Soundbars: What's Debuting At CES

By Joseph Palenchar On Jan 10 2012 - 6:01am




LAS VEGAS — Wireless subwoofers, built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 decoders, access to Internet audio and video streaming services, and virtual surround technologies are appearing in a variety of new soundbars here at CES.

Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

Azend: The company’s Dynavox AcoustaBase 1, a revised version of a model shown last year, takes the form of a swiveling base for flat-TV pedestals. The base is only 4 inches tall and works with TVs sized up to 55 inches.

The product, targeted to retail for a suggested $199, incorporates built-in dual powered subwoofer drivers to deliver bass down to 50Hz, multiple dome tweeters and woofers, 180-watt output, and SRS WoW technology to simulate surround from stereo sources. Other features include iPod/iPhone/iPad dock, stereo Bluetooth, optical and coaxial S/PDIF inputs to accept PCM audio from DVD and Blu-ray players and TVs, and three analog stereo inputs. It’s rated at 180 watts with less than 2 percent THD.

The company is also showing a second-generation Envizen Digital HD600 set-top media player that plays 2D and 3D video files and music from the Internet, networked PCs and network-attached storage devices. It also accesses the web via HTML5 browser and comes with bundled wireless keyboard.

Coby: The company’s first three wall-mountable soundbars include the new $159-suggested CSMP95 slim soundbar, which is also the company’s first soundbar with wireless subwoofer. The 2.1-speaker system is powered 2x20-watt amplifier for the left-right speakers and 40-watts to the subwoofer. It switches among a coaxial digital input and RCA input. It comes with front-panel controls and fullfunction remote. It is 2.2 inches deep by 5.9 inches tall by 33.9 inches wide.

Haier: The $399-suggested SVEV40-3D 40-inch 3D soundbar incorporates Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder, optical digital input, 230-watt amplification, and Sonic Emotion 3D virtual-surround technology from Germany- based Sonic Emotion. The technology is promoted as delivering a large surround sweet spot that reaches everyone in a room.

Other features include from iPod/iPad/iPhone dock, AM/FM tuner that can be controlled by a free Haier app, and ability to switch among multiple audio sources via aux input, optical digital input, digital coaxial input, docked Apple device, and AM/FM tuner.

Also, the company is showing two Core-series soundbars in 20- and a 32-inch sizes. Both are wallmountable and feature front-mounted retractable iPad/ iPhone/iPod dock, composite and component video outputs, analog audio input, and FM radio, which is controlled from a Haier app running on the Apple devices. The app also delivers Internet radio stations, weather forecasts and alarm-clock functions. Both lack outboard subwoofers.

The 20-inch $99-suggested SBC 20 features two 3-inch drivers powered by an amp rated at 2x10-watts RMS with 10 percent THD. The wider $149-suggested SBC 32 pumps up power to 2x40 watts.

LG: The company launched its first soundbar last year and is coming to this year’s show with three new models, two with stereo Bluetooth, one with wireless subwoofer, and one with embedded subwoofer.

Philips (P&F): P&F USA, the Atlanta-based Funai Electric subsidiary, is expanding its selection of soundbars, which ship in April at suggested retails of $109, $179 and $349.

The company is also launching a 2.1-speaker virtual surround system with Apple AirPlay and embedded Wi-Fi. (See p. 26.)

The soundbars leave all audio and video switching to the TV.

The $129 CSS2113 in white and its CS2123 black version are 30 inches wide and feature separate a subwoofer, virtual surround technology, HDMI 1.3a output and 3.5mm aux audio input.

The $179 HTS3111 is curved to widen dispersion and features Dolby Digital and DTS decoders, HDMI 1.3a output, outboard subwoofer, 3.5mm aux audio input, and Dolby Virtual Speaker for virtual surround sound. The $349 CSS5123 Android soundbar includes wireless subwoofer, Wi-Fi, DLNA-certification and HDMI 1.4a output with audio return channel. Wi-Fi and DLNA will enable Android devices certified as DLNA servers to send audio and video content to the soundbar. The soundbar will also be able to pull A/V content from networked PCs and DLNA-certified Android devices.

The three bars ship in April. The company offered one soundbar in 2011.

RCA: A new line of soundbars from RCA-brand licensee Alco will incorporate apps to access Internet-based video and audio streaming services, online photo-sharing sites, and online news, weather and social-media sites. The bars will be priced up to a suggested $199. Some come without subwoofer, and others will come with powered wireless sub or passive wired sub. They ship in Q2r.

Each soundbar also features 1080p HDMI output and built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet port to access Internet-based services. The higher-end soundbars will incorporate Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding and might incorporate some form of virtual surround processing.

Sharp: The company is launching three new 1-inch-tall soundbars that come with replaceable inserts that expand or reduce soundbar width to match different size TVs. The inserts can also be removed to turn the horizontal soundbar into two separate left-right vertical speakers sitting atop their own stands.

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