Pack a punch but miss the mark

March 31, 2022 0 Comments

Today’s budget TVs come with many options like HDMI ARC, 4K HDR playback and some smart capabilities. The biggest compromise to keep these TVs low is the quality of the audio output. Most TVs today pack 20W sound output, which is the best average sound. Since watching TV is an audio-video experience, the video experience is improving and the audio experience is getting worse. The speaker’s lack of audio quality can be attributed to the TV’s slim profile, and this has given rise to a relatively new class of products called soundbars.

Over the past few years, advances in technology have made it possible for soundbars to compete with entry-level home theaters in terms of features such as better sound output with ease of setup and installation. Recently, Xiaomi launched a Rs 5,000 soundbar which set fire to the budget soundbar segment. It is not perfect and you can see our detailed review here. Today we have Blaupunkt SBW-02 soundbar. It packs a subwoofer, which Xiaomi doesn’t have in the soundbar, and a number of features that make it an attractive entry-level. Is it worth your hard earned money?

Key specification at a glance

Frequency response: 35-200 Hz
Soundbar and subwoofer Weight: 7 kg
Subwoofer: Yes
Audio input: HDMI ARC, Optical IN, USB, Bluetooth and AUX-In.
Soundbar dimensions: LxWxH = 80 x 6.7 x 6.7 cm
HDMI input: 0
HDMI output (audio return channel): 1
Price: Rs 8,499

What’s in the box

In the box, you’ll find the power cable with soundbar, subwoofer, two ax wires (one 3.5mm on both ends and the other, 3.5mm from RCA). It comes with screws if you decide to wall-mount the soundbar.

There is a Walmount bracket on the back of the soundbar

Construction and design

A tube of shiny plastic is the best way to describe a soundbar. The front has a plastic grille that hides the drivers with an LED display for the input source. The LED indicator can only highlight two features. You can see that the volume has increased to 32 which is the maximum and for the input, you will see two characters representing the input. LI for line-in, BT for Bluetooth, much more. To the right of the bar are the physical buttons, which consist of rubber and power, volume up, volume down and input. Next to it is the USB port. The physical buttons are rubbery and clicky and an easy option if you lose the remote. Sadly, there are no other physical controls to control things like bass, treble, etc.

At the back, we have a cavity that has all the other connection options. You have a port for connecting subwoofer, line-in, optical and ARC. There is also a bracket at the back if you want to wall-mount the soundbar. The bottom of the soundbar has two rubber feet that hold it tightly when placed on the table.

Overall, due to the glossy plastic it looks a bit cheap but the construction of the soundbar is tough.

Moved to the subwoofer, it is not wireless and connects to the soundbar via a single cable. It does not require separate electricity and the provided cable is long enough to keep the subtree about 6 feet away from the bar which makes it long enough to be placed in a sweet spot in your living room. The subwoofer does not have the traditional square shape. Instead, it is a rectangle and with the driver at the top. It has a matte black finish and a fuzzy look when placed in a home theater setup. Overall, the subwoofer is subtle and draws little attention to itself.

Ports and connections

Speaking of connectivity options, the speaker has 1 HDMI ARC port, 1 optical in, 1 USB, Bluetooth and 1 AUX-in. There is no HDMI pasteurizer in the bar, but I think at this price point, seeking HDMI pasteurization is a deliberate thought. The power port is also on the back and the power cable is not user-replaceable. It’s the same with the rear of the subwoofer. Comes with a remote control in the soundbar box.

A good thing is that the soundbar comes with two AUX cables, one 3.5mm on both ends and the other 2.1 aux in the cable box which ensures that you are ready for some kind of connection when you unbox the speaker. For optical and HDMI ARC connectivity, you have to pay for a cable yourself.

Setup and performance

Soundbar is very easy to set up. Place the soundbar under the TV or wall-mount it (to your liking), place the subwoofer in a corner, attach the bar to the bar, attach the bar to your TV and you can go. Setup will not take you more than 10 minutes.

In terms of performance, most of the content played to test the soundbar was run using Bluetooth, line-in and HDMI ARC and yes, there is a difference in performance from each source and in some cases a strict one. We’ve attached the soundbar to a Sony W950D FHD TV for testing.

Let’s start with the good stuff. While connected to TV through the line-in, we’ve seen action movies like John Wick and Wonder Woman. At high volume, the speaker makes noise to bring the room down. The soundbar is loud enough to fill a small bedroom (10 feet x 12 feet) and comfortable enough for an average sized living room (12 feet x 15 feet). Placed on a wooden table, there is no vibration from the soundbar because the low frequencies are well taken care of by the subwoofer. During a fight sequence, when John Wick changes guns, you can create the signature sound of each gun by adding immersion. Watch a movie like Spider-Man Homecoming, and the combination of action and Spider-Man weirdness with high octave music is easy to understand. Not to mention spitting out his web shooter fake. When connected using the line-in, I recommend keeping the soundbar sound at 95 percent and controlling the volume using your TV remote. This will control the volume of content from your TV while keeping the soundbar performance higher. Although we kept the volume of the soundbar high and controlled the volume of content on the TV using the TV remote control, the soundbar content did not show any distortion during playback. Increase the volume of the TV by more than 70 percent and you may notice some distortion.

Moving to TV shows like Young Sheldon or Modern Family, these shows have more vocals with less emphasis on background score. Here too the voice is clear, clean and without any distortion.

Even in a movie like Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Motorcycle Chase Sequence, there was a clear channel break. However, we consider explicit channel separation considering the price point. When you dart the motorcycle from one end of the screen to the other you will notice the sound move from left to right and vice versa. However, channel separation is nothing compared to premium soundbars where there is a wide range of separation. Considering the price, the channel separation is better than what we saw in the Mi Soundbar (read our review here).

Coming to gaming, we played some Doom and Gears of War using speakers. The sound of Doom Slayer’s gun with the scratch of monsters and rock music in the background is clear and immersive. The default setting for games to enjoy thumps is just the right amount of bus but for your base heads, you can increase it from the remote control.

If you’ve read this yet, you think the Soundbar is worth the price point and before you get to that conclusion, let us give you the bad news – HDMI ARC performance is extremely poor. When we plug it in via HDMI ARC and we pump the volume to 100 percent, we still hold our ears to get something out. Performance seems to have broken down from the ARC, due to the softness of the speaker, the lack of any kind of clarity and the lack of a better way to describe it. A quick check of customer reviews of Amazon and Flipkart speakers reveals that we are not alone. This is a problem with Blaupunkt SBW-02. If you are looking for an HDMI ARC connection on a priority basis, this soundbar is not for you.

The overall performance of the soundbar is good for the price but the problem of HDMI ARC connection makes it a deal-breaker for me.

The last row

If HDMI ARC is not a priority and living at 10k is important to you, then yes, you can consider Blaupunkt SBW-02. Its overall performance is good for movies, gaming and regular TV watching. Connection options are acceptable at this price point and remote control is effective. If you have a tight 5k budget and don’t mind a subwoofer then you might want to consider Mi Soundbar. All input there works well. With Blaupunkt, you’ll get some better performance but miss out on the HDMI ARC, where Blaupunkt SBW-02 loses big points.

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