This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.
If you’ve got a TV, you need a soundbar. It’s that simple. Luckily, CES is loaded with them, showcasing all the coolest new models with the most cutting-edge features that will no doubt be on your list for the new year.
We’ve collected all the best models we saw (and heard) at CES 2020 so you can get a jump on the best of the best to start off this new decade with a bang.
Like so many companies this year, LG is going big on Atmos for its brawny new bar, unleashing a long drink of 3D-audio might in a 7.1.4-channel system with a name that, shall we say, leaves something to be desired. Names aside, this bar has plenty to brag about, including acoustic room calibration, wireless surrounds, and booming bass from the accompanying wireless sub.
Other top features include high-resolution audio support at 192kHz/24bit, Google Assistant onboard, and eARC support for uncompressed Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, as well as perfectly synced audio from compatible TVs. With a claimed 770 watts of total power, this mondo bar should do the trick for just about any cinematic affair.
Don’t be too surprised that Vizio made this list. The company perennially makes some of the absolute highest value soundbars around. But this year, things are different — in a good way. Vizio has totally revamped its soundbar line for 2020, adding a stealthy new look, awaited features like a lighted backscreen for the remote (finally), along with modern upgrades to its top-level bars like eARC for high-resolution Dolby Atmos and automatic audio sync with compatible devices. The Elevate boasts all that, but that’s just the start of the fun.
This 5.1.4-channel, 48-inch, anodized aluminum monster isn’t just a pretty face — it boasts rotating speakers built for every kind of sound you can throw at it. When the bar detects a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X signal, its side-flanked speakers rotate up to bounce sound off the ceiling for 3D-audio immersion. Send a stereo signal (in Direct mode), and they rotate back down for powerful musicality. It’s a nifty feature and it made for impressive sound in our first demo. Add in stylish new surround satellites, and even a dedicated analog input which can work with your smart speaker, and you’ve got one bad bar.
There are several things that make TCL’s Alto 9+ worth keeping an eye on at the show. One of them is simply that this unit — which first showcased at IFA 2019 — is slated to actually arrive in the U.S. this year. Then there’s the Ray-Danz design, which incorporates an old-school audio dispersion method that uses two side-firing drivers and a host of reflectors to bend the sound around the room for an impressively large sweet spot with Dolby Atmos content.
But perhaps the coolest thing about this soundbar isn’t what you get, but what you don’t need — as in the remote. If you have a Roku TV, that is. The Alto 9+ is one of the first soundbars to participate in the Roku TV Ready program, which allows you to control all parameters of the bar from your Roku TV remote using your TV’s on-screen interface. The program will be rolling out soon to other brands, but this brilliant new partnership is a great reason for Roku TV fans to keep a keen eye on the Alto 9+.
Another novel solution to the Dolby Atmos conundrum (yes, you’re sensing a pattern here), JBL’s first Dolby Atmos soundbar does it with removable, fully wireless speakers. And when I say fully wireless, I mean it. The bar’s side-mounted, detachable satellite modules have batteries inside that charge from the bar, allowing for 10 hours of separation before they need redocking.
While it certainly won’t be for everyone, those who want to connect without wires and without plugging in will find this bar is just the ticket. Clear and powerful Atmos immersion, thunderous bass, and plenty of other features make this unique little bar well worth checking out.
Klipsch’s Bar 54A first appeared at CES last year as a shell on the wall, but the bar never surfaced on the open market. Now that it has finally arrived, this 54-inch, 5.1.4-channel behemoth seems to have been worth the wait. After a quick demo, I was left thinking, “You know, that Hobbes and Shaw actually looks like a pretty fun flick!” I don’t know if it was Idris Elba’s charisma, or this four-piece system’s muscle car power — and gargantuan 12-inch subwoofer — but either way, I left the room impressed.
Along with reams of power, the Bar 54A is equipped with a full suite of modern features, including HDMI eARC connection, Google Assistant, Apple AirPlay 2, and Amazon Alexa support. At $1,500, it’s certainly not for penny pinchers, but if you’re looking for an Atmos soundbar to create your own personal thunder dome, look no further.
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