TCL Alto 7+ Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Updated Sep 30, 2019 at 09:00 am
TCL Alto 7+ Picture
6.3
Mixed Usage
7.2
Dialogue/TV Shows
6.2
Music
5.8
Movies
Channels
2.1

The TCL Alto 7+ is a decent sounding soundbar with stereo content. It gets pretty loud and has a good overall frequency response. However, it lacks a bit of sub-bass, even though it does have a wireless subwoofer. The Alto 7+ is well-built, but the bar itself lacks a few features to customize its sound to your liking. There’s also noticeable compression at max volume and its soundstage is fairly narrow. On the upside, the Alto 7+ has a clear reproduction of vocals and voices and you’ll easily be able to stream content via Bluetooth.

Our Verdict

6.3 Mixed Usage

Okay for mixed usage. This soundbar will perform better with stereo content like audiobooks, podcasts, and some music genres. However, it lacks a bit of sub-bass, meaning it doesn’t perform well with bass-heavy music. Movies might be a bit disappointing too due to the lack of punch, but also since the bar doesn’t have height channels and doesn’t support Atmos. Overall, the Alto 7 Plus will do better on stereo content that doesn’t have too much bass thanks to a relatively neutral audio reproduction.

Pros
  • Good overall sound profile.
  • Good for dialogue content.
  • Well-built design.
Cons
  • No DTS support.
  • Lacks bass.
  • Doesn't perform that well at max volume.
7.2 Dialogue/TV Shows

Decent for dialogue. This soundbar has a fairly neutral audio reproduction but lacks a bit of bass. This won’t impact the accurate and clean reproduction of voices and dialogue in movies. The bar can also get pretty loud and you can stream audio content like audiobooks and podcasts easily thanks to its Bluetooth compatibility. You can also use the News Mode, which acts as a dialogue enhancement feature to make voices even clearer.

6.2 Music

Okay for music. The Alto 7 Plus has a decent overall sound profile, but it lacks a bit of bass, which means it won’t be the best option for bass-heavy genres like EDM, dubstep, and hip-hop. The bar can also get pretty loud, but there are some compression artifacts, especially in the bass range. Also, the soundstage is pretty narrow and there’s no way to customize the bar's sound profile, which is disappointing. On the upside, you can easily stream music via Bluetooth.

5.8 Movies

Sub-par for movies. This bar lacks bass and won't give you an immersive feel as it doesn't do well with surround channels. The soundstage is also fairly narrow and it doesn't have height channels. All 5.1 content will be downmixed to stereo due to its 2.1 configuration. It also lacks a room correction feature, so it might perform differently depending on your room. On the upside, the bar can get loud with stereo content, but there’s audible compression in the bass range.

  • 6.3 Mixed Usage
  • 7.2 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 6.2 Music
  • 5.8 Movies

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The Alto 7 Plus is the higher-end soundbar from TCL's first soundbar lineup. They just started making soundbars and are offering more budget options. The Alto 7+ is a 2.1 setup with a dedicated sub, which the 2.0 Alto 7 doesn't have. It's also slightly bigger than the 2.1 TCL Alto 5+ and TCL Alto 5. The Alto 7+'s main competitors are the TCL Alto 5+, the Yamaha YAS-209, and the Samsung HW-R550.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Alto 7+'s bar is made of solid plastic and metal. The front and the sides are covered with a large metal grill except in the middle of the front side where the TCL logo is shown. The top side is made of solid plastic and has the buttons that control most of the bar's functions. It doesn't look too premium.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The subwoofer looks like a wooden box. The only part that is made of solid plastic is the port which is located in the back.

Design
Style - Satellites

There are no satellites in this setup.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width 36.1" (91.6 cm)
Bar Height 2.5" (6.3 cm)
Bar Depth 3.7" (9.5 cm)

This bar isn't too wide and should fit between the legs of the stand of many 55" TVs. It also isn't too tall, so it won't block the view of the bottom of the screen when you place it in front of your TV, unless you have a TV that sits flush on the table like the Sony A9G.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width 8.3" (21.1 cm)
Sub Height 12.9" (32.7 cm)
Sub Depth 9.8" (25.0 cm)

The subwoofer looks like a medium-sized desktop PC. It's slightly wider, but you should be able to place it anywhere without issue.

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

There are no satellites with this soundbar.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
Universal (holes on back)

There's an opening on the back for the input ports and the power cable. The universal holes for wall mounting are on the back, but due to their design, the bar won't sit flush to the wall.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The sub's speaker is on top and the port is right under it. The power cable connects at the bottom so it won't stand out much.

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
N/A

This soundbar setup has no satellites.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

The Alto 7+'s build quality is good. The bar is made of good quality, solid plastic and metal, while the subwoofer is made of wood, other than the port. It feels very robust with no gaps or loose ends.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
5.0 ft (1.5 m)
Digital Optical Cable Length
5.0 ft (1.5 m)

  • Manuals
  • Optical cable
  • Remote & batteries
  • Power cables (x2)
  • HDMI cable
  • Wall-mounting screws
  • Audio line-in cable
  • Infrared relay cable

Sound
6.6
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
0.43
ST Std. Err.
2.92 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
58.2 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
18.0 kHz

The Alto 7+ has an okay stereo frequency response and a fairly neutral sound profile. However, it lacks a bit of bass and the low-frequency extension is quite high, which negatively affects the stereo performance on bass-heavy content like music and movies. This results in the soundbar having a slightly bright overall audio reproduction, although it still does fairly well for listening to music thanks to the relatively neutral response.

Note: All tests were done with the 'Music' preset, as there's no 'Standard' mode on the Alto 7+.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
6.5
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
2.69 dB

While listening to the Alto 7 Plus, the soundstage is just okay. The bar isn’t the largest and doesn’t do any tricks to widen its soundstage performance. It almost feels as the soundstage is narrower than the bar itself. 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. If you want a similar soundbar with a slightly wider soundstage, check out the Polk Audio SIGNA S2.

6.7
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
99.6 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
5.30 dB

This soundbar can get very loud, which is great for a crowded environment or a very large room. However, when pushed to the maximum volume, there are some pumping and compression artifacts, especially in the bass range.

8.0
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.31
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.92

The Alto 7 Plus has great THD performance at a normal listening volume. This means you'll get a clean and pure sound reproduction. However, when pushing the bar to its maximum volume, there’s a small jump in THD across the range, but this is very difficult to hear with real-life content, so you might not notice it.

7.2
Sound
Center
C Localization
Phantom
C Slope
-0.46
C Std. Err.
2.98 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
94.2 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
0.49
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.18

Due to its 2.1 configuration, the Alto 7 Plus doesn’t have a dedicated center speaker, which results in poor localization of surround content on the center channel. However, performance is still decent. 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 center. All 5.1 content sent to this bar is downmixed to stereo. On the upside, its sound profile is still pretty good and dialogue in movies will be clear.

4.9
Sound
Surrounds
Sr Localization
Stereo (Downmix)
Rears
N/A
Sr Slope
-0.49
Sr Std. Err.
3.02 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
91.6 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
0.74
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.90

The Alto 7 Plus' performance with surround sound content is pretty poor. This 2.1 setup downmixes surround content and the localization of objects won’t be very accurate. This means that sound will feel like it's coming from the front instead of getting an immersive listening experience. This bar was quite difficult to test at first, as no sound was coming out when sending surround content. A full restart of the bar was necessary after each test to make it work and the volume level was noticeably lower with surround content.

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

This soundbar setup doesn’t have height channels and doesn’t support Atmos.

2.0
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
No
Rear Level Adjustment
N/A
Height Level Adjustment
N/A
Virtual Surround
No

This soundbar has very limited sound enhancement features. It only has a dialogue enhancement, which comes from the ‘News’ preset of the soundbar to help make voices clearer. You can also choose between Music and Movie mode, but that’s about it. It lacks sound customization and doesn’t have room correction, so it might sound differently depending on your room. If you want a more fully-featured 2.1 soundbar, consider the TCL Alto 8+.

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

This bar has only one HDMI port, which serves as an HDMI ARC for connecting with your TV. The Optical Audio In is the most common connection found on soundbars and one that can decode 5.1 surround sound. If you have an older device that doesn't have a more advanced connection port you can connect the Audio Out jack of your device to the Analog Audio In from the bar to enjoy your content.

This bar has an IR passthrough. This is helpful if the line of sight between the TV's remote and the TV is blocked by the bar. In this case, the IR signal is passed through the bar and retransmitted from the IR cable transmitter which can be placed in direct line of sight to the TV's IR receiver, restoring the connectivity.

6.1
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
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

Only the most common Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio format is supported. You'll find this content on many streaming platforms or Blu-rays. This soundbar won't decode any of the more advanced audio formats via ARC or any other connections. You also can't play uncompressed sound formats like 5.1 PCM.

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 Full HDMI In in this soundbar setup.

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

Just like the ARC connection, only Dolby Digital surround format is supported. On the upside, this is found in many streaming platforms or Blu-rays. The unsupported DTS format is the fallback for the higher quality DTS-HD MA format, which is found on many Blu-ray discs.

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

The soundbar can connect to modern devices using its Bluetooth connection. This makes it easy to enjoy music from your phone or tablet.

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

As this soundbar lacks a Full HDMI port, it can’t serve as a hub between your devices and your TV.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the soundbar and the only wire you’ll need is the power cord.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
N/A

This soundbar has no satellites.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
No

The interface is very basic. One LED changes color to denote the change in inputs. It blinks rapidly in white color to alert you about the changes in volume.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

The buttons on the bar can control the power and the volume. There's also a function to help you select the input and a button that helps with the pairing with other Bluetooth devices.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The remote is rather plain. It can control most of the bar's functions and has three preset modes 'Movie', 'Music', and 'News'. The remote is small in size and can easily sit in your palm. Unfortunately, it can't act as a universal remote to control other devices.

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

No app pairs with the TCL Alto 7+ soundbar.

Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Standby
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Limited Support

Like most soundbars, the Alto 7 Plus supports an energy-saving auto-off function. It also supports HDMI CEC which, however, works only with TCL Roku TVs like the TCL 6 Series R617. Unfortunately, with other brand's remotes, you can only control the soundbar's on/off state.

Compared to other soundbars

The TCL Alto 7+ is a decent budget soundbar that is surprisingly well-built for its price range. It has a fairly neutral sound profile and can get pretty loud, but compresses at max volume, especially in the bass range. This setup comes with a wireless subwoofer, which is rarer at this price point. See our recommendations for the best soundbars under $300, the best budget soundbars, and the best soundbars under $200.

TCL Alto 5

The TCL Alto 5 and TCL Alto 7+ are somewhat similar, but the high-end 7+ is a better overall choice. It comes with a wireless subwoofer, which the Alto 5 doesn't have. It also gets noticeably louder, and its center channel performance is a lot better balanced. It also features an HDMI ARC port which allows you to use the soundbar as a hub for another device. However, if you're on a tighter budget, the Alto 5 is very similar in performance but can save you a few bucks if you don't care that much for bass. 

TCL Alto 5+

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.

Polk Audio SIGNA S2

The Polk Audio SIGNA S2 is slightly better than the TCL Alto 7+. It has a better stereo frequency response and a slightly wider-sounding soundstage. On the other hand, the TCL feels more robust and better-built. The Alto 7+ also has a better center performance, which might be better if you watch a lot of TV shows.

Yamaha YAS-108/ATS-1080

The overall performance of the TCL Alto 7+ is very similar to that of the Yamaha YAS-108/ATS-1080. Both lack a bit of sub-bass, even if the ATS-1080 has two built-in subs and the 7+ has a dedicated wireless subwoofer. The Alto 7+ gets louder but you get more compression artifacts at max volume. On the other hand, the ATS-1080 has better connectivity options and supports DTS, on top of having a Full HDMI In port, which the Alto 7+ doesn't have.

Yamaha YAS-207

The Yamaha YAS-207 is better than the TCL Alto 7+. Its audio reproduction is more accurate and great, and it performs better at max volume, although it is a bit quieter than the Alto 7+. It has a Full HDMI In port and supports DTS as well, which the Alto 7+ lacks. On the other hand, the Alto 7+ is surprisingly well-built and doesn't have any fabric on the bar.

AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Bluetooth

The TCL Alto 7+ is a slightly better performing soundbar than the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Bluetooth. The TCL is better built and has a more neutral sound profile than the AmazonBasics, but it lacks bass. Similar to the AmazonBasics, the TCL has noticeable compression when the volume is at max. It also has a narrow soundstage, making it a less than great choice for movie content.

Sonos Playbar

Even without a wireless subwoofer, the Sonos Playbar is a better option than the TCL Alto 7+. The bass performance isn't impacted that much by the lack of subwoofer and the general sound profile is well-balanced. It also doesn't compress as much as the TCL and has a great and wide soundstage. The Playbar also has a 3.0 configuration, which means it has a dedicated center channel for clearer voices and dialog. On the other hand, the TCL has an HDMI ARC port and supports Bluetooth, while the Playbar can only play content wirelessly via Wi-Fi.

TCL Alto 8+

The TCL Alto 7+ is a slightly better overall soundbar than the TCL Alto 8+, though depending on your listening habits, you may prefer one over the other. The 7+ feels better-built, and it comes with a dedicated subwoofer, whereas the 8+ has a subwoofer built into the bar. The 7+ has better center and surround performances, too. However, the 8+ comes with more features, including an auto-volume mode, access to Amazon Fire TV 4k media streamer, and it supports Dolby Digital Plus.

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