Dolby Atmos at a good price
TCL does not give up in its quest on the global market of audio-video devices, so in addition to five series of TVs, it offers as many as nine soundbars, and on this occasion we are testing the model from the upper part of the offer.
In issue 98 at the end of last year, we presented the TCL Ray-Danz soundbar, which is characterized by unusual design and practical options, and now in front of us is the Alto 8e, which performs in a similar price range, but looks quite normal. The correct shape and black color of the case make it relatively inconspicuous, although it is difficult to achieve with a soundbar exactly one meter wide. Therefore, the Alto 8e will fit best with larger diagonal TVs, without overloading the space.
The simple design of the device is enriched with rounded edges and quality canvas lining, which hides a large numeric display on the front. In the center of the upper side is a set of keys marked with function symbols and used to turn on, select inputs, activate the bluetooth connection and adjust the volume. In addition, on the top there is only the company logo and the promising inscription “Dolby Atmos”. In the recessed part of the back there are ports, which include HDMI input and HDMI eARC output, digital optical input, as well as a USB-A port for playing music directly from portable storage. Although we believe that a device of this type should always contain at least one analog audio input, it was missing this time, but the Alto 8e therefore has much more popular options, in the form of wireless wi-fi and bluetooth connection.
In terms of setup, the Alto 8e is a 3.1.2-channel system made up of a soundbar and subwoofer. Below the grille on the front are three broadband speaker units, which are in charge of the left, center and right channels, with the addition of tweeters at the corners. In addition, to enable playback of the upper channels within the Dolby Atmos format, the Alto 8e has two additional drivers on the upper side, which are directed upwards and obliquely towards the audience. As expected, the technical data in this regard are quite scanty, so we do not know the dimensions of the driver, and the manufacturer only states that the total power of the amplifiers used is 350 watts – we assume that it is amplification in class D. As another part of the kit there is an active subwoofer and inconspicuous phenomena, which are easy to find a place in a tight environment. Although we are already used to such kits having a wireless subwoofer connection, it should be emphasized that this is a very practical solution, which greatly facilitates positioning. The subwoofer is equipped with a 133 mm diameter unit, which is placed on the bottom, while at the rear there is a bass reflex hole, power cord connection and reset button – so there are no options that can be found in more expensive soundbars, and all settings are performed are through the main unit.
Use and sound
Unlike many more expensive kits, which often do not contain interconnection cables, the Alto 8e comes with everything you need to use. Here, first of all, we mean the presence of an HDMI cable – although it is a basic quality cable, it is enough to provide new owners with an uninterrupted start of use, and can be subsequently replaced with a higher quality one. In addition, the accessories include a solid quality remote control with associated batteries, power cords, metal brackets for wall mounting and instructions for use.
During use, the Alto 8e very quickly shows that it does a great job for its intended purpose – to improve the sound from the TV. The tones are clear and distinct, with a more massive body and a more pronounced texture. Although it does not achieve a true surround atmosphere, due to the absence of rear channels, the soundbar from TCL forms a large stage in front of the listeners. It is very well placed in width and height, with a fairly precise positioning of individual tones. The overall tonal balance contributes to this, which is surprisingly well-balanced for a device of this type and price class – the bands are perfectly balanced with each other and there is no overvoting. We were especially pleasantly surprised by the small subwoofer, which is not set to rumble at any cost, but is tuned to its own capabilities and provides fast, precise and articulated bass, although it does not go too deep. Positive impressions continue during music playback, when the Alto 8e continues to provide a clear and balanced display, with a sufficient dose of finesse. The sound stage retains all its grandeur, so the music seems convincing and present in the room. Agility and speed have never been questioned, and the only serious flaw we noticed is the lack of credible color. Namely, during the playback of acoustic and lighter songs, where more attention is paid to individual instruments, the Alto 8e may sound a bit artificial, without the natural color tone we are used to expecting. Therefore, the tested set is presented as a not quite comprehensive solution, which will provide excellent results in the reproduction of electronic and more modern pop music, while it will show weaknesses during the reproduction of more subtle directions.
The sound characteristics can be changed to some extent with independent commands for adjusting the bass and treble range on the remote control, and there are also predefined modes Music, TV, Movie and Night for use with different content. In addition, the eARC connection allows you to turn on and control the volume via the TV remote control, and the soundbar automatically goes into standby after a certain period of inactivity, so you will need a remote control from the TV for everyday use. In addition to support for Dolby Atmos, HDR, Dolby Vision and 4K video, which we certainly welcome in this affordable price range, the Alto 8e enables music streaming via the well-known Chromecast platform. Wi-fi connection is done easily and relatively quickly, and then any application with the casting option can be used for playback – we used BubbleUPnP, as usual. Finally, if you want a direct connection to your phone or other mobile devices, Bluetooth is available in version 5.0.
Conceived as a more affordable alternative to kits from well-known manufacturers, the Alto 8e has compelling trump cards, such as a large stage, clear tones and precisely defined bass. Everyday use is facilitated by smart solutions, and versatile functionality brings network playback and bluetooth connectivity. Therefore, we can recommend the set from TCL as a very good solution for quality sound from the TV, but also enjoying modern music directions.
TCL TS8132 Alto 8e
Snaga sistema: 350 W
HDMI inputs / outputs: 1/1
Digital audio inputs: 1
Formati: Dolby Atmos
Dodatno: USB-A, wi-fi, blutut 5.0, AirPlay 2
Dimensions (WxHxD): 1,000x65x122 mm
Subwoofer dimensions (WxHxD): 200x350x200 mm
Total weight: 6.8 kg
Price: 349 euros
Solid build quality.
Simplicity and practicality.
Precise and unobtrusive sound.
Occasionally unnatural color.
Source: Hi-Files by www.hi-files.com.
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