Monoprice SB-500 5.1 Soundbar Review
AT A GLANCE
Includes wireless subwoofer and surround speakers
Good clarity with movie dialogue
Bright LED display
Cable required for surrounds
Music playback can sound thin
Monoprice’s SB-500 delivers near-wireless true 5.1 surround at a very affordable price, making it one of the best soundbar options in its class.
Value-priced audio products usually come at a, well, price. A user can typically expect to sacrifice sound quality and/or features, but the Monoprice SB-500 soundbar system breaks that mold by offering true Dolby Digital 5.1 with a wireless subwoofer and surrounds, all for $280.
The soundbar contains four 1.7 x 4-inch midrange drivers and four 1.75-inch tweeters arrayed in a 3-channel configuration and powered by a 60-watt built-in amplifier. The down-firing subwoofer has an 8-inch driver and a 100-watt amp, and the two surrounds each have a 2.5-inch full-range driver powered by a 20-watt amp. The soundbar and the satellites can be wall-mounted using included hardware.
Monoprice’s soundbar has a clean, simple look. The metal grille on its front panel has a basic LED status display that can be toggled off via the remote. Its tempered glass top panel has four controls: power, input select, and volume up/ down; all other functions must be carried out using the remote. The LED displays the selected input: HDMI 1, HDMI 2, ARC-HDMI, Bluetooth, Optical, Coaxial, AUX, or USB. HDMI connections support 4K/HDR pass-through, and Bluetooth is onboard to stream audio from a phone or tablet.
The system’s wireless subwoofer automatically connects to the soundbar on initial power-up. As for the “wireless” surrounds, they link wirelessly with the soundbar, but connect together via an included cable and the right surround speaker needs to be plugged into AC power.
Separate volume controls for the surround speakers are provided on the remote control, which also has dedicated bass and treble adjustments. There are two DSP modes: Music and Movie. Music creates a wide stereo soundfield, and Movie enhances dialogue while boosting the surround levels.
Watching the movie Jolt on Amazon Prime, the Monoprice system displayed impressive dynamics, be it pulsing music in the opening scene with a grunge guitar panned to the surrounds, or a string quartet playing Bach’s Minuet in G. Another thing that struck me was the level of ambient detail delivered by the surrounds. The remote lets you adjust surround level, though there’s no way to boost the center channel. But dialogue was mostly clear, even during soft- spoken passages in Jolt‘s thunderous soundtrack, and the subwoofer deftly handled the pounding bass.
Switching to Music mode for playback via Bluetooth, I cued up “By Your Side” by Calvin Harris. Music mode boosted the treble and opened the soundstage, but also caused the tonal balance to thin out. Vocals were slightly bright with some harshness in the upper mids when I played at loud levels, but guitars sounded clean and detailed.
“Godlight” by Noah Kahan features a lively kick drum that was conveyed with pleasing punch by the system’s sub. Switching back to Movie mode, I preferred the sound quality for music, which was warmer and fuller with a more natural tone to vocals. Sound- stage and imaging collapsed a bit, but it was worth it for the improved tonal balance.
Having reviewed many 2.1 soundbars with virtual surround or plain stereo, it was a pleasure to hear discrete Dolby Digital 5.1 delivered via Monoprice’s SB-500. It reminded me of how enjoyable soundtracks can be when rear speakers are used. At just $280, the SB-500 is a steal.
Published at Tue, 19 Oct 2021 16:51:32 +0000