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TCL’s latest soundbars go fully wireless at CES 2021

Last week, ahead of CES 2021, Roku announced that it had created a reference design for a wireless soundbar that could be used with the Roku TV Ready platform. The key innovation here is Roku’s elimination of the HDMI cable (or optical cable) that is normally a requirement when connecting a soundbar to a TV. Roku said that it expected TCL to be the first company to introduce one of these wireless speakers, and today, that’s what TCL has done.

TCL Alto R1 wireless Roku TV Ready Soundbar

The TCL Alto R1 is the first soundbar to make use of Roku’s proprietary Wi-Fi Audio streaming technology. Instead of connecting the Alto R1 to a TCL Roku TV directly, you simply plug it into a wall outlet for power, and the TV will automatically detect the speaker and prompt you with an on-screen setup guide.

From there, all of the Alto R1’s settings can be adjusted using the Roku TV remote, making for a very simple experience. TCL claims that the Alto R1 will also benefit from regular and automatic software updates, and “impressive” audio/video synchronization. The R1 sports a Bluetooth connection for streaming music from a smartphone, but TCL has been shy about sharing the R1’s full specs, price, and release date.

While TCL chose to put its primary focus on the Alto R1, it has other soundbar models in store for 2021.  The Alto 82i is a Dolby Atmos-capable model that doubles as a smart speaker, with your choice of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and reminds us very much of the Sonos Arc. It has dual built-in subwoofers and supports Apple AirPlay, and TCL expects it to launch in the third quarter of 2021.

TCL Alto R1 wireless Roku TV Ready Soundbar
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Alto 8e sports a Dolby Atmos-capable 3.2.1 configuration and includes a wireless subwoofer and up-firing speakers. It’s compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and works with Apple Airplay devices and Spotify Connect. TCL says the 8e will appear in the second quarter of 2021.

Mysteriously, TCL says that there will be a fourth new soundbar in its 2021 lineup, but referred to it as simply “another premium soundbar with Dolby Atmos.”

Hopefully, it won’t be long before we get more details for these new TCL soundbars, like their internal components, prices, and release dates.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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