TCL Alto 5+ Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Updated Sep 30, 2019 at 09:00 am
TCL Alto 5+ Picture
5.7
Mixed Usage
5.8
Dialogue/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.

Our Verdict

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 dialogue-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's a 2.1 setup, lacks height channels and doesn’t support Atmos.

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.
5.8 Dialogue/TV Shows

Sub-par for Dialogue 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 dialogue enhancement feature to help make dialogue 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's 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.

  • 5.7 Mixed Usage
  • 5.8 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 6.4 Music
  • 5.1 Movies

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
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 TCL Alto 5 lacks. It's slightly smaller than the higher-end and better performing Alto 7+. The TCL Alto 5+'s main competitors are the TCL Alto 7+, the Yamaha YAS-209, and the Samsung HW-R550.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

This bar is fairly plain. It has a metal grill that covers the front and the two sides, while 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.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

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

Design
Style - Satellites

There are no satellites in this setup.

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

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

Design
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.

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

This setup has no satellites.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
Proprietary

The back of the bar has one opening for the inputs. If you want to wall-mount it, you have to remove the two screws on the back and use the included adapters. When wall-mounted, it won't sit flush to the wall.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

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

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
N/A

The TCL Alto 5+ doesn't have satellites.

7.5
Design
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, which won't look nice.

Design
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

Sound
6.7
Sound
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.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
6.5
Sound
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
Sound
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 uses. 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
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.86
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.23

The Alto 5 Plus' THD performance 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 reproducing a clean and pure sound at a high volume.

4.6
Sound
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

This soundbar's center channel performance 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
Sound
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 Alto 5+'s performance 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
Sound
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
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue 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 Dialogue 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.

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

The Alto 5+'s physical inputs 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
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
No
Dolby Digital
No
Dolby Digital Plus
No
DTS
No
DTS:X (eARC only)
No
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
No
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
No
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
No

There's no HDMI port on this bar so you won't be able to play any of the higher-end sound formats. If you're looking for a 2.1 soundbar with an HDMI ARC port, check out the TCL Alto 8+.

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

There's no HDMI port on this bar, so you won't be able to play any of the higher-end sound formats.

6.0
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Yes
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 it isn't commonly available on its own.

6.0
Connectivity
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.

Connectivity
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
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

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

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
N/A

There are no satellites on this setup.

Additional Features
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.

Additional Features
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.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

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

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

There's no app that pairs with this bar.

Additional Features
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's no option to control any of the bar's functions using the TV remote. There's 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.

TCL Alto 7+

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.

Samsung HW-R550

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 5

The TCL Alto 5 and the TCL Alto 5+ are pretty much the same soundbar, but the 5+ comes with a powerful wireless subwoofer. Therefore, it has a much more present bass, although it's overdone a bit and the overall sound profile is very boomy and cluttered. If you listen to a lot of bass-heavy content, go with the Alto 5+, but if you're on a tighter budget and mainly want to upgrade your TV speakers for stereo TV shows or the news, the Alto 5 is a better option. 

TCL Alto 8+

The TCL Alto 8+ is a better overall soundbar than the TCL Alto 5+. Both are 2.1 soundbars that don't support Dolby Atmos or DTS content. The 5+ has a muddy sound profile compared to the 8+, so its sound isn't as neutral or well-balanced. The 8+ also has more features, including an integrated Amazon Fire TV 4k streaming platform, an auto volume feature, and an HDMI ARC port. That being said, the 5+ feels slightly better-built than the 8+.

Yamaha YAS-207

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.

Yamaha YAS-408

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+.

AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Bluetooth

While the TCL Alto 5+ is also a budget soundbar, it performs slightly better than the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Bluetooth. Overall, the TCL has a bass-heavy but more neutral sound profile than the uneven, bass-tilted AmazonBasics. Although the TCL's center channel performance isn't great, the AmazonBasics can't decode surround signals at all. Both soundbars can get loud but at max volume, the TCL has fewer artifacts.

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