All it takes is $130, and you can do away with your lackluster TV speakers and upgrade to a soundbar that boasts both thumping bass and crystal-clear dialogues.
It seems like a no-brainer, but some consumers will still try to hit a grand slam by spending well north of $500 for a soundbar. Their thinking goes, “The more I spend, the better the product should be.” Wrong.
What TCL has shown us through its TV offerings over the years is that being pricier doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. The same can be said for TCL’s soundbars. There are four versions currently available, and two of the versions come with a subwoofer. For this article, let’s dive deeper into the more expensive one called Alto 7+. If you’re looking for comparable competitors, the lower-end Yamaha and VIZIO soundbars could fit that bill.
What really strikes you at first is the minimalist design (long, slim, mesh grills and TCL logo in center) and the no-frills attitude that it exudes. You certainly won’t expect much from just looking at the exterior. But it does indeed pack a punch, as the 160 watts can attest, and it works just fine with your run-of-the-mill dramas to action-packed Marvel movies. The wireless subwoofer is quite convenient, as you can place it anywhere you see fit, and it will surely add that necessary muscle to your audio experience.
The soundbar comes with three distinct listening modes: Movie, Music and News. The News mode really captures the nuances of any dialogue and the Movie mode tries to give you that dynamic sound you would likely get at a cinema. The sound can get loud at times, but it’s the clarity without the annoying distortion that impresses.
Will this soundbar be a suitable substitute for, let’s say, a Sonos product? Highly unlikely, but if you’re only going to be using it for movies and TV programs, it is indeed a fantastic bargain.
But if you’re looking to utilize Wi-Fi, which you can’t with the Alto 7+, and take full advantage of syncing capabilities and all of the streaming options out there, then a device like Sonos Beam would probably be a better fit for you. Keep in mind that the Alto 7+ does support Bluetooth pairing, so if you’re inclined to use your smartphone for music, yes, you can stream music that way.
There seems to be little risk in taking a chance with the Alto 7+. At the unbeatable price point of $130, why not take a shot? You could end up being pleasantly surprised.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV.