Modern TVs have built-in speaker, but the sound quality is usually far from capable of allowing decent audio experience. Many speakers offer different levels of audio quality and wide range of price level. When I was in the market to get a new speaker for my TV, I spent quite some time just to understand the choices.
First factor is connectivity. Some speakers use standard 3.5 mm jack cable. This is not an option for me because my TV has none. Other popular cable connections are optical audio cable and HDMI. Optical audio cable has more compatible devices because this connectivity has been around for quite some time. HDMI offers the possibility of higher-resolution audio, assuming both the TV and the speaker support it. The most interesting feature of HDMI connection is the ability to control speaker volume from the TV. This feature is available for TVs and speakers with HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) compatibility.
On the wireless front, there are Bluetooth connection and WiFi. If a TV supports Bluetooth connection, massive amount of Bluetooth speaker products from the smallest and cheapest to the premium and sophisticated models are available to be chosen. Speakers with WiFi connection are usually more expensive, but it offers stable connectivity and longer range. Some major brands offer more features on WiFi connection through their specific ecosystem, such as Apple AirPlay or Google Chromecast.
From the speaker’s form factor, there are options of 2 units speaker (left and right), 2.1 (left, right, bass), 3.1 (left, right, centre, bass), 5.1 (surround) and so on. The simplest version is one piece of speaker with horizontal form factor, known as soundbar. This form factor became my choice because its simplicity, which is perfect for the limited space in my TV cabinet.
After a bit of research, my candidates are Bose TV Speaker or Sonos Beam. Both speakers offer cabled connection (optical audio or HDMI ARC). Bose TV Speaker has Bluetooth connection for direct music from our phone. Sonos Beam has WiFi connection with AirPlay 2 support. I ended up choosing Bose TV Speaker mainly for the price.
Bose TV Speaker is an upgrade from older Bose Solo 5 soundbar. With more powerful and balanced sound, Bose TV Speaker is an improvement in almost every way from its predecessor. Some people might miss the fancy full-featured universal remote included with Solo 5. The remote of Bose TV Speaker is a tiny remote with simple 8 buttons: power, TV mode, Bluetooth mode, volume up, volume down, bass setting, dialogue mode and mute.
As can be seen from its remote, Bose TV Speaker allows cabled or wireless connection, but user needs to tell the speaker which mode to use (wired or wireless) through the remote. It does not have automatic detection between the two sources. The bass button is used to set the bass level. There are 5 levels to select: max bass, heavy bass, normal, less bass, min bass. It remembers the bass settings for the cabled connection and the Bluetooth connection separately. Dialogue mode is designed to enhance voice, making it clearer and more understandable. Some people might use this mode to listen to news or other shows focusing on vocal dialogues.
Sound quality is quite impressive for a speaker with that tiny form factor. To be clear, it does not even compete with some high-end speakers with different form factors and higher price range, but it is as good as one could objectively expect from a small soundbar without separate subwoofer. Setting the bass one level above normal does the trick of most TV shows and some TV series I regularly watch. It upgrades my everyday TV watching experience with rich and impactful sound without going overboard.
It is worth to note that Bose TV Speaker is compatible with some other Bose Bass Module 500 or 700. However, those Bass Modules are way more expensive than the TV Speaker itself so I just could not justify such cost for my use case.
If there is one thing I absolutely dislike about this soundbar: its name. I mean, really Bose, “TV Speaker”? That’s the best name you can come up with? Someone in charge with naming your product needs to be replaced. It is more than just a name, it brings problem to customers trying to research the product because the name is so generic, that other soundbar models kept getting into the search results. It gets slightly better lately with Google learned that it is a product name, it was a lot worse few months ago when this soundbar is really new. Still, it is a very poor naming taste.
Other than my issue with its name, I love this soundbar. It is small and slick with solid build quality. The connection is stable and the initial setup was quick and very easy. Sound quality is awesome for speaker that size. Price range is a bit expensive if we consider only the retail price, but a bit of effort will get us some discounted price. Love this purchase!