Tech Showcase: Soundbars
Interest in the soundbar speaker category doesn’t show signs of slowing down any time soon, and manufacturers are responding by constantly updating their product lines. Here is a look at some recent entries to this product category.
Origin Acoustics Soundbar Line
Among the many new products it introduced at CEDIA Expo, Origin Acoustics’ new design-centric, installation flexible soundbars include several features designed to address the cosmetic needs of consumers, along with the installation flexibility needed for today’s design-centric homes. The line consists of eight multi-channel models that align with most TV widths and utilize the company’s patent-pending InstaWidth design. This allows you to adjust each end cap up to.75 inches, allowing for 1.5 inches of total adjustment. Origin’s VesaMatch mounting design makes installation even easier and provides flexible mounting options. Also, two LCR models are available for on-wall home theater applications. All products utilize a mix of 3.5-inch fiberglass drivers along with one-inch DPSD Silk dome tweeters wrapped in a beautiful aluminum cabinet for outstanding sound and clarity.
Polk Audio MagniFi Max AX and MagniFi Max AX SR
Polk Audio’s MagniFi Max AX and MagniFi Max AX SR soundbars provide Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, thanks to 11-speaker arrays featuring dedicated center channels, up-firing height speakers, and Polk’s patented Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology. Both models include wireless subwoofers for extended bass response; MagniFi Max AX SR adds two wireless surround speakers for total sonic immersion. Music streaming, custom sound modes, and eARC connectivity round out the features of these all-in-one, accessibly priced systems. MagniFi Max AX and MagniFi Max AX SR each include a 10-inch down-firing subwoofer that delivers deep bass. Wireless connection allows for convenient placement without cable clutter.
Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Plus
The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Plus offers a new, more compact soundbar within the Sennheiser product portfolio. It is driven by the same 3D sound — developed in collaboration with the the Fraunhofer-Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS — as the AMBEO Soundbar Max. AMBEO Self-Calibration reads a room’s acoustic properties and then positions seven virtual speakers around the listener, plus four more overhead. This lets the AMBEO Soundbar Plus project sound from any corner of the room. According to Sennheiser, the AMBEO Soundbar Plus is great for listening to audiophile-grade music and automatically adapts its sound to the content that’s being played. Customizable presets are also available, along with an equalizer and more in the Smart Control App. Breathtaking immersive 3D sound is provided with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, 360 Reality Audio, and MPEG-H Audio. Users can even upmix stereo and 5.1 content.
Nakamichi Shockwafe 7.2 eARC
Taking inspiration from the multiple-subwoofers configuration popularized by cinemas, the Nakamichi Shockwafe 7.2 eARC ($1299.99) comes with dual 8-inch high-output subwoofers. These elevated subwoofers evenly pressurize the room with intense low-frequency energy. The 450-watt subwoofer power output will turn the entire room into a sweet spot, delivering shockwaves of bass as low as 25 Hz. With up to 1000 watts of accessible power generated by its high-output amplifiers, the Shockwafe 7.2 eARC is capable of up to 110 dB of cinema sound.
The Ray is Sonos’ attempt to bring its simplicity and versatility to a more accessible soundbar with a $279 price point. To get to this price, the Ray sheds a few features found on the Sonos Beam, including a microphone, side speakers, and top speakers, which keeps the Ray from producing Dolby Atmos. It can produce stereo PCM and unlicensed Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround.
The Ray features all front-firing speakers, so it can be placed on a shelf in a cabinet and not have any sound bounce off the top or back of it. It has three arrays with waveguides to provide separation when listening to movies and music. It does include Trueplay to get the soundbar optimized for the room and is compatible with all streaming services, and the Sonos app can be used to adjust bass, treble, and loudness. The Ray can be controlled with the existing TV remote, the Sonos app, Apple AirPlay 2, and more. And a pair of Ones and/or a Sub can be added to create a surround sound setup.
The Denon DHT-S217 full-range Dolby Atmos soundbar delivers crystal-clear dialog with authoritative bass response from two onboard subwoofers. The DHT-S217 also incorporates Dolby Atmos 3D audio technology for a lifelike, cinematic surround sound experience. At 2 inches in height, the Denon DHT-S217 can be placed in front of the TV without obstructing the bottom edge of the display or it can be wall-mounted. Listeners can choose to stream their favorite music to the soundbar from a smart phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
The DHT-S217 connects to most TVs using the supplied HDMI or Optical cables, facilitating intuitive control of the soundbar volume using the TV’s remote. The 4K HDMI connectivity delivers video with nuanced contrast, imaging, and brilliant colors — while the eARC feature enables music enthusiasts to enjoy rich audio playback on the soundbar from streaming apps built into their smart TV. The DHT-S217 offers a choice of four sound modes (Movie, Night, Music, and Pure). The Pure Mode bypasses all surround processing and other adjusted characteristics for the most audiophile listening experience.
Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3
The Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 soundbar builds on the heritage of its two forebears. Its low profile, at just 2.5 inches in height, makes it easier to install and easy to place on a piece of furniture in front of the TV without obstructing the bottom of the screen, with a metal wall bracket also included in the box if mounting the soundbar on the wall. Despite its slim proportions, Panorama 3 still features 13 individual drive units, including twin subwoofers built-in for deep, extended bass, plus 400 watts of amplification. Panorama 3 is also the first Bowers & Wilkins soundbar to feature true Dolby Atmos upwards firing drive units. Specifically engineered and angled to deliver optimal immersion, they’re accompanied by a Dolby Atmos decoder and processor.
Sony’s HT-S400 2.1-channel soundbar includes clear dialog features and 330-watt total power output. The HT-S400 lets users hear sound from all around thanks to Dolby Digital with Sony’s own virtual surround sound technology S-Force PRO Front Surround. By using front speakers only, Sony’s digital soundfield processing technology virtually reproduces the surround soundfield. The front speakers include an X-Balanced Speaker Unit, which features a rectangular shape that maximizes the diaphragm. It also reduces driver excursion while maintaining sound pressure, resulting in less distortion and greater vocal clarity. The Separated Notch Edge on the X-Balanced Speaker Unit improves vertical amplitude symmetry, which is essential for clear sound quality. It achieves this by using strategically placed cuts on the edge, which help to control the stress inside and outside the edge of the diaphragm. The soundbar comes with a wireless subwoofer with a 160mm speaker unit to deliver a deeper, richer bass sound.
The LG S95QR soundbar boasts an output of 810 watts and 9.1.5 channels of surround sound immersion. It features five up-firing channels, including what LG calls the world’s first center up-firing speaker — three on the soundbar and two in the separate rear speakers. The LG soundbar’s center up-firing speaker delivers clear dialog and, with IMAX Enhanced, users can enjoy three-dimensional audio when watching compatible content.
The LG S95QR features several key enhancements, most notably a boost in performance of the new speaker drivers, speaker chambers, and subwoofer. The larger woofers deliver a premium audio quality with deep bass emulating the immersive sound system of a cinema. LG has upgraded the wireless rear speakers of its premium soundbar setup from four channels to six, with four front/side drivers to accompany the two up-firing drivers. The rear speakers of LG soundbar are designed to distribute sound evenly across a wide 135-degree space, giving customers more speaker placement and angle flexibility, especially beneficial for smaller rooms.