Sound bars are an inherently compromised product. It’s a thin bar with a few tiny drivers firing forward, and those drivers are usually very directional. This means that there’s a sweet spot where a sound bar sounds excellent, but at an angle, the sound gets a lot worse.
TCL is working to fix this issue and create a much bigger sweet spot with the new Alto 9+ sound bar with RAY DANZ technology. Instead of using front firing drivers, there are two drivers firing backwards and to the sides into large sound reflectors. The rounded reflectors can reflect sound outward in a wide angle, giving you a large sweet spot where the sound bar sounds its best. Not only does this help when you sit on the ends of your sofa, but a lot of people have their TV at an angle where a sound bar simply won’t sound good. There’s also has a front firing tweeter for directional vocals.
We got a demo at CES 2020 and we were left very impressed. Despite not having rear speakers or upward firing drivers, the Dolby Atmos support means you get a shockingly good feeling of surround sound from a single sound bar. There’s even a bit of vertical sound, something you can turn on and off. And the best part is that the soundstage sounds wide, not because of artificial processing or poor EQ, but because it really is wide. The sound reflects all around you.
When viewing Dolby Atmos content, you can hear things flying around you and even behind you. Rain sounds like it’s surrounding you. We’ve seen how magical Atmos can be before, but with just three drivers it was surprising this level of immersion was achieved.
The sound bar also has a new “Roku TV Ready” certification, which means that when it’s plugged into a Roku TV (like TCL but not limited to TCL TVs), the sound bar settings will integrate into the TV settings. You can change sound settings like sound mode (movie, TV, music) with your TV remove in your TV’s quick settings menu.
The sound bar definitely sounded really immersive and impressive, especially when it’s just a simple 3.1 bar with a wireless subwoofer. Plus it should work with a wide variety of room setups. We don’t yet have a price or release date, but we expect it to be around the $400 mark. This will vary by region and may change but at that price point it’s easily worth it.