Sure, TVs have come a long way when it comes to sound quality, but it’s still true that you can’t get crystal clear sound without some kind of external sound device such as speakers or a headphone device. And, if you’re keen on getting a compact package that delivers crisp sound throughout the entire frequency range and don’t want wires all over the place, a Bluetooth soundbar is your best friend. They aren’t meant to be portable but instead, connect wirelessly without a hassle.
Soundbars like these not only offer a lot in terms of sound quality but also save you space and let you connect pretty much any device you want, wirelessly. Whether that’s your iPhone, a Google Android device, or other similar products, you can use them with any device that supports Bluetooth. This makes them perfect for a home setup or an office audio solution.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the technology and qualities a Bluetooth soundbar can offer, and why it’s something you should be considering.
Analog, Digital, & Wireless with Bluetooth TV Speakers
When it comes to connecting your Bluetooth soundbar to your TV with a cable, you’ll have two ways of doing it – digital and analog. There’s also wireless connectivity via Bluetooth, but the use is meant primarily for a mobile device. Let’s check out the difference between an analog and digital audio signal.
An analog signal is essentially a continuous signal that has varying voltages that represent the sound straight from the source. Those sounds are created by vibrations, which are basically the exact same thing that was recorded. Of course, if there is some noise or echo during recording, that will show up too, but that can easily be eliminated.
On the other hand, with digital audio, the sound is encoded in discrete signals, with only two voltages – a zero, which means no voltage, and a one, which means there is voltage. These are known as bits, and bit series is what actually make up the audio.
Nowadays, audio playback is taken care of by both analog playback systems and digital playback systems, in various situations. With an analog system, such as vinyl, you have the audio material which is absolutely identical to how it was recorded. With a digital system, which requires a conversion, there might be some little discrepancies.
Of course, while this does make it seem like analog is the way to go, that’s not exactly the truth. Analog media products require a lot of maintenance since they’re susceptible to dust, mold, and dirt, all of which can degrade audio quality quite significantly. If not taken care of, analog media can be destroyed completely.
On the other hand, with digital audio, this isn’t the case, which is why most modern systems opt for digital audio.
Quality soundbars will allow you to choose between analog and digital connectivity to your TV. An RCA or 3.5mm connector makes use of an analog signal, and while there is no signal loss here, there could be interference precisely because it’s analog. On the other hand, HDMI or TOSLINK are both digital connections and are today’s preferred method. This is because you can get a surprisingly good audio quality with both.
Wireless is a whole separate beast, with various audio codecs impacting audio quality. But, the main thing is convenience – a Bluetooth soundbar will allow you to listen to any connected source, from your TV or an Android TV box to your smartphone or tablet, and even your PC.
Sound Quality & Connectivity Features
If there is one thing that people have been complaining about when it comes to audio over Bluetooth, it’s the potential loss of quality. The reasoning for this is pretty simple – Bluetooth requires a signal to be compressed at the source and decompressed at the destination, to make it small enough to send wirelessly. This compression and decompression results in quality loss, but things have evolved quite a bit.
A codec, which is short for compression/decompression, is what processes that data. Most of them, such as SBC, AAC, or aptX, are known as lossy codecs. This is because they reduce CD-quality audio, which has a 1,411 kbps data rate, to about 300 kbps. Of course, the data which is discarded is audio that the average ear has a smaller chance of detecting, and there are some codecs that allow for a higher data rate, and consequently, less compression.
The notion of Bluetooth always degrading sound quality is not really true. If the audio signal you’re trying to transmit is already compressed in a certain codec, and both your source and soundbar support codec, you’ll be able to listen to the sound completely unaltered. A prime example is AAC – Apple Music uses it, the iPhone uses it, and playing sound on a soundbar that supports the AAC codec will result in zero impact on sound quality. This is why a portable Bluetooth headphone, for example, is a viable option for high-quality audio listening.
There are other audio codecs, though, so let’s take a look at some of them. SBC is the most common one, with a data rate up to 345 kbps and small, but noticeable delays to the signal. AAC is slightly worse, with a 250 kbps data rate and also somewhat noticeable signal delays. aptX, on the other hand, gets you a much lower latency with a data rate of 352 kbps. If you want a higher data rate, aptx HD sits at 576 kbps, and the difference is noticeable. And then you have LDAC, which goes up to 990 kbps and can drop down to 330 kbps if connection reliability is an issue. Latency is minimal, making this a great choice for movie watching on your soundbar, Bluetooth speakers, or headphone.
And while Bluetooth is primarily meant for portable devices, there are TVs that support Bluetooth, and get you completely wireless connectivity between your TV and your soundbar. TCL’s X915 is a prime example, allowing you to pair it with any of the available soundbars for latency, and cable-free high-quality sound.
But enough about Bluetooth, what kind of other connectivity can you get from a Bluetooth soundbar? Well, most of them will come with an HDMI port, preferably with ARC support, as well as a 3.5mm or RCA connector and a TOSLINK optical connector.
If you’d prefer to keep the Bluetooth connectivity available for other devices, we would advise going for the HDMI ARC connector to establish a connection between your TV and your soundbar. This not only ensures optimal sound quality but also lets you opt for the soundbar as an audio source for any other device you might connect to your TV, such as a console. You can also control everything via a single remote, which goes a long way towards cleaning up clutter.
How to Install a Bluetooth Soundbar
Setting up your Bluetooth soundbar is surprisingly simple. And while the steps do depend on your specific TV, here’s how it would work if you’re not using TCL’s 75″ X915, which comes already with a soundbar.
Head to your settings menu on the TV, and go to the ‘Remotes & Accessories’ area. Select the ‘Add Accessory’ button, after which the TV will automatically search for your devices. Once you’ve found the soundbar, select it, press OK, and follow the on-screen guide to connect it. And just like that, you’re connected! The same steps would apply for a Bluetooth headphone, for example.
Something to note is that not every TV will come with Bluetooth connectivity, and for some, you might need to buy a suitable adapter. Of course, there are far too many TVs and adapters for us to be able to give you instructions on all of them, but if you’re having trouble, the manual is your friend.
Explore Streaming Possibilities with TCL Bluetooth Soundbars
Whether you have a Bluetooth-enabled TV and want a completely cable-free experience, or you’d just like Bluetooth for added convenience in your office setup, TCL has a whole range of Bluetooth soundbars for you to choose from.
Starting from the value-oriented TS3010, which is a 2.1 channel soundbar with a 160W peak power, to the TS7010 which increases the power to a 320W peak, and of course, the flagship TS9030 Ray Danz, there’s something for everyone. Regardless of which one you go for, you’re looking at an audio experience that is a whole level above what you can get from the built-in speakers on your TV.
What they all have in common is that they offer class-leading sound quality and connectivity, with Bluetooth, optical ports, HDMI ARC, and 3.5mm ports for you to choose from. They also all come with a wireless subwoofer for deep, punchy bass and an immersive movie-watching experience.
Of course, there are some differences apart from the power. For example, the TS7010 comes with multiple listening modes, while the TS9030 gets you a 3.1 setup and adds Dolby Atmos to the mix. It’s all up to you and your budget, but whichever one you go for, you’ll be getting an experience.