Soundbars are tricky. They need to be big enough that they sound better than the dinky speakers on your TV, but they need to be cheap enough that you don’t balk at upgrading your sound after just spending a lot of money on a TV. I didn’t get to spend enough time with Amazon’s $119.99 Fire TV Soundbar, but I can confirm it sounds bigger than it looks.
What I didn’t hear was a lot of detail. Voices rumble with appropriate amounts of bass — but in the very audio-unfriendly environment we listened to the soundbar in, dialogue was a little harder to track.
Only people spending $120 on a soundbar don’t necessarily want pristine detail. They want it to be loud and to have all the bass that TV speakers typically lack. With the garbled state of modern movie and TV dialogue, it’s already difficult to hear what people are saying, so the lack of detail in the speaker I heard might not be an issue — and again, this was a very fast demo. We’ll need to spend a lot more time with the Fire TV Soundbar before we can say it’s worth it over something like the $99 Vizio V-Series. That one sounds very nice for a $100 soundbar.
But I think what I’m most excited about with this bar is the stuff we haven’t gotten to test —like the setup process. Many soundbar makers try to use software to improve on the speakers and make them sound more expensive than they are. But that software can be fiddly and annoying to use. The promise of the Fire TV Soundbar is that it will work with any Fire TV product with no messy setup required. That could make it instantly more appealing than the Vizio V-Series for a lot of current Fire TV users.
And it works with non-Fire TV stuff, too. It has both Bluetooth and HDMI with support for ARC and eARC. The speaker is a two-channel stereo setup with support for DTS: Virtual:X and Dolby Audio. There are also physical buttons on the top. That seems silly until you’re cooking dinner, the audio is cranked so high your ears are bleeding, and your need to lower the volume is greater than your need to find the remote.
It feels like we’re slowly moving away from that period when soundbars all were exclusively controlled by remote, and that’s a very welcome thing.
The Amazon Fire TV Soundbar is available from Amazon starting today.