Budget TVs today come with a host of options like HDMI ARC, 4K HDR playback and some smart capabilities. The biggest compromise made to keep the price of these TVs low is the quality of audio output. Most TVs today pack in 20W sound output, which sounds average at best. Since TV watching is an audio-video experience, the video experience is improving and the audio experience is getting worse. The lack in audio quality of speakers can be attributed to the slim profile of TVs, and that has given birth to a relatively new category of products called soundbars.
In the past few years, advancement in technology has made it so that soundbars can offer stiff competition to entry-level home theatres with advantages such as ease of setup and installation along with good sound output. Recently, Xiaomi launched a Rs 5,000 soundbar setting fire to the budget soundbar category. It isn’t perfect and you can check out our detailed review here. Today we have with us the Blaupunkt SBW-02 Soundbar. It packs a subwoofer, something the Xiaomi Soundbar lacks and a host of features that makes it an attractive entry-level proposition. Is it worth your hard-earned money?
Key specifications at a glance
Frequency Response: 35-200 Hz
Soundbar and Subwoofer Weight: 7kg
Audio Inputs: HDMI ARC, Optical IN, USB, Bluetooth and AUX-In.
Soundbar Dimension: LxWxH = 80 x 6.7 x 6.7 cm
HDMI Input: 0
HDMI Output (Audio Return Channel): 1
What’s in the box
In the box, you get the soundbar, subwoofer along with the power cable, two aux cables (one 3.5mm at both ends and the other, RCA to 3.5mm). It also comes with screws in case you decide to wall-mount the soundbar.
The back of the soundbar has the wallmount bracket
Build and design
A tube of glossy plastic is the best way to describe the soundbar. The front has a plastic grill behind which hide the drivers along with an LED display for the input source. The LED indicator can only highlight two characteristics. You can see the volume rise up to 32 which is the max and for input, you will can see two characters represent the input. LI for line-in, BT for Bluetooth, so on and so forth. The right side of the bar has the physical buttons, which are rubbery and constitute of power, volume up, volume down and input. Next to this rests the USB port. The physical buttons are rubbery and clicky and a handy option in case you lose the remote. Sadly, there are no other physical controls for controlling things like bass, treble, etc.
On the back, we have a cavity that houses all the other connectivity options. You have a port to connect the subwoofer, line-in, optical and ARC. The back also houses a bracket in case you want to wall-mount the soundbar. There are two rubber feet at the bottom of the soundbar holding it firmly in place when kept on a table.
Overall, the construction of the soundbar is solid even though it may look a little cheap because of the glossy plastic.
Moving to the subwoofer, it isn’t wireless and connects to the soundbar via a single cable. It doesn’t need power separately and the provided cable is long enough to keep the sub about 6 feet away from the bar making it long enough to place it in the sweet spot in your living room. The subwoofer doesn’t have the traditional square shape. Instead, it is a rectangle and with the driver on the top. It has a matte black finish and has an inconspicuous look when placed in a home theatre setup. Overall, the subwoofer is subtle and attracts little attention to itself.
Ports and connectivity
Speaking of connectivity options, the speaker has 1 HDMI ARC port, 1 Optical in, 1 USB, Bluetooth and 1 AUX-In. There is no HDMI passthrough on the bar, but I think at this price point, asking for HDMI passthrough is wishful thinking. The power port is also at the back and the power cable is not user-replaceable. It’s the same with the back of the subwoofer. The soundbar comes with a remote control in the box.
A good thing is that the soundbar comes with two AUX cables, one 3.5mm at both ends and the other 2.1 aux cable in the box ensuring you are ready for some form of connectivity when you unbox the speaker. For optical and HDMI ARC connectivity, you will have to fund for a cable yourself.
Setup and Performance
Setting up the soundbar is extremely easy. Place the soundbar under the TV or wall-mount it (your choice), place the subwoofer in a corner, connect the sub to the bar, the bar to your TV, and you are good to go. The setup shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes.
Delving into performance, most of the content played to test the soundbar was played using Bluetooth, Line-in and HDMI ARC and yes, there is a difference in the performance from each source and a drastic one in some cases. We connected the soundbar to a Sony W950D FHD TV for the testing process.
Let’s start with the good stuff. When connected to the TV via line-in, we watched action movies like John Wick and Wonder Woman. At high volumes, the speaker produced sound to bring the house down. The soundbar is loud enough to fill a small bedroom (10 feet x12 feet) and is comfortable enough for the average-sized living room (12 feet x 15 feet). Placed on a wooden table, there are no vibrations from the soundbar itself as the low frequencies are well-taken care off by the subwoofer. During a fight sequence, when John Wick changes guns, you can make out the signature sound of each gun adding to the immersion. Watch a movie like Spider-Man Homecoming and the mix of high octave music with action and Spider-Man’s quirks are easy to discern. Not to mention the sound of his web shooter spitting out webs. When connected using line-in, I recommend keeping the sound of the soundbar at 95 percent and controlling the volume using your TV remote. This will control the volume of the content from your TV keeping the performance of the soundbar at a higher point. Even though we kept the volume of the soundbar high and controlled the volume of the content on the TV using the TV remote control, the soundbar didn’t exhibit any distortion during content playback. Bump up the volume of the TV beyond 70 percent and you can notice some distortion.
Moving to TV shows like Young Sheldon or Modern Family, these shows have more vocals with less emphasis on the background score. Here too the vocals are clear, clean and have no distortion whatsoever.
Even in a movie like Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, the motorcycle chase sequence, there was clear channel separation. However, we say clear channel separation considering the price point. You will notice the sound move from left to right and vice versa when the motorcycle darts from one end of the screen to the next. However, the channel separation isn’t something comparable to premium soundbars where the separation has a wider range. Considering the price, the channel separation is better than what we saw on the Mi Soundbar (read our review here).
Moving to gaming, we played some Doom and Gears of War using the speaker. The bangs of the Doom slayer’s guns along with the scratches of the demons and the rock music in the background is clear and immersive. There is just the right amount of bass in the default setting to enjoy thumps in the games but for you bass heads, you can increase it from the remote control.
If you are still reading this, you think that the soundbar is totally worth it for the price point and before you jump to that conclusion, let us give you the bad news – the HDMI ARC performance is abysmal. When we plugged it in via HDMI ARC and we pumped the volume to 100 percent, we were still sticking our ears out to make out anything. The speaker is soft, lacks any form of clarity and for the lack of a better way to describe it, the performance from ARC seems broken. A quick check of the Amazon and Flipkart customer reviews of the speakers reveals that we aren’t alone. This is a problem with the Blaupunkt SBW-02. If you are one looking for HDMI ARC connectivity on priority, then this soundbar isn’t for you.
The overall performance of the soundbar is good for the price but the problem with HDMI ARC connectivity makes it a deal-breaker for me.
If HDMI ARC isn’t a priority and bass is important to you at a sub 10k price point, then yes, you can consider the Blaupunkt SBW-02. It has good overall performance for movies, gaming and regular TV viewing. The connectivity options are acceptable at this price point and the remote control is functional. If you have a tight budget of 5k and don’t mind missing out on a subwoofer then you can consider thee Mi Soundbar. All the inputs there work well. With the Blaupunkt, you get slightly better performance but miss out on taking advantage of HDMI ARC, which is where the Blaupunkt SBW-02 loses big points.