As televisions continue to get thinner and thinner, they put a greater emphasis on picture quality over anything else. As such, sacrifices will naturally be made – and usually the sound quality is the first to go. Manufacturers know that most people willing to spend around $1,000 on a nice television are probably also willing to pay for a decent soundbar (also, “sound bar”), too. That’s probably why most television manufacturers also make their own home theater equipment. Vizio, Samsung, LG and Sony are all prime examples – it’s a business model that works. And it could add a couple hundred bucks (or more) to your television setup.
Even though Anker doesn’t make televisions, it just got into the soundbar business with the Soundcore Infini ($100). If you aren’t familiar with Anker’s recent activity, the company has its hand in more than just portable power. It still makes power banks and charging cables, but Anker also makes smart security cameras, smart vacuums, other tech accessories – all priced so that they’re really affordable – and it has a whole division dedicated to audio. In fact, its true wireless earbuds, the Zolo Liberty, and noise-canceling headphones, the Soundcore Space NC, are some of the best audio products in their price range.
Their Soundcore Infini has some pretty high expectations, too. It’s a 2.1 channel soundbar that costs under $100, which is really cheap compared to everything else – but how does it sound?
The Good: The obvious is price, but the audio quality that you’re getting for under $100 is also quite impressive. The bass is punchy. And the midrange and treble are quite clear when played at medium volumes, which is what I suspect most people to listen to this soundbar set to. Setting it up to your TV is simple, and built-in Bluetooth is convenient. The soundbar can be mounted or left on a media console. It looks inconspicuous.
Who They’re For: It’s a solid entry-level soundbar for small rooms and for people living in apartments. It’s the ideal size for those with a television that’s between 42- and 55-inches.
Watch Out For: No HDMI ARC, so you’ll need to use the soundbar’s separate remote to control volume. There are no audio out ports so, for instance, you can’t hook it up to a receiver and integrate into a larger surround sound system (you can’t connect to wired speakers or an external subwoofer). It doesn’t support the latest surround sound technologies, such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. When played at high volumes, the separation of the midrange and highs can get a bit murky. Also, at high volumes, the dialogue in movies can get a little overpowered.
Alternatives: In this price range you really don’t have too many options. If you’re looking for a little extra quality, the Vizio SB3621 ($180) is a 2.1-channel that’s really well-reviewed and comes with a wireless subwoofer. The Polk Command Bar ($250) is also a great, but pricer option and it comes with Alexa built-in. And if you’re willing to spend a little more, and you want to integrate with your home’s Sonos system, the Sonos Beam ($399) is a good option, too.
Review: In many ways I feel like I’m the perfect person for the Soundcore Infini soundbar. True, I have a nice setup in my room – Vizio 4K M-Series, Yamaha receiver and Q Acoustics bookshelf speakers – but my roommate and I share a common room with an entertainment system that’s bare bones. We have a 50-inch Sharp television from several years ago and that’s fit. The sound on the television is terrible, but then again, we live in a cramped New York City apartment and don’t need it to be that good. Still, better would be nice.
For the past few weeks we’ve been testing Anker’s newest soundbar out and it did exactly what I hoped – it improved the audio on our TV. Not only was it louder, but the pass was punchy and it just made watching football games and the baseball playoffs that much more enjoyable. The nicest thing, for me, was that the soundbar had built-in Bluetooth so I could listen to podcasts and music in the morning out loud. Again, this wasn’t anything revolutionary as most new soundbars can stream Bluetooth audio. And I have a number of smart small speakers in my apartment that could do exactly the same thing, but not sound quite as good.
Obviously, a $100 soundbar is only going to get you so far. I wouldn’t get the Soundcore Infini soundbar if you have any plans of a home theater system – it’s a one-stop shop and doesn’t integrate with a multi-channel system. There’s no support for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, so you’re not going to get really immersive sound. And there’s no HDMI ARC option. The downside with this is you can’t control the volume with any other remotes, aside from the one that comes with Soundcore Infini, meaning you’re going to be juggling your tv remote, cable remote and soundbar remote to control your system – it can feel like a lot.
If I was to be super critical of the sound quality, I thought that Soundcore Infini sounded best at low and medium volumes, which is how I would imagine most people would listen to it. When I started playing it loudly, the bass – which is very powerful and impressive considering there are two woofers built into this relatively small soundbar – tended to overpower everything else, especially dialogue in movies. The soundbar handled highs surprisingly well, too, but for some reason, I thought vocals and instruments sounded noticeably better when streaming music (via Bluetooth) rather than when watching sports or movies on the TV.
Verdict: I think it’s important to temper expectations with the Soundcore Infini. It’s a decent soundbar, but a very good soundbar considering its price – and for those who simply want to improve the sound quality of their television, it’s perfect. It also adds a pretty good-sounding Bluetooth speaker centrally in the home. That said, don’t expect a state-of-the-art soundbar that will blow you away with features and immersive sound.
What Others Are Saying:
• “We actually like the performance of this. At first, we had to remind ourselves that the price tag is only $99, so it wasn’t going to compete with some of the more expensive solutions we have come across. Keeping this in mind as we put it through its tests, it started to grow on us. The final opinion really comes down to the user, and what your ears are looking for in a speaker. Some people like a lot of bass, some like a lot of volume, a focus on highs, full range and so on. This speaker focuses on sheer volume and crisp highs.” – Jeffrey B, Poc Network
• “This sense of accuracy further extends to the midrange. Unlike most other speakers in the sub-$100 price range, the mids remain clear and concise without any undue compression or distortion. The fact that Anker can offer this level of midrange fidelity in a speaker that retails for just $99 is staggering, to say the least.” – Carroll Moore, Major HiFi
• “You might think such a tiny collection of drivers would have trouble reproducing convincing cinema sound — and you’d be right. But it’s not a lack of punch or power that keeps the Infini from outclassing the sound performance of competing bars (or even upper crest TVs). It does a poor job of keeping things balanced, forcing you to choose between muffled or tinny sound.” – Ryan Waniata, Digital Trends
Soundbar: integrated 2.1 channel
Drivers: 2 x 3-inch subwoofers, 2 x 1.5-inch tweeters, 2 x bass ports
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, digital optical input, digital coax input, aux, USB-A
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