Soundbars remain a highly underrated and undervalued audio product in India till date. And it's ironic given the massive adoption of flat screen TVs in our country. Yes, most of those TVs manage to produce sound that’s decent enough for day to day TV viewing experience, primarily news, sports and soap operas. But with the advent of HD channels and online streaming services that provide high-quality audio, the TV speakers simply don’t cut it. If you do not have a good sound system, you are missing out on a huge part of the HD and 4K experience.
Unfortunately, most of the decent soundbars available here start at a five-digit price tag that serves as a deterrent for many thinking of buying one on a tighter budget. As for the affordable ones, there are far and few, and the Mi Soundbar that we reviewed sometime back falls short on several fronts including bass, usability and sound controls. Thankfully, there is one from the German brand, Blaupunkt — better known for their car audio systems here — that seems to tick most of the boxes. Though it isn’t a very recent launch, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let people know about its existence in a bit more detail. So let’s see what the Blaupunkt SBW-01 soundbar, which is priced at Rs 6,999, has to offer and how it performs.
Blaupunkt SBW-01 Soundbar - Design: 8/10
The Blaupunkt SBW-01 Soundbar looks elegant with a sleek but sturdy all-black body with a metal grille up front. It is about 80 cm long and should fit perfectly under a 40-inch TV or larger. You also get a subwoofer unit with a 6.5-inch driver placed on the right and the air vent at the front. The bundled cables are long enough for a decent separation between the sub and the bar. The soundbar can easily be wall mounted and the company has bundled a pair of screws in the package for the same. You also get a pair of batteries for the remote, a 3.5 mm Aux cable and an RCA to Aux cable inside the box. Quite generous and thoughtful.
The input ports are placed at the back of the soundbar barring the USB port which has been placed on the right side. There is just about enough space to connect the cables to the ports in case you choose to wall mount it. You will have to first connect the cables and then put it back on the wall. The power button along with volume control keys and the input selection button is placed on the right side next to the USB port. There is a tiny white 7-segment LED display at the front of the soundbar that is more than handy. It displays the input mode as well as volume/bass/treble level. Something I dearly missed on the Xiaomi soundbar along with a wireless remote control which is also present here.
Blaupunkt SBW-01 Soundbar - Specifications and Connectivity options: 9/10
There are plenty of connectivity options on this Blaupunkt Soundbar and some that one rarely gets on a soundbar in this budget. You get Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux-in, USB, Optical in and last but not the least, HDMI ARC, which was a pleasant surprise. It has almost all the bases covered. The soundbar has a pair of 2.25-inch drivers, each rated at 20W RMS, to take care of high and mid-range frequencies while the 40W RMS subwoofer has a 6.5-inch driver for bass. The total rated power for this audio setup stands at 80W RMS, which is almost thrice that of the Mi Soundbar on paper.
This soundbar is Dolby certified too, the benefits of which can be obtained primarily through the HDMI ARC input. The soundbar is accompanied with a full function wireless remote control, which though not eye-popping in design, is reasonably well built. It has controls for volume, bass, treble, equaliser presets (Music, Movie, News, 3D), input selection and lastly, playback controls for tracks played through USB or Bluetooth. Of course, there’s a power and mute button too. I can’t think of anything important that Blaupunkt has missed out here except SPDIF perhaps; guess I am really pushing it.
Blaupunkt SBW-01 Soundbar - Performance: 8/10
Like I usually do, I tried multiple input sources to test the soundbar. I connected the set-top box using Aux-in for TV viewing experience. Then I synced my Amazon Fire TV Stick over Bluetooth for streaming online content. And lastly, I played various genres of music over USB. Unfortunately, I did not have a TV with HDMI ARC support at the time and place of testing this soundbar. Despite that, I was quite impressed with the overall experience with other audio sources, especially at the price at which this product sells.
If one can look past its form factor, the Blaupunkt SBW-01 soundbar is essentially a 2.1 channel speaker system and it also sounds like one. For starters, when you switch on the soundbar, it starts in the input mode that you last used, however, the volume resets to 50 percent. In a way that’s a good thing as you will be using it around the 40 to 60 percent range most of the time. At that volume level, it is sufficiently loud for a mid-sized room and I never had to go beyond the 75 percent mark during the course of my testing for any input source.
The first thing you notice straight away when you play something on it is how big a jump in audio quality it offers over that of your LCD/LED TV. It’s loud, it is clear and with a serious amount of bass, actually a bit too much of it. Thankfully, you can tone it down to suit your taste courtesy of the bass control (-5 to 5). I preferred to keep the bass level to 0 while setting the treble around 3. Though there are equaliser presets available which you can try, I would suggest you stick to manual sound adjustment for best results. The dynamic range of the speaker system is more than decent for this price bracket. The highs are good, the mids are fine but the lower mids get overpowered by the lows at times. If anything, I would have preferred the bass to be tighter. The above is more conspicuous during music playback. There’s very little to complain about when watching TV shows or movies on it. It enhances the experience manifold. Needless to say, the output quality depends on the quality of the source. HD channels sound great on it but SD channels sound a tad boomy. Similarly, higher bit-rate audio sounds much better and brings out the best from this soundbar.
Coming back to music playback, I tried it through its USB port as well as via Bluetooth. The soundbar sounded good with either of the sources barring the above-mentioned issue. The audio controls on the remote let you play, pause, stop and go to next or previous tracks which is perfect.
There is one slight cause of concern though. Almost all the sound and playback controls are available only on the remote. So if it goes bad or you misplace it, there is no way to control those features directly from the main unit. You can only power it on/off, choose an input source and control the volume without the remote.
Verdict and Price in India
The Blaupunkt SBW-01 soundbar is priced at Rs 6,999 and is available via Flipkart and in Croma stores. The price fluctuates quite a bit on Flipkart and often drops by a good Rs 1,000 to 1,500 during sales. At that price, you get a soundbar with an elegant design, multiple audio inputs and very good sound.
The only thing I can compare it to as of now is its Xiaomi counterpart, and despite being a thousand or two more expensive, I can safely say that this Blaupunkt model is way better than the Mi in terms of sound quality, features and usability. If you are looking for a budget soundbar under Rs 10,000, I will highly recommend the Blaupunkt SBW-01.
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