TCL Alto 5+ SOUNDBAR REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.0
5.7
Mixed Usage
5.8
Dialog / TV Shows
6.4
Music
5.1
Movies
Channels
:
2.1

The TCL Alto 5+ is a sub-par performing soundbar that has a very bass-heavy and dark sound profile. It doesn’t get as loud as other models but should be fine for casual listening sessions at a normal volume. This 2.1 configuration has a very small wireless sub and the bar is quite small too, which results in a small soundstage. On the upside, its frequency response is decent and fans of bass might like its overall sound signature.

Test Results
Design 7.5
Sound 5.9
Connectivity 3.0
Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Small and fits between legs of TV stands.
Cons
  • No DTS support.
  • Doesn't get very loud.
  • Bass-heavy sound profile.

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Market Context

The Alto 5+ is part of the first TCL lineup of soundbars, which aims to offer budget options. This 2019 model has a 2.1 configuration with a sub, which the normal Alto 5 lacks. It is slightly smaller than the higher-end and better performing Alto 7+. The main competitors of the Alto 5+ are the Alto 7+, the YAS-209 and the Samsung HW-R550. 

7.5

Design

Style - Bar

This bar is fairly plain. It has a metal grill that covers the front and the two sides, whereas the top is covered with a glossy plastic that can easily attract fingerprint marks. The back, the underside, and the side edges are made of solid plastic.

Style - Subwoofer

The sub is made of wood except for the plastic port which is on the front face. The speaker is in the back along with the power jack.

Style - Satellites

There are no satellites in this setup.

Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width : 31.6" (80.2 cm)
Bar Height : 2.7" (6.8 cm)
Bar Depth : 3.0" (7.6 cm)

The bar of the TCL Alto 5+ is fairly small and will fit between the legs of the stand of most 55 inch TVs. It is also not very tall and will not obstruct your view of the screen unless your TV sits flush on the table like the Sony A9G.

Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width : 5.9" (15.1 cm)
Sub Height : 12.7" (32.3 cm)
Sub Depth : 8.7" (22.1 cm)

This is a small sub. It resembles a small desktop PC and you can place it almost anywhere in your room since it connects wirelessly to the bar. All you need is a power plug.

Dimensions - Satellites
Sat Width : N/A
Sat Height : N/A
Sat Depth : N/A

This setup has no satellites.

Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
:
Proprietary

The back of the bar has one opening for the inputs. If you wish to wall mount it, you must remove the two screws on the back and use the included adapters. When wall-mounted, it will not sit flush to the wall.

Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
:
Ported

The back of the subwoofer contains the speaker, the pairing button and the power cable. Although the power cable doesn't connect close to the bottom side, you will still be able to hide the cable easily as the sub is not very tall.

Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
:
N/A

The TCL Alto 5+ doesn't have satellites.

7.5 Build Quality

The TCL Alto 5+ has a good build quality. It has a metal grill that protects the speakers and makes it look more premium than it really is. The subwoofer is small and made of wood, but unfortunately, the bar's top side which is made of glossy plastic can easily collect fingerprint marks and this won't look nice.

In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
:
N/A
Digital Optical Cable Length
:
5.0 ft (1.5 m)

  • Manuals
  • Optical cable
  • Remote with batteries
  • Silicone Pads
  • Power cable (x2)
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
  • IR passthrough cable
  • Wall anchors
  • Wall mounting brackets
  • Wall mounting screws

5.9

Sound

6.7 Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
:
-1.20
ST Std. Err.
:
3.80 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
40.0 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
:
16.5 kHz

The TCL Alto 5+ has a passable stereo frequency response. It has a well-extended low-frequency extension, but its bass is overly done, resulting in a very muddy sound profile. On the upside, the mid-range is pretty well-balanced, resulting in an accurate reproduction of vocals.

Stereo Raw Frequency Response
6.5 Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
:
3.41 dB

When listening to the Alto 5+, the soundstage is just okay. The bar isn’t the largest and doesn’t do any tricks to widen its soundstage performance. On the upside, the focus of the soundstage and the separation are good, which makes objects seem to be coming from a more accurate pinpoint location rather than from a general area.

7.6 Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
:
92.0 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
:
1.67 dB

The TCL Alto 5+ has a good stereo dynamics performance. It doesn’t get very loud as some other soundbars. It should still be good enough for most use cases. On the upside, it doesn’t compress a lot. You might get a bit of thumping and compression artifacts in the bass range, but this will be barely audible to most.

6.9 Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.86
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
2.23

The THD performance of the Alto 5 Plus is decent. At a normal listening volume, this soundbar has a bit of harmonic distortion, mainly in the bass range. Also, when pushing the bar to its max volume, there’s a jump in THD in the bass range. The bar might have trouble to reproduce a clean and pure sound at a high volume.

4.6 Center
C Localization
:
Phantom
C Slope
:
-2.24
C Std. Err.
:
6.87 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
:
89.8 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.49
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
2.34

The center channel performance of this soundbar is sub-par. It's a 2.1 setup, meaning that it doesn’t have a discrete center speaker. It uses the left and right speakers to create a sound in the center, which will sound more diffused and less clear compared to a discrete one. The graph shows a pretty dark-sounding profile, but since there’s hardly any bass on the center channel, this shouldn’t affect the performance too much. Voices will still sound fairly clear and accurate.

2.3 Surrounds
Sr Localization
:
Stereo (Downmix)
Rears
:
N/A
Sr Slope
:
-2.33
Sr Std. Err.
:
7.05 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
:
89.8 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.54
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
2.41

The performance of the Alto 5+ with surrounds content is poor. This is a 2.1 setup, so it'll downmix surround content, and it sounds very dark and bass-heavy. This soundbar can only use its left and right speakers, which won’t result in an accurate and clear localization of surround objects in the soundstage. This means the result isn't very immersive and the objects are perceived to come from the front instead of to your sides or behind you.

0 Height (Atmos)
H Localization
:
N/A
H Slope
:
N/A
H Std. Err.
:
N/A
H SPL @ Max Volume
:
N/A
H Weighted THD @ 80
:
N/A
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
:
N/A

The TCL Alto 5+ doesn’t have height channels and doesn’t support Atmos.

2.1 Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
:
No
Dialog Enhancement
:
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
:
No
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
:
No
Bass Adjustment
:
No
Treble Adjustment
:
No
EQ
:
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
:
N/A
Rear Level Adjustment
:
N/A
Height Level Adjustment
:
N/A
Virtual Surround
:
No

The TCL Alto 5+ has very few sound enhancement features, which is bad. It only has a Dialog Enhancement to help make voices a bit clearer, which is great for movies. It has a few sound modes for News, Movies, and Music, but that’s about it. This soundbar doesn’t have room correction, so it might sound differently depending on your room, and there’s no way of customizing its sound profile to your liking, or to control the amount of bass coming from the sub.

3.0

Connectivity

Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
:
1
HDMI ARC
:
No
Full HDMI In
:
No
HDMI Out
:
No
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
:
1
USB for Files
:
1
Ethernet
:
No

The physical inputs of the Alto 5+ are very limited. You can't use it as a hub between your TV and external devices due to the lack of HDMI ports. On the upside, you can connect older devices with limited connectivity options, using their audio out jack to the bar's Analog Audio In, and you can also playback music stored on a USB key.

0 Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
:
No
ARC Dolby Atmos
:
No
ARC DTS:X
:
No
ARC Dolby Digital
:
No
ARC Dolby Digital Plus
:
No
ARC DTS
:
No
ARC Dolby TrueHD
:
No
ARC DTS-HD MA
:
No
ARC 5.1 PCM
:
No

There is no HDMI port on this bar so you will not be able to play any of the higher-end sound formats.

0 Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
HDMI Dolby Atmos
:
No
HDMI DTS:X
:
No
HDMI Dolby Digital
:
No
HDMI Dolby Digital Plus
:
No
HDMI DTS
:
No
HDMI Dolby TrueHD
:
No
HDMI DTS-HD MA
:
No
HDMI 5.1 PCM
:
No

There is no HDMI port on this bar so you will not be able to play any of the higher-end sound formats.

6.0 Audio Format Support - Optical
Optical Dolby Digital
:
Yes
Optical DTS
:
No

Over its Optical port, this bar can decode Dolby Digital surround sound but will downmix it to 2.1. Dolby Digital is very common in streaming platforms and Blu-ray discs. The not supported DTS format is usually the fallback for the higher quality DTS-HD MA found on many Blu-ray discs, but is not commonly available on its own.

6.0 Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
:
Yes
Wi-Fi
:
No
Chromecast built-in
:
No
Apple AirPlay
:
No

You can connect modern devices to the bar using its Bluetooth connection. In the absence of that, the lack of Wi-Fi, Chromecast built-in, and Apple AirPlay might be limiting to some users.

Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
:
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
:
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
:
N/A
HDR10 Passthrough
:
N/A

Due to the lack of HDMI ports, you can't use the bar as a hub.

Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
:
Yes

The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the bar and all you have is the power plug.

Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
:
N/A

There are no satellites on this setup.

Additional Features

Interface
Display
:
No

The interface is rather plain. There are a few LEDs that light up in different color according to the input, and a white one that flashes when you change the volume.

Bar Controls

The buttons that control the bar's functions are pretty straightforward. You can select the input, change the volume, pair with a Bluetooth device, and power on/off the unit.

Remote
Universal Remote
:
No

The remote is very small and can easily get lost between the pillows of your couch. It controls the main functions of the bar and has some preset listening modes to enhance your sound experience.

App
App Name : N/A
iOS : No
Android : No
Acts as the Remote
:
No
Controls Soundbar's Settings
:
No
Casts Device Files
:
No

There is no app that pairs with this bar.

Other Features
Power Saving
:
Standby
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
:
No

The TCL Alto 5+ has a standby mode, but due to the lack of an HDMI port, there is no option to control any of the bar's functions using the TV remote. There is some compatibility with TCL TV remotes but that's not due to the bar.

Compared to other Soundbars

The TCL Alto 5+ is a very small and compact soundbar that comes with a small subwoofer. It sounds noticeably darker than similar soundbars, but bass fans may prefer this. Due to its size, it doesn't get very loud when compared to other models, but it's still an okay option if you're looking for a soundbar to listen to bass-heavy music. See our recommendations for the best small soundbars, the best budget soundbars, and the best soundbars with subwoofer.

Samsung HW-R550
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Samsung HW-R550 is a better 2.1 soundbar than the TCL Alto 5+. It sounds better, has more sound enhancement features that lets you slightly customize the way it sounds to your preference, has more inputs, and supports DTS. If you're looking for a budget soundbar, the price difference between these two won't be high enough to make the Alto 5+ a better option; the Samsung HW-R550 is a better overall soundbar.

TCL Alto 7+
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The TCL Alto 7+ is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 5+. They're quite similar in design, although the 7+ is a bit bigger. Even if the Alto 5+ has a smaller sub, it gives you a lot of bass, resulting in a more dark sound profile than the 7+. The 7+ also gets louder, but compresses a lot at max volume, which the 5+ doesn't do. The Alto 7+ has an HDMI ARC port, which the 5+ lacks.

Yamaha YAS-408
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Yamaha YAS-408 is a better option than the TCL Alto 5+. It has a very neutral audio reproduction which is great with stereo content. Although it's a 2.1 system, it still has a great center performance even without a dedicated channel, making voices and dialog clear and easy to understand. It also has more connectivity options and supports DTS, which the Alto 5+ doesn't do. Overall, the YAS-408 is simply an obvious choice over the Alto 5+.

Yamaha YAS-207
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Yamaha YAS-207 is better than the TCL Alto 5+ in pretty much every test. It sounds better, gets louder, and has better overall performance with center and surround contents. It also has more inputs thanks to HDMI ARC and Full HDMI In ports and supports DTS. However, the Alto 5+ is slightly better-built but the difference in performance is too big, making the YAS-207 an obvious better choice.

5.7 Mixed Usage

Sub-par for mixed usage. The TCL Alto 5+ has a very bass-heavy and dark sounding audio reproduction. This won’t be ideal for dialog-oriented content and most music genres. However, it can be a decent option for bass-heavy music and for action movies with lots of bass. The bar is well-built, but its overall performance is lackluster. It doesn’t get as loud as some other bars but should be fine for most casual listening sessions. This bar won’t be a good option for having a surround experience as it is a 2.1 setup, lacks height channels and doesn’t support Atmos.

5.8 Dialog / TV Shows

Sub-par for Dialog and TV shows. The TCL Alto 5+ has an okay stereo frequency response, which is bass-heavy, resulting in a slightly muddy sound. On the upside, the mid-range, responsible for speech is accurate and fairly well-balanced. There’s also a dialog enhancement feature to help make dialog a bit clearer and more understandable, even at lower volumes. You’ll also be able to stream content like audiobooks and podcasts via Bluetooth on this soundbar.

6.4 Music

Okay for music. The TCL Alto 5+ has a very bass-heavy sound profile, so it might not be ideal for a wide variety of genres. On the upside, it will get decently loud for a casual listening session or for a slightly crowded room. Also, it performs quite well at max volume and you should get a clean sound reproduction. Unfortunately, there’s no way of EQ’ing the soundbar sound to your liking and its stereo soundstage is pretty narrow.

5.1 Movies

Sub-par for movies. The TCL Alto 5+ sounds very dark and bass-heavy, which can be good for action movies with many explosions. However, it is a 2.1 soundbar setup, meaning that it will downmix 5.1 content and it doesn’t support Atmos for a very immersive experience. It also doesn’t have any virtual surround feature. The soundstage isn’t very wide and objects will feel like coming from in front of you.

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