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TCL Alto 9+ Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Nov 20, 2020 at 09:29 am
TCL Alto 9+ Picture
6.6
Mixed Usage
7.4
Dialogue/TV Shows
6.5
Music
6.1
Movies
Channels
3.1

The TCL Alto 9+ is a 3.1 setup that's designed to be compatible with TCL's Roku TVs, so you can use a Roku TV remote to control the bar. It also has TCL's RAY-DANZ technology, with vent-like openings on the side of the bar that the manufacturer claims create a wider, more immersive soundstage. Even though it comes with a dedicated subwoofer, it's lacking a touch of low-bass, and its sound profile is also a bit dark and dull. On the upside, it supports Atmos content, and it has lots of wireless connectivity options.

Our Verdict

6.6 Mixed Usage

The TCL TS9030 is alright for mixed usage. Its sound profile is a bit dark, and it's also lacking low-bass, which is disappointing for fans of bass-heavy music genres. It supports surrounds and Atmos content, but it has to downmix it into stereo, which isn't very immersive. Fortunately, its dedicated center channel can reproduce voices clearly and accurately, and it has lots of wireless playback options, too.

Pros
  • Four EQ presets.
  • Lots of wireless playback options.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very loud.
  • Downmixes Atmos and surrounds content into stereo.
7.4 Dialogue/TV Shows

The TCL TS9030 is decent for dialogue-heavy content like TV shows. Thanks to its dedicated center channel and balanced mid-range, it can reproduce dialogue pretty clearly. However, its dark sound profile can make voices sound a bit muffled, too. You can stream audio wirelessly to the bar via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay, and Chromecast built-in. Unfortunately, the bar doesn't get very loud.

Pros
  • Dialogue enhancement feature.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very loud.
6.5 Music

The TCL TS9030 is okay for music. Its sound profile is a bit dark, and it also lacks the low-bass that adds thump and rumble to music, which can be disappointing for fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM. Even though it comes with TCL's RAY-DANZ technology, its soundstage is diffused and not very wide. It doesn't get very loud, either, but fortunately, there are a few sound customization options.

Pros
  • Four EQ presets.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very loud.
6.1 Movies

The TCL TS9030 is mediocre for movies. It supports surrounds and Atmos content, but it has to downmix it into stereo, which doesn't provide the most immersive listening experience. Its sound profile is somewhat dark, and it's lacking the low-bass that provides thump and rumble to action-packed scenes. It also doesn't get very loud, which may be disappointing for some listeners.

Pros
  • Supports Atmos content.
  • Four EQ presets.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very loud.
  • Downmixes Atmos and surrounds content into stereo.
  • 6.6 Mixed Usage
  • 7.4 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 6.5 Music
  • 6.1 Movies

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The TCL TS9030 is a 3.1 soundbar from TCL's 2020 lineup. It comes with TCL's RAY-DANZ technology that's advertised to create a wide and immersive soundstage. Like the TCL Alto 6+, it's also designed to be compatible with TCL's Roku TVs, so you can use your Roku TV remote to control the bar. Its main competitors are the TCL Alto 7+, the Sony HT-G700, and the TCL Alto 5+.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The TCL TS9030 is a sleek soundbar with a unique design. The bar is mostly made of plastic with tight fabric covering the drivers in the middle of the bar. It comes with TCL's RAY-DANZ technology, which uses vent-like openings on the side of the bar to create a wider soundstage. Also, there's a plastic cover that can help hide the connections, which is nice.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The subwoofer is mostly made of MDF and plastic. It's tall, and it sits on four plastic pegs. The driver is located underneath the sub.

Design
Style - Satellites

There are no satellites in this setup.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width 41.3" (105.0 cm)
Bar Height 2.3" (5.9 cm)
Bar Depth 4.4" (11.2 cm)

The bar is wide and likely won't fit between the legs of a 55" TV stand. However, it isn't very tall, so it shouldn't block your TV screen unless your TV sits flush on the table.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width 9.5" (24.1 cm)
Sub Height 16.3" (41.4 cm)
Sub Depth 9.5" (24.1 cm)

The subwoofer is a bit larger than an average desktop PC. Thankfully, it connects wirelessly to the bar, which gives you some flexibility on where to place it in your room.

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

There aren't any satellites in this setup.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
Proprietary

There are two openings on the back of the bar for the power cable and the inputs. There's also a plastic cover that you can remove to access the connections and use to cover them up once the cables are connected. If you want to wall-mount the bar, there are also proprietary holes on the back.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The port is located on the back of the soundbar, and there's also an input for the power cable.

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
N/A

There aren't any satellites in this setup.

7.0
Design
Build Quality

The TCL TS9030 has a decent build quality. The bar is mostly made of plastic, which feels solid and durable, but the tight fabric covering the drivers could potentially rip or get dirty. The sub is mostly made of MDF and plastic.

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

  • Quick Start guide
  • Remote with batteries (2x AAA)
  • 2x Power cords
  • HDMI cable
  • Optical cable
  • Wall-mount template
  • 2x Wall-mount brackets
  • 2x Wall-mount screws
  • 2x Wall-mount anchors

Sound
6.7
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
-0.56
ST Std. Err.
3.03 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
52.6 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
4.0 kHz

The TCL TS9030 has an adequate stereo frequency response. It has a somewhat balanced sound profile, especially in the mid-range, so dialogue is present but also a bit muffled. It's lacking a bit of low-bass, which may be disappointing for fans of EDM and hip-hop. Also, the underemphasized treble can make audio sound dark and dull. Fortunately, there are a few EQ presets to help you customize its sound.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
5.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
2.09 dB

The TCL TS9030 has a disappointing stereo soundstage performance, even though it comes with TCL's RAY-DANZ technology, which the manufacturer claims helps to create a wider soundstage. Its soundstage seems a bit wider than the bar itself, but the sound is very diffused and unnatural. Its focus isn't very good, either, so objects like footsteps or voices seem to come from a general area rather than an accurate, pinpoint location.

7.0
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
88.1 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
2.02 dB

The TCL TS9030 has decent stereo dynamics. It may not get loud enough to use in a large room or at a crowded party, but fortunately, there isn't a lot of compression when you play it at max volume.

7.0
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.70
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.56

The TCL TS9030 has a satisfactory stereo THD performance. At normal listening volumes, the amount of THD falls within good limits, resulting in clean and pure audio reproduction. There's a jump in THD at max volume, but this can be difficult to hear with real-life content.

8.4
Sound
Center
C Localization
Discrete
C Slope
-0.27
C Std. Err.
3.57 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
85.8 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
1.33
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
3.13

The TCL TS9030 has an impressive center channel performance. Thanks to its 3.1 configuration, it has a dedicated center speaker, which reproduces dialogue in your favorite movies clearly and accurately.

3.7
Sound
Surrounds
Sr Localization
Stereo (Downmix)
Rears
N/A
Sr Slope
-1.22
Sr Std. Err.
3.68 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
85.8 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
0.97
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
3.42

This soundbar has a poor surrounds performance. It downmixes surround sound content into stereo, so, unfortunately, surround objects aren't as clearly or accurately represented as they would be with discrete surround speakers.

3.0
Sound
Height (Atmos)
H Localization
Stereo (Downmix)
H Slope
-1.60
H Std. Err.
4.13 dB
H SPL @ Max Volume
84.7 dB SPL
H Weighted THD @ 80
0.38
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.26

This soundbar has a bad Atmos performance. Unlike other 3.1 soundbars like the Klipsch Bar 48, it has height channels, so you can use it to watch Atmos content. However, it downmixes Atmos content into stereo, which doesn't sound as immersive as dedicated height speakers.

3.2
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
No
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
No
Bass Adjustment
Yes
Treble Adjustment
Yes
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
No
Rear Level Adjustment
N/A
Height Level Adjustment
No
Virtual Surround
Yes

The TCL TS9030 has a poor selection of sound enhancement features. It comes with four EQ presets: 'Movie', 'Music', 'TV', and 'Boost'. The 'TV' preset doubles as a dialogue enhancement feature. There's also a vertical surround effect that can make Atmos content sound more immersive. However, there isn't a room correction feature, so audio may sound a bit different depending on your room's acoustics.

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

The TCL TS9030 has lots of physical inputs. Thanks to its HDMI ports, the bar can be used as a hub between different devices like your TV and your PC. There's also a 3.5mm AUX port, which lets you connect your older devices to the bar over a wired connection.

8.4
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
Yes
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

Via its ARC port, this soundbar supports many of the formats commonly found on streaming platforms and Blu-ray discs like Dolby Digital and DTS.

8.7
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Yes
DTS:X
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
No
Dolby TrueHD
Yes
DTS-HD MA
No
5.1 PCM
Yes

The TCL TS9030 supports Dolby Digital and DTS content via its Full HDMI In port, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms.

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

The TCL TS9030 only supports Dolby Digital over its Optical In port, and it doesn't support DTS content.

10
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
Yes
Chromecast built-in
Yes
Apple AirPlay
Yes

The TCL TS9030 has outstanding wireless playback options. You can stream audio from your phone or tablet to the bar wirelessly using many different connections.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
Yes
HDR10 Passthrough
No

The TCL TS9030 can be used as a hub between your TV and your PC, and text sent using this signal looks clear and crisp.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The sub connects wirelessly to the soundbar, and it just needs a power cable. There's also a pairing button on the back of the sub.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
N/A

There aren't any satellites in this setup.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Yes

The interface is a five-character display that scrolls for longer words. It displays the soundbar status, the current source input, the volume level, the bass/treble level, and the sound modes.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

There are controls on the top of the bar, so you can turn the bar on and off, change the input source, adjust the volume, and activate Bluetooth.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The remote lets you control all of the bar's functions, such as the volume, the input, and the bass and treble.

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

This soundbar doesn't have a companion app.

Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
No
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Yes

The TCL TS9030 doesn't turn off on its own after a period of inactivity, but you can manually set it to either SLEEP or STANDBY low power modes. The bar supports HDMI CEC, so you can control some of the bar's basic functions with your TV remote. The manufacturer also claims that you can control the bar using a Roku TV remote, but we don't test for this.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The TCL TS9030 only comes in one color: 'Black'. You can see the label for the model we tested here.

If you come across another variant of this soundbar, let us know in the discussions.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The TCL TS9030 is a 3.1 setup that supports Dolby Atmos content. Even though it comes with TCL's RAY-DANZ technology, which the manufacturer claims create a wider soundstage, it has a disappointing soundstage performance. It has lots of physical inputs and wireless connectivity options, and it also supports 4k passthrough. If you're looking for more soundbars, see our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $300, and the best soundbars for music.

Sony HT-G700

The Sony HT-G700 is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 9+. The Sony is better-built, and it has a better-balanced sound profile. Its soundstage is wider and more focused, and it can get louder than the TCL. However, the TCL supports more wireless playback options.

TCL Alto 7+

The TCL Alto 9+ is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 7+. The 9+ is a 3.1 setup that supports Dolby Atmos content, and it has more wireless playback options and physical inputs. Thanks to its Full HDMI In port, it supports 4k passthrough, too. However, the 7+ is a 2.1 setup that's better-built, has a better soundstage, and gets louder.

TCL Alto 6+

The TCL Alto 6+ is a better overall performing soundbar than the TCL Alto 9+. The Alto 6+ is a smaller 2.1 setup, has a better-balanced sound profile, and can get significantly louder with fewer compression artifacts. However, the Alto 9+ has a better performing center, surround, and height channels. It also has a Full HDMI In port, supports Dolby Atmos, and has outstanding wireless connectivity options.

Klipsch Bar 48

The Klipsch Bar 48 and the TCL Alto 9+ are both 3.1 setups, and depending on your listening habits, you may prefer one over the other. The Klipsch has a better soundstage performance, and it also gets louder. However, the TCL supports Dolby Atmos, and it comes with EQ presets. Thanks to its Full HDMI In port, it can support 4k passthrough, too.

TCL Alto 5+

The TCL Alto 9+ is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 5+. The 9+ supports Atmos content, unlike the 5+, and it has more physical inputs and wireless playback options. As a result, the 3.1 setup 9+ can be used for 4k passthrough. However, the 2.1 setup 5+ is better-built, has a better soundstage, and gets louder.

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