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# 250946 2-Jun-2019 09:12
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I'm trying to decide which soundbar to buy, and kinda lost in the tech. Any suggestions and tech explanations would be much appreciated.

 

We've been listening to just the TV speakers for 6 months, so you can see we're by no means audiophiles. Given that, I figure that it's not worth spending big bucks... budget is up to $1,000ish. Scenario is that TV is mostly used for Netflix for movies and programs, plus some Sky, and a bit of XBox gaming. I'm thinking that 5.1 surround sound would be nice for the movies. And that a centre speaker would be good for TV. Would also like Bluetooth for game audio. Control of soundbar volume via TV remote would be good. Future-proofing would be good.

 

Devices I'm looking at are LG SL8Y, Sony HT-XF9000, Samsung HW-N850, Samsung HW-Q70R.

 

But first, are there issues with interoperability between TVs and soundbars? I have a 2018 Panasonic TV. i.e. should I only look at Panasonic soundbars?

 

Reviews online seem to suggest that multiple HDMI inputs to a soundbar are useful. So, it seems to me, they're talking about putting the soundbar between the TV and the various video sources. But my TV has more than enough HDMI inputs, so having several more on the soundbar seems pointless for me. Unless there's some good reason to put video through an audio device? If so, am I going to stream from Netflix to the soundbar, which would then send video to the TV?

 

My TV has both HDMI-ARC and optical audio out; from reading reviews, it appears that HDMI-ARC is best to avoid lip-syncing issues between TV and sound. But then I read that HDMI-ARC doesn't have the bandwidth to do Dolby-Atmos. So, is the answer to put the Ethernet into the soundbar and then HDMI out to the TV? Does that still avoid lip-sync issues?

 

I was leaning towards the Samsung HW-Q70R, but the only audio formats it talks are Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. And I don't think many Netflix movies come in those formats. So the whole surround-sound thing wouldn't happen? Or so I need a soundbar that supports some of the older formats (e.g. Dolby Digital 5.1)?

 

Some soundbars come with a subwoofer built into the bar... is that a reasonable compromise, or is a separate sub-woofer significantly better? If so, should it be placed at the front of the room, or the back (in which case wireless is a must)?

 

Some systems come with rear speakers, others are extendable to add on wireless rear speakers later (but the speakers seem to be really expensive). Do rear speakers significantly improve the sound?

 

My TV is on a cantilevered wall bracket. Seems to me that a neat solution would be to attach the soundbar to the bottom of the TV. Is that possible? I suspect that wall- or cabinet-mounting below the TV, especially the Sony bars with upward firing speakers, would compromise the sound. Or am I overthinking?

 

Anything I've missed?

 

 


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  # 2249858 2-Jun-2019 11:24
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I'm a big fan of Whathifi and their reviews, they have been in game of reviewing hi-fi for decades.

 

https://www.whathifi.com/best-buys/home-cinema/best-soundbars

 

Sonos Beam at $668 (Noel Leeming) sounds great, its defiantly only my list.  


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  # 2249900 2-Jun-2019 13:08
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As a complete opposite... I could not recommend WhatHiFi? reviews whatsoever.

 

Basically, manufacturers / distributors pay for a marketing plan with one of their 'reviewers' and your products go further up the list - it's a standing joke in the industry. What was a once proud magazine is now just a pay to play product. Go and read Sound & Vision or similar for some better thought out reviews.

 

 

 

Now onto soundbars...

 

1: Connecting the devices to the soundbar or the TV?

 

Reasons to connect to connect sources the TV = simplicity (use the TV remote to change sources) and potential to use ARC (audio return channel) and implement the CEC method of turning products on / off and using the TV remote to change volume etc.

 

Reasons not to connect sources to the TV = ARC offers Dolby Digital+ and optical does not! However this will only be relevant if you're buying an ATMOS capable soundbar and trust me, sub $1000 ATMOS bars won't blow you away. Especially if your roof isn't low'ish, flat and they don't come with a calibration microphone.

 

However ARC is still only capable of PCM 2.0 (high quality but stereo) or lossy 5.1 surround sound.

 

The issue with ARC is that it can be problematic as it's often tied into the CEC protocol and every manufacturer has a different belief re: how it should be implemented. Do you have faith that the people who make your Sky box have the same interpretation of CEC as Microsoft and Panasonic? I sure as hell don't!

 

Read forums and you will find them littered with people having ARC/CEC issues. What works one week simply stops the next... why? Maybe it was a firmware update on a smart TV? Maybe it was an update to an XBox (very much frequent)... who knows - certainly not people who use it!

 

 

 

Reasons to connect to the soundbar = access to higher quality audio codecs.

 

Basically, it comes down to EDID (Extended Display Information Data). This is where your HDMI source (MySky or XBox) asks the TV what it's capable of displaying video-wise and playing back audio-wise.

 

Ie... An XBox One X will say 'I can do 4K HDR video with 5.1.4 channel lossless audio (Dolby TrueHD / DTS Master / ATMOS etc).

 

To complete the handshake the TV will say 'I can do 4K HDR video with 2-channel audio...'.

 

Aaaaand the XBox only send 2-channel audio to go with the wonderful video feed.

 

Which means, once you plug a soundbar into the TV via optical OR via an HDMI ARC connection - the TV will only ever back-feed 2-channel audio to the soundbar. Meaning those people who buy soundbars with surround sound speakers have to put up with simulated surround sound (fake surround). Some people are happy with this... but then again, they have to be... they paid money for rear speakers and they WANT them to make noise.

 

 

 

Now - some high spec model TV's in recent years have got around this EDID audio trap.

 

Has yours?

 

Who knows?

 

 

 

When you connect sources to the soundbar the soundbar will strip the audio out in its purest form (assuming you're buying a bar that can accept lossless audio) and pass the video onto the TV, unmolested. It can do this because it's simply an intermediary in the HDMI chain, not a sync (that's what a display is referred to).

 

 

 

2: Should I only look at Panasonic soundbars?

 

Nope.

 

There's no reason why you would... other than a sales person in the likes of Harvey Norman telling customers to do so in order to cut down on the time they have to spend showing them the different options. It's sorta the old sales approach of 'cutting the options down to just 3 choices to make for a quick sale' tactic. Also, Panasonic's soundbars are a little 'meh' to be fair. Cheap, but a little 'meh'.

 

 

 

3: Streaming Netflix. You can stream it via the XBox or the TV - it's up to you. Streaming Netflix via a Panasonic TV app demands at least Dolby codec support as they have an issue with their Netflix app constantly defaulting to Dolby audio and not PCM, despite people telling it not to in its settings. This has been an issue since 2012, but seeing as most people buy soundbars with Dolby compatibility you will be fine. If the bar you choose doesn't decode ATMOS then optical will give an identical result (lossy 5.1 Dolby) to ARC. However if your bar has an HDMI ARC input and you're playing Netflix on your TV (and paying for the UHD / ATMOS service) then HDMI ARC will actually take Dolby Digital +, whereas optical can't handle this codec... meaning you'll get an ATMOS feed to the bar.

 

 

 

4: ARC can do ATMOS, but only the lossy version via Dolby Digital+. ARC will lock in lipsync 'typically', but not always. For an example where it doesn't, see LG TV's + ARC + Sonos's Playbar... it's a disaster. I have personally never had a lipsync issue over optical, but maybe I'm lucky? Either way, lipsync issues can and do happen with both techs but they are becoming rarer.

 

 

 

5: 'Built in' woofers are good for bedrooms or for rooms where the subwoofer can't be placed centrally. Outside of that a genuine woofer is better.

 

Note: Many soundbars are super thin, meaning a lot of tiny speakers are built into the soundbar... and those speakers can't do much / any deep bass or mid-bass. This means that the subwoofer does a lot of heavy lifting in this area. This works fine if the subwoofer is located centrally to the soundbar / screen. But as the subwoofers often cross over so high (300-500Hz) the bass can become VERY directional, meaning if you have the sub in the corner of the room you'll hear a lot of mid-bass and bass coming directly from wherever the sub is located.

 

A real world example is Jabba The Hutt in Star Wars... on some systems everything he says comes out of the subwoofer - which is entirely distracting and pulls you right out of the movie if the sub is placed in a corner of a room!

 

 

 

6: Rear speakers...

 

If the sources are connected correctly, then yeah, they do improve the experience.

 

But you need to consider a bunch of things!

 

Some rear speaker setups can't handle certain audio codecs (Sonos can't handle any DTS audio, let alone any lossless DTS audio).

 

Many systems don't have any way to calibrate the position of the rear speakers... ie, they don't have a calibration microphone in the box that will run test tones to tell the speakers where you sit relative to them. This leads to rear speakers that are too loud or too quiet. This can technically be compensated for if you can tweak distances yourself with an audio level meter and the soundbars on-screen GUI / app.

 

Having said that, I played with a new Samsung ATMOS bar that did let me tweak distances / levels etc, but only for the left AND right speaker at the same time. This meant that even though I was sitting right next to the left rear speaker it was always too loud as I needed to turn up the right rear to hear that speaker... but when I turned down the left rear... it turned down the right right... and so on and so forth. Just crap software basically.

 

As a side note, I spent hours and hours and hours gaming on an XBox with wireless rears over Christmas, it was well good!
Basically, everytime someone snuck up on me to kill me I had a brief chance to get out the way. I never really did... but that's because I clearly suck at gaming.

 

Oh yeah - not all surround sound speakers are made equal! Pick some of them up... feel how light they are? That's down to junk drivers (tiny magnets) that will constantly leave you wondering if they're working at all. Many of them still rely on old and huckery tech robbed from the plastic home theatre in the box products... ie a plastic receiver box with a tiny digital amp on-board, that plugs into power... and then speaker cable that runs to the speakers around the room. It's sorta like a 'wireless' system that has 3 wires'... and not two like a proper 'wifi rear speaker' solution.

 

 

 

7: You can buy soundbar brackets that connect to cantilevered TV wall brackets - I know Sansus and OMP make some.

 

Putting a sounbar in a cabinet means any upward firing woofers (and often the side-firing bass ports) are severely compromised and you're wasting your money on the implementation... so, yeah. Try putting it on-top of a cabinet if you can get away with it.

 

 

 

8: As I try to recommend to as many people as possible... the best thing you can buy for your home entertainment system is a smart remote control from the likes of Logitech. Their Harmony Elite / Ultimates with the hub blaster are excellent, I wouldn't be without mine... and nor would my better half!

 

 

 

9: Dedicated centre channels. Meh. Marketing typically. Find me a $1000 that can't do okay dialogue and I will be surprised. Again, a lot of mid-bass (male baritone) is sent through the subwoofers on these systems, so I wouldn't worry too much!

 

 

 

Phew!

 

Who knew soundbars could be so complex? When there were only 5-6 options of the market it was really easy, but now they're becoming as complicated as home theatre receivers the question is - why not just buy some bookshelf speakers, an AVR and upgrade that to wireless rear speakers in the future? I know what I'd be doing...


 
 
 
 


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  # 2250017 2-Jun-2019 16:38
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The Bose 500 sounds awsum .This isn't a bad price
https://www.noelleeming.co.nz/shop/audio/home-audio/sound-bars/bose-799702-796145-soundbar-500-bass-module-500-bundle/prod165447.html

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  # 2250022 2-Jun-2019 16:53
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Stu1: The Bose 500 sounds awsum .This isn't a bad price
https://www.noelleeming.co.nz/shop/audio/home-audio/sound-bars/bose-799702-796145-soundbar-500-bass-module-500-bundle/prod165447.html


OP says his budget is up to $1,000.



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  # 2250125 2-Jun-2019 22:09
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langi27:

 

I'm a big fan of Whathifi and their reviews, they have been in game of reviewing hi-fi for decades.

 

https://www.whathifi.com/best-buys/home-cinema/best-soundbars

 

Sonos Beam at $668 (Noel Leeming) sounds great, its defiantly only my list.  

 

 

Yeah, thanks. I looked at that, and had discarded it because it doesn't do Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. Also, no actual sub or rear speakers (but hence my question about whether those features are important or not). And a review I read says calibration to the room isn't available on Android.

 

 




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  # 2250127 2-Jun-2019 22:29
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Dunnersfella:

 

ARC offers Dolby Digital+ and optical does not! However this will only be relevant if you're buying an ATMOS capable soundbar and trust me, sub $1000 ATMOS bars won't blow you away. Especially if your roof isn't low'ish, flat and they don't come with a calibration microphone.

 

However ARC is still only capable of PCM 2.0 (high quality but stereo) or lossy 5.1 surround sound.

 

5: 'Built in' woofers are good for bedrooms or for rooms where the subwoofer can't be placed centrally. Outside of that a genuine woofer is better.

 

Many systems don't have any way to calibrate the position of the rear speakers... ie, they don't have a calibration microphone in the box that will run test tones to tell the speakers where you sit relative to them.

 

7: You can buy soundbar brackets that connect to cantilevered TV wall brackets - I know Sansus and OMP make some.

 

9: Dedicated centre channels. Meh. Marketing typically. Find me a $1000 that can't do okay dialogue and I will be surprised. Again, a lot of mid-bass (male baritone) is sent through the subwoofers on these systems, so I wouldn't worry too much!

 

Phew!

 

Who knew soundbars could be so complex?

 

 

Thanks... all good information. I'm kinda blown away that ARC does some stuff and optical doesn't. I'd thought that optical would be faster, and that comms protocols would be independent of hardware.

 

I guess I'd better get the salesperson to demo a couple of soundbars (which may be difficult in a shop).

 

 


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  # 2250182 3-Jun-2019 08:15
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frankv:

Dunnersfella:


ARC offers Dolby Digital+ and optical does not! However this will only be relevant if you're buying an ATMOS capable soundbar and trust me, sub $1000 ATMOS bars won't blow you away. Especially if your roof isn't low'ish, flat and they don't come with a calibration microphone.


However ARC is still only capable of PCM 2.0 (high quality but stereo) or lossy 5.1 surround sound.


5: 'Built in' woofers are good for bedrooms or for rooms where the subwoofer can't be placed centrally. Outside of that a genuine woofer is better.


Many systems don't have any way to calibrate the position of the rear speakers... ie, they don't have a calibration microphone in the box that will run test tones to tell the speakers where you sit relative to them.


7: You can buy soundbar brackets that connect to cantilevered TV wall brackets - I know Sansus and OMP make some.


9: Dedicated centre channels. Meh. Marketing typically. Find me a $1000 that can't do okay dialogue and I will be surprised. Again, a lot of mid-bass (male baritone) is sent through the subwoofers on these systems, so I wouldn't worry too much!


Phew!


Who knew soundbars could be so complex?



Thanks... all good information. I'm kinda blown away that ARC does some stuff and optical doesn't. I'd thought that optical would be faster, and that comms protocols would be independent of hardware.


I guess I'd better get the salesperson to demo a couple of soundbars (which may be difficult in a shop).


 



Definitely try them , jb HiFi were the best i found at trying them out Harvey norman had a good range to try , Noel lemmings only had Bose and Sonos to try . You do pay for what you get I was looking at under 1k as well but gave up couldn't get what I want for that price . Happy shopping

 
 
 
 


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  # 2250230 3-Jun-2019 10:23
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Been look at this tread. Mostly I'm using Emby to a Shield or Fire TV to a Sony Bravia X9000F TV and forever being deafened by sound effects and undeafened by whispered conversations (seems to be standard with DTS movies) I'm considering the possibility of getting a soundbar, hopefully with DTS-X and Atmos.

 

 

 

I've stolen your choices and considered a Sonos Beam, very good but doesn't actually do DTS, a Sony HT-9000F, also apparently very good, does ATMOS etc and should hopefully talk to the Sony TV OK but only 2 speakers and a sub, a Samsung HW-Q70R, 3 speakers and a sub, does Atmos etc, seems decent but not as good as a Samsung HW-N850, does Atmos etc, lots of speakers and sub but people say might not cooperate via ARC (mostly with LG TVs though ?)

 

 

 

Any more thoughts bearing in mind choices are somewhat more limited here in NZ, as is budget (same as OP's, if it ever happens). I'm not a hifi / sound buff, just trying to get reasonable audio, actually hear what actors say and future proof a bit.





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  # 2250238 3-Jun-2019 10:44
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I have a B8 65" oled partnered with the SK10Y sound bar and it blows me away every time we we listen to it. I added the wireless rear speaks for it as well though to complete the package.

 

Just another suggestion

 

https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/SPKLGL21100/LG-SK10Y-550W-510-Channel-Sound-Bar-With-Meridian?gclid=CjwKCAjw583nBRBwEiwA7MKvoLyd0Yfx0NAxXN9TZxwomROWudMAsvKmGkVKW6z9fJ84xgKfeKxqjRoCxFkQAvD_BwE





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  # 2250253 3-Jun-2019 11:23
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JaseNZ:

 

I have a B8 65" oled partnered with the SK10Y sound bar and it blows me away every time we we listen to it. I added the wireless rear speaks for it as well though to complete the package.

 

 

Out of interest, are you using this mainly for music or TV/movies? I am considering buying one to use mainly to use with streaming music and, whilst it doesn't quite have to be hi-fi quality, I would want it to be as good as you can get from that particular source.


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  # 2250257 3-Jun-2019 11:38
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Dunnersfella:

 

As a complete opposite... I could not recommend WhatHiFi? reviews whatsoever.

 

Basically, manufacturers / distributors pay for a marketing plan with one of their 'reviewers' and your products go further up the list - it's a standing joke in the industry. What was a once proud magazine is now just a pay to play product. Go and read Sound & Vision or similar for some better thought out reviews.

 

 

 

 

Totally disagree with this statement, I use WhatHifi as a short list of where to start looking. I'm pretty sure you can make that statement about all the review sites and magazines. Sound & Vision included. 

 

For example Sonos Beam, is constantly reviewed as a 4 or 5 star product,  not just from WhatHifi. 

 

Like has already been mentioned, you get what you pay for. If you want to spend $300, then there is no point looking at a $1,000 product. But you probably want the best $300 product you can find and review sites like Whathifi give you options to consider. 


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  # 2250260 3-Jun-2019 11:45
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JaseNZ:

 

I have a B8 65" oled partnered with the SK10Y sound bar and it blows me away every time we we listen to it. I added the wireless rear speaks for it as well though to complete the package.

 

Just another suggestion

 

https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/SPKLGL21100/LG-SK10Y-550W-510-Channel-Sound-Bar-With-Meridian?gclid=CjwKCAjw583nBRBwEiwA7MKvoLyd0Yfx0NAxXN9TZxwomROWudMAsvKmGkVKW6z9fJ84xgKfeKxqjRoCxFkQAvD_BwE

 

 

I'm waiting for the next version of this to come to NZ (SL10YG), supports DTS:X

 

Can't be far away as Australian retailers are now talking about it


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  # 2250262 3-Jun-2019 11:50
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alasta:

 

JaseNZ:

 

I have a B8 65" oled partnered with the SK10Y sound bar and it blows me away every time we we listen to it. I added the wireless rear speaks for it as well though to complete the package.

 

 

Out of interest, are you using this mainly for music or TV/movies? I am considering buying one to use mainly to use with streaming music and, whilst it doesn't quite have to be hi-fi quality, I would want it to be as good as you can get from that particular source.

 

 

 

 

Yes use it for music, TV/Movies, Main connection is arc and use apple tv 4k a lot. Music is great for us but I am no audiophile. 





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  # 2250263 3-Jun-2019 11:52
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DjShadow:

 

JaseNZ:

 

I have a B8 65" oled partnered with the SK10Y sound bar and it blows me away every time we we listen to it. I added the wireless rear speaks for it as well though to complete the package.

 

Just another suggestion

 

https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/SPKLGL21100/LG-SK10Y-550W-510-Channel-Sound-Bar-With-Meridian?gclid=CjwKCAjw583nBRBwEiwA7MKvoLyd0Yfx0NAxXN9TZxwomROWudMAsvKmGkVKW6z9fJ84xgKfeKxqjRoCxFkQAvD_BwE

 

 

I'm waiting for the next version of this to come to NZ (SL10YG), supports DTS:X

 

Can't be far away as Australian retailers are now talking about it

 

 

 

 

Be interested to know how you get on when and if you get one I would consider an upgrade.





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  # 2250650 3-Jun-2019 18:43
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langi27:

 

Dunnersfella:

 

As a complete opposite... I could not recommend WhatHiFi? reviews whatsoever.

 

Basically, manufacturers / distributors pay for a marketing plan with one of their 'reviewers' and your products go further up the list - it's a standing joke in the industry. What was a once proud magazine is now just a pay to play product. Go and read Sound & Vision or similar for some better thought out reviews.

 

 

 

 

Totally disagree with this statement, I use WhatHifi as a short list of where to start looking. I'm pretty sure you can make that statement about all the review sites and magazines. Sound & Vision included. 

 

For example Sonos Beam, is constantly reviewed as a 4 or 5 star product,  not just from WhatHifi. 

 

Like has already been mentioned, you get what you pay for. If you want to spend $300, then there is no point looking at a $1,000 product. But you probably want the best $300 product you can find and review sites like Whathifi give you options to consider. 

 

 

 

 

The best 5 Star review I've seen on WhatHiFi? was on competing web forums when WhatHiFi's publishing house closed down their web forum...

 

"Best move of the year".

 

"The news the HiFi industry has been waiting for".

 

 

 

Here's a couple of excellent reviews from WhathiFi?:

 

Chord Company Active Silver Plus HDMI review from the experts at whathifi.com
"...it delivers rich, strong (yet natural) colour"
"This HDMI served up a tight, punchy sound through our reference kit, with the well-integrated treble and mid-range underpinned by thudding bass that not only had incredible grip and was able to dig deep when required."


Wireworld Chroma 6 review from the experts at whathifi.com
"...where this Wireworld shines is with pin sharp images and a realistic palette where skin tones are reassuringly natural and colours are well defined and in balance."

 

 

 

I know I can trust a magazine that talks about HDMI cables that deliver strong, yet natural colour. Because, you know, some zeros and ones are more natural than other zeros and ones...

 

*sigh*

 

 

 

I remember using their 5 Star 'streamer of the year' and finding out that everything other than Spotify connect streamed through your phones network connection and not via the streamer. This capped the quality of audio immediately. WhatHiFi? blatantly ignored this because the company was British based and a big advertiser (even bigger now they are owned by Samsung... hint hint anyone??). The streamer was a pup and has been discontinued - yet WhatHiFi? were happy to chase the money trail and give this absolute clanger a 5 star review and then call it STREAMER OF THE YEAR? Really? Slow, not even DLNA compatible, unstable and sounded like trash on anything other than Spotify Connect.

 

Sure they can defend their opinion until the cows come home, but to completely ignore the obvious short comings of this $1000+ piece of kit tells me they only ever read the press release and never actually used it.


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