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Test Bench 1.1
Changelog

Updated

 See the previous 1.0 changelog.  

See next 1.2 changelog.  

Goal

With our test bench 1.1 update, we've decided to focus on changes that make our existing test bench clearer and more concise so you can more easily determine whether a soundbar is right for your needs. For example, details about wall mounting are presented in a more streamlined manner thanks to our new Mounting box, and information about the sub and satellites' connectivity has been moved to the Style boxes for clarity. Also, we removed any tests that weren't relevant to your buying decision, like whether the bar's remote is universal or whether it has an auto-off feature. Because you asked for it, we added some additional tests to allow quick filtering of our product lists for key features, like a subwoofer output or a microphone mute feature for voice assistants.

Summary Of Changes

Below, we've included a summary of the changes included in this update. More information about these changes is available below the table.

Test Group

Change

Back – Bar, Subwoofer, and Satellites

  • Removed these boxes

  • Merged information into the new Mounting box

In the Box

  • Removed HDMI/Optical cable length

  • Added cable length to the text

Sound Enhancement Features

  • Adjusted scoring criteria

Physical Inputs

  • Renamed box Inputs/Outputs

  • Added Subwoofer Output test

Wireless Playback

  • Clarified Wi-Fi Playback test

  • Added Spotify Connect test

Connectivity – Sub and Satellites

  • Removed these boxes

  • Merged Connectivity information into the Style – Sub and Satellites boxes

Remote

  • Removed Universal Remote test

Voice Assistant Support

  • Added Microphone Mute test

App

  • Removed this box

Other Features

  • Removed this box

Details Of Changes

Back – Bar, Subwoofer, And Satellites – Merged Into The Mounting Box

Mounting

The Polk Audio MagniFi MAX SR's Mounting box

Issues With Our Test

Previously, our reviews contained three separate boxes with pictures that showed the back of the bar, the subwoofer, and the satellites, if applicable. Additionally, we included some information about whether the bar and the satellites could be mounted on your wall. However, the language used in our reviews to describe the mounting brackets wasn’t very clear, and the included pictures weren’t always helpful when making a buying decision. For example, many mountable bars have holes on their undersides, but our pictures didn’t show them, so you couldn’t visualize how you would hang these components on your wall.

What We Tried

With over 100 soundbars available in our lab, we could get first-hand knowledge of how they're meant to be mounted to a wall. Overall, we found that most mountable bars come with holes, into which you're meant to screw in a mounting bracket. However, we weren't sure how we wanted to display these connection points. At first, we considered photographing the entire bar, but this didn't let you see the mounting holes. We also considered mounting the bars ourselves and including a picture of this within the review, but again, the holes and brackets wouldn't have been visible to you. In the end, after collaborating with our photographers, we determined that the most helpful way to convey how to mount a bar would be to take close-up pictures of the holes and brackets themselves.

Our Changes

The Back – Bar, Subwoofer, and Satellites boxes have been removed from our reviews. In their place, we added a new box— Mounting. Here, you can find a picture of the mounting holes on the bar and the satellites, when applicable. Plus, you can now easily filter through our product lists to determine whether the bar and the satellites are mountable and whether the mounting brackets are included with purchase.

Our previous Back – Subwoofer test included information about the Subwoofer Enclosure, which you can now find in the Style – Subwoofer box.

In the Box – Cable Length Added

Issues With Our Test

This box included a list of the components included with purchase. You could see whether the bar came with HDMI and/or Optical cables, as well as the respective length of these cables. That said, if the included HDMI or Optical cables were too short for your setup, you could always purchase longer ones separately. However, we didn’t include any measurements for other cables included in the box, such as those attached to the bar, the subwoofer, and/or the satellites. For some bars, this data is especially important. For example, the Vizio Elevate's satellites have to be wired to the subwoofer to work—so if you had a larger space, you would want to make sure that these cables reached the planned location for the subwoofer to avoid issues.

What We Tried

Our goal was to include the cable lengths in the review in a clear way. We considered adding tests for each of the cables, similar to the way we previously listed the lengths for HDMI and Optical cables included in the box. However, we found that this crowded up our reviews, especially since not every soundbar comes with these cables.

In the Box

The Roku Streambar Pro's cable lengths

Our Changes

Moving forward, we’ll measure the length of each cable that’s included with purchase and list it in the text of this box. This way, you can ensure the cables make sense for your room before buying a new soundbar.

Sound Enhancement Features – Room Correction Scoring Adjusted

Issues With Our Test

You've reached out to let us know that the scoring of this box didn't reflect what's most important to you when it comes to buying a soundbar. For example, room correction accounted for 20% of the Sound Enhancement Features score. While this tool can be helpful, ultimately, we don't currently perform in-depth testing to evaluate how well it performs. It's possible that a room correction tool could have very minimal impact on the overall sound but still score significantly better than a similar bar that comes without it. Plus, even if a bar doesn't have room correction, as long as it has an EQ, you can still manually adjust its output based on your room, so this feature is considered more important to many of you.

Our Changes

We've adjusted the weights of most of the tests within the Sound Enhancement Features box to better reflect what's most important to you. For example, the EQ accounts for much more of the final score, given that it's a tool that can greatly improve your listening experience, even if there's no room correction feature. Bars like the Klipsch Cinema 1200 and the Samsung HW-B650 benefit from this change—while they don't come with room correction, their graphic EQs let you switch up their sound across the range, so you can manually account for any acoustic differences in your listening space.

We'll continue to monitor how this scoring system performs and consider more in-depth testing to account for the qualitative aspect of these enhancement tools in the future.

Physical Inputs – Bar – Name Change; Subwoofer Output Test Added

Issues With Our Test

The Physical Inputs box created some confusion, largely because of the name of the box itself. Some of the tests included in the box aren’t inputs—rather, they’re outputs. Also, many of you have reached out to ask us to include whether the bar has a subwoofer output to connect an external sub, which wasn't listed in our reviews previously.

Our Changes

Inspired by our camera silo, we've changed the name of this box to Inputs/Outputs. This title better encompasses the actual purpose of this box. Additionally, after looking through the inventory of soundbars in our lab, we found that enough models supported a subwoofer output to make it a relevant test within this box. Moving forward, we'll include information about the Subwoofer Output, so if you're interested, you can easily sort through our product lists to see which bars come with this output included.

Wireless Playback – Wi-Fi Specifications; Spotify Connect Added

Issues With Our Test

The scope of this test wasn’t entirely clear, especially when it came to Wi-Fi connectivity. Certain soundbars connect to Wi-Fi for more basic functions like firmware updates, while others also allow for audio playback via a Wi-Fi connection. Our test doesn’t distinguish between these different capabilities, which is a bit confusing. Also, newer connectivity options like Spotify Connect are becoming more and more popular on the market, but our old tests didn’t account for them.

Our Changes

We’ve specified the Wi-Fi test as ‘Wi-Fi Playback’ to make it clear that we’re looking at whether the bar can playback audio over a Wi-Fi connection. Also, we now test our bars to see if they support Spotify Connect, and you can sort through our product lists to find the soundbars that have this feature included.

Connectivity – Sub, Satellites – Removed And Merged With Style Boxes

Style - Subwoofer box

 

The new Style - Subwoofer box for the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module

 

Issues With Our Test

In the Connectivity boxes, we list whether the sub and/or the satellites connect to the bar wirelessly. When placing these components in your living room, this information is pretty important, especially if you want to make sure that you aren’t crowding your space with extra cables. However, since these boxes were located at the end of the review, they weren’t very easy to locate. Also, they included very little information but took up a good amount of space in our reviews.

Our Changes

One of the major goals of our test bench update is to make our soundbar reviews clearer and more concise, so you can find the information that matters to your final buying decision in less time. We’ve decided to relocate the information about the sub and satellites’ connectivity to a more relevant section of the review. Now, you can find this information in the Style boxes. The Connectivity boxes have been removed.

Remote – Universal Test Removed; Merged Into Text

Issues With Our Test

It's quite rare to find a soundbar with a universal remote included. In fact, out of over 160 soundbars tested, only three came with a universal remote. We've seen very little interest from the community regarding this feature, and ultimately, it's not something that plays a huge role in your final buying decisions. Therefore, it was just taking up space in the review that can be used for more relevant information.

Our Changes

To make our reviews clearer and more concise, we've decided to remove the universal test. You can assume that most bars don't come with universal remotes. However, in the rare exceptions where they do, we'll mention it in the text so that you're aware of it before buying the bar.

Voice Assistant Support – Microphone Mute Test Added

Issues With Our Test

Many of you have reached out to ask us to include whether certain soundbars let you mute the voice assistant's microphone. This information wasn’t previously included in our reviews.

Our Changes

The microphone mute test lets you sort through our tested products to quickly see which bars offer this feature.

The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 lights up if the microphone is muted

App – Box Deleted; Merged With Remote Box

Issues With Our Test

Our goal is always to present information about products clearly and coherently so you can easily decide which soundbar is best for your needs. You'll want to know if a bar is supported through a companion app, especially if you prefer to control it through your phone or other mobile devices, and we'll always include this information in our reviews. However, the app box featured some tests that weren't very useful—for example, we listed whether the app lets you control "All," "None," or "Some" of the bar's settings, but it didn't elaborate on what that meant. Therefore, you couldn't easily sort through our table tool to find what you were looking for.

What We Tried

We considered updating the tests within the App box to make our tests more relevant to your needs. However, we felt that many of the tests we were attempting to improve didn't have much of an impact on your final buying decision. If we return to our example, it's unlikely that you would choose one bar over another simply because you had to use the remote to access a few customization tools. The lack of emphasis on these features within the soundbar community seemed to underline our suspicions that this information wasn't relevant for many of you.

Our Changes

To streamline our soundbar reviews, we've decided to remove the App box. Moving forward, if a soundbar has a companion app, we'll mention it in the Remote box of the review. Our text will also include where you can access the soundbar's particular features. Ultimately, this information isn't going away—we're just presenting it more clearly.

As always, we'll continue to monitor your feedback on this decision. We believe that removing this box is the best way to expose what we're missing in our reviews. That way, as we continue to improve our test benches down the line, we can be sure that we're only adding in the most relevant tests for your needs.

Other Features – Box Deleted; Info Merged Into Text

Issues With Our Test

This box didn't have a clear goal, so was a bit confusing to read. It included two tests that didn't relate to each other: the first, whether the bar supports HDMI CEC, and the second, whether it has an auto-off feature. As with the universal remote feature, we noticed there wasn't much interest in these features from the community. Ultimately, they're not very important to your final buying decision, and they take up space in the review that could be dedicated to more important information.

Our Changes

To clarify our soundbar reviews, we've decided to remove the Other Features box. We know this information could still be important to you, so rest assured that it'll still be included in the text. Plus, with most bars getting released with eARC support, you no longer have to worry about HDMI CEC—the eARC standard includes it, so you can ensure your TV remote can control your soundbar's volume.

We'll look out for your feedback on these changes. If other features are important to you, we'll consider expanding our coverage in the future.

91 Soundbars Updated

We have retested popular models. The test results for the following models have been converted to the new testing methodology. However, the text might be inconsistent with the new results.