Review | Gadgets

Blaupunkt SBWL-03 soundbar review: a good value addition for cheaper smart TVs

Blaupunkt SBWL-03

Blaupunkt SBWL-03  

German firm Blaupunkt’s latest soundbar offering with its 2.1ch audio output and Dolby Digital amplification falls short of quality performance standards but, for its price point, offers great value for money

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Sound was an unexpected collateral in the TV evolution as big Cathode-ray tube sets made way for smarter and sleeker panels. As most smart TVs generate noise of not more than 20W output, this also created the need for innovation in surround sound technology. Massive home theatre equipment was going out of style, and in came soundbar technology with a search for an immersive audio-visual experience slowly growing desperate.

Maximalism was out, and minimalism — with high performance — was in. That said, we are spoilt for choice as soundbars that tick desired boxes occupy the market.

Inside the box

The latest product out of German gadget company Blaupunkt’s stables, model SBWL-03 with subwoofer delivering 2.1ch audio output with Dolby Digital amplification adds to the category.

Blaupunkt SBWL-03

Blaupunkt SBWL-03   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

At nearly 38 inches, the SBWL-03 is pretty long for a soundbar at any price range. That presents an issue. Irrespective of where your television is set — mounted on a wall or on a table — you will need to rethink the space in your home to accommodate the soundbar and its cousin.

The build quality is average. The product feels entirely plastic, except out at front where the grille panel adds a touch of class. Unlike previous models, the SBWL-03 is not a perfect rectangle. The curved finish on the front lends it a cupcake-look from the side. However, we are not a fan of the Blaupunkt badge, it looks and feels cheap.

The package comes with a remote control, a set of AAA batteries, a 3.5mm-3.5mm and a 3.5mm-RCA cable besides screws and brackets for mounting the bar on a wall. No HDMI cable was in the package although it is one of the input mechanisms. Audio input is also possible via Bluetooth, USB, Aux-in and optical digital cable. One of the expectations was that at this price point Blaupunkt could offer the option of a wireless sub-woofer that remotely connects to the soundbar, but that is not the case; each piece ought to be separately connected to a power source, but the pairing process is simple and takes about a minute in all.

Blaupunkt SBWL-03

Blaupunkt SBWL-03   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

An LED output screen on the front that displays two letters lights up once the device is turned on. There is a power button, USB input and volume control keys provided to one side of the soundbar. However, should the remote lose its functionality, you will be left with no option to change the input modes, adjust the bass, treble and sound equaliser levels — a drawback.

Here is the deal: whether you are able to leverage maximum performance out of the device relies solely on the TV you use. The TV we connected the SBWL-03 to was a Sony 4K UHD, which despite its 20W output offers deeper surround, clean audio and quality sound even at higher volumes.

The verdict

So the test was to mainly observe if the Blaupunkt SBWL-03 could add an extra layer of depth to the sound field, amplify the richness of high pitch noises and generate enough bass to earn a nod. The device claims to deliver an audio output of 100W + 150W.

Specifications
  • Hardware: 2.1ch soundbar and sub-woofer
  • Dimensions: L/H/D — 96x8x8cm
  • Input: USB/Bluetooth/AUX LineIn/Optical/HDMI(ARC)
  • Display: LED
  • Power output: 50W*2 + 150W = 250W
  • Voltage: AC120-240V
  • Speaker Driver: 2.27*2 + 8S

When turned on, it starts at 50% volume (16 units). SBWL-03’s best performance was observed between 18 and 24 units. Any lower, and the sound amplification is negligible; any higher and the noise is over-amplified and turns uncomfortable to continue listening, making for a limited operative space.

There are four equaliser modes (Movie, Music, News and 3D). The 3D option adds the extra depth field we were looking for but it is not convincing. A loss in sound transmission can be observed. The other modes blunt sound in the name of amplification (Music mode holds good for if you’re listening to Spotify).

So, you will have to manually adjust your TV volume at regular intervals to keep the sound quality and levels at an optimum. The subwoofer offers decent bass, but for 150W output, it is nearly not enough.

Connecting the device to a Bluetooth input was seamless but the connection is sketchy; any minor interruption — sometimes as simple as someone standing between the device and its Bluetooth source — resulted in disrupted play.

Blaupunkt SBWL-03

Blaupunkt SBWL-03   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Circling back to the point of importance of the quality of TV, the market is flooded with entry-level Smart TVs selling for around the same price point as SBWL-03, sometimes even cheaper in the good old days before COVID-19 when offering a ‘lightning deal’ was routine for an e-tailer.

Expecting decent sound output from these entry range TVs is a bit of a stretch. For such TVs, the Blaupunkt SBWL-03 offers great value for money. You get a product that looks refined from a distance and delivers average performance consistently; believe us, consistency is key. The Aux-in output does the job though if you would like to try the HDMI input, be reminded that Blaupunkt devices are not known to deliver enhanced sound via HDMI. Still, the sound output is reliable when delivered from a wired source. Users may also be tempted to try out Blaupunkt’s earlier models that are priced much cheaper and deliver nearly identical performance.

However, if you own a quality television set, spending a few extra thousands on a soundbar that offers 5.1ch audio output, more manoeuvrability and a deeper surround sound seems like the better bet.

The Blaupunkt SBWL-03 is available on Amazon India for ₹12,990 and on Flipkart for ₹12,591

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 11:30:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/gadgets/blaupunkt-sbwl-03-soundbar-review-a-good-value-addition-for-cheaper-smart-tvs/article31951170.ece

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