For many movie fans, a Dolby Atmos soundbar will provide everything they need to experience the latest movies on TV with a level of audio realism that your device’s built-in speakers could never deliver. But what if you also want to listen to music? The best soundbars excel at movie sound, but some listeners may end up disappointed when it comes time to play music in the same ‘bar.
The reasons for this are many, but mostly it comes down to a soundbar that has to pack the speakers used to broadcast information from the left, right and center channels – and in some cases also surround and height channels – in a slim, compact, all-in-one unit. The best designs make an effort to reproduce stereo music with a high degree of clarity, but the main job for most soundbars is usually to provide maximum impact with movie soundtracks.
Luckily for music fans, a new wave of fully powered stereo speakers for TV has been making gains lately. We’ve seen these models emerge from traditional speaker companies like KEF, dynaudioand SVS, and now you can add Elac to that list.
While the KEF and Dynaudio offerings are expensive models with built-in Wi-Fi for wirelessly streaming lossless audio from Tidal, Apple Music and other services, Elac’s new Debut ConneX powered speakers ($600 / £600 / AU$900) rely on aptX Bluetooth for wireless music streaming. But Bluetooth is only part of the ConneX Debut story. Like the other models I’ve mentioned, Elac’s latest speakers feature an HDMI ARC input, which allows you to link them to your TV for much-improved movie sound – albeit without Dolby Atmos height effects.
Coming from a regular speaker company, the Debut ConneX is designed in the same way as the best stereo speakers. It uses a 0.75-inch soft dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch polypropylene woofer, both powered by a built-in 2 x 50 watt amplifier. The rear-firing ports are used to boost the low-end output and are aided here by XBass’ proprietary bass enhancement circuitry.
Not surprisingly for a speaker with ConneX to its name, there are plenty of connection options besides HDMI ARC and aptX Bluetooth. There’s a USB PC port that supports up to 24-bit/96kHz signals along with an optical digital audio jack and a phono preamp input for a direct turntable connection. A subwoofer output is provided for connecting an external sub for extended bass and the rear panel speaker terminals on the primary Debut ConneX (the one containing the amplifiers and input connections) are used to link it to the satellite unit via of wire included.
The Debut ConneX is now available in three finish options: black, walnut and royal blue.
Review: Speakers with HDMI are the new soundbars
Fully charged Dolby Atmos speaker systems powered by one of the best AV receivers provide a quick ticket to top-notch home theater sound, but not everyone has the space for that option or the money to pursue it. With their compact size and generally impressive handling of movie soundtracks, soundbars are a solid, affordable alternative that makes it easy to recommend.
But as good as soundbars may sound, you really need to use one of the better performing models to get decent results when playing stereo music. Not surprisingly, this is an area where traditional hi-fi speakers can work magic, streaming music with clear channel separation, uncompressed dynamics and a sense of transparency that makes you believe the musicians are right there in the room with you. .
For those looking for the above qualities when listening to music, but also want to watch movies and TV on the same system, speakers with HDMI are another easy recommendation. Yes, they are not a replacement for a full Dolby Atmos home theater setup, nor are they designed to be one. But with prices from $600 / £600 / AU$900 for Elac’s Debut ConneX, they are a flexible and sensible option that can offer the best of both the music and film worlds.