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Recommend me a sound bar - multiple HDMI inputs, ARC, wireless subwoofer

Discussion in 'Home Cinema & Hi-Fi' started by Alexrose1uk, 19 Aug 2021.

  1. Alexrose1uk


    Joined: 26 Apr 2004

    Posts: 8,767

    Location: Milton Keynes

    Hi guys.
    Hoping you can assist here.

    I'm looking for a soundbar with multiple HDMI inputs, a HDMI output with ARC and a wireless subwoofer for the bedroom.

    I was served for many years by a Kitsound unit which is beginning to fail, unfortunately they no longer seem to make soundbars, and I am struggling to find a unit that replicates the feature set my old unit did without spending hundreds.

    Most of the units I've looked at seem to have either only a single HDMI with ARC, or at most one extra HDMI input.

    I am not quite sure why such basic functionality as HDMI ports has become so hard to find? Not every TV is blessed with 3+ HDMI connections?!

    Any recommendations appreciated. Call my budget up to £200 for now
    Last edited: 19 Aug 2021
  2. lucid


    Joined: 29 May 2010

    Posts: 5,845

    Location: Cheshire

    What you're seeing is the effect of the mass market on lower-priced sound bars.

    In more specific terms, the average customer for a £200 sound bar is more likely to be streaming rather than playing physical media. This will be from either the TV's own built-in apps or, if an external source, then something connected directly to the set so that the picture benefits of HDR10/10+/DolbyVision aren't neutered by the limits of the HDMI standards in cheaper/lower-spec sound bars. On this point, the reality is that most users don't think about this as deeply as that. They see the TV as a switching hub and any audio device is treated more as an extension to the speakers rather than a switching device in its own right. "It's less of dem wirez, innit" ;)

    Streamed audio is rarely anything better than DD5.1, and this is something that both Optical and HDMI ARC can handle. If Dolby ATMOS is required, then HDMI ARC can handle the DD+ bitstream signal for that, and so nothing better than HDMI ARC is required.

    From a manufacturer's point of view, juggling the budget to produce a sound bar with a final retail price under £200 is a hell of a mathematical feat. Putting on features that very few people use is a waste of money, and that money can either go into some feature more in demand (e.g. Alexa integration), or in reducing the retail price/increasing dealer margin (more volume sales), or boosting company profits.

    \You might be better off looking at a used older higher-end Yamaha sound bar such as a YSP2500. It's good, and includes ARC and BT.
  3. Alexrose1uk


    Joined: 26 Apr 2004

    Posts: 8,767

    Location: Milton Keynes

    I am starting to think with the way things have gone, looking at a new TV with 4 HDMI ports; and then utilising the fact ARC still seems to mostly work on the old soundbar is the way forward; so if the Kitsound then completely fails, I can just stick in anything else with ARC.
  4. TheVoice


    Joined: 15 Aug 2005

    Posts: 21,934

    Location: Glasgow

    Most newer TVs are though, and people tend to prefer to have different picture/mode settings applied to different inputs e.g. Game mode for consoles etc. When you're routing all your inputs through one HDMI to a TV, that becomes more tricky to manage.
  5. jaybee


    Joined: 10 Jul 2008

    Posts: 5,636

    I agree, the new age is more about HDMI-ing everything into the TV and then having e-arc or arc out to either the sound bar or your AV receiver. This does bring some limitations via plain ARC but via e-ARC those limitations go away as it can push even the high quality sound codecs. With a soundbar arc is fine mostly as people tend to accept a good stereo 2.1 signal as they just want improvements over the TV speakers. Depends if you are buying a high end soundbar with built in "fake" surround or a more budget one for improved TV speakers.

    I've bought 3 soundbars in recent times. One was a cheap <£100 and I forget the manufacturer but it was basic with no control. The sub boomed annoyingly during films and the likes. I sent it back and went with the Sony HT-SD35 (same as the HT-S350 without wireless connection to TV) for about £150-200 on some deal. The wireless sub actually hits pretty hard and has a separate sub control. The preset sound modes include a soft style one for night time listening, and a clear voice type one as I recall. I think a lot of the Sony ones if not all, are kind of in a permanent surround mode I think I read so may not be as good musically. In terms of an upgrade over the built in Hisense TV speakers it's night and day.

    Then I just got for our kitchen TV a Yamaha YSP-209 for about £300. Recently been on offer for £240 but missed it :(
    I got this with a bias towards music as we use it to play tunes in the kitchen and spilling out into the garden for BBQs and the likes (kitchen opens up with large bifold doors). It's a fairly robust and high quality unit for the money. The wireless sub drops quite nicely and packs a good punch. The surround aspect of it I agree with the reviews is not that great and is best left in stereo mode. It has built in Alexa which works seamlessly. There seems to be some debate online as to whether this works with multi room alexa speaker mode. i.e. speaker groups where you play on multiple speakers through the house. I can confirm on latest firmware it does. So you can have a party and have music playing in multiple rooms all the same and include this soundbar in the group.

    If you are wall mounting your TV, consider the depth of the soundbar sat on the wall underneath it. If you have a superthin modern OLED or QLED picture frame one, then the soundbar can look unsightly sticking out further than the TV. If you have an older style LCD TV and you get one of the cheaper wall mounts that protrude by about 2-3cm, then by the time you add on the 5-10 cm of your average LCD, they are sticking out enough to match up with most soundbars. The Yamaha is one of the deeper ones at about 10.5cm. Slightly annoyingly they add on about 1cm unecessarily by the way they make the mount points. Consider this and whether it has a cut away for the cables to drop down a channel and allow flush mount of it. If you are mounting the soundbar on a unit then ignore all this lol.

    Above £300 and you start looking at the high end Samsung and LG ones. Have a look on that rtings website where they have reviewed them all very critically and in depth.

    Definitely get one with arc at minimum and connect it via HDMI so you get CEC where you can control the volume of it via the normal TV remote. Also look at things like auto off to save power after you turn the TV off etc. I would never buy one without being able to independently control the sub as you will want to be able to tweak that. Everyone's room setup is different, plus placement so you want that control.
  6. Alexrose1uk


    Joined: 26 Apr 2004

    Posts: 8,767

    Location: Milton Keynes

    This is the thing, the Kitsound is not incredible, but, its 2.1 so does have enough punch for the bedroom and... it's OK. The Bluetooth failed long ago and that didn't bother me, but now the HDMI inputs are failing (seems to be the HDCP side if I had to guess), it's kinda reaching the point something had to be done; and it was getting to the point it was winding up the Mrs; which is usually the point where suddenly budget becomes available!! Anyone married for long enough will know that feeling haha!

    However, the ARC capable HDMI output on the unit still seems to be working; so given I'd be looking at several hundred for the new soundbar ANYWAY, it seems more worthwhile (as the TV we have in the bedroom has a few deadpixels etc ANYWAY) to look into a new ~£500 43" TV to replace the one in the bedroom; as long as it has 4x HDMI and ARC/E-ARC then I can continue using the Kitsound until it packs up completely via its ARC capability or Optical; and put the money into a better progression path. If we have a better TV; then when the Kitsound does finally completely die, I can just pickup something else with ARC. It's a bit of a pain because it means I might need to invest in some longer HDMI cables, but spending £300-400 or so on a decent soundbar when the TV itself is nothing special seems a bit of an imbalanced way to spend; whereas this way around I'll have the option to rely on E-Arc in future.

    I'll go take a look in my local Costco when I finish work in 45 minutes.

    If anyone has any recommendations...