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TCL Alto 8i Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Updated Dec 16, 2021 at 04:44 pm
TCL Alto 8i Picture
Channels
2.1

The TCL Alto 8i is a 2.1 setup advertised as Roku TV Ready, so it should be easy to pair it with your Roku TV. You can use it to play Dolby Atmos content, and it gets pretty loud, although there are some compression artifacts present at max volume. While it has dual subwoofers integrated into the bar, it lacks low-bass, which might disappoint fans of bass-heavy music genres. Fortunately, it offers a few sound customization features, including three EQ presets and bass/treble adjustments.

Our Verdict

N/A Mixed Usage

The TCL Alto 8i is okay for mixed usage. Its sound profile is a bit dark and boomy due to the extra warmth in the bass and the recessed treble. Vocals and lead instruments still reproduce pretty clearly, making this soundbar suitable for most types of content. While it supports many different audio formats, including Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital, it has to downmix them into stereo for playback, which doesn't sound very immersive.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Three EQ presets.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Poor surrounds performance.
N/A Dialogue/TV Shows

The TCL Alto 8i is fair for vocal-centric content like TV shows. It's a 2.1 bar, so you don't have a discrete center channel to improve vocal clarity. Still, you don't have any trouble following along with the action on screen, thanks to its balanced mids. While there's no dialogue enhancement feature, the manufacturer recommends using 'TV mode' when watching dialogue-heavy content to make voices more clear in the mix.

Pros
  • Bluetooth-compatible.
Cons
  • No dialogue enhancement feature.
N/A Music

The TCL Alto 8i 2.1 is decent for music. It's a budget-friendly bar with a slightly uneven sound profile out-of-the-box, but you can always use bass and treble adjustments to customize its performance. As a result, voices and lead instruments are clear and present in the mix, making it suitable for listening to most music genres. That said, as with most standalone bars, it can't reproduce the deep rumble in the bass found in bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Three EQ presets.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Some compression artifacts at max volume.
N/A Movies

The TCL Alto 8i 2.1 is alright for movies. Dialogue is clear and present in the mix, so you don't have trouble following the action on screen. Also, it supports many of the audio formats commonly found on streaming platforms and Blu-rays, including Dolby Digital. Unlike many 2.1 setups, it even supports Dolby Atmos content. However, it has to downmix multi-channel formats into stereo to play them, resulting in a performance that isn't very immersive-sounding. As a standalone bar, you don't feel the deep rumble in the bass during action-heavy scenes, either.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Three EQ presets.
Cons
  • Poor surrounds performance.
  • Some compression artifacts at max volume.
  • N/A Mixed Usage
  • N/A Dialogue/TV Shows
  • N/A Music
  • N/A Movies
  1. Updated Nov 11, 2022: Added the Vizio M Series M215aw-K6 as a Market Comparison to the Sound Enhancement Features box.
  2. Updated Sep 26, 2022: Corrected an error in the Height (Atmos) box that listed its localization as 'Front-Firing Drivers'. Since it's a 2.1 bar, it downmixes Atmos content into stereo. Updated the 'Height (Atmos)' and Usage box scores accordingly.
  3. Updated Sep 22, 2022: After reviewing the Vizio M Series M215a-J6, added a market comparison to 'Sound Enhancement Features' box.
  4. Updated Aug 15, 2022: Thanks to user feedback, we retested the bar's latency with 2022 TCL TVs. No changes to our results, but added more information to 'Latency' box.
  5. Updated Dec 16, 2021: Updated review for accuracy and clarity.
  6. Updated Jul 12, 2021: Added more information about latency issues when watching videos.
  7. Updated Mar 29, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.0.
  8. Updated Dec 22, 2020: Review published.
  9. Updated Dec 17, 2020: Early access published.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The TCL Alto 8i 2.1 comes in 'Black'. It's also known as the TS8111. You can see the label for the model we tested here.

If you come across another variant of the TCL Alto 8i, let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The TCL Alto 8i is a 2.1 soundbar with dual built-in subwoofers. Unlike many other 2.1 setups, it supports Dolby Atmos content, though its performance is poor. It's advertised as Roku TV Ready, so you should be able to easily connect it to your Roku TV. However, it lacks a lot of low-bass, and its uneven sound profile may not be suitable for all listeners.

See also our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best budget soundbars.

TCL Alto 9+

The TCL Alto 9+ is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 8i. The 9+ is a 3.1 setup with a dedicated subwoofer, and its default sound profile is better-balanced. It also has more wireless playback options and a better center channel performance. However, the 2.1 8i has a better soundstage.

Sonos Arc

The Sonos Arc is better than the TCL Alto 8i. The Sonos is a better built 5.0.2 setup with built-in voice assistant support. It also has better soundstage, center, surround, and Atmos performances. That said, it doesn't come with a Full HDMI In port like the TCL.

Sony HT-X8500

The Sony HT-X8500 and the TCL Alto 8i are both 2.1 soundbars that support Dolby Atmos, but the Sony has a better performance. The Sony has a more balanced sound profile, and its center, surrounds, and height channels perform better. It also comes with a dialogue enhancement feature and supports DTS content, unlike the TCL. However, the TCL has a better soundstage performance.

TCL Alto 8+

The TCL Alto 8+ and the TCL Alto 8i have similar overall performances, and depending on your listening habits, you may prefer one over the other. The 8+ is better for dialogue-centric content because it has a dialogue enhancement feature. It also offers built-in access to Amazon Fire TV player. However, the 8i is better built, and it's better for movies because it supports Dolby Atmos content. The 8i also supports 4k passthrough.

Vizio M Series M215a-J6

The TCL Alto 8i and the Vizio M Series M215a-J6 are both budget-friendly setups with Dolby Atmos support; however, the Vizio is better overall. Since it comes with a dedicated subwoofer, it can reproduce more low-bass, so you feel more rumble in action-packed scenes. There are more sound enhancement features on hand to customize it, as well as DTS support, which the TCL lacks. Neither bar offers a stellar Atmos performance, but they're an affordable alternative to more premium options on the market.

Vizio M Series M213ad-K8

The TCL Alto 8i and the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8 are both 2.1 soundbars with Dolby Atmos support at a budget-friendly price. The Vizio is better overall, though. It offers more sound enhancement features, like dialogue enhancement, and supports eARC and DTS content, unlike the TCL soundbar. It has lower latency, too.

Hisense HS218

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the TCL Alto 8i or the Hisense HS218. The Hisense is better built and comes with a dedicated subwoofer. It also has a better surrounds performance. However, the TCL has a better soundstage. Unlike the Hisense, it supports Dolby Atmos content and has a Full HDMI In port.

Vizio V Series V21-H8

The Vizio V Series V21-H8 is a bit better for mixed usage than the TCL Alto 8i. The Vizio comes with a dedicated subwoofer that can reproduce a more extended low-bass. It also comes with more sound enhancement features, like dialogue enhancement. However, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content like the TCL. Some listeners may also prefer the TCL's standalone design.

TCL Alto 6+

The TCL Alto 8i is better than the TCL Alto 6+. The 8i has a better soundstage performance, and it comes with more sound enhancement features like bass and treble adjustments. Unlike the 6+, it supports Dolby Atmos content and has a Full HDMI In port for high-quality passthrough.

Vizio M Series M21d-H8R

The TCL Alto 8i is a bit better than the Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R. The TCL has a lot less compression when you play it at max volume, and it also supports Dolby Atmos content. However, the Vizio is better built.

Samsung HW-A450

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the TCL Alto 8i or the Samsung HW-A450. The Samsung comes with a dedicated sub that can reproduce a more extended low-bass. It also has a few more sound enhancement features, like a graphic EQ. However, the TCL may be better for users who want a standalone bar. Unlike the Samsung, it supports Dolby Atmos content and has HDMI inputs. It's also better built with a better center channel performance.

TCL Alto 7+

The TCL Alto 7+ and the TCL Alto 8i are very similar-performing 2.1 soundbars, so depending on your listening habits, you may prefer one over the other. The 7+ is better built and comes with a dedicated subwoofer. Its sound profile is more neutral, though it also lacks low-bass. However, the 8i has a better soundstage. It also supports Dolby Atmos content and supports 4k passthrough thanks to its Full HDMI In port.

Samsung HW-Q70T

The Samsung HW-Q70T is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 8i. The Samsung is a 3.1.2 setup, unlike the 2.1 TCL, and it comes with a dedicated subwoofer. The Samsung is better built, and it has a more balanced default sound profile. It's also more customizable thanks to its graphic EQ.

Samsung HW-S60A

The Samsung HW-S60A is better than the TCL Alto 8i for most uses. The Samsung is a better built 5.0 setup. It has better soundstage, surround, and center performances. Also, it comes with more sound enhancement features, like a graphic EQ. However, it doesn't support Atmos content like the 2.1 TCL.

Vizio M Series M215aw-K6

The Vizio M Series M215aw-K6 is better than the TCL Alto 8i. They're both 2.1 setups that support many different audio formats, including Dolby Atmos. However, only the Vizio has a dedicated subwoofer to add more bass. The Vizio supports more audio formats, including DTS content, and has more sound enhancement features. The TCL's standalone design is great if you're low on space, but if you have room for a sub, the Vizio is the better pick overall.

TCL Alto 5+

The TCL Alto 8i is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 5+. The 8i has a better soundstage, and it supports Dolby Atmos content. Also, it has more physical inputs, including a Full HDMI In port that supports 4k passthrough. However, the 5+ comes with a dedicated sub, and it's better built.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style - Bar

The TCL Alto 8i is a simple, sleek soundbar with an all-black design. It's mostly made of plastic. There's a tight fabric wrapped around the bar, which could collect dust and get dirty. The subwoofer is also built into the bar.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

This setup doesn't have a dedicated subwoofer. Instead, there are two subs built into the bar.

Design
Style - Satellites
Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width Lock" (Lock cm)
Height Lock" (Lock cm)
Depth Lock" (Lock cm)

The TCL Alto 8i 2.1 isn't very wide, so it should fit between the legs of most 55" TV stands. It also isn't very tall, so it shouldn't block your TV screen unless the TV sits flush on the table.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting
Locked

On the back of the bar, there's an opening for the inputs and the power cable. Also, there are universal holes for wall-mounting on the bottom of the bar.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Locked
Design
Back - Satellites
Mounting
Locked
N/A
Design
Build Quality

The TCL Alto 8i 2.1 has a decent build quality. It's mostly made of plastic, which feels quite solid. However, the fabric wrapping around the bar could easily collect dust. For a better built soundbar, see the Hisense HS218.

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

  • Manuals
  • Mounting template
  • AC power cord
  • Optical cable
  • HDMI cable
  • Remote with batteries (2x AAA)
  • 2x wall-mounting sleeves
  • 2x wall anchors
  • 2x wall-mounting brackets
  • 2x wall-mounting screws

Sound
N/A
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
Channels
2.1
Low-Frequency Extension
Lock Hz
High-Frequency Extension
Lock kHz

The TCL Alto 8i has a decent stereo frequency response. It has a somewhat dark and boomy sound profile due to the extra bass and the recessed treble range. Vocals and lead instruments are reproduced pretty clearly, but there's a little extra warmth in the bass range. Higher-pitched vocals can also sound a bit veiled due to the recessed treble. That said, it struggles to reproduce an extended low-bass, so you don't feel the thump and rumble in bass-heavy audio. There are some bass and treble adjustments to help you customize its sound, though.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Locked
Suggested Bass Setting
Lock
Suggested Treble Setting
Lock
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
Low-Frequency Extension
Lock Hz
High-Frequency Extension
Lock kHz

With calibration, this setup has a satisfactory stereo frequency response. You can set its bass to '-2' and its treble to '3', resulting in a pretty neutral, balanced sound profile that's suitable for lots of different types of audio content. It still struggles to reproduce a very extended low-bass, though, so you don't feel the deep rumble in action-packed movies.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
Lock dB

The stereo soundstage is decent. It sounds wider than our testing table, which is wider than the bar itself. While it sounds a bit overprocessed, it's still pleasing to the ear. However, the focus of the soundstage doesn't make it seem like objects are coming from a more accurate pinpoint location. Instead, sound seems to move in chunks, and it's scattered towards the far edges of the soundstage.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
Lock dB

The TCL Alto 8i has satisfactory stereo dynamics. The bar can get loud enough to use in large, crowded parties, but there are some pumping and compression artifacts present when you play it at max volume.

N/A
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

The TCL Alto 8i has a decent stereo total harmonic distortion performance. At normal listening volumes, you get a clean and pure sound reproduction. However, there's a small jump in THD across the range when you play it at max volume. This may be difficult to hear with real-life content.

N/A
Sound
Center
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

This soundbar has a passable center performance. Due to its 2.1 configuration, it doesn't have a dedicated center speaker, so it uses the left and right speakers to create a sound in the center. Unfortunately, this can sound more diffused and less clear than a discrete center channel.

N/A
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock
7.1 Rears
Locked

This soundbar has a poor surrounds performance. It uses its left and right speakers to downmix this content into stereo, which doesn't result in accurate and clear localization of surround objects in the soundstage. It doesn't get very loud, and its sound profile is quite muddy and boomy.

N/A
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Locked
Slope
Lock
Std. Err.
Lock dB
SPL @ Max Volume
Lock dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
Lock
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
Lock

The TCL Alto 8i is a 2.1 soundbar, and while it can playback Dolby Atmos content, it has to downmix it into stereo to do so. The resulting sound isn't very immersive, as it doesn't take advantage of the multi-channel technology that makes it seem like sound effects take place in the space around you. Instead, sounds seem focused in the area in front of you.

N/A
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
Locked
Dialogue Enhancement
Locked
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Locked
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Locked
Bass Adjustment
Locked
Treble Adjustment
Locked
EQ
Locked
Surround Level Adjustment
Locked
Rear Level Adjustment
Locked
Height Level Adjustment
Locked
Virtual Surround
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i has a poor selection of sound enhancement features, even compared to other bars in its price range. Like most budget bars, there isn't a room correction feature, so it sounds a bit different depending on the acoustic characteristics of your room. You can customize its sound a bit to make up for this, thanks to its bass and treble adjustments as well as its three EQ presets: Music, Movie, and TV. If you want a similarly-priced Atmos bar with more customization tools, like dialogue enhancement, check out the Vizio M Series M215a-J6 or the Vizio M Series M215aw-K6.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
Locked
HDMI ARC
Locked
HDMI Out
Locked
Full HDMI In
Locked
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
Locked
RCA In
Locked
USB for Files
Locked
Ethernet
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i has a lot of physical inputs. Thanks to its HDMI ports, you can use it as a hub between your devices, like your TV and PC. There's also a 3.5mm AUX port for connecting to your phone over a wired connection.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
Locked
Dolby Atmos
Locked
Dolby Digital
Locked
Dolby Digital Plus
Locked
DTS
Locked
DTS:X (eARC only)
Locked
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
Locked
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
Locked
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i supports some of the more common audio formats over its ARC port. It supports Dolby Digital and DTS content, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms. It also supports Dolby Atmos content.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Locked
DTS:X
Locked
Dolby Digital
Locked
Dolby Digital Plus
Locked
DTS
Locked
Dolby TrueHD
Locked
DTS-HD MA
Locked
5.1 PCM
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i supports Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos content via its Full HDMI In port, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms.

We expected this bar to play Dolby TrueHD content. While audio played from the bar, we couldn't confirm it was playing the TrueHD file, as the bar displayed Dolby 5.1. We can't confirm if the audio was downmixed.

N/A
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Locked
DTS
Locked

Via its Optical port, the TCL Alto 8i can decode Dolby Digital surround sound, though it has to downmix it to stereo to play it. However, it doesn't support DTS content, which is usually the fallback for the higher quality DTS-HD MA found on many Blu-ray discs but isn't commonly found on its own.

N/A
Connectivity
Latency
- SAMPLE -
Get Insider Access for videos & test results
TCL Alto 8i Latency Video Sample
ARC
Lock ms
Optical
Lock ms
Full HDMI In
Lock ms

The TCL Alto 8i has a disappointing latency performance. It has high latency, so you may notice a delay between the audio you hear and the video you see. When watching YouTube videos via ARC and Optical, there's a small inaudible pause that's quite noticeable, especially when watching dialogue-heavy content without a lot of background noise like speeches. This issue persists even with 2022 TVs from TCL. As a result, it may not be suitable for watching movies and videos over these connections. That said, some TVs and apps compensate for latency differently, so your real-world experience may vary.

N/A
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Locked
Wi-Fi
Locked
Chromecast built-in
Locked
Apple AirPlay
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i only supports Bluetooth. While you can connect your phone or tablet wirelessly to the bar over this connection, it doesn't support Wi-Fi, Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Locked
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
Locked
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
Locked
HDR10 Passthrough
Locked

This soundbar can passthrough the highest bandwidth signals. Text looks clear and crisp if you plug the soundbar between your PC and TV.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Locked
Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
Locked
Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Locked

The bar has a simple, 5-character LED display. It shows the volume level, EQ, input, and bass and treble adjustments. It also displays the audio format that's detected. Also, there's a solid white dot on the display when the bar is in STANDBY mode. The white dot flashes when the bar is in SLEEP mode.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

On top of the bar, there are physical control buttons. You can use the power button to enter SLEEP mode (short press) or STANDBY mode (long press). Also, you can switch between the bar's input, enter Bluetooth pairing mode, and adjust the volume.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i comes with a simple remote that lets you control all of the bar's functions. You can change the EQ preset and the input or adjust the bass and treble. The Night button sets the dim setting on the bar's display, and when you long-press it, it activates the Night Mode sound setting that balances the volume across different programs.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
Locked
Google Assistant
Locked
Apple Siri
Locked
Additional Features
App
App Name Locked
iOS Locked
Android Locked
Acts As A Remote
Locked
Controls Soundbar's Settings
Locked
Casts Device Files
Locked
Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Locked
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Locked

The TCL Alto 8i doesn't automatically turn off. You can manually set it to STANDBY when you long-press power on the remote, and you can set it to SLEEP when you short-press the power button. On the upside, it supports HDMI CEC, meaning you can control some of the bar's functions using your TV remote.

Discussions