Thursday, June 3, 2010

JVC TH-BA1 4.1 Channel Soundbar Review

For surround sound, you will typically use a surround sound receiver and multiple speakers. The surround sound receiver will decode the signal, and with the internal amplifier send the signal to the external speakers. There are a few problems with this set-up that is not ideal for some individuals. It takes up space, tends to cost more then some want to spend, and you can also suffer from wires going all over your room, unless you want to go to even more expense to hide them.

Enter the sound bar. The sound bar solves many of the problems listed above. Sound bars are relatively small and can be mounted on the wall right under your flat screen TV. Sound bars have less components so they will cost less. They come in multiple configurations, from stereo to simulated surround sound, to also including an external subwoofer. Since the speakers are built-in, there are also less wires going around your room .

For review today is an economical soundbar from JVC, model #TH-BA1. The system is a 4.1 channel 220 watt system comes with two components. The first is the soundbar, followed by an external subwoofer. The soundbar is a long narrow component that can mount onto the wall. The sound is projected by four 2 3/4" full range drivers each given 30 watts of power, and 100 watts going to the 6 5/16 inch 2.4GHz wireless subwoofer . There is an internal processor to take the signal and create a simulated surround sound from the four speakers, using Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro-Logic II, and PCM decoders. It can do this from a stereo or surround sound input signal. There is also a wireless source that sends the signal to the external subwoofer. A wireless remote controls the system.

The remote is small but functional. There are buttons for power, volume up and down, fade, muting and inputs for digital 1, digital 2, and analog. There are speaker level up and down for subwoofer, center and surround. There are buttons for surround mode 1, surround mode 2, off, dimmer, and DRC. The subwoofer was also very easy to set up. There is a button on the sub to press to sync it up with the receiver. And without any input cable, the sub can be placed anywhere in the room.

So far this may sound good, but surround sound from a single soundbar could sound too good to be true. I set it up in my bedroom where I did not have a surround sound system. The subwoofer went under my bed. While my expectations were not very high, the JV system still impressed me. They played louder then the internal TV speakers and also sounded much better. The sound was more detailed, cleaner and provided a fuller sound. The subwoofer, while not powerful enough to rattle my windows, did add nice depth and help with the surround sound effect. The surround sound modes 1 and 2 were for a stereo signal, and the other a surround sound signal like a DVD player or an HDTV channel broadcasting in 5.1 surround sound.

As I mentioned, I found myself impressed with the sound. The surround sound simulation from a stereo source was about what I was expecting. It sounded better than just stereo, but at the same time was not overly surround soundish. But when I switched surround mode and listened to something broadcast in surround sound, the simulation improved. The internal DSP made it appear as if there was sound coming from the sides.

For someone like me the system is perfect in my bedroom. I have a reference surround system in my theater room. But in my bedroom, I don't want all the gear or all the wires. yet I get to have sound that is better than the small built in TV speakers, and a dedicated subwoofer. This is all I need in my bedroom. this may be a perfect bedroom system for you, or maybe this is all you are looking for in a surround system. It is easy enough to set up, and performed well. For you, it may also be perfect. I've enjoyed quality JVC stereo components in the past. I'm glad to see the tradition has continued. If you are in the market for a soundbar, I would suggest giving the JVC TH-BA1 a listen. You may be glad you did. For more information and complete specs, check out their website at