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Event Coverage

HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards 2014: Editor's Choice - Part 1

Best Sound Bar System

Best Sound Bar System

For the sound bar product category, we have seen more improvements and upgrades over the last year. Interesting trends we've observed are that some manufacturers have focused on streamlining the design of their audio devices, while some have shifted focus on the sound bar’s core functionality of providing audio than trying to make the sound bar the center of the user’s AV ecosystem . That would mean directly hooking it up with relevant playback devices or using your TV as the hub for devices. This design choice tends to help reduce the price point of the sound bar and makes it even more accessible to a wider audience. Bearing in mind of our evaluation period, we rounded up suitable mid-range sound bars to find a worthy winner.

Nominees: 

 

  • LG BB5530A
  • Philips Fidelio HTL9100
  • Samsung AirTrack HW-F850
  • Sonos Playbar
  • Yamaha YSP-1400
     

 

And the Winner Is...

Philips Fidelio HTL9100

Almost all of the contenders came equipped with wireless sub-woofers for improved placement flexibility and one of them, the Philips Fidelio HTL9100 even came with detachable wireless surround speakers. First seen in CES 2013, it has since become a highlight of the sound bar's surround sound experience. Indeed in our testing, this proved to be a strong advantage since the sound bar transforms from a typical 2.1- or 3.1-channel setup with virtual surround to one that mimics a 5.1-channel discrete speaker setup. Strong surround sound performance isn't the only thing going for it  as it has one of the best sounding sound bars that's able to recreate music that came closest to a neutral tone. Yet, it's also able to represent warmth, soul, emotion, clarity and render bass frequencies tastefully without being or overpowering the main audio. Topping its audio performance is easy setup, internet audio streaming services like Spotify and Deezer, and Bluetooth for direct playback from smart devices.

While the Philips Fidelio HTL9100 may not have a built-in Blu-ray player like the LG and Samsung counterparts, or the strong multi-room music expansion support and dead-simple setup process of the Sonos Playbar, the overall package offered by the Philips Fidelio HTL9100 and its strong audio performance more than made up for its asking price and is our natural winner of this year's best sound bar system category.

Yamaha's YSP-1400 made a very decent attempt to counter the other mid-range sound bar solutions, and to a certain extent it can hold its own considering that it's the only contender that doesn't come with a separate sub-woofer unit. It's in fact a one-piece sound bar solution and for what it is, it works great, but it's a bit bulky and it couldn't rival the best in our roundup.

Scoring Breakdown
Criteria/Model LG BB5530A Philips Fidelio HTL9100
Samsung AirTrack HW-F850
Sonos Playbar
Yamaha YSP-1400
Design  8.5 9.0 7.5 8.0 8.0
Features  9.0 8.5 8.5 8.5 8.0
User-Friendliness  8.0 8.0 7.5 8.5 8.0
Performance   7.5 8.5 7.5 8.0 7.5
Value  7.5 8.0 7.5 7.0 8.0
Overall  7.5 8.5 7.5 8.0 8.0
Price S$1,099 S$1,299 S$1,199 S$1,299 S$799

For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed at the References section at the end.

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