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TCL Alto 8+ Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Sep 04, 2020 at 08:16 am
TCL Alto 8+ Picture
6.2
Mixed Usage
7.2
Dialogue/TV Shows
6.3
Music
5.5
Movies
Current deal: The TCL Alto 8+ has dropped by $125 on Amazon.com. See all Black Friday deals on soundbars.
Channels
2.1

The TCL Alto 8+ Fire TV Edition is a 2.1 setup with a built-in subwoofer. It gives you access to the Amazon Fire TV 4k streaming media player, which organizes your streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now into one place via your TV. Thanks to its balanced mid-range, it's ideal for listening to dialogue-heavy content like podcasts and TV shows. However, it doesn't support Atmos content or 4k passthrough, and it downmixes surround content into stereo. On the upside, once it's connected to your TV, you can use this soundbar to access sound customization options like a dialogue enhancement feature, an auto-volume mode, and EQ presets.

Our Verdict

6.2 Mixed Usage

The TCL Alto 8+ is mediocre for mixed usage. Out-of-the-box, it has a well-balanced and neutral mid-range that makes it ideal for reproducing dialogue-heavy content like TV shows and podcasts. This soundbar supports surround content, though it downmixes it to stereo, and it doesn't support Atmos content, which isn't ideal if you watch a lot of movies. However, it has some sound customization features, including dialogue enhancement and three EQ presets to help you adjust the sound to your liking.

Pros
  • Three EQ presets.
  • Bluetooth compatible.
Cons
  • Doesn't support Atmos.
  • Lacking low-bass.
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
7.2 Dialogue/TV Shows

The TCL Alto 8+ is decent for dialogue and TV shows. It's very neutral and balanced in the mid-range, which is ideal for reproducing voices and dialogue clearly and accurately. There's even a dialogue enhancement feature to help make voices sound more clear and crisp. You can also stream your favorite podcasts and audiobooks to the bar using Bluetooth. It can get reasonably loud, though there are some compression artifacts present at max volume. Unfortunately, this 2.1 soundbar doesn't have a dedicated center channel, so its phantom center doesn't sound quite as clear and real as a discrete setup.

Pros
  • Dialogue enhancement feature.
  • Bluetooth compatible.
Cons
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
  • Not Wi-Fi compatible.
6.3 Music

The TCL Alto 8+ is acceptable for music. Out-of-the-box, its sound profile is a bit punchy and boomy, but it's still suitable for many music genres. That said, though it has a subwoofer integrated into the bar, it lacks low-bass, so fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop may be disappointed by the lack of thump in the mix. On the upside, it has some sound enhancement features to help you customize the sound to your liking, including three EQ presets.

Pros
  • Three EQ presets.
  • Balanced, neutral mid and treble ranges.
  • Bluetooth compatible.
Cons
  • Lacking low-bass.
  • No bass or treble adjustment features.
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
5.5 Movies

The TCL Alto 8+ is sub-par for movies. It has a slightly punchy and boomy overall sound profile out-of-the-box, and it's lacking low-bass, so you won't feel the deep thumps and rumbles from movie scores and action-packed scenes. This bar can get reasonably loud, but there are some compression artifacts when it's played at max volume. While it supports surround content, it has to downmix it into stereo to play it, which isn't as immersive. It also doesn't support Atmos content.

Pros
  • Dolby Digital Plus and DTS support via HDMI ARC.
Cons
  • Doesn't support Atmos.
  • Downmixes surround content to stereo.
  • Lacking low-bass.
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
  • 6.2 Mixed Usage
  • 7.2 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 6.3 Music
  • 5.5 Movies
  1. Update 9/21/2020: The Dynamics tests have been reconducted due to a value input bug.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The TCL Alto 8+ Fire TV Edition is a 2.1 soundbar with an integrated subwoofer from TCL's 2020 lineup. Unlike the other soundbars in TCL's lineup, it gives you access to the Amazon Fire TV 4k media player via your TV so you can organize all your favorite streaming platforms into one place. Its main competitors are the TCL Alto 7+, the Yamaha YAS-209, the Roku Smart Soundbar, and the TCL Alto 5+.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The TCL Alto 8+ is a simple soundbar. It's wrapped in a charcoal-colored fabric across the top and the front of the bar. The rest of the bar is black plastic with a glossy finish. The subwoofer is integrated into the bar. There are control buttons on the right side, and the display screen is on the front of the bar on the right side.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The subwoofer is integrated into the soundbar.

Design
Style - Satellites

There aren't any satellites in this setup.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width 38.0" (96.5 cm)
Bar Height 2.4" (6.0 cm)
Bar Depth 4.1" (10.3 cm)

The TCL Alto 8+ is a fairly long soundbar. It likely won't fit between the legs of a 55" TV. However, it also isn't very tall, so it shouldn't block your screen unless your TV sits flush on the table.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width N/A
Sub Height N/A
Sub Depth N/A

The subwoofer is integrated into the bar.

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

This setup doesn't have any satellites.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
Proprietary

The back of the bar is fairly plain. There's an opening for the inputs and the power cable. This soundbar can be mounted on the wall using the supplied wall anchors.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
N/A

This soundbar has an integrated subwoofer.

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
N/A

This setup doesn't have any satellites.

6.5
Design
Build Quality

The TCL Alto 8+ Fire TV Edition has a fair build quality. It's mostly made of plastic, which feels solid and sturdy, but its glossy finish is prone to fingerprints. Also, the fabric covering the top and front of the bar could get dirty or rip easily.

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

  • Manual
  • Power cord
  • Optical cable
  • HDMI cable
  • Remote with batteries (2x AAA)
  • Wall-mounting brackets (2x) with template
  • Wall screws, wall anchors, mounting screws (2x each)

Sound
6.5
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
-0.86
ST Std. Err.
3.50 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
59.1 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
17.7 kHz

The TCL Alto 8+ Fire TV Edition has an alright frequency response. It's lacking a bit of low-bass, so it can't reproduce the low thumps and rumbles found in action-packed scenes or bass-heavy music genres. It's also a bit punchy and boomy. That said, the mid and treble ranges are quite neutral and well-balanced, making it suitable for vocal-heavy content like podcasts and audiobooks. There are also three EQ presets to help you adjust the sound.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
7.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
2.87 dB

The TCL Alto 8+ has a decent stereo soundstage. The soundstage is a little wider than the bar itself, but the bar doesn't have any tricks to make it sound wider than that. The soundstage has an okay focus, though, so objects seem to come from a fairly accurate pinpoint location rather than a more general area.

6.7
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
90.6 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
3.11 dB

Update 09/21/2020: We've discovered a value input bug that would cause the Dynamics box results to be slightly off. All soundbars reviewed since January 30th, 2020 have been updated.

This soundbar has an adequate stereo dynamics performance. The bar gets reasonably loud, but it may not be ideal to use in crowded settings or large rooms. At max volume, there are some pumping and compression artifacts.

7.8
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.49
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.89

The TCL Alto 8+ Fire TV Edition has a good THD performance. Whether you're listening at a normal volume or a max volume, audio should sound clean and pure.

4.8
Sound
Center
C Localization
Phantom
C Slope
-1.85
C Std. Err.
5.65 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
85.5 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
0.55
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.74

The TCL Alto 8+ is a 2.1 soundbar system, so it doesn't have a dedicated center channel. Instead, it uses its left and right speakers to create a sound in the center, which won't sound as clear and real as a discrete center channel. Although it's a bit bass-heavy, there isn't much bass frequency on center channel tracks, so it should sound fairly balanced thanks to the neutral mid and treble ranges.

2.4
Sound
Surrounds
Sr Localization
Stereo (Downmix)
Rears
N/A
Sr Slope
-1.87
Sr Std. Err.
5.66 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
83.0 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
0.54
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.65

The TCL Alto 8+ has a bad surrounds performance. It downmixes surrounds content into stereo to play it, which won't sound as immersive as dedicated surround speakers. As a result, sound may seem like it's coming from straight in front of you instead of all around you. It also sounds a bit bass-heavy, which may be overwhelming for some listeners. If you're looking for a 2.1 setup from TCL with a better surround performance, check out the TCL Alto 6+.

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 doesn't support Atmos content.

3.7
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
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

The TCL Alto 8+ has a poor selection of sound enhancement features. It comes with three EQ presets (Movie, Music, and News) to help you adjust the sound based on what you're listening to. The 'News' preset is a dialogue enhancement feature, which helps make voices sound more clear and crisp. There's also an auto-volume feature to help balance the volume level between different programs, but it's only accessible in the bar settings when you're connected to your TV. On the downside, there isn't a room correction feature, so the bar may sound differently depending on the room you use it in.

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

This soundbar has several connectivity options. Unfortunately, it lacks a full HDMI In port, so you can't use this soundbar as a hub between your different devices. There isn't a 3.5mm AUX port, either, so you can't wired connect older devices to the bar.

7.6
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
DTS:X (eARC only)
No
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
No
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
No
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
No

Through its HDMI ARC port, the TCL Alto 8+ supports Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS content, which is commonly found on Blu-ray discs and popular streaming platforms. However, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos, which may be disappointing for some movie fans.

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

This soundbar doesn't have an HDMI In port.

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

While the TCL Alto 8+ supports Dolby Digital content via its Optical port, it doesn't support DTS content, which might be disappointing for some.

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

You can connect devices like your smartphone or tablet to the soundbar wirelessly via Bluetooth. However, you won't be able to connect devices using Wi-Fi, Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay.

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

The TCL Alto 8+ doesn't have a Full HDMI In port, so it doesn't support passthrough and can't be used as a hub between your devices and your TV.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
N/A

The subwoofer is integrated into the bar and doesn't have any connectivity options.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
N/A

There aren't any satellites in this setup.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Yes

The TCL Alto 8+ has a simple display on the right side of the front of the bar. It displays the current input, volume level, and sound mode. There's also a white dot that appears on the screen when the bar is off or in standby mode.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

On the right side of the bar, there are physical buttons that allow you to power the bar on/off, change the input, connect to Bluetooth, and control the volume.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The TCL Alto 8+ comes with a remote that allows you to control most of the bar's functions. However, the auto volume feature is only accessible from the soundbar menu when connected to your TV.

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

The TCL Alto 8+ doesn't have a companion app.

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

The TCL Alto 8+ goes into standby mode after some time. However, the manufacturer doesn't specify how long. Also, it has CEC support, so when it's connected to a TV via HDMI ARC, you can use your TV remote to control the soundbar.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The TCL Alto 8+ Fire TV Edition is a 2.1 setup with an integrated subwoofer. Like the Roku Smart Soundbar, it also comes with an integrated media streamer. Once you connect it to your TV, you can use this soundbar to access the Amazon Fire TV 4k media streamer, which gathers all of your favorite streaming platforms into one place. This soundbar can also play surround content, but it doesn't support Dolby Atmos. If you're looking for more soundbars, check out our recommendations for the best soundbars under $200, the best soundbars under $300, and the best soundbars for dialogue.

Roku Smart Soundbar

The Roku Smart Soundbar is a better overall soundbar than the TCL Alto 8+, though both bars perform very similarly. Neither bar supports Dolby Atmos content. However, they both give you access to a media streaming player - the Roku media player for the Roku bar and the Amazon Fire TV 4k media streamer for the TCL. The Roku supports Wi-Fi streaming and it has a companion app, unlike the TCL. The Roku also has a better-balanced sound when playing content through both its center channel and when downmixing surround content into stereo. However, the TCL has a more focused soundstage.

TCL Alto 7+

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.

TCL Alto 6+

The TCL Alto 6+ is a better 2.1 setup than the TCL Alto 8+. The Alto 6+ is better built, comes with a separate subwoofer, and has a more neutral sound profile. It can also get louder, and its center and surround performance are better as well.

Yamaha YAS-209

The Yamaha YAS-209 is a better overall soundbar than the TCL Alto 8+. The Yamaha is better-built, and it has a more neutral sound profile with a more extended low bass. The Yamaha also has a better-balanced sound on its center and surround channels. It also has more features, such as a virtual surround setting, and it supports 4k passthrough through its HDMI In port, which the TCL lacks. That said, the TCL comes with an auto-volume mode and it supports Dolby Digital Plus, unlike the Yamaha.

Samsung HW-Q70R

The Samsung HW-Q70R is a better overall soundbar than the TCL Alto 8+. Unlike the 2.1 TCL, the 3.1.2 Samsung supports Atmos content and has a discrete center channel that performs better than the TCL. The Samsung's default sound profile is a bit more neutral and has a more extended bass than the TCL. The Samsung can also get louder, and it has less compression at max volume. That said, unlike the Samsung, the TCL comes with an auto volume feature and a built-in Amazon Fire TV 4k media streamer.

TCL Alto 5+

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+.

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