Soundbars without subwoofers can work and at this price, the Sub Zero II is pretty cool
What is the Roth Sub Zero II?The Roth Bar 3 proved an excellent soundbar/subwoofer package in the less than £250 category. The Roth Sub Zero II manages to be even more discreet, by doing away with the sub entirely, and brings APT-X support for its Bluetooth streaming. Losing the sub trims the price down to a very affordable £150, or thereabouts, so if ultimate convenience and a lack of boxes is what you’re looking for from your next audio solution, this might be the product for you…
Roth Sub Zero II Design & ConnectionsThere’s a fair few components crammed inside the Sub Zero II so it’s not surprising that the speaker weighs a little more than your typical soundbar. The casing is heavy-duty black plastic and feels nice and sturdy. There’s a cloth speaker grille which is not removable owing to the small display and control panel at the centre. The speaker has a height of just under 9cm so will sit in front of most TVs without obscuring the view and only the most low-slung will present a problem.
Connectivity options are basic. A recess at the rear of the speaker reveals solitary S/PDIF Digital Audio, RCA Stereo and a 3.5mm auxiliary input. For you smartphone, tablet or computer, there is also the option of Bluetooth streaming. And that’s your lot but, since most TVs possess a digital audio out these days, most of your sources should be covered.
It's reassuringly weighty
Roth Sub Zero II Setup & OperationThe panel mentioned above is a very basic interface and the indicator lights for power and volume are barely visible when viewed anywhere other than eye-level, which makes initial operations more difficult than it really should be.
You’ll soon get used to it though and once you’ve learned the input related colour code for the power light – red is RCA Stereo, green is 3.5mm, pale pink is S/PDIF digital audio and blue is (rather obviously) Bluetooth – then operations are very straightforward.
The remote is very much budget in appearance but has all the necessary controls for input selection, volume and mode.
In some ways it’s better than the handset that shipped with Roth’s BAR 3, as it works reliably but it is very flimsy and leaves you wanting a little more. Operation of the unit is suitably easy and pairing of Bluetooth devices requires nothing more than selecting that source and finding the ROTH SZP in your device list.
Bluetooth is almost flawless
Roth Sub Zero II FeaturesRoth is making a fairly big play out of the fact the Sub Zero II supports Apt-X-A2DP Bluetooth for streaming which improves stability and audio quality. We have to say that in approximately ten hours of streaming internet radio from a Nexus 7, that the connection was almost totally rock solid with only one, brief dropout during the sessions which could have been as a result of the stream getting interrupted just as much as it could have been an issue with the Bluetooth, so a big thumbs up for this feature.
In terms of features directly affecting audio performance, the Sub Zero II is equipped with four two and three-quarter inch ferrite drivers and a couple passive radiator bass drivers for the low end. They are powered along by Class D Amplifiers, producing a claimed 60 watts peak output and encased in a polymer case to minimise vibrations. Roth also boasts that the display auto-dims but given the fact you can barely make it out in the first place, this is rather a moot point.
Roth Sub Zero II Audio QualityThe Philips HTL5120 allayed our fears that a soundbar without a subwoofer was worth the bother and the Roth Sub Zero II furthers the cause with a surprisingly convincing performance. Roth’s effort doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the Philips, in terms of its bass response, but it will undoubtedly kick your flat panel's puny speakers squarely in the teeth with its overall dynamics.
We ran a few movies and TV shows through the Sub Zero II and dialogue was always clear whilst effects have an impressive sense of localisation. There’s just a very good air of solidity to audio without it ever seeming to overreach or distort, unless pushed right toward the ends of its volume scale. Roth has clearly tested the Sub Zero II carefully and has wisely opted for restraint over chasing unobtainable goals.
Audio performance is sensibly restrained and composed
There’s also a refreshing lack of unnecessary DSP modes with just Movies, Music and Voice as the options, with the latter two serving their nominated disciplines well. The Movie mode is very echoey and its over-emphasis of bass notes caused our review sample to rattle so we’d suggest avoiding that but the Music preset works well for both film and TV.
Musically, the Sub Zero II can probably be described as bright and eager but reasonably well composed, if lacking some nuance. It’s great for some background or party listening, particularly with the Bluetooth option but if music listening is high up on your list of requirements, you’d be better served by others. That said, if the budget is £150, or under, we doubt you could find a superior alternative.
- Compact design
- Tight audio performance for movies & music
- Excellent price
- Difficult to read display panel
- Poor remote
Roth Sub Zero II Soundbar ReviewRoth’s business is very much built on the lifestyle audio market. It’s not something they’ve just latched on to, and it shows. The Sub Zero II is discreetly styled and mostly very easy to set up and use – bar the incredibly poor display panel and cheap remote. Connectivity options aren’t particularly generous but the inclusion of very capable Apt X Bluetooth support does open up the possibilities for streaming from multiple sources.
Whether it was with films, TV or music, the Sub Zero II generally lived up to its name, staying composed and solid. Inevitably it lacks some impact at the low end but Roth has come up with a package that is well integrated and sure-footed. It won’t blow your socks off but it will assuredly kick sand in the face if your flat panel's shameful speaker array and at less than £150, it certainly represents excellent value.
Ease of Use7
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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