Flatscreen tellies are great, but the thinner they get, the worse they sound. Which is why sales of TV soundbars are exploding. Not everyone (in fact, probably most people) can’t accommodate a separate AV amplifier and five speakers around their living room.
A single soundbar is the ideal solution. It can sit under your TV (or be mounted on the wall), and will give your telly the sound boost it deserves.
But what makes the Philips HTL9100, our 2013 Product of the Year, so special, is not only its great looks, but the fact that each end of the soundbar detaches to provide a pair of portable, wireless rear speakers.
The battery-powered speakers are rechargeable (and should last for up to 10 hours/charge) and when you’ve finished watching a film or programme in 5.1, they just snap back on to the ends of the soundbar and will automatically recharge.
There’s a wireless subwoofer for extra bass duties, and Bluetooth compatibility for wireless streaming from a smartphone or tablet. It’s a really neat, out-of-the-box solution.
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However, if £600 is outside your budget, just £300 buys you the excellent LG NB4530A soundbar and sub. It’s a super-slim design with a 7.5cm-high chassis and a 150W wireless subwoofer. There’s the usual array of connections including an ARC-enabled HDMI input which will accept sound from a TV, plus a USB port and Bluetooth.
It’s amazing how something so slender can sound so good. Both sub and bar work well, giving a seamless performance with no lyp-sync issues. Given its waif-like dimensions, the LG manages to create a surprisingly broad soundstage. For medium and smaller rooms, it’s an affordable, space-efficient solution.
At the other end of the size and price spectrum comes the Monitor Audio ASB-2. At £1000 it’s not cheap, and at 18x100.5x17cm it certainly ain’t small. That said, the firm’s first foray into the soundbar market is an overwhelming success: the ASB-2 is a fantastic design, and has real star quality.
There’s an abundance of power and weight to the sound, and a fantastic feeling of scale from movie soundtracks. Features are good too: you get AirPlay and DLNA compatibility and three HDMI inputs.
Yes, £1000 is expensive for a soundbar. And yes you could buy a full 5.1 rig for the same money. But soundbars are designed for those who don’t have the space. If your budget can stretch this far, the Monitor Audio ASB-2 is an excellent investment.
Need more choice? Check out our best soundbars to buy in 2013...
by Andy Clough