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TCL plays it safe on audio for 2019 with new super-simple soundbars

TCL had a pretty impressive 2018 thanks in no small part to the company’s sizeable lineup of Roku TVs (including the incredibly popular 6-Series). For CES, the Chinese brand is following up with an expansive range of new audio products to go along with its latest TV treasures, including a brand new assault on the portable audio market with four new headphone lines, as well as a slim collection of new soundbars.

Some may remember the fabled, voice-enabled Roku soundbar TCL debuted at CES 2018 — which to date has yet to make it to market. The company has more hop in its step in the U.S. market this year, though, so we expect this year’s more pared-down lineup to make a splash outside the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here’s what TCL has in store for the soundbar market in 2019.

Alto 5 and Alto 5+

The smaller of the two lines, the Alto 5 (aka TS500) is a bare-bones, two-channel offering that stretches 31.5-inches wide and just over 2.5-inches high. With just a pair of 2-inch drivers powering the system, there’s nothing particularly notable about this bar, but it does offer just about all you’ll need for a basic sound upgrade, including three EQ modes, digital optical input, and a 3.5mm analog input. Perhaps what’s most notable is what isn’t offered, as in no HDMI ARC connection (something we expect in even budget soundbars these days) and no wireless subwoofer. That said, while pricing has yet to be announced, knowing TCL we expect it to be quite affordable.

Further, if you do want a subwoofer, the Alto 5+ (TS510, pictured above) is essentially the same bar, but with a small wireless subwoofer powered by a 5-inch driver thrown into the mix. Both soundbars also offer IR passthrough so you can still control your TV even if the bar covers your TV’s IR sensor.

Alto 7 and Alto 7+

Speaking of HDMI ARC, the larger — and we’d argue slightly sexier — Alto 7 (TS700) tacks on the useful feature, allowing for one-cable connection to your TV, as well as simple control of basic soundbar operations from your TV remote. Other inputs include 3.5mm analog and digital optical connection. The Alto 7 also packs a more powerful driver set than the 5, boasting a 1.5-inch tweeter and 2-inch driver for each of its stereo channels. The Alto 7’s size is still pretty manageable at just 36-inches across, and standing 2.5-inches tall.

Like the Alto 5, the Alto 7 does not come with a subwoofer, saving TCL’s larger sub powered by a 6.5-inch driver for the upgraded Alto 7+ (TS710). There’s no Wi-Fi or multi-room audio to be had here, but both bars do offer Bluetooth streaming, and, again, we’re hoping these systems will be priced to move. We’re also quite eager to get ears on with the latest from TCL at the show to see how they stand up to other budget bars in the segment.

Both the Alto 5 and Alto 7 lines are expected to be available in the spring of 2019.

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