The Best Soundbars of CES 2021
Every year CES brings a number of new audio products, including a variety of sound bars. CES 2021 is no exception, although fewer soundbars are on display than in previous years. It goes without saying that we didn’t hear any of these speakers in action – CES 2021 was a completely virtual event. Nevertheless, some models have drawn our attention due to their size, features or pricing. These are the best sound bars at CES 2021:
You can also check out some of the best TVs from CES 2021 as part of our larger home theater coverage.
LG QP5 Flash
Soundbars have traditionally been viewed as a simple alternative to large, complicated home theater speaker systems, so they were rather large themselves. Many newer models have almost as many speakers as the systems they are intended to replace. Not so with the tiny QP5 Éclair from LG, a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar with a width of only 11.7 inches and a height of 2.3 inches. That’s small enough to accompany even the smallest bedroom TV.
It may be small, but it doesn’t lack power: LG claims that 320 watts are on tap. The main speaker contains five discrete drivers (including two high-firing units for high-pitch channel sound) and, when used with the wireless subwoofer, supports 3.1.2-channel audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. Speaking of the subwoofer, it uses a bi-directional internal design to save space to claim as much as possible while offering plenty of low-end oomph.
LG has yet to confirm pricing or availability for the QP5, but we hope it will be around $ 400. In this case, it offers a tempting alternative to the reigning small soundbars Sonos Beam and Bose Smart Soundbar 300, especially since none of these speakers have a subwoofer or Dolby Atmos.
JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam Dolby Atmos Soundbar
JBL’s Bar 5.0 Multibeam Dolby Atmos Soundbar is another fascinating speaker that was unveiled at CES 2021. Rather than relying on a wireless subwoofer, the Bar 5.0 uses four passive radiators to create low-end bass and proprietary bass beamforming technology for a virtualized Dolby Atmos experience.
At just over 27 inches wide, it’s not quite as compact as the LG QP5, but it’s only a hair wider than the Sonos Beam and Bose Smart Soundbar 300, which means it’s likely in many bedrooms and small TV rooms will find a home. At $ 400, these soundbars are priced the same and offer features similar to Apple AirPlay and Chromecast. It works with both the Google Assistant and Alexa, but it’s not a smart speaker itself. It could be a good choice for those who want better TV sound with no voice capabilities.
Cowin Audio isn’t exactly a household name when it comes to sound bars. However, the $ 80 Cowin soundbar the company unveiled at CES 2021 is proof that it isn’t content with just making inexpensive black boxes. The Cowin Soundbar can be mounted as a classic soundbar under your TV or on the wall for a cleaner look, or you can split it into two left and right channels.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen a soundbar with detachable speakers – JBL’s ambitious Bar 9.1 is a recent example – but it’s the first time we’ve seen one that actually splits in two. Each half is designed to stand vertically on a provided set of feet in a more traditional mini-floor speaker arrangement.
Cowin hasn’t provided many details on what exactly makes this soundbar tick. We don’t know how the two sides communicate in split vertical mode, and Cowin hasn’t specified which drivers and amplifiers are used to power it. At the moment it just showed that it supports Bluetooth 4.2, AUX, optical and “HDMI functions”. Cowin expects the Cowin Soundbar to appear on Amazon and Cowin.com before the end of March 2021.
TCL Alto R1
The TCL Alto R1 may look like any other generic black box soundbar, but it has one very exciting feature that earns it a place on this list. You can’t see it because it’s invisible: the Alto R1 is the first soundbar based on Roku’s Roku TV Ready wireless soundbar platform. So you don’t need a cable to connect it to a compatible Roku TV.
The audio is transmitted wirelessly over Roku’s proprietary wireless audio connection. As with all other Roku TV Ready speakers, you can configure everything with the Roku remote that came with your TV using a simple on-screen interface.
We can’t tell you much about the Alto R1 other than that it also has bluetooth – TCL hasn’t released pricing, availability, or other specs. Based on our experience with the other TCL soundbars, we expect a reasonable price and probably good value for money.