Modern TVs are really good at showing pictures. Well, that’s pretty obvious, but bear with me, I’m getting to a point. What they’re less good at is putting out good sound – whether you’re watching action movies with lots of loud explosions or live music, that shiny new ultra-thin and remarkably large screen won’t sound all that good. It’s all about physics, you know. To make sounds you have to move air, and that needs speakers that are a bit big to fit into a TV.
Once upon a time, the solution to this was to get an AV Receiver (basically an amplifier with lots of inputs) and surround speakers, which generally required lots of wires, and took up a lot of space. I used to use one of those, but when it got to the point where upgrading the speakers might have been an option, I decided to simplify things, as I mentioned recently. And that Yamaha soundbar (which Amazon won’t let me provide a direct link to for reasons of err, dunno) has been pretty good.
But as I’ve just arranged to upgrade the TV, it had a bit of a problem. The new TV I’ve ordered, being all modern and fancy with not much of a bezel around the screen, and a low stand, would have a bit of its screen obscured by my soundbar. Now I suppose I could have got something to raise the TV a bit, but it seemed far more sensible to get a soundbar that would fit.
Looking in John Lewis, I saw something suitably compatible (same manufacturer as the TV, designed to fit with its stand, all very nice), but I didn’t much like the price. So I did a bit of shopping around, and found this one on Amazon. It’s a different model (J6000 rather than J6500), but as it was just over half the price of the other one, it seemed like a Good Idea. So, I ordered that, it was delivered at usual Amazon speed and I arranged to get it home a couple of days ago.
Although I don’t have the new TV yet, I thought I might as well set up the new soundbar. This is a very simple operation. Connect the optical lead, connect the soundbar and its separate subwoofer to the mains, and turn on your kit. The supplied remote offers options to select different inputs (the soundbar has several) and modify the sound (treble, bass and soundbar level are all independently adjustable). There are also sound modes (Standard, Music and Night, amongst others – all a bit vaguely described) which you can select. There’s a text display on the front of the soundbar which briefly lights up when it’s powered on and when any changes are made with the remote – otherwise it stays dark to avoid being distracting, which is an improvement on the Yamaha’s green LEDs. Volume control is a great deal more granular, going from 0 through 20 to, err, well, I haven’t tried cranking it up all the way, so I’m not sure.
The subwoofer connects to the soundbar by Bluetooth – it’s arrives paired, so no setting up is needed. When it’s in standby there’s a little red LED showing, and the inevitable blue one appears when it’s on and connected to the bar. Being a subwoofer, you can then park it anywhere in the room where it will fit.
First impressions of the sound? Ummm, meep. Wibble. Ooooooh. Yes, it’s rather good. Not just louder and with more bass (the Yamaha has teeny bass speakers, which aren’t as effective as a real full-sized one), but also clearer and more generally pleasant to hear.
I’ve tried it with some general TV shows, an archive music show (Guitar Heroes at the BBC) and some music streamed from my iTunes library. And that last one really showed off the sound – proper bass, clear sound for instruments and vocals and overall a much improved listening experience.
So, a suggestion. If you’re thinking of adding a soundbar to your TV, it’s really worth spending a bit more. While the basic Yamaha one offers a significant improvement over built-in speakers, one like this offers seriously nice sound.
One more thing – my venerable Logitech Harmony One remote control had no trouble at all setting up this soundbar. Volume control works as expected, and the extra controls are now configured on the touchscreen.