Five of the best to fill a very long stocking
The Festive Season is nearly upon us and so the opportunity to catch up with some movies and TV shows might present (no pun intended) itself.
You’ve got your TV sorted but the audio side of your setup has room for improvement and you’ve decided that a soundbar is the right solution for you. There an awful lot of them on the market, however, so we’re bringing you five of the best we’ve seen in 2014, encompassing a variety of features and options.
Yamaha has been in this market longer than most and all their experience is brought to bear with this extremely competent solo soundbar offering. The YAS-103 is unashamedly old-school in its design, with the emphasis on sound quality over slimline looks and tagged on features. It also comes in white, should you prefer. There are bountiful connectivity options, including a single coaxial and two optical inputs, along with stereo RCA inputs. This model has no HDMI ARC/CEC capability but there’s more than enough inputs for most.
As we expected, the YAS-103 delivered a lovely audio performance, with an expansive soundstage and a respectable degree of stereo separation. Sound was large and immersive while dialogue was crisp, clean and well centred. The Yamaha was perhaps more suited to movies and TV than it was to music but that’s not to say it isn’t a good listen. It’s a highly capable, no-fuss solution that has seen its pre-Christmas 2014 price dip under £200, so we think this is a great value deal.
Soundbase, Soundbar, Soundplate, Soundplinth - so many names
This one is more of a total all-in-one solution than your typical soundbar but it manages to pack in an awful lot of features in to a relatively small and tidy package. The built-in speakers of the main unit are bolstered by a separate wireless subwoofer which lends added impact, particularly with movies. It’s designed for your flat panel TV to sit upon and it can take a weight of 38Kgs, so most modern TVs will be safe.
The LAB540 has a 3D capable Blu-ray player, built-in, which will also scale your DVDs up to HD resolutions. The LG Soundplate also has the convenience of Bluetooth streaming from phone, tablet or PC. That’s not to mention the goodies on offer through LG’s Smart TV portal, including video streaming from the likes of Netflix, NOW TV and YouTube amongst the ranks. The Xmas 2014 pricing sees the LAB540 under £400 which, with all on offer, is a very good price.
This is another with an unobtrusive design but should it happen to get in the way of the infrared receiver on your TV, comes supplied with an IR blaster to ensure it can communicate with its remote. The DHT-S514 comes replete with HDMI ARC capability, which adds some convenience but there’s also two digital audio connections and a stereo 3.5mm input. Denon even throws connecting cables in to the box, along with a smart and easy to use remote.
The Denon DHT-S514 is a thoroughly well thought out soundbar package with the power of the subwoofer really helping deliver with movie soundtracks. The deep, resonant bass is accompanied by very clear mids and highs and the Movie mode provides a pretty convincing surround sound experience with multi-channel tracks. This package is priced at under £300 but you’ll have to be quick to bag one as they are soon to be end of line.
Some soundbars are more musical than others
This is one of the more musical soundbars we heard in 2014 but its HiFi credentials does mean the cabinet is a bit larger than most, and there’s the possibility it might obscure some of the bottom of your screen. There is the option to wall-mount, however, and the M4 is sturdily built with a good set of audio connections; again, there is no HDMI option but you do get a digital audio input, a couple of stereo jacks, as well as the option of Bluetooth streaming. The included remote isn’t anything to write home about but it gets the job done.
The M4 features Balanced Mode Radiator drivers for the stereo channels and they do a great job in spreading sound all around the room. The built-in subwoofer is refined and responsive but also packs a punch and the only small caveat we have, is that you really need to pump up the volume of the Media 4 to get the most out of it. This is not a soundbar for night time, low level listening. The M4 will set you back somewhere around £400, so it’s not the cheapest solo soundbar product around, but it is right up there among the best in this product category.
This is not the place to be debating the merits of the new fashion for curved TVs but one thing we will concede, is that they do look very cool. It was only a matter of time before the manufacturers began producing matching soundbar products and it was no surprise that it was Samung who were the ones to do it first. The HW-H7500 curved soundbar isn’t cheap, however, but it does feature some interesting technologies and, of course, it’s the perfect match to your curved Samsung TV. If you do happen to own one of those, you’ll be able to take advantage of TV SoundConnect, too, allowing you to combine soundbar and TV wirelessly.
There’s a separate, wireless subwoofer included as part of this package which provides the HW-H7500 with plenty of power but it’s subtle enough for music playback and the apt-X capable Bluetooth capability is a bonus there. Despite its form, the soundstage of the H7500 is wide and open, courtesy of the eight in-built speaker drivers. As we alluded to above, this might not be best value soundbar around but if you value your aesthetics as much as you do your sound quality, you will certainly not be disappointed with this package!
Hopefully we've provided you with plenty of food for thought as you go soundbar shopping this Christmas, but we'd love to hear of any great buys you've uncovered in the comments section below.
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