Over the past year, I’ve been tested a lot of soundbars. Frankly, my TV speakers weren’t cutting it, and I was eager to see what options are out there for us less-than-rich audiophiles. I was priced-out of all multi-speaker surround-sound systems, but was happy to see simpler options for just a couple hundred bucks. But I've been burned by inexpensive speakers before; I was concerned about distorted sound at loud volumes and excessive bass.
I was happy with the three set-ups listed below. If find more, I'll add them to this list.
The bar with the best sound quality is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most expensive piece of tech on this list. But the relatively pricey the Yamaha YAS-207 comes with some features the others don’t, like a separate wireless subwoofer to enhance the bass and software that recreates surround-sound. And you can connect your phone or computer to the speakers via Bluetooth. The speaker is available for $300. This may sound like a lot, but it’s much cheaper—and easier to set up—than a $400-$1,000 surround-sound setup with multiple speakers.
Then there's ZVOX, a soundbar that enhances the dialogue by using digital algorithms to manipulate the audio signal and boosts just the voices. Basically, the soundbar lowers the background noise and raises the volume of the speaking. This makes it perfect for people that constantly ask "what did they say?" while watching TV shows or movies. There are six levels of this AccuVoice function to choose from; if you don't have a problem hearing what actors are saying it's also just a well-balanced, greatsounding speaker. The ZVOX comes in five colors and can be programmed to be controlled by your TV's remote. Or you could plug it in via an optical audio input or a 3.5mm headphone jack. $270.
My favorite budget pick is the 35-inch Soundcore Infini from Anker. The 2.1-channel speaker—with two tweeters and two built-in subwoofers—provides deep bass and crystal clear high tones. Plus it lets you stream music via Bluetooth from your Smartphone, and comes with a remote to switch between audio modes. The soundbar can be hooked up to your TV via optical, digital coaxial, or AUX and comes with a wall-mount setup. The 2.2-inch tall speaker also features a dialogue mode similar to that of ZVOX, boosting the mid-range to enhance the dialogue. I have to say, ZVOX’s execution is superior.
After testing out this speaker, I reached out to them to see if Popular Science to see if we could set up an exclusive deal for our readers. The regular price is $100, but if you snag one before September 15, you can save $15 by using the code POPSCI33 at checkout.
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