REVIEW – It is amazing to me what you can get nowadays for a TV. Prices have fallen, while feature sets are getting better and better. But I have noticed that while prices of TVs seem to keep falling, the manufacturers are having to drop features to be able to keep those prices low. For example, they will drop things like Bluetooth, or cut back on the sound quality. Such was the case with the gorgeous Samsung TV I purchased a few years ago. I was so focused on the picture in the store that I never bothered to check the sound quality. Live and learn. So I have wanted to find a decent sound bar to add to the living room without paying hundreds of dollars. Enter the Sakobs Wireless Bluetooth & Wired 80W sound bar that you can get for $79.99. Amazing price, but how did it perform?
What is it?
A 37” wide tubular-shaped speaker that sits under your TV (either on the counter or mounted to the wall). It has inputs on the back for RCA AUX left and right, Digital Coaxial, SPDIF Optical Digital, and built-in Bluetooth 4.2. It also has an output for a Subwoofer next to the power output connection, if you want more base sound than what it provides. So you can basically connect it to anything… TV, computer, cellphone, tablet, sound system, etc.
What’s in the box?
- Sakobs 37” sound bar speaker
- Power cable and brick
- SPDIF optical cable
- 5mm to RCA AUX left and right cable
- Remote control
- Wall mounting hardware
Here are the hardware specs:
- Output power: 80W
- Frequency response: 55Hz-20KHz
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 80dB
- Digital audio interfaces: Optical, Coaxial, RCA AUX, Bluetooth 4.2
- Audio format: PCM
- Sampling Bit Rate resolution: 16 bit to 24 bit
- Weight: 4 ½ pounds
- Size: 37 x 5 x 3.5 inches
Features and performance
The first thing I should mention is how versatile the sound bar is. I used it via Bluetooth with my cellphone and tablet. I connected it to the TV in our bedroom via the 3.5 MM to RCA AUX cable and the SPDIF optical cable. And I connected it to the TV in the living room via the 3.5 MM to RCA AUX cable and the SPDIF optical cable. I wish it had an HDMI connection, but that was obviously one way to keep the price of this device so low. It also does not interface with any of the smart assistant platforms, so skip this sound bar if you are looking for that.
The second big benefit of this sound bar is the remote control, which is pretty nice to have with a product in this price point. On the remote you’ll find dedicated buttons for Bluetooth, Optical, COAX, and AUX, to easily switch between those modes. There is also a mute button, which is nice to have when the phone rings, right? In the middle of the remote is a round navigation button that has volume up and down, forward and backward buttons, and a play/pause button. It was nice being able to use the sound bar with my tablet playing Spotify, and then use the remote to skip songs and pause the music when needed.
The final button on the remote is under the central round navigation button. It is a wide button that you use to switch between 3 different EQ modes: Movie, Music, and News. (you would pick ‘news’ if you were watching a TV show that had lots of talking, like a news show!) The 3 different EQ modes is pretty nice. The Music mode gives you a little more base, and the Movie mode enhances the various sounds you hear in a movie (sound tracks, explosions, etc).
There are a few buttons on the top of the sound bar. You’ll find a power button, volume up and down, play/pause, and an “M” button (which stands for ‘multi’) that you can use to cycle through the various modes of Optical, Bluetooth, RCA AUX, etc. And on the bottom of the front of the sound bar are 5 indicator lights that show you when the sound bar is on, which mode you are using, etc.
When I first connected it to my living room TV using the included SPDIF cable, it wouldn’t work. The SPDIF cable that came with the sound bar does seem really cheap, and it is the thinnest one I have ever seen. But I changed the audio settings on the TV as the manual suggested, and it still wouldn’t work. So I tried it on the TV in the bedroom and it worked perfectly. Hmmm. So I went back into the living room and tried another SPDIF cable that I already had, and it worked perfectly. Maybe the SPDIF cable that I already had, which is much thicker and of higher quality, was the trick. Or maybe the fact that the TV in the living room is 3 years older than the one in the bedroom was the problem. Whatever the case, I was able to get it to work in both rooms.
When I cranked the sound all the way up on the sound bar, the sound was really clear and didn’t have any distortion. It sounded really nice. But I did discover that even at the highest volume on the sound bar, both TVs in the house were equally as loud at their highest volume than the sound bar, maybe even more so. It is very close. So I am actually not gaining anything regarding volume by using the sound bar. I am able to see a benefit of using the sound bar when watching movies however because the “Movie” EQ setting on the sound bar sounds better than the sound from the TV speakers. My wife has constantly complained about the TV sound while watching movies and often says “turn it up, I can’t understand what they are saying.” She doesn’t say that anymore when we use the sound bar during movies. So that’s a plus.
At a price point of under $80, you get a lot. The remote is a really nice feature. The sound is nice and clear, even at high volumes. The lack of HDMI or the ability to interface with my Google Home network is a bummer, but I guess I shouldn’t expect that at this price point. If you are looking for those features, skip this device. The specs say that the sound bar gets 80W of output with 80dB of sound. I somehow doubt that. I would have expected higher volumes than what I experienced. But nevertheless, I think the benefits do outweigh the negatives overall. Simply as a Bluetooth speaker the sound bar shines while playing music. It sounds much better than other compact Bluetooth speakers that I have in the house, and it costs less than some of those. This sound bar will never be a true surround sound-type system, and I don’t think that is its purpose. But for some people, this would be the perfect speaker in the right setup.