The HW-Q700C doesn’t have physical rear speakers and so placing the responsibility of enveloping a room with sound on the 2 upward firing drivers is going to be a big ask. I would say there is a slight sensation of a half-dome of sound, because you’re definitely getting a larger soundfield than you’d get from a front-firing-only soundbar, but not quite a full dome over your head.

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar end section showing Samsung logo

(Image credit: Future)

This is realistically only a minor setback as on the whole, I was seriously impressed with the audio performance of the Q700C. It had no issues filling the room with sound, and I had the volume relatively low during the entirety of the review period. I did turn things up on a couple of occasions to see what it was truly capable of, and once again I was taken aback by the sheer power of the unassuming bar and sub package.

Musically, it’s a good performer too, although I found it wasn’t without its issues. First and foremost, I wasn’t able to stream music from my iPhone or Macbook via Apple AirPlay. AirPlay recognised the soundbar as a device, it just wasn’t able to connect. I removed the Q700C from the SmartThings app (and subsequently my wi-fi network) and added it back in to try and remedy the problem, but to no avail.

So, to play music, I streamed tracks from Apple Music via a connected Apple TV. I first loaded up the rather funky, foot-tapping first album from Barry Can’t Swim, which streams in Dolby Atmos. The same effortless room-filling sound experienced with movies carries over here, and also allows the Q700C to prove its rhythmic prowess. I also noticed the soundbar and sub integrated well with each other, ensuring cohesive playback that never once sounded muddled.

Step down to ‘regular’ music playback for songs not available in Dolby Atmos or Spatial Audio and naturally, that height is removed. The Q700C still handles music well mind you, and I’d say it’s pretty much on par with its Q800C sibling when you activate Adaptive Sound Mode. This essentially remixes stereo into multi-channel, and the effect in this instance is as it is with the Q800C. That being, songs are given extra room without sacrificing too much in the way of detail.

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar

(Image credit: Future)
  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Design

  • Gray plastic finish looks more premium than it feels
  • Subwoofer isn't the most attractive thing ever
  • Unobtrusive size will suit most TVs

The Samsung HW-Q700C follows a very similar design language to Samsung’s other Q-series soundbars. Namely, a main bar with angled edges, a gray metallic plastic finish complete with front grille and unobtrusive dimensions that make it easy to nestle in front of and underneath a TV. It’s the same width and depth as the Q800C, yet ever so slightly shorter in height, which only adds to its unobtrusive nature. 

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar top panel

(Image credit: Future)

It’s the perfect width for TVs 55-inches in size and greater – I was testing with it placed beneath a 65-inch LG OLED G3 – and since the top panel is covered by a perforated grille, you needn’t worry about any reflections from the screen above it, which is a good thing. There’s also a small LCD display on the right side of the bar (when you’re looking at it) that will display the source – eARC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc – and it will flash up when it’s playing a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which provides peace of mind for the user.

On the underside of the soundbar are two recessed areas. One is solely for the power cable, while the other is where you’ll plug your HDMI cables and/or digital optical cable. One thing I have noticed is that this layout is best suited to Samsung’s own TVs, as the main bulk of connections can be found on the left of a Samsung TV (when viewed from the back) and so connecting an HDMI cable from this side of the screen to the left side of the soundbar (also when viewed from the rear) will be simple. On my LG TV, however, the HDMI inputs are on the opposite side, meaning I had to really stretch the cables as far as they’d go.

This may not be a huge deal breaker for many, but is something you might not initially consider when buying a soundbar.

The subwoofer I’m less enthusiastic about. It’s rather dinky and so won’t exactly be an eyesore in your room, but I’m not all that keen on the cloth cover on the front. In comparison to the main bar, I feel it makes it look dated. I would’ve been able to tolerate the cloth grille if it were removable, but alas, no such luck.

Samsung HW-Q700C subwoofer

(Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 4/5

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Setup & Usability

  • Controlled via app or remote
  • A few issues streaming via AirPlay

I definitely expected the setup of the Samsung HW-Q700C to go off without a hitch, but I did run into a few teething problems. Firstly, the aforementioned issue of input placement meant I had to move a few things around – as a sidenote, my usual JBL Bar 1300 has its inputs in the center of the bar, which I find to be far more logical. 

I also, naively, didn’t realise there was just a single HDMI input alongside the HDMI eARC port. So, again, I had to then plug devices into my TV to have the audio sent back down to the soundbar. Once this was all done, I expected them all to work harmoniously, in the sense of, when I turned my Apple TV on, the TV and soundbar should have come on at the same time. Only this didn’t happen… initially at least. I came home one day, about a week after having it all plugged in, to find that this was all now working as it should, without any intervention from myself. Perhaps my housemate is a secret technological guru. 

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar sitting beneath LG G3 OLED TV

(Image credit: Future)

I was also directed to Samsung’s SmartThings app, which mimics the soundbar’s remote control – and is also where you can group other SmartThings compatible devices you may have in your home. The initial setup of this was relatively plain sailing. It detected the Q700C was in my room, and I was able to enter my Wi-Fi password and get it on my network in next to no time.

But a few days later I went to open the app to adjust some settings, and it either kept showing me the spinning loading icon while it tried to establish a connection with the soundbar again, or it didn’t connect at all. The app would tell me the soundbar was off, when I was literally sitting in front of it and it was playing a movie.

I occasionally encountered similar issues with my JBL soundbar, in that it would regularly lose its network connection, before reconnecting again automatically. During any downtime, I’m unable to use that bar’s companion app to make any changes, either. I’m willing to accept that I just have bad luck.

But more recently when I’ve used the Q700C, I’ve had no issues at all. I did find adjusting the volume using my Apple TV remote did suffer from slight input lag, but using the included Samsung remote worked perfectly.

Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar

(Image credit: Future)
  • Setup & usability score: 4/5

Samsung HW-Q700C Review: Value

  • The punchier Q800C doesn't cost much more
  • Optional rear speakers could be beneficial, but cost extra

The Samsung HW-Q700C is an interesting proposition. On the one hand it’s a relatively inexpensive soundbar (it’s available for much less than its MSRP in most territories) that certainly ticks the box of “boost TV sound”. But the ever-so-slightly better-specced 800C, which we deemed to be the best mid-range soundbar released in 2023, is hanging over it like a fantastic-sounding bad smell. And you don’t need to spend an awful lot more money at some retailers to take ownership of the more powerful sibling. 

So, which should you get? 

In my opinion, if you only have space for a single soundbar and subwoofer combo – and can stretch your budget – I would opt for the Samsung HW-Q800C for its extra couple of drivers. But if your room layout allows for it, I would argue the HW-Q700C plus the optional rear surround speaker units would create a far more convincing Dolby Atmos soundfield in your room. 

If your budget is constrained, however, but still want to make it go as far as possible, then the Samsung HW-Q700C as a standalone unit is still an utter joy to listen to. 

  • Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the Samsung HW-Q700C?

Buy it if...

You want an affordable route to great home cinema

The Q700C delivers a performance that belies its size and spec sheet, and it doesn't cost a whole lotta money.

Don't buy it if...

Samsung HW-Q700C review: Also consider

How I tested the Samsung HW-Q700C

  • Tested over two weeks
  • Tested with movie and TV content streamed from Apple TV and built-in TV apps
  • Music streamed via Bluetooth and from Apple TV

The Samsung HW-Q700C soundbar sat beneath a 65-inch LG G3 OLED TV on an entertainment unit, which is placed along a wall in a central position, as opposed to being in a corner. This allows the wide-angle tweeters to have space to deliver their sound. I left the subwoofer placed alongside the same wall, to the right of the soundbar when viewed from the front. I wasn't able to test the Q700C with the optional rear speakers. 

The majority of Dolby Atmos and 5.1 content came from movies and TV shows streamed on Netflix and Disney Plus via an Apple TV 4K. In particular Lightyear, Avengers: End Game and Money Heist.

For music playback, I mainly streamed tracks from Apple Music via the same Apple TV 4K. I also streamed some songs via Bluetooth from my iPhone 13 Pro. 

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: a Sonos Beam alternative with surprisingly big sound
2:00 pm | November 12, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar: two-minute review

The HT-S2000 is Sony's entry-level 3.1-channel soundbar. Initially priced at $499 /  £449 / AU$695, it’s a compact, all-in-one model with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, with the height effects in both immersive soundtrack formats delivered using virtual processing. 

Sony’s design for the HT-S2000 uses five speakers: three for the left, right and center channels as well as two dedicated woofers for the bass. Connections include HDMI (with eARC/ARC) and optical digital audio inputs. There’s also a USB type-A port to play music on connected USB drives. Unlike some of the best soundbars, the HT-S2000 doesn’t support music streaming using Wi-Fi or AirPlay, though its Bluetooth 5.2 support will let you play music wirelessly from a phone. For those looking to expand their soundbar’s capabilities in the future, the HT-S2000 can also be paired with Sony’s optional wireless surround speakers and subwoofers.

Sony’s soundbar has solid build quality and a sleek, no-nonsense look. It’s easy to set up, and Sony provides its own Home Entertainment app to help with that task – it also lets you tweak the sound for your specific installation. There are a range of Sound EQ modes, including automatic volume levelling, that can be accessed using either the app of Sony’s bundled remote control. The HT-S2000 also features Sony’s proprietary Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround processing, both of which work to enhance the level of audio immersion coming from the soundbar’s basic 3.1-channel speaker array.

The HT-S2000’s overall performance is great for the price. It delivers dialogue that sounds consistently clear even when pushed to a high level, and bass output is better-than average for an all-in-one soundbar. Sony’s proprietary processing allows for the height effects in Dolby Atmos soundtracks to extend beyond and above the screen boundaries of a TV the soundbar is connected to and there’s also a notably good surround sound ‘wrap-around’ effect when the S-Force Pro Front Surround feature is active.

When it was first released, the HT-S2000 wasn’t the strongest value as it lacked features found in some of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars selling for the same price, such as up-firing speakers and built-in Wi-Fi for lossless music streaming. But the HT-S2000 has since widely dropped in price to $349 / £299, making it a much more compelling value, especially given its performance.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on TV stand

Sony's soundbar is a good fit for TVs with a 55-inch (shown here) or a 65-inch screen size. (Image credit: Future)

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: price and release date

  • Released in March 2023
  • $499 / £449 / AU$695

Sony’s HT-S2000 soundbar was released in March 2023 at an initial price of $499 /  £449 / AU$695. Its price has since dropped to $349 in the US and £299 in the UK, though it’s still selling for AU$695 in Australia.

In the Sony 2023 soundbar lineup, the HT-S2000 sits below the HT-A2000, another 3.1-channel model that adds Wi-Fi streaming along with Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 support.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: features

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS: X support
  • HDMI and optical digital connections
  • Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround processing

The HT-S2000 is a 3.1-channel soundbar with support for the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio formats, which it delivers using virtual processing. It doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi for streaming, though you can stream music to it over a Bluetooth wireless connection.

Two Sony audio processing features found on the HT-S2000 are Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround. The first helps to elevate sound effects, music and dialogue to screen level or even above where they will sound more natural. The second provides a virtual ‘wrap-around’ so that surround effects sound like they are coming from the sides of the room.

Connection options on the HT-S2000 are basic. It has an HDMI-eARC port for connecting to a TV, an optical digital audio input, and a USB type-A port that can be used to play music files stored on a USB drive. Like other soundbars from brands including Sonos, Bose, Samsung, and LG, the HT-S2000 can be expanded by adding Sony’s wireless surround sound speakers and subwoofers.

  • Features score: 4/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on white background

The soundbar's top-mounted controls (Image credit: Future)

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: sound quality

  • Very good dialogue clarity
  • Spacious virtual surround 
  • Sounds good with music

 A key benefit of the Sony soundbar is its handling of dialogue in movies and TV shows. Watching a few dialogue-heavy scenes from Top Gun: Maverick, voices sounded clean, and I could push the volume to relatively high levels without it sounding edgy. For comparison’s sake, I swapped out the Sony with a 2.1-channel model and found dialogue in the same Top Gun: Maverick scene to be significantly less clean-sounding. The comparison demonstrated the advantage to using a soundbar like the HT-S2000 with a dedicated center-channel speaker, which is a feature that 2.1-channel soundbars lack.

Skipping ahead to the aerial dogfight scene in Top Gun: Maverick, Sony's soundbar sorted the dialogue, music (The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again) and sound effects in an impressively clear manner. There was also a decent amount of bass, which enhanced the sound of drums in the music and added definition to the trajectory of the fighter jets. The soundbar’s virtual processing made height effects in Dolby Atmos soundtracks like Top Gun exceed the height of my TV’s screen. And while the presentation wasn’t as expansive as what I’ve experienced with soundbars featuring dedicated Atmos speakers, it still had a satisfying level of immersion.

Music also sounded surprisingly good on the HT-S2000, especially given its low price. It’s possible to listen to plain stereo with the soundbar’s virtual processing disabled, but pressing the Sound Field button on the remote control adds a level of spaciousness that enhances the stereo separation without making voices and instruments sound unnatural. Equally important, it elevates the presentation in the vertical dimension so that the sound doesn’t appear to be coming from a horizontal bar located beneath your TV’s screen.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on white background

Ports on the HT-S2000's left and right sides enhance the soundbar's bass output. (Image credit: Future)

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: design

  • Compact design
  • Above-average build quality 
  • Alphanumeric front-panel display

The HT-S2000 has a compact, all-in-one soundbar, measuring 31.5 inches wide by 2.5 inches high and 5.25 inches deep. Build quality is a cut above most budget soundbars, with the Sony’s sturdy black plastic cabinet fronted by a metal mesh grille. Ports located on the soundbar’s left and right sides allow for enhanced bass output, while its X-Balanced Speaker Unit design physically aligns the 3.25 x 1.8-inch drivers and 3.75 x 1.8 woofers to reduce distortion.

Capacitive controls on the HT-S2000’s top surface let you adjust volume and connect with Bluetooth devices, and there’s also a small remote with additional controls to switch inputs, select sound EQ modes, and adjust the bass level. Sony’s soundbar conveniently provides visual feedback to remote control commands via its alphameric front panel display. That feature is one you don’t regularly find on lower-cost soundbars, and it’s a superior option to basic LED lights.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar inputs

Inputs include HDMI and optical digital connections (Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 4.5/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: usability and setup

  • HDMI eARC/ARC connection to TV
  • App-based setup 
  • No voice assistant support

The HT-S2000’s single HDMI input makes the setup process simple. Just connect it to a TV’s HDMI eARC (or ARC) port, select that input on the soundbar, and you’re ready to roll. Another option is to use the soundbar’s optical digital input, but that connection type doesn’t support Dolby Atmos or the HDMI-CEC control that lets you adjust the soundbar’s volume level using the TV’s remote control.

Sony’s Home Entertainment control app duplicates all the functions of the soundbar’s hardware remote and also provides a range of setup options for initial installation and performance. The latter includes an A/V sync adjustment, automatic volume level adjustment, and DTS Virtual:X to enhance basic stereo or mono soundtracks.

The soundbar’s alphanumeric front panel display makes using it super-easy as you don’t have to rely on a sequence of flashing LEDs to let you know what input or sound mode is selected. There’s no voice assistant support as on some other soundbars in the HT-S2000’s price range such as the Bose Smart Soundbar, but that’s not a feature I imagine most users will rely on, especially when using their TV’s remote control for volume adjustment.

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar remote control held in hand

Sony's remote is larger than the ones provided with some other soundbars and has clearly marked control buttons (Image credit: Future)
  • Usability and setup score: 4.5/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: value

  • Affordable price
  • Very good performance for the money 
  • Lacks Wi-Fi and AirPlay streaming options

At its initial $499 /  £449 / AU$695 price, the Sony HT-S2000’s overall value proposition was just average. It faced very strong competition from the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), another all-in-one soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos processing, and one with a built-in Wi-Fi for app-based control and audio streaming. Another competitor was the Bose Smart Soundbar 600, which provides upfiring drivers to deliver height effects in Atmos soundtracks and also features built-in Wi-Fi for streaming.

At the time of writing, however, the HT-S2000’s price has widely dropped to $349 in the US and £299 in the UK, making it a much better value given its overall performance and features. Being able to stream uncompressed music directly to the Sonos or Bose from a phone using Wi-Fi or using AirPlay does boost the value of both, but many people mainly use their soundbar for TV audio and are okay with a lesser quality Bluetooth option for their occasional music streaming. For those folks, the HT-S2000 will be the perfect entry-level soundbar.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on TV stand with Netflix Black Mirror menu in background

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Sony HT-S2000 soundbar?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar review: Also consider

Sony HT-S2000 soundbar on TV stand

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Sony HT-S2000 soundbar

  • Evaluated using both 4K Blu-ray discs and streamed sources
  • Break-in time allowed before critical listening
  • Tested using reference movie scenes and music tracks

I tested the Sony HT-S2000 soundbar in a 12 x 16 x 9-foot room using a 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K, and music streamed from my iPhone via Bluetooth and the Tidal app on the Apple TV 4K. I allowed it to break in by watching movies and TV shows before settling in for more critical listening using reference movie clips and music tracks. 

The key things I listened for with movies were dialogue clarity, bass definition, and a sense of spaciousness with the soundbar's surround mode engaged. For music, I paid attention to the naturalness of the sound with acoustic instruments and voices, as well as the dynamics in louder tracks.

Having reviewed many soundbars in the same room over the years, I have a reference sound standard that the Sony HT-S2000 was compared to. For further comparison, I also used an Amazon Fire TV Soundbar, switching between the two compact models on identical movie clips and music tracks.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: November 12, 2023
Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: a more compact Sonos Arc alternative
5:49 pm | November 9, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: two-minute review

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar arrives as the most upmarket, most expensive member of the Bose family of soundbars – and it’s been given the far-from-enviable task of taking the Sonos Arc down a peg or two as the most popular all-in-one big soundbar. Which means it has its work cut out.

First impressions – and second impressions too, for that matter – are very good, though. The Smart Ultra is properly built and finished from tactile, high-quality materials, and by the standards of the best soundbars, it’s of very discreet proportions. It’s well specified, including dedicated upward-facing speaker drivers – you’ve always a better chance of generating a convincing impression of spatial audio if you’ve got the physical equipment (rather than just some clever sound processing) to help you. And between a remote control handset, a couple of physical on-bar controls, voice-assistant compatibility, and one of the better control apps out there, getting what you want from the Bose couldn’t be any simpler.

In performance terms, it generally makes a good impression too. Certainly no one’s going to be disappointed by the width and coherence of its soundstage, nor by the impressive amount of detail it retains and delivers from a soundtrack. Dialogue, in particular, enjoys proper expression – and, as we know, that’s always the most important part of any movie soundtrack. There’s a slight shortage of low-end ‘punch’ and substance to the sound, though, and only a very modest sensation of the audio ‘height’ that is basically the whole point of getting one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.

And when you remember that ‘punch’ and ‘height’ are among the two real strengths of the usually cheaper Sonos Arc or the more expensive but exquisite Sennheiser Ambeo Plus, it becomes apparent that the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is sitting in a slightly awkward spot – however, it's notably more compact than the Sonos Arc, which may make it a winner for some people.

Bose smart ultra soundbar close up showing a grille for an upfiring speaker

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is hiding an upfiring driver behind here. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: price & release date

  •  Released October 10th 2023  
  •  £899 / $899 / AU$1499 

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar went on sale on October 10th, 2023. It's priced at $899 in the US, £899 in the United Kingdom, and in Australia it will set you back AU$1,499. 

This means it’s a little more affordable than the Sony HT-A7000 or Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus, both of which we’re big fans of. And more significantly, it’s the same money officially as the very similarly specified (and extremely successful) Sonos Arc, though the Arc is regularly available with discounts now, which means in real terms you should expect to pay less than the price of the Bose.

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar close up showing the curved corner of the soundbar

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's build quality and finish is impressive. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Specs

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar

Some of the soundbar’s connections  (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Features

  • 9 speaker drivers arranged in 5.1.2 channels
  • Dolby Atmos support, but no DTS:X
  • TrueSpace turns regular audio into Atmos-like sound

The Smart Ultra Soundbar uses a nine-strong line-up of speaker drivers in order to deal with Dolby Atmos spatial audio soundtracks (and Bose's TrueSpace technology to up-mix non-Atmos content to the point that it uses all nine drivers too).

Six of these nine drivers are 100 x 50mm ‘racetrack’ full-range drivers, and are of plastic with ferrite magnets. There’s one behind each exposed metal grille on the top surface of the soundbar, angled in an effort to create the sonic height that’s basically the whole point of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The other four are grouped towards the center of the bar – there are two either side of a 25mm neodymium tweeter that’s positioned dead center. There’s another of these tweeters at each end of the soundbar, and they spread sound beyond the physical confines of the soundbar’s cabinet. 

It seems safe to assume there are nine discrete blocks of amplification powering this driver array, and it seems safe to assume it’s of the Class D variety. But having seemingly taken a leaf out of the Sonos' playbook of inexplicable secrecy, Bose is neither confirming nor denying. And there’s no indication of the amount of power this putative amplification turns out, either, nor of the Smart Ultra’s frequency response.

Physical connectivity is kept in a couple of little recesses on the rear of the cabinet. In the first you’ll find sockets for HDMI eARC, Ethernet, digital optical and a USB-C slot that’s purely for servicing. In the second there’s power, and a collection of 3.5mm sockets – they’re for data, for connecting the Adaptiq calibration mic, connecting a bass module, and an IR blaster respectively.

Having only one HDMI socket is frustrating here – it's so useful to have at least one passthrough – but the Sonos Arc has the same limitation, so Bose isn't alone.

Wireless connectivity is covered off by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. Chromecast is built in, Apple AirPlay 2 is available (both of which make multi-room set-up straightforward), and Spotify can be embedded into the Bose Music control app.

Sound format support extends to Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus. Bear in mind, though, that TrueSpace is constantly doing its thing, analyzing incoming non-Dolby audio content and deciding how best (or, more particularly, with how much spatial audio effect) it should be delivered. And you’ve further input into the way sound is presented thanks to the defeatable ‘AI Dialogue Mode’ that is constantly assessing audio content to give dialogue (and the midrange in general) a little push towards the front of the soundstage.

  • Features score: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar bass reflex port close-up

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's rear-firing bass reflex port aims to help make up for its lack of real subwoofer. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Sound quality

  • Spacious, organized sound 
  • Poise and insight in equal measure 
  • The spatial sound isn't especially pronounced 

Like any worthwhile Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Bose Smart Ultra is at its most impressive and convincing when given some properly accomplished Dolby Atmos content to deal with - and when reproducing the painstakingly remastered Atmos soundtrack on a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc of The Shining to deal with, the Bose wastes little time in establishing its credentials.

For example, it’s impressively detailed from the top of the frequency range to the bottom. This is most immediately apparent through the midrange, where voices project well and are absolutely loaded with information regarding tone and timbre as well as character and emotional state. The Bose communicates freely where dialogue is concerned, and voices are distinct and explicit as a result. But it’s true of frequency information on either side, too – bass sounds are respectably deep and varied, while the top of the frequency range is crisp and attacking. 

The Smart Ultra isn’t the deepest-digging soundbar you ever heard, it’s true – those who equate ‘punch’ with ‘excitement’ may be a little underwhelmed – and there could be greater substance to treble sounds to balance out their shininess and bite. It’s possible to mitigate these traits just a little in the Bose Music control app, but the fundamentals of the tonality that’s available here will always be apparent.

The driver array does very good work in conjuring appreciable sonic width to the soundtrack – the distance it can reach both left and right is considerably bigger than the physical dimensions of the cabinet. By way of mild contrast, though, the vertical extension the Bose can muster is fairly modest – there’s some height to its presentation, for sure, but it’s not especially pronounced. If your expectations of a Dolby Atmos soundbar include a suggestion of overhead sound, there’s not going to be much about the way the Smart Ultra goes about things to excite you, especially when you can get the multi-channel mastery of the Samsung HW-Q990C for around the same price.

Switching to some two-channel content lets the TrueSpace technology do its thing – and its thing turns out to be pretty effective. The same accurate, detailed and slightly lightweight tonality is in evidence (though just a hint of sibilance creeps into the top of the frequency range) and the same spacious, well-defined soundstage is apparent too. Also apparent is the technology disinclination (or inability) to summon any meaningful suggestion of height to the sound it delivers.

Using Bluetooth to stream a file of Kraftwerk’s Computer World results in quite a lot of the Smart Ultra’s positivity where soundstaging is concerned going astray. Detail levels stay agreeably high, and there’s decent rhythmic expression to the square-edged four/four presentation – but a mild-but-definite vagueness creeps into the layout of the stage, and the latent edginess of the tonality becomes a little more pronounced. TrueSpace has its limits, and it seems that stereo music is among them.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar paired with the TV

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's reflectivity isn't ideal… (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar: Design

  • Suitable for TVs of 48 inches and up
  • Very well-built and premium
  • Glass top is highly reflective

Of course, it’s not enough for a soundbar at this sort of money to simply perform to a certain standard – when you’re charging premium money, it’s important to try and add at least a little perceived value where design is concerned too. Bose has decided the way to do that is to top the Smart Ultra Soundbar with tempered glass.

And up to a point, it’s a sound strategy. This soundbar looks a) very similar indeed to the Smart Soundbar 900 it replaces, especially where the cutaways in the glass to expose the metal grille above the up-firing drivers are concerned, and b) a more upmarket and premium proposition than, say, the similarly priced Sonos Arc. But there are a couple of problems with the admittedly luxurious glass finish: it reflects the light of the screen above it quite readily, and it collects fingerprints like a scene-of-crime investigator. 

Otherwise, a combination of perforated metal that covers the front face and wraps around the sides of the bar and high-quality plastic make up the Smart Ultra. Build quality is well up to par, and the standard of fit and finish is appropriately impressive.

Its width is about the same as a 48-inch OLED TV, such as the LG C3, so it should work well with this size of TV and up – which is a plus over the Sonos Arc, which needs a TV of at least 55 inches.

  • Design score: 4/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar remote on top of the unit

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar's remote control is nicely tactile. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Setup & usability

  •  'Adaptiq’ automatic room calibration
  •   Voice, app and remote control
  •  'AI Dialogue’ mode is new

You’ve got to hand it to Bose: it’s made setting up the Smart Ultra Soundbar about as simple as can be, and made whoever’s doing it look like a weirdo to any observers at the same time.

Once the soundbar is in position, and the appropriate connection to the TV and to power have been made, opening the ‘Bose Music’ control app that’s free for iOS and Android gives comprehensive control of the Smart Ultra. And first things first: it puts you in charge of the Adaptiq automatic room calibration system. Plug the Adaptiq mic into the rear of the Smart Ultra, and then put the mic on your head. You read that right.

The calibration system fires off the usual selection of test-tones in order to best set up the soundbar to suit your specific environment. The app will ask you to change positions as many as four subsequent times in order to do its thing – and after that you can take your little plastic mic-hat off and hope never to need to use it again.

The Bose soundbar's Adaptiq headset mic worn by a man who looks unamused

Your delighted correspondent mid-calibration. (Image credit: Future)

The app also features volume control, input selection, EQ adjustment for center, height, bass and treble, and an audio delay adjuster to help achieve perfect audio/video sync. It allows you to group your compatible Bose products together (including surround and/or bass speakers if you’re going the full home theater hog), gives access to Spotify and TuneIn internet radio, holds half a dozen assignable presets, and allows you to switch AI Dialogue Mode on or off. 

It’s where you can set up Amazon Alexa voice control – which proves sharp-earned and reliable. The Bose Voice4Video feature leverages the power of Alexa to allow you to take control of your TV, cable- or satellite TV box using your voice, meaning you can switch on the TV and switch inputs just by asking. The Smart Ultra can also be used with Google Assistant, provided there’s an appropriate speaker on a common network.

This is a responsive, useful app, and is admirably unfussy in the way it presents itself, too.

There’s a little remote control handset too, if you prefer. It covers only the headline controls – input selection volume up/down/mute, play/pause and power on/off – but its rubbery long-travel buttons feel quite good, and it’s useful if the device you’ve installed the app on isn't to hand.

There are a grand total of two physical controls on the soundbar itself, both capacitive touch-surfaces. One switches the integrated mics on or off, while the other is a multifunction ‘action’ control.

  • Setup & usability: 5/5

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar on the AV rack

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar is the right width to match TVs of 48 inches and up. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Value

  • Big, organized sound 
  • Great build quality and excellent control options 
  • Seems a touch expensive next to its most obvious rivals 

If we accept that Bose has the Sonos Arc squarely in its sights with the Smart Ultra Soundbar, then I have to conclude that the Bose is just a little overpriced. Yes, it’s flawlessly constructed and finished, from materials that look and feel good (the suitability of glass in front of a TV notwithstanding), and it’s simple to set up in the first place and operate thereafter. 

But while there’s plenty of merit in the way it performs, not least in its wide, well-defined and nicely balanced presentation, it’s slightly lacking in a couple of areas. And given that these areas – low-frequency impact and the creation of appreciable sonic height – are among the Sonos Arc’s particular strengths as an all-in-one soundbar, they seem almost compounded. Which in turns serves to make the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar seem a less compelling proposition than it otherwise would.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar review: Also consider

How I tested the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested a standard living space 
  • Used for over a week 
  • Tested with streaming services and 4K UHD Blu-ray content 

The Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar has been sitting beneath a Philips OLED TV (where it happily reflects part of the images coming from above) for well over a week. For several days it’s been working full 10-hours shifts while I assess its performance – plus, of course, it’s been doing its thing for an hour or two every evening while the household unwinds in front of the television. The room it’s in is open-plan, so side boundaries are fairly distant, but the ceilings are of unremarkable height, which is helpful to soundbars when it comes to generating overhead audio effects.

Content has been sourced from premium-tier video streaming services, from Dolby Atmos-enabled 4K UHD Blu-ray discs, from broadcast TV and, for music, via Bluetooth and the Spotify account embedded into the Bose Music app.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: a cheap, basic soundbar with benefits
3:00 pm | October 7, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar: two-minute review

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is the company’s first soundbar, and as with other Amazon-branded products, it arrives at a competitive price point  of just $119. It's currently only available in the US, though. Amazon’s offering is about as basic as a soundbar gets. It has a 2.0-channel speaker array and both HDMI and optical digital ports for a TV hookup, along with Bluetooth for music streaming.

There are many features found on the best soundbars that Amazon could have added to its model to make it a more compelling option – built-in Wi-Fi, for example. That specific feature would have given Fire TV users the ability to create a wireless, voice-controlled ‘Alexa Home Theater’ as they can with the company’s Echo wireless speakers. As it stands, even though Amazon claims its soundbar is ‘designed to work with Fire TV’, there are no specific Fire TV-related features. This is a cheap, basic soundbar that works with any TV featuring an HDMI eARC/ARC or optical digital connection.

Amazon’s soundbar has a compact design, and its build quality is good for the price. It provides Movie, Music and dialogue-boosting EQ modes, all selectable using the supplied remote control. There’s also DTS:Virtual X processing to expand the sound for movies and TV shows with surround-encoded soundtracks.

Sound quality is surprisingly good for the cost. Music sounds decent enough when played at reasonable levels. Eeven though bass is limited, movie soundtracks are strongly enhanced when the virtual processing is enabled, with the sound expanding well beyond the confines of the soundbar and TV screen. Dialogue is for the most part clear, though male voices can sound too heavy with the bar’s Bass setting, which is otherwise optimized for movie playback.

An advantage to the Fire TV Soundbar is that it’s easy to set up and use. If you're simply looking for a basic, low-cost soundbar to improve upon your TV’s built-in speakers that you can just set and forget, it will do the trick. As for value, you can find other equally good options for around the same price, so Amazon’s first real home theater audio offering isn’t exactly setting the budget soundbar space on fire. But that situation could change come Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday, when the Fire TV Soundbar is likely to see the same deep discounts that other Amazon-branded products typically get.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar on TV stand with TV in background

Amazon's compact soundbar is a good fit for TVs with a 55-inch (shown here) or smaller screen. (Image credit: Future)

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: price and release date

  •  Released in September 2023 
  •  Priced at $119
  • Limited to the US

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar was released in September 2023 and is priced at $119. At present, it’s only available in the US.

Amazon appears to have designed its first soundbar as a basic, low-cost audio upgrade for its Fire TV lineup, but it can also be used with any TV. At just $119, its price competition includes cheap, off-brand soundbars as well as the Roku Streambar, a higher spec offering with built-in streaming capabilities.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: features

  • Dolby Audio and DTS:Virtual X processing
  • HDMI and optical digital connections
  • Bluetooth wireless streaming

Amazon’s soundbar is about as basic as soundbars get, with a 2.0 speaker array and HDMI and optical digital audio ports for connecting to a TV. There is no built-in Wi-Fi to enable audio streaming from phones or tablets using AirPlay 2 or Chromecast, though Bluetooth wireless streaming is supported.

At $119, you wouldn’t expect a soundbar to have Dolby Atmos support, even of the virtualized type, and the Fire TV Soundbar not surprisingly doesn’t. What it does support is Dolby Audio, which here ends up being 2-channel Dolby Digital with sound processing to enhance detail and normalize volume levels when switching between TV channels or sources.

Along with Dolby Audio, the Fire TV Soundbar has DTS:Virtual X processing and Movies, Music and Dialogue EQ modes.

  • Features score: 3/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar top panel controls

The soundbar's top-mounted controls (Image credit: Future)

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: sound quality

  • Good overall dialogue clarity
  • Spacious virtual surround
  • Light on bass

When I first plugged in the Fire TV Soundbar, I was happy to note that it provided a strong sound quality boost over the built-in speakers of the Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED TV I connected it to. Dialogue clarity received an immediate boost, and there was a spaciousness and heft to the sound that wasn’t there previously.

Watching scenes from the sci-fi film District 9, the interviews dispersed throughout the action sounded full-bodied, and so did the comments from Vikus as he wandered around the alien compound. With the Surround mode switched off, effects in the movie’s soundtrack were constricted, but when I switched it on, helicopters and machine gun fire sounds expanded beyond the TV’s screen and there was a naturalistic sense of ambience.

When I next watched a scene from Top Gun: Maverick where Maverick is disciplined by Rear Admiral Chester ‘Hammer’ Cain, I found that the dialogue, while mostly clear, was too bass-heavy, with a ‘boomy’ quality. Checking the soundbar’s Bass setting, the medium option was selected, so I dialed it back to low. The effect of that change was to thin out the overall balance of the sound, so I decided to switch back to medium and live with too-boomy dialogue.

For comparison’s sake I swapped out Amazon’s soundbar with a Sony HTS2000 soundbar ($500 / £449 / around AU$788), a 3.1-channel model with virtual Dolby Atmos processing, and found dialogue in the same Top Gun: Maverick scene to be significantly cleaner-sounding with the Sony’s medium bass level selected. The comparison demonstrated the advantage to using a soundbar with a dedicated center-channel speaker, which is a feature that 2.0-channel models like the Fire TV Soundbar lack.

Otherwise, I was impressed with how effectively the Fire TV soundbar’s DTS:Virtual X processing widened the soundscape on Top Gun: Maverick and other movies, and did so without negatively affecting other elements in the audio mix such as music and dialogue. Bass was one area where I found the Amazon bar to be lacking, especially in comparison to the much more expensive Sony model. But given the Amazon’s compact design, the amount of bass it did deliver was actually better than expected.

I don’t expect music to sound great on budget soundbars and the Amazon Fire TV soundbar didn’t do much to change my mind. That being said, when I streamed Endless Time by The Weather Station using the Tidal app on the Omni QLED TV, the song’s simple Joni Mitchell-like piano and vocal presentation sounded smooth and natural. There was also a good sense of spaciousness with the Surround mode enabled. Other, more dynamic music I played sounded a bit harsh and congested with the volume pushed to a high level, though it was comparatively fine with the volume dialed back to a normal listening level.

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: design

  • Compact design
  • Remote control included
  • Front-panel LED indicator lights

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is a lightweight and highly compact design, measuring just 24-inches wide by 2.5-inches high and 3.5-inches deep. Its black plastic cabinet has rounded edges and is fronted by a black mesh grille. A row of control buttons are located on the top surface that let you adjust volume, select inputs, pair the soundbar with Bluetooth devices, and power it on and off. 

An equally compact remote control is packaged with buttons to adjust volume, switch inputs as well as select the EQ, bass and virtual surround sound modes. Remote commands trigger a sequence of LEDs on the soundbar's front, with one to three lights indicating the volume level range, for example. There’s also voice confirmation when selecting EQ modes, with a robot-like (not Alexa) voice telling you if Dialogue, Music, or Movie mode is selected.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar back panel inputs

Inputs include HDMI and optical digital connections (Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 3.5/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: usability and setup

  • HDMI eARC/ARC connection to TV
  • Easy Bluetooth pairing 
  • No alphanumeric front panel display

Given the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar’s basic design, setup poses no challenges. You simply connect it to your TV’s HDMI eARC/ARC port or optical digital output, and Amazon even gives you an HDMI cable to speed things along. Once an HDMI connection is made, you can use your TV’s remote control to adjust volume instead of the one supplied with the soundbar.

Pairing a Bluetooth device like a phone is equally simple. You just press the Bluetooth button on the soundbar’s control strip and a blue LED starts pulsing to indicate it’s in pairing mode. You then check the Bluetooth setup menu on your phone or tablet, select the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar, and you’re ready to stream.

Audio features such as EQ modes, bass level, and surround sound can be easily accessed from the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar’s remote control. A drawback to inexpensive soundbars like this one, however, is having to rely on LED light sequences instead of an alphanumeric display (or a control app) to make adjustments. But these proved easy enough to work with on the Fire TV Soundbar and having voice confirmation when switching EQ modes made things that much easier.

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar remote control in hand

Amazon's small remote provides all the controls you'll need, but the soundbar's volume can also be adjusted with your TV's remote when it's connected to an HDMI eARC/ARC port. (Image credit: Future)
  • Usability and setup score: 4/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: value

  • Good overall value 
  • Faces strong budget competition
  • Look for Prime Day and Black Friday discounts

The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is one of the least expensive options on the market, although you can also buy a 2.0-channel model from Sony or a 2.1-channel system with a wireless subwoofer from Vizio for even less than the $119 Amazon is charging here. And spending a bit more will get you the Roku Streambar, a model with the Roku streaming platform built-in that can be expanded with the company’s wireless surround speakers and subwoofer.

Nevertheless, given its good design and decent overall sound, Amazon’s soundbar ranks fairly high for value. You’d have to step up to the $500 range to get reliably better performance, along with extras like Dolby Atmos support via virtual processing or upward-firing speakers. And while I strongly feel that better sound is worth extra money, not everyone wants to spend that much to improve their TV’s built-in audio. For those who instead think around $100 is the right price, the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is a solid budget-bar option.

While Amazon’s soundbar is a good deal at its current price, the company typically offers substantial cost reductions on its Fire TV products both on Prime Day and during the Black Friday sales. Should the Fire TV soundbar get a 25% or better price cut during either of those events, which I expect it will, its overall value will get a strong boost.

  • Value score: 4/5

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar close up

The Fire TV soundbar has smooth, rounded edges and a mesh front panel grille. Build quality is good given the low price. (Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Amazon Fire TV Soundbar review: Also consider

Amazon Fire TV soundbar on TV stand with Fire TV in background

(Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar

  • Evaluated using both 4K Blu-ray discs and streamed sources
  • Break-in time allowed before critical listening
  • Tested using reference movie scenes and music tracks

I tested the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar in a 12 x 16 x 9-foot room using a 4K Blu-ray player, Apple TV 4K, and music streamed from Tidal via an Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED TV as sources. I allowed it to break in by watching movies and TV shows before settling in for more critical listening using reference movie clips and music tracks. 

The key things I listened for with movies were dialogue clarity, bass definition, and a sense of spaciousness with the soundbar's surround mode engaged. For music, I paid attention to the naturalness of the sound with acoustic instruments and voices, as well as the dynamics in louder tracks.

Having reviewed many soundbars in the same room over the years, I have a reference sound standard that the Amazon Fire TV Soundbar was compared to. For further comparison, I also used a Sony HT-S2000 all-in-one soundbar, switching between the two compact models on identical movie clips and music tracks.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: October 5, 2023
Bose Smart Soundbar 600
6:00 pm | November 12, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: November 2022
Current entry-level Bose Dolby Atmos soundbar
Launch price - $499 / £499 / AU$799
Target price now - $399 / £399 / AU$799

Update February 2024. The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 remains the entry-level Dolby Atmos model in the company’s soundbar lineup, slotting in beneath the mid-range Smart Soundbar 700, which recently received an official price cut. The 600 has also been getting regular discounts, with the new price target sitting at $399 / £399, though its price remains the same as at launch in Australia. At its new discounted price, the Smart Soundbar 600 is an excellent value for a compact soundbar with upfiring speaker drivers that can deliver convincing Dolby Atmos height effects. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Bose Smart Soundbar 600: One-minute review

The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 ($499 / £499 / AU$799)  is the company’s new more compact and more affordable Dolby Atmos model, slotting in beneath the Smart Soundbar 900 ($899 / £1399 / AU$799). 

While it's priced around half as much as its larger sibling, the 600 offers up a mostly similar feature set, but from a more limited speaker array. A total of five drivers, including two up-firing ones, are used to deliver Dolby Atmos soundtracks, allowing the 600 to provide stiff competition to the best soundbars that use virtual Atmos processing in the same price range.

It may be small, and not that expensive, but the 600 sounds both bigger and better than one would expect. Overhead Atmos effects extend above the TV screen, and the audio presentation extends well out to the sides, in the way you expect from the best Dolby Atmos soundbars. Bass depth and power are not things you’d expect from a compact soundbar, meaning there’s not much of either, but the sound balance here is both natural and pleasing, while the imaging it manages with stereo music is surprisingly wide and precise.

As for features, the Soundbar 600 is fairly packed, with its Atmos support helped along by TrueSpace processing for music and regular stereo and 5.1 soundtracks. Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth are all onboard for streaming, and there’s also built-in Alexa and Works with Google Assistant voice control support.

The Bose’s connection options go a bit further than some budget bars in providing both HDMI eARC and optical digital inputs. Everything can be controlled using the full-featured Bose Music app, and a basic hardware remote adds to the bar’s voice control capabilities.

Given the price, this is a solid, high-quality hunk of soundbar, with the sleek industrial design the company is known for. You have the option to extend it with a wireless subwoofer (or two) from Bose, along with wireless surround speakers, though at a fairly substantial cost.

Setup is easy and app-guided, and there are plenty of adjustments to tune the sound to your liking. Overall, this is a fine entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbar option offering great value, and one you should be looking at if you want to add real Atmos sound to your TV without spending an arm and a leg.

Bose Soundbar 600 on TV stand with blue screen in background

Top-mounted drivers on the Soundbar 600 are used for Dolby Atmos overhead effects, while side-mounted speakers help to widen the soundstage. (Image credit: Future)

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Price & release date

  • Released in October 2022
  •  $499 / £499 / AU$799 

The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 was released in October 2022 and sells for $499 / £499 / AU$799. Sometimes, the latest Bose promo codes can bring prices down.

Pricing for the Soundbar 600 is slightly higher than for the Sonos Beam Gen 2, a model that Bose appears to be directly competing with. Similar to the Beam, the Soundbar 600 doesn’t come with a subwoofer for extended bass, but it does offer Wi-Fi for wireless streaming, as well as the ability to be paired with an optional wireless subwoofer and surround speakers.

Where the Bose beats the Sonos in terms of features is its inclusion of up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos – the Bose, in contrast, uses virtual processing to simulate height effects in Atmos soundtracks.

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: features

  •  Dolby Atmos with up-firing speakers 
  •  HDMI eARC and optical digital connections 
  •  Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and Bluetooth wireless streaming 

The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is a compact, all-in-one soundbar that supports playback of Dolby Atmos soundtracks and uses proprietary TrueSpace processing for upconverting both stereo and regular 5.1 channel sources for Atmos presentation. DTS:X is not supported. A remote control is provided, and both setup and control can be carried out using the Bose Music app. The Soundbar 600 can also be expanded via the company’s optional wireless surround speakers and subwoofers (up to two).

A total of five transducers are used in the Soundbar 600: two side-mounted ones that combine with a center-mounted tweeter to deliver an expanded stereo image, and two top-mounted ones for Dolby Atmos overhead effects. Both driver size and amplifier power aren’t specified by Bose.

Connections on the Soundbar 600 include an HDMI eARC port plus an optical digital audio input for connecting an older TV that doesn’t support HDMI ARC/eARC. A second HDMI input to provide a passthrough would be a nice addition, though that’s something that isn’t always found on budget soundbars – the Sonos beam doesn't include one.

Wireless streaming options on the Bose include Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth. The Bose Music app also integrates a range of services including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Sirius XM for streaming over Wi-Fi. 

Support for Alexa is onboard for hands-free operation over basic controls like volume and track skipping, as well as access to music apps supported by Alexa. The Soundbar 600 also works with Google Assistant, giving you similar functionality when a Google speaker is connected to the network. With the Soundbar 600 set up for Alexa support, you can also use its Voice4Video feature to control functions of a connected Smart TV – everything from turning it on and off to playing and pausing video playback and changing channels.

Along with Dolby Atmos, the Soundbar 600 features proprietary TrueSpace processing. This takes incoming stereo, mono, and 5.1-channel sound sources and upconverts them for an Atmos-like immersive presentation using the soundbar’s full speaker array.

  • Features score: 4/5

Bose Soundbar 600 underneath a TV in a beige room

(Image credit: Bose)

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: sound quality

  • Great dialogue clarity 
  • Spacious presentation of Dolby Atmos soundtracks  
  • Somewhat light on bass 

Before I dove deep into evaluating the Bose’s performance, I simply used it as the soundbar for my TV setup in a relatively spacious room. 

Basically, I had no serious complaints: movie and TV dialogue was routinely clear and full-sounding, music and sound effects were rendered in a spacious manner that extended the presentation well beyond the confines of the bar itself, and even music sounded well-balanced and with decent stereo separation – something many soundbars fail to deliver.

On action movies with Dolby Atmos soundtracks like John Wick 3, Bose’s bar created a believable sense of atmosphere in scenes with rain, the water appearing to fall from above the TV’s screen. Other demo-worthy Atmos scenes, like those from District 9 and Godzilla (2016), sci-fi films where there are plenty of helicopters flying overhead throughout, were well-served by the Soundbar 600, with the sound easily scaling up to match the onscreen action, and also extending above and beyond it.

While the Bose’s sound was mostly dynamic, even in my relatively large room, sound effects like the stomping of Godzilla through the streets of Honolulu lacked the bass oomph I know to be there – compact, all-in-one designs like the 600 can only do so much in the deep bass department. Even with that limitation, the bass the Soundbar 600 managed was clean and well-controlled, and it helped to add excitement to scenes from John Wick 3 where the protagonist fights would-be assassins in tightly enclosed spaces.

Music also sounded good on the Bose, and that’s not something you can say for every soundbar. Listening to the new stereo mixes on the just-released The Beatles' Revolver box set (streamed from Tidal to the soundbar from my iPhone using Chromecast), Tomorrow Never Knows had a dense, psychedelic, swirling presentation, and Good Day Sunshine had a full quality, with the Motown-esque horn section accompaniment sounding brassy and crisp. Overall, music had a too-crisp balance on the Bose bar, but I’d attribute that to the missing bass octaves, and I can’t say I found the sound to be fatiguing overall.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Design

  • Basic, compact form-factor
  • Excellent build quality 
  • Small, throwaway remote control 

The Soundbar 600 has the basic bar-like form factor as many other soundbars, and comes only in a black finish. At 27 inches wide by 2 inches high and 4 inches deep, it’s a fairly sleek and compact design for an all-in-one unit.

Given the Soundbar 600’s approachable price, build quality is excellent: a metal mesh grille surrounds the bar’s front and sides, and the back panel has left and right ports (to enhance bass output) and a metal sink to prevent the built-in amplifier from overheating. Lifting the Soundbar 600 up in your hands, its impressive heft tells you it’s been designed to last.

Bose’s included remote control is a compact type with basic buttons to operate power, volume, mute, and input selection. Those same functions can be carried out via the Bose Music app, and there are also touch controls on the soundbar’s top that let you power it on/off and activate or deactivate the built-in microphone for voice control.

Bose Soundbar 600 rear panel inputs

The Bose's inputs include HDMI-eARC and optical digital connections. (Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 5/5

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Usability and setup

  • HDMI eARC connection 
  • App-based setup and control 
  • No alphanumeric front panel display 

With only HDMI eARC and optical digital ports available for connecting to a TV, setup is simple enough and will be based on which of those your TV provides. Using the HDMI eARC connection, of course, gives you access to advanced features like Dolby Atmos sound – something optical digital connections don’t support – and HDMI CEC control, which lets you adjust the soundbar’s volume level using the TV’s remote control, among other things.

Bose’s remote control is basic and tiny enough that it’s easy to forget about (there’s a high likelihood it will disappear into your sofa’s cushions at some point). For the most part, I used the Bose Music app for setup and control, which works well and is easy to navigate. 

This guides you through initial setup, where you – annoyingly – first need to create a Bose account. Once that’s done, the app discovers your Wi-Fi network and links the Soundbar 600 to it. The next step is to add info to the app for any supported music services, a list that includes: Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Sirius XM. Other services not supported by the app can be streamed wirelessly to the Soundbar 600 using AirPlay, Chromecast, or Bluetooth.

App-based controls include center channel (dialogue) and height channel level, plus bass and treble adjustments. There’s also a wall EQ setting meant to adjust the sound for on-wall installations and a Dialogue Mode to enhance voice clarity on TV shows and movies if that’s ever an issue.

Like other budget soundbars, the Sonos Beam included, the Bose 600 lacks a front panel LED alphanumeric display, instead using color-coded lighting sequences to provide feedback to remote control commands. As usual, I couldn’t be bothered to memorize these, instead relying solely on the app for all of my adjustments and tweaks save for volume using the TV’s remote.

Bose Soundbar 600 remote control held in hand against green background

Bose's small remote offers basic controls, but you'll want to use the company's control app for setup and more advanced adjustments. (Image credit: Future)
  • Usability and setup score: 4.5/5

Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review: Value

  •  Great overall value 
  •  Offers features the competition lacks 

At $499, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is bumping up against some strong budget bar competition. The main one is the Sonos Beam Gen 2 ($450), but there are many others in the under $500 range from companies like Denon, Polk Audio, Samsung, Sony, LG, and Vizio.

Where the Bose distinguishes itself and provides value is its use of actual up-firing speakers to convey Dolby Atmos overhead effects, as well as its effective TrueSpace processing of sources with a lesser channel count. Its control app, while not at the same level as Sonos’ app, is also sophisticated, and there’s ample streaming support, with Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth all onboard.

What’s lacking here is bass, which is something you can get with even modest soundbar systems that include an external subwoofer. Adding one of the company’s wireless Bass Modules ($499) should address that shortcoming, but then it bumps the system price up to $1,000 – a range where you can find other compelling options, including the all-in-one Sonos Arc.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Bose Soundbar 600 on table under TV in living room setting

(Image credit: Bose)

Should I buy the Bose Smart Soundbar 600?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Also consider

Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos Soundbar review
6:58 pm | March 25, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: March 2022
• Current Sony flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar
• Launch price: $1,399 / £1,299 / AU$1,699
• Target price now: $999 / £1,299 / AU$1,699

Update: February 2024. The Sony HT-A7000 remains the company’s flagship soundbar, and the only all-in-one model equipped for 7.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos sound. It was initially pricey at launch, and remains so in the UK and Australia, though its price has seen regular drops in the US, with discounts from $1,399 to around $999 being common. That price makes it competitive with the Sonos Arc, the  5.0.2-channel flagship soundbar from Sonos. The Sony’s higher channel count, multiple HDMI inputs, and DTS:X support make it a superior option to the Arc, however, and the now under-$1,000 price, while still high, is a better value than at launch. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

One-minute review

The Sony HT-A7000 comes with a pedigree. It follows the Sony HT-ST5000 as the company’s new de facto flagship soundbar and it carries an air of distinction.

What helps elevate the HT-A7000 above its competitors is its integrated upfiring speakers that help it support true Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, with a sprinkling of Sony’s new 360 Reality Audio format thrown in, too. 

There are other niceties thrown in at this price - such as the two HDMI 2.1 ports that will allow you to connect both your PS5 and Xbox Series X to the soundbar - and it even has room to grow thanks to an optional subwoofer and rear surround speakers. 

At this price point we wish some of those optional extras were simply included in the box and that the height channels produced a more convincing soundstage, but what’s on offer is a powerful, room-filling soundbar that richly deserves a place amongst the best soundbars.

Price & release date

The Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar made its debut at the tail-end of 2021, effectively replacing the older Sony HT-ST5000 model that long held a position on our best soundbar list.

In terms of pricing, the Sony HT-A7000 comes in at $1,399 / £1,299 / AU$1,699  - and that’s just for the soundbar. If you want to add a subwoofer and rear speakers, that’s going to cost you an extra $300 / £449 / AU$599 and $350 / £449 / AU$649  respectively, depending on which of Sony’s two subwoofers you decide to use. (The more expensive subwoofer, the SA-SW5, costs $698 / ‎£699 / AU$899 by itself, so be prepared for that.)

For a soundbar, that’s a lot of money - especially if you plan on buying all the extras that go with it. Overall, that’s not a horrible price if this becomes your one home cinema purchase for the next decade, but most folks will want a more flexible option at this price point.

The Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar underneath a Sony TV.

(Image credit: Future)

Design

At roughly 51 inches long and three inches tall, the HT-A7000 is a pretty big ‘bar. It’s just the right size to fit underneath a Sony X95J TV or one of Sony’s new OLED TVs, but it could very easily block the IR sensor on TVs from other manufacturers or collide with the legs. 

In short, it’s a long bar and probably not the best partner for any screen below 55 inches.

The good news is that big ‘bars like these often pack big drivers to go inside of them - and that’s absolutely what’s going on here. Inside the HT-A7000 are two upfiring speakers for overhead sound, two beam tweeters and five front speakers and a subwoofer that’s in charge of handling the bass for a total output of 500W.

Covering all those speakers is a mish-mash of textures and materials. On the front is a metal grille that covers all the front-firing drivers and a small LED screen, while on the top you’ve got a fabric mesh covering the upfiring drivers. There’s also a glossy finish on the top where you can find the touch-capacitive control buttons. 

The LED screen certainly works well when you’re simply changing the volume, but it’s not the most helpful in showing you which format you’re working with: other soundbars will turn a certain color when they detect an Atmos signal or display it on the front LED. The A7000 does neither.

The included remote is straightforward to use, though you’ll be able to use your TV’s remote should you connect the soundbar via HDMI to your TV or AV receiver, which we highly recommend. 

The Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar underneath a Sony TV.

(Image credit: Future)

Features

If you have a TV with an eARC port, you should have next to no problem setting up the HT-A7000. It’s really as easy as plugging in the power cable and running an HDMI cable between the TV and the soundbar. 

That being said, if you want a more in-depth setup and calibration process, Sony makes that relatively simple by building a basic UI into the soundbar itself. 

The most basic step you can take to improve the sound quality of the soundbar is to run a basic room calibration test. This takes just 20 seconds and it will help the soundbar know how far away from walls it is and which channels need extra power. 

You can manually adjust those settings for yourself in the simple UI Sony provides, but most folks should be fine with just the automatic calibration. 

Also this UI is where you can select other sources for audio. The soundbar supports HDMI obviously, but also 3.5mm auxiliary, Bluetooth audio, USB devices, Spotify, Chromecast, Amazon Alexa and 360 Reality Audio via Deezer, Tidal and Amazon Music. It’s a very wide selection of sources, and allows you to have some flexibility in terms of what you want to connect. 

Speaking of music, Sony also included its DSEE Extreme upscaling tech in the soundbar that helps restore details lost in the wireless transmission process. It’s something we’ve seen in the company’s flagship WH-1000M4 headphones, but not in a soundbar. 

The Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar underneath a Sony TV.

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

By itself, the Sony HT-A7000 is capable of producing a 7.1.2-channel sound. While that sounds like a lot of sound output - and it certainly is - it’s mostly focused around the mid-range if you don’t go in and manually change the EQ. 

Out of the box, without any additional hardware hooked up, what you’ll hear is robust and clear dialogue. Throughout our testing, no matter the source, we were able to make out dialogue clearly, even when we changed the sound mode of the TV to something more dynamic, like, say the Cinema sound mode on a Sony TV.

The double woofers on the front of the bar do provide a bit of oomph - especially when you crank the volume up above the 60% mark - but they in no way replace what a discrete subwoofer can provide. The same can be said for the upfiring speakers and drivers responsible for surround sound that come off as a little weaker than what we’d like. 

We also noticed that the soundbar cut out once or twice during our two-week testing period. It would happen without rhyme or reason and would momentarily cause the audio to stop before resuming - however, it was certainly annoying whenever it happened.

In terms of stereo imaging and soundstage, there’s a lot to like about the HT-A7000 - it’s a very musically talented soundbar. Testing out some 360 Reality Audio music, you get a real room-filling sound with a clear idea of where all the instruments are located. 

Turning on some Spotify, we were impressed with the force of the soundbar and, again, that robust mid-range. Trebles could’ve been a little clearer and the bass - while easy to hear - just didn’t have the same depth that a separate sub can provide. 

Overall, we feel most folks will be pleased with the sound quality the soundbar provides, but there is obvious room for improvement for whatever Sony designs next. 

Should you buy the Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar?

The Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar underneath a Sony TV.

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if… 

You want a full-range soundbar that can play Dolby Atmos content
While the height channels could stand to be a bit stronger, overall the A7000 is a powerful soundbar that hits most of the right notes. It gives you a bit of everything right out of the box, and then you can always add more oomph to the bass or surround channels by picking up additional hardware.

You have two HDMI 2.1 devices and you want to save some ports
One of the biggest gripes we’ve heard about some TVs supporting just one or two HDMI 2.1 ports is that one of those belongs to the eARC port on the TV. The HT-A7000 allows you to effectively use that one eARC port as two more HDMI 2.1 ports - which is a huge boon for folks who have two (or more) HDMI 2.1 devices that need to be plugged in. 

Don’t buy it if… 

You want a complete system in a single box
Unfortunately, if you want a complete system with a sub-woofer and surround units in a single box, the HT-A7000 isn’t for you. Yes, those things are available to buy separately, but they’re relatively expensive compared to some HTIB systems from other manufacturers.

You want the full Dolby Atmos effect from a soundbar
We’ve known for years that getting a full surround sound effect from a soundbar has been, well, difficult. As more manufacturers have figured out how to do it thanks to room calibration features, we’re now at the point where we’re seeing the same thing happen with upfiring Atmos speakers. They’re good - but they’re just not the same as discrete speakers. 

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review
2:11 pm | December 6, 2021

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Soundbars Televisions | Tags: | Comments: Off

Editor's note

• Original review date: September 2021
• Current entry-level Sonos
Dolby Atmos soundbar
• Launch price: $449 / £449 / $699
• Target price now: $499 / £499 / $699

As the entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbar in the Sonos lineup, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) offers a budget Atmos alternative to the flagship Sonos Arc, which costs almost twice as much. Prices for the Beam (Gen 2) were raised by the company after the initial launch, with the official price now sitting at $499 / £499 / AU$799. Beam (Gen 2) prices typically don’t budge much except during sales events such as Black Friday, when we’ve seen it dip as low as $399 / £379. But if you’re looking to buy Sonos’ budget Atmos soundbar outside of Black Friday, expect to pay list price for it. The rest of this review remains as previously published.

Two-minute review

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a compact and powerful soundbar from multi-room audio giant Sonos. It's a significant improvement on the company’s original mini soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos, HDMI eARC compatibility, and a refreshed design. 

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Specs

Size: 25.6 x 2.3 x 3.9 inches
Weight: 6.2lbs
Colors: Black and White
Speakers: 4 drivers, 1 tweeter
Ports: HDMI eARC, Ethernet
Audio formats:
Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus
Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n/ac, 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2

While it’s a little more expensive than the first Sonos Beam, the new soundbar offers excellent value. That’s why it’s one of our top picks in our best soundbars guide.

Thanks to its integration with the broader Sonos ecosystem, you can combine it with additional speakers to expand your setup. The Beam (Gen 2) sounds great on its own, but you can take the audio performance up a notch by hooking it up to the Sonos Sub or using a pair of Sonos One SL speakers as your rear right and left channels. 

Setting up the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a breeze—you need the Sonos S2 app, and you’ll be able to connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network and set up your voice assistant of choice. The S2 app also gives you access to the company’s TruePlay technology, which calibrates the soundbar’s audio to your room’s dimensions using its built-in microphones. 

It’s a shame that TruePlay still only works with iOS devices, as it does make a difference to the sound. Still, you could borrow a friend’s iPhone for the setup process—and we think that’s worth doing. 

Unlike its predecessor, the new Beam comes with eARC compatibility—a feature that fans of the original soundbar have requested for a while. This allows the soundbar to handle more advanced audio formats than before, including hi-res audio codecs. 

a closeup of the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar in white

(Image credit: TechRadar)

However, the standout new feature for the Beam (Gen 2) is Dolby Atmos support. While the soundbar doesn’t contain the upfiring drivers you’d need for ‘true’ Atmos, it uses psychoacoustic techniques to give the impression of height from your movie soundtracks. 

In theory, this should make it seem as though the sound from your films is coming at you from every angle; we weren’t entirely convinced, however. While the Beam (Gen 2) has a vast soundstage and powerful audio performance for its size, we didn’t experience the kind of overhead sound you get from its larger sibling, the Sonos Arc (which has those all-important upfiring drivers). You can read more about this more capable—and expensive—soundbar in our Sonos Arc review.

We’re hesitant to judge the Beam (Gen 2) too harshly for that, though. You’re still getting a far more immersive experience than you’d get from a non-Atmos bar, and there is a small amount of vertical information coming through—it’s just not as convincing as other virtual Atmos bars. Check out our Sony HT-X8500 review for a good example. Or take a look at our best Dolby Atmos speakers and soundbars guide.

Overall, if you’re looking for a mid-range soundbar that won’t take over your living room and you want the ability to upgrade it in the future with a subwoofer or rear speakers, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a great choice—just don’t expect a super-convincing Dolby Atmos experience. Read on for our full Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review.

the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar in white pictured on a TV cabinet under a TV screen

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review: price and availability

  • $449 / £449 / AU$699
  • Released in October, 2021

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) launched in October, 2021 for $449 / £449 / $699, which is more expensive than the original. At launch, the original Sonos Beam cost $399 / £339 / AU$599, though it’s often discounted these days. You can find out more about  its predecessor in our Sonos Beam review.

For a cheaper alternative, take a look at our Sonos Ray review, which doesn't have the same performance but is much more affordable at $279 / £279 / AU$399.

For a soundbar with similar performance that's a little more expensive, check out our Sony HT-G700 review, which is available for $600 / £450 / AU$900, to see how it compares. 

Although it isn't the cheapest soundbar available, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a huge $400 / £400 / AU$800 less expensive than one of TechRadar's best soundbars of the moment, the Sonos Arc, which delivers ‘true’ Atmos thanks to upfiring tweeters. You can read more about the Arc in our Sonos Arc review.

a close up of the back of the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar showing the soundbar's ports

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review: design

  • Compact build
  • New plastic grille
  • Touch controls

Like the original Beam, the new Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a compact soundbar that can easily fit under most TVs on a cabinet or be mounted to a wall to keep your living room clutter-free. 

At 2.72 x 25.63 x 3.94 inches (H x W x D), it’s much smaller than the company’s flagship soundbar, the Sonos Arc, making it ideal for smaller spaces. 

Like other Sonos speakers, the design of the Beam (Gen 2) is all about clean lines and subtle branding; this soundbar isn’t flashy, but it looks stylish, and as it comes in a choice of black and white finishes, you can find the right look to fit in with your decor. 

One key difference between the new Sonos Beam and its predecessor is the design of the grille, which is now made of plastic rather than a woven fabric. This design choice is more in keeping with the Sonos Arc, and as the company points out, it’s far easier to clean than dust-attracting fabric. We asked Sonos whether the new grille brings any acoustic benefits, but the company told us it’s purely an aesthetic choice.

You’ll find a touch-sensitive control panel on the top of the soundbar. The capacitive touch sensors allow you to control your music playback, adjust the volume, and turn off the inbuilt microphones for extra privacy. We found these controls were very responsive, though you’ll probably find yourself reaching for your TV’s remote to do most of these things. 

You’ll also find a small LED light strip on the top of the soundbar, which lights up as you interact with it, and another LED beneath the microphone icon to let you know when the soundbar’s mic is enabled.

Around the back of the soundbar is a port for plugging it into a power outlet and HDMI, optical, and Ethernet ports.

a closeup of the sonos beam gen 2 touch controls

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review: setup and connectivity

  • Works with wider Sonos ecosystem
  • TruePlay room calibration
  • Easy-to-use app

Setting up the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is very simple; you need to download the Sonos S2 app and follow the instructions to connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network and any music streaming services you’d like. 

You’ll also then be able to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant. Thanks to the soundbar’s built-in microphones, you’ll be able to control playback using your voice alone, ask your chosen voice assistant questions, and control your other smart home devices. 

Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to use the Beam’s room calibration feature, TruePlay, which tunes the ‘bar’s sound to the dimensions of your room.

As you go through the TruePlay process, the Beam plays out a series of beeps and ticks across the frequency range; you’ll then be prompted to walk around your room waving your smartphone around. 

The S2 app uses the microphones built into your smartphone to analyze the audio; Sonos says it’s essential to cover as much space as possible and to minimize any other environmental noise that could affect the results. Unfortunately, TruePlay is only compatible with iOS devices currently, but it’s worth borrowing a friend’s iPhone to get the most out of your new Beam. 

the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar on a tv cabinet under a tv screen

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The app also allows you to pair the Beam with any other Sonos speaker, such as the Sonos Sub, or a pair of Sonos One SL speakers that could be used as left and right rear speakers. 

Integration with the Sonos network gives the Beam (Gen 2) something many other soundbars don’t have: an easy way to upgrade your home cinema system. While the new Beam works very well on its own, adding in a sub and rear speakers is a great way to add to your setup over time. If you already have a Sonos Roam portable speaker, you’ll be able to ‘throw’ your audio between the Bluetooth speaker and the Beam using the Sound Swap feature. 

In terms of wireless connectivity, the Beam (Gen 2) supports Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay 2 with compatible iOS devices. There’s also the option to hook it up to your router with an Ethernet cable if you want a more stable connection to your home network. 

One new connectivity feature for the Sonos Beam is HDMI eARC compatibility, which the company says will bring a “richer, more immersive, and higher definition sound experience”. Compared to the HDMI ARC connectivity found on the original Beam, eARC can handle more advanced audio formats and deliver superior audio quality. 

It’s a shame there’s no HDMI 2.1 support, which would allow for 4K at 120Hz and even 8K at 60Hz pass through—which, in turn, would make the Beam ideal for 8K-supporting consoles like the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.

Still, the new Beam can cope with 32 channels of audio and even eight-channel 24-bit/192kHz uncompressed 38Mbps data streams. In other words, as well as supporting Atmos, it can play hi-res audio files of your favorite songs. 

If your TV doesn’t have an HDMI port, you can connect the Beam via the optical port; Sonos provides all the cables you need in the box.

The S2 app also makes it easy to stream music, allowing you to add any music streaming platforms and navigate them without leaving the app.

A close up of the side of the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar in white under a TV screen

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review: audio performance

  • Wide soundstage
  • Great for music
  • Dolby Atmos could be more convincing

Despite its small size, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) delivers robust audio performance and is more than capable of filling your living room with sound. 

We started by watching the animated sci-fi comedy Mitchell vs The Machines, in which the Mitchell family find themselves battling with electrical appliances (as well as an army of psychotic Furbys) in an abandoned shopping mall. 

As washing machines drag themselves menacingly across the floor, the Beam (Gen 2) proved capable of handling rumbling low frequencies with real dexterity. At the same time, the soundbar’s bass prowess was even more evident as a giant Furby stomps toward our protagonists. 

As the action intensifies and the family finds themselves in a full-blown melee complete with lasers, the dialogue remains clear and easy to follow. 

the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar in white on a tv cabinet under a TV display

(Image credit: TechRadar)

While the general audio performance of the Beam (Gen 2) was impressive, we weren't fully convinced by the virtual Dolby Atmos. As vending machines propelled soda cans over the heads of the characters on screen, the sound did provide a sense of height, but we didn't get the feeling that it was coming from above our heads. 

It felt like the virtual height channels cut out around the top of our ears. While this did feel more immersive than a non-Atmos soundbar, the effect wasn't as impressive as you get with the Sonos Arc, which features up-firing drivers. 

These drivers are designed to bounce sound off the ceiling and back down to your ears, giving a real sense of sonic height to movie soundtracks and compatible audio files. Without them, the Beam (Gen 2) doesn't seem capable of providing the full Atmos experience. 

Saying that we were very impressed by the width of the soundstage. You get the sense that the action onscreen is taking place all around you without adding additional rear left or right speakers, like the Sonos One SL. 

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) also sounds great when playing music. Listening to Little Simz' Woman, the bass sounds deep and well-controlled, while synth strings are warm and rich. Simz's rap vocal comes through with clarity, while Cleo Soul's avant-soul melodies float sumptuously above the mix.

As capable as the Beam (Gen 2) is on its own, the bass is much improved by hooking it up to the Sonos Sub, which delivers better separation between the different frequencies and a more arresting, toe-tapping sound. 

the sonos beam gen 2 soundbar in white in a living room on a tv cabinet underneath a tv display

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Conclusion

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) soundbar will work perfectly well on its own to add excellent audio performance to your TV, but it also fits in well with the wider Sonos ecosystem, and is the perfect playmate for the brand’s subwoofers and rear speakers.

There's no true Dolby Atmos here, you'll need upfiring speakers for that. We also wouldn't recommend it if you’re on a tight budget. The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is nowhere near the most expensive soundbar we’ve tested, but there are cheaper options. 

If you're looking for powerful sound, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a fantastic soundbar, and it sounds much bigger than its small size might suggest. Because it's compact, it'll squeeze into small rooms, and can be wall-mounted to save even more space. 

Also consider...

If our Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review has you considering other options, then here are three alternative soundbars to check out.

  • First reviewed September 2021.