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Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Mon May 21, 2018 10:41 am

Much excitement around the house with a new TV, and now I'm hoping to bring the sound a little closer to par with a sound bar. Just looking for a "pretty good" solution, though I would prefer ARC support.

So far I know about the Vizio SB3651-E6 and Yamaha YAS-207BL. But these are near the top of the range; if I can go simpler/cheaper I will. Also, it seems that Vizio model doesn't support HDMI 2 and I don't want that to come back and bite me.

Thanks for reading.
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Mon May 21, 2018 5:19 pm

Why do you want a sound bar rather than a component home theater sound system?
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Mon May 21, 2018 5:58 pm

To keep the number of components simple and the number of dollars low. And to avoid having to sell the significant other on the idea of speakers all over the living room.
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Mon May 21, 2018 6:32 pm

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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Mon May 21, 2018 10:10 pm

Vigil80 wrote:
So far I know about the Vizio SB3651-E6 and Yamaha YAS-207BL.

I have the Vizio soundbar, a slightly older revision (I bought it in late 2016). Some notes:
  • Sound quality is quite good most of the time, stereo separation is impressive for a soundbar. By default, it upmixes stereo to surround sound, which can cause some weird out-of-phase sounds on songs that have a lot of processing. You can turn off the upmix, though.
  • The wireless connection from the soundbar to the subwoofer/surrounds is extremely reliable. I've never had to re-sync the connection.
  • The subwoofer is surprisingly good - it's boomy, but it doesn't vibrate too much or make farting noises unless you crank the volume way up. It's not going to be reference-quality on a movie like Interstellar but it does the job.
  • The surround sound seems like it's matrixed together, even in 5.1 mode - i.e. a pure "left rear" signal will sound like 90% left rear 10% right rear. It doesn't bother me but your mileage may vary.
  • I've never gotten the Vizio Smartcast/Chromecast remote app to work correctly, but the IR remote works well enough (no backlighting on the IR remote's LCD screen, though).
  • The soundbar has two separate LEDs to show that surround sound status - white for DD5.1, and orange for DTS.
  • Bluetooth is functional, but I and my friend both have problems re-connecting our phones. You have to "forget" the SB3851 and re-pair to get anything.
  • The soundbar and surround speakers are wall-mountable. I don't think any hardware is included (if it was, I lost it).
  • HDMI-ARC works well, but if you have an older TV it can be flaky. My 2016 TCL Roku TV would "forget" that the SB3851 is an ARC device and I'd have to power cycle everything to get it working again. I just bought a 4k TCL Roku TV and HDMI-ARC works without any problems.
  • If you connect a *computer* through the HDMI pass-through (e.g. computer->soundbar HDMI->TV via HDMI-ARC), sometimes the display won't wake from sleep. With a Mac you can work around it by hitting ctrl-shift-eject, there's probably something similar in Windows.

Overall I really like the soundbar, but since it doesn't have HDMI2.0 you need to rely on the optical/coax inputs if you're doing 4k.
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Tue May 22, 2018 6:22 am

I've recently undertaken this project for my folks new home and after listening to a few in-store decided that "all in one soundbars" without a separate subwoofer are a waste of time.

Like you, they didn't want the complexity of a AV separates system with 5.1 speakers and a receiver, so I eventually settled on an affordable Sony HT-RT3 5.1 soundbar.

It has true 5.1 with L/R+C in the soundbar, a dedicated sub that isn't flashy or obtrusive, and two wired surround speakers for which I ran cable around the edge of the room under the carpet, terminated at a terminal block on the skirting board behind the sofa and ran up the side-table legs either side of the sofa. They could even be hidden in the corners of the room at floor level, tbh. The amp, HDMI ARC connector and SPDIF connections are in the subwoofer, so you do need to place that somewhere near the TV (or run long cables). Also, all the connectors are proprietary plastic plugged things, so you'll need to modify them if you want to increase the cable length, but this is true of almost all soundbar/HTIB solutions.

As far as sound quality goes, it's as good as any other sub-500 plastic soundbar solution; Neither the pinnacle of fidelity nor punchiness but even as an audiophile I think they get 80-90% of the way there for minimum financial outlay and do so whilst being pretty minimal.

I've not listened to all the options on the market, but after listening to half a dozen or so at wildly different price points I realised that the plastic-cabinet, small-driver soundbars all suffer the same flaws in audio quality (a lack of clarity and definition in the midrange crossover between sub and ~2" drivers in the soundbar) so buy a setup that looks good and be happy with the compromise in sound quality. I had to remind myself that just because I've trained my ears to tell the difference between $500 and $5000 speakers doesn't necessarily mean that most people care, as long as the bass is deep, the treble is crisp, and their music sounds okay.
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Tue May 22, 2018 7:48 am

I'd get one from an audio brand like that Yamaha model. They tend to be better at audio than the TV guys (Samsung, Vizio, LG).

Home Theater Review recommended the Polk Audio Magni-Fi Mini in the soundbar category last year.
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Fri May 25, 2018 7:19 am

I bought my parents the Yamaha YAS-207. It sounds pretty good, is simple to use, and subtle looking. As far as I know, they have not had any issues using it with the cable box and blu-ray player.
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Re: Sound bar recommendations <$300?

Tue May 29, 2018 10:19 am

Went with a Yamaha ATS-1070. I spotted it on sale at Costco, the last one on the shelf. It checked all the boxes for me. One component, bluetooth, ARC support, even speech enhancement which I figured I'd do without.

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