Sounds great, but a little hard to recommend
Today’s budget TVs come with many options like HDMI ARC, 4K HDR playback and some smart capabilities. One of the compromises made to keep the price of these TVs low is the quality of the audio output. Most budget TVs today pack 20W sound output which is the best average sound. It does the job of watching TV every day, but for a immersive gaming or movie watching experience you need a dedicated sound system. Inadequate sound experience from TV speakers has given birth to soundbars.
Over the past few years, advances in technology have made it possible for soundbars to compete with entry-level home theaters, with features such as better sound output with ease of setup and installation. We have seen soundbars priced around Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 offering good sound output in the entry-level segment. But to get an immersive experience, a customer has to spend around Rs 20,000. Today we have Blaupunkt SBWL-03 soundbar. It costs Rs 13,990 and comes with HDMI ARC, Bluetooth, Optical, 3.5mm and USB connections. It comes with a wireless subwoofer. Is this a worthy entry-level soundbar?
Blaupunkt SBWL-03 Soundbar Key Specification at a Glance
Soundbar and subwoofer weight: 8.5 kg.
Audio input: HDMI ARC, optical in, USB, Bluetooth and AUX-In.
Soundbar dimensions: LxWxH = 48.5 x 10.4 x 32.2 cm.
HDMI input: 0.
HDMI output (audio return channel): 1.
Soundbar speaker driver: 2.75-inch x 2.
Subwoofer speaker driver: 8-inch.
Power output: 250W.
Price: Rs 13,990.
What’s in the Blaupunkt SBWL-03 soundbar box?
In the box, you’ll find a soundbar, subwoofer and 2 Aux cables (one 3.5mm at both ends and the other, 3.5mm from RCA). You will get remote control and manual. Power cables are connected to the subwoofer and soundbar.
Blaupunkt SBWL-03 Soundbar Build and Design
The Blaupunkt SBWL-03 has a simple traditional soundbar design. It is made of plastic with a glossy finish on top of the soundbar. The front has a textured wavy plastic design and some may prefer it as it will stand out in a traditional home entertainment setup. Below the soundbar logo, we have an LED indicator to show you the sound preset, current source, etc. I hope it fades a bit or shuts off automatically after a while because its constant visibility can be confusing, especially if you look at the contents of a pitch dark room. The power button doubles as a source selection button which is nice if you lose the remote control.
The soundbar itself is very light and it’s about the same length as a 50-inch TV which makes it ideal for a 50- to 65-inch setup. The power cord is attached to the soundbar and is not user-replaceable. To the right of the soundbar, we have physical controls that include a volume rocker and a power button. Pressing the buttons gives them a unique click and really feels a bit cheap. There is no rubber foot under the soundbar which helps to keep it on the table and it is a push.
When moving toward the subwoofer, it is longer and thinner with a groove at the top of the subwoofer. It has a matte finish that I like and when the lights are on in the subwoofer, it looks a little textured which is nice. There is no connection option other than the power cable of the subwoofer which is not connected and user-replaceable. The soundbar and subwoofer are wirelessly connected to each other when switched on.
Overall, although the soundbar is light, it is decently built. It has a downer that does not have rubber feet in place on the table. The subwoofer feels well built.
Blaupunkt SBWL-03 Soundbar port and connection
Speaking of connectivity options, the speaker has an HDMI ARC port, an optical in, a USB port, Bluetooth and an AUX-In. The USB port is on one side and the rest of the connection options are on the back with a small hole. There are no HDMI pasteurizers in the bar, but I think at this price point, wanting an HDMI pasteurizer is a deliberate thought. The soundbar comes with a remote control in the box.
A good thing is that the soundbar comes with 2 AUX cables, one is 3.5mm on both ends and the other is in a 2.1 ox cable (RCA to AUX) box which ensures that you are ready to connect when you unbox the speaker. For optical and HDMI ARC connections, you need to hang yourself for a cable.
Blaupunkt SBWL-03 remote control
Speaking of the remote control, it all seems plastic and quite cheap. The buttons are rubberized and have a fairly decent grip, but it’s hard to imagine this remote control lasting more than a few drops considering its plastic construction. It runs on two AAA batteries and offers playback control for Bluetooth and USB connections, four different EQ presets, treble, bus and volume control and the ability to change inputs. Everything you do on the remote control is reflected in the soundbar’s LED display.
Blaupunkt SBWL-03 setup
Soundbar is very easy to set up. Place the soundbar under the TV, place the subwoofer in a corner (soundbar and sub should not be more than 30 feet apart), connect both to a power supply and connect it to your TV and you can go. Setup will not take you more than 10 minutes. There is a blue light that glows behind the subwoofer when turned on for the first time and turns into a constant blue light when the soundbar is turned on.
Blaupunkt SBWL-03 Performance
It gets tough right here, so let’s take the good things away. The soundbar can get loud, really loud. On display, the volume can go up to a maximum of 32 and I was happy to keep it between 15 and 25 depending on the input method used to get an enjoyable experience. However, only the in-line (Aux port) and optical connections have consistently performed well with HDMI and Bluetooth delivery issues.
When connected to the TV via HDMI, there was a constant audio drop, until the audio was no longer audible. I checked and replaced the cables to fix a cable problem and my own YAMAHA YAS-209 connected to the same cable did not show these problems. For about 10-15 minutes the audio from the ARC will play subtly and then suddenly the audio will start to drop and sometimes suddenly disappear. There was no hearing session where this did not happen. With Optical, there were times when there was occasional noticeable lip-sync problem. The only input that worked flawlessly was the line in. I have paired the BluePunk SBWL-03 with an LG B9 OLED – HDMI ARC, optical, line-in and Bluetooth.
While connected to the line-in and optical, I saw some news, play a few games like Young Sheldon, Mad Max, Marvel’s Spider-Man and The Last of Us II. Only from this one source (line-in) I can tell you that this soundbar would be easier to recommend if other input sources work flawlessly. The voice and dialogue are clean and clear, the bangs from the sub are modest and the volume can get quite loud. There is good channel separation with moving objects on the screen or when different characters are talking from different angles of the room. On the optical connection, I’ve occasionally encountered a sync problem between the audio playing and the lips moving on the screen with the optical connection and this can be quite confusing. In a game like The Last of Us 2 where enemies are calling each other, there was a separate channel break. Even in Mad Max, when cars zoom in and out of the screen in the desert, there is good separation. There is enough base thump and roar if the car engine catches fire.
Even for music, whether it’s rock, classical or Bollywood dance numbers, listening to soundbar songs is fun. Bluetooth connectivity reduces audio quality when compared to AUX, and is a familiar feature to all soundbars. But with more smartphones being released from the 3.5mm port, soundbars will have to play up their Bluetooth connectivity. Also, a little hum comes from the subwoofer when connected via Bluetooth. This removes you from the experience of listening clearly at low volume. The buzz wasn’t always there but for me it was often present enough to highlight it as a problem.
Overall, considering the price we’re talking about, I’ve actually enjoyed the sound output. Alas, boogie performance with ARC and optical makes this soundbar really hard to recommend.
The last row
HDMI makes it difficult to recommend bogie performance with ARC, soundbar optical and Bluetooth connectivity. The Soundbar has been launched at Rs 13,990 but as of the writing of this review, it is available at Rs 15,234 on Amazon. At that price, it’s even harder to recommend, especially when the JBL Bar 2.1 picks are available at around 20k, offering better value for money with the same connection options. We also have Sony HT-S20R which gives users 5.1 setup for Rs 18,000.