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Test winner soundbars, speakers and multiroom

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TechStage shows our test winners in the areas of sound bars, networked loudspeakers and multiroom systems.

Fat sound for flat televisions, music individually and everywhere or the same song in many rooms? We show our test winners for multiroom systems, networked loudspeakers and sound bars. We list the individual tests for the different products in the respective theme worlds, i.e. the multi-room theme world, the soundbar theme world and the loudspeaker theme world.

In order for the tested products to remain comparable to a themed world, they must meet the same criteria. This includes:

  • sound: Essential for all products that have something to do with audio. The product can be so cool, if it sounds bad, you don’t want to have anything to do with it.
  • connections: Important especially for sound bars and multiroom systems. It’s not just about the number of connections, but also about which standards and codecs are supported.
  • Optics & processing: Do the products fit into the living room or do they stand out? And how well are the devices processed? Points such as protection against splash water or dust also fall into this category.
  • Price-performance: Do you really get a solid product for your money? And if not, is it worth waiting for a sale or should you go for an alternative right away?

Many TV owners notice that flat TVs simply don’t have a good sound. The simplest solution is sound bars. This often includes complete surround systems in which several loudspeakers work together and thus have a relatively good spatial effect. The price range for the products is as wide as their functions. But a few things are important: The soundbar should support the HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC). This makes it very easy to use on reasonably current televisions because you only have to connect them, the rest automatically negotiate between the TV and soundbar. In addition, current sound bars should support standards such as Dolby Atmos or DTS if possible. It is also interesting whether and how the devices can be expanded. Is the subwoofer integrated, is it controlled wirelessly or by cable?

Our test winner is the Sonos Arc (test report). Not only does this soundbar integrate seamlessly into the Sonos multiroom system, it offers excellent sound and supports Dolby Atmos uncompressed. In addition, there is compatibility with Spotify Connect and Apple Airplay 2. However, HDMI 2.1 is required so that the Sonos Arc can play the Dolby Atmos content directly. Nevertheless, the device is more than equipped for the next few years in terms of sound technology.

Per

  • uncompressed Dolby Atmos
  • overall excellent sound

Contra

  • Atmos only with eARC TV sets
  • Expensive


If you can’t do anything with Sonos, you will find numerous alternatives on the market. We really liked the Teufel Sounddeck Streaming (test report), which accommodates all functions including a subwoofer in one device. The Polk Audio Signa S2 (test report) or the Panasonic SU-HTB254 (test report) are significantly cheaper, but still good sound bars. We show other devices in the article Guide Soundbars: Fat sound for flat TVs.

A multiroom system combines several end devices at different locations under one app. For example, you can control what is going on in the kitchen or children’s room separately. Alternatively, the devices can be connected to a large party mode and sound the whole house. What all multiroom systems have in common is that they are connected to each other and to the Internet via WLAN. This makes them ideal for everyone who listens to most of their music via stream anyway.

Our test winner for anyone new to multiroom is Sonos. The system is easy to use, there are apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android, and Sonos supports technologies such as Airplay and Spotify Connect. There is also a very good sound, even with the smaller speakers. In addition to their own devices, Sonos cooperates with Ikea. The Symfonisk devices can easily be used with the other Sonos products. So you can do about two Symfonisk table lamps than use the rear speakers for a soundbar. Our price tip here is Symfonisk shelf wifi speaker, which delivers a fully functional Sonos speaker for less than 100 euros.

Per

  • Wide range of functions
  • Many devices in different designs

Contra

  • Expensive
  • Existing hi-fi equipment is difficult to integrate


The Sonos Play: 3 is in a sturdy plastic housing with a metal grille on the front.

(Image: Techstage)

However, Sonos weakens if you want to integrate an existing system, such as high-quality speakers. There are corresponding amplifiers, but they are very expensive in comparison. So if you already have good speakers or a good amplifier, we recommend a different system. Our test winner for this area of ​​application is Musiccast from Yamaha (test report). The system can now take Sonos well and scores with a wide range of devices. In addition to loudspeakers and sound bars, amplifiers from Yamaha also support the technology; there are (pre) amplifiers to make boxes and older audio systems smart. Even a record player can be integrated into Musiccast.

Per

  • Many devices
  • Existing equipment can be integrated

Contra


The front of the MusicCast ISX-18D consists of a metal grill.

(Image: Techstage)

There are also alternatives. The Heos system (test report) by Denon and Marantz and Flareconnect by Onkyo and Pioneer are almost on par with Yamaha. Where the audio manufacturers were far behind Sonos at the beginning, they have been catching up enormously for some years. We liked all of the approaches in the tests. However, you have to be clear that with Multiroom you are limited to one manufacturer if you want to use all features. We have compiled more on this in the Multiroom guide. The protocols Spotify Connect and Apple Airplay are an alternative to “real” multiroom. These integrate the loudspeakers into the WLAN, then they can be controlled by PC, smartphone or tablet (Spotify Connect) or Apple products (Airplay) and music can be transferred to them.

When it comes to listening to music, connected speakers are a good choice. The devices have everything to play music via WLAN or Bluetooth. Most of them have a rechargeable battery, many products are protected against moisture or splash water – perfect for outdoor use. There are basically two categories for the products: loudspeakers with Bluetooth and those that use (additional) WLAN. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Bluetooth is easy to use and portable. As long as the player, usually a cell phone, is within radio range, the audio playback continues. However, if you get a call or are out of range, playback stops. With WLAN speakers, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter where the smartphone is as long as it is in the same WLAN. You can continue to use the smartphone as normal.

Our test winner is the Bose Portable Home Speaker (test report). It masters WLAN and Bluetooth, can receive content from the cell phone, from Spotify or via Airplay 2 and receives power from the integrated battery. There is also a very good, albeit somewhat bass-heavy sound. The loudspeaker is protected against splash water so that it can also be used outdoors.

Per

  • Good sound, even outside
  • Protected against splash water
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, battery

Contra

  • Expensive
  • Charging cradle costs extra


The controls on the top sit in slight depressions.

If you are looking for cheaper devices, you should take a look at the Bluetooth speakers. Devices like the JBL Go 2 or the Soundcore 2 (guide) are available for less than 100 euros. If you can do without battery or water resistance, you will also find suitable devices in almost every price range.

Audio is a matter of taste and that’s a good thing. This ensures a broad market in which new brands can live just as well as traditional hi-fi manufacturers. Most no longer have a classic tower that collects all playback functions in one place, but instead rely on networked loudspeakers that can stand anywhere. The multiroom systems in particular make it easy to distribute good audio across all rooms or even the garden.

This also applies to loudspeakers and sound bars, which now also connect to the network and can play music very well. The result is often so good, especially with sound bars, that you don’t want to watch TV without it.

The segment is so large that it cannot be finally clarified in an article. We therefore recommend the following posts to continue reading:

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