Onkyo LS-B50 Soundbar System review: Onkyo LS-B50 Soundbar System

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MSRP: $699.00

The Good Comes with subwoofer. Bluetooth. Good performance with stereo music and regular movies.

The Bad Subwoofer level too strong. Sharp mismatch in channel levels.

The Bottom Line The Onkyo LS-B50 Soundbar System provides a compact, low cost package with convenient Bluetooth functionality, but channel level mismatches limit the quality of its output.

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6.6 Overall

Onkyo's low-cost LS-B50 Soundbar System manages to fit within its purchase price a wireless subwoofer and remote control in addition to the main bar.

Nicely compact, the soundbar is only 909mm wide. It can be fixed to a wall using keyhole slots at its rear or sit on sturdy little legs, which are supplied with the unit.

Onkyo doesn't say a lot about what's doing the work in there. Without indicating their sizes, it says that the bar controls six "full range cone drivers" and two "ring tweeters". Peering through the grille over the drivers it appears that there two innermost of the larger drivers had tweeters built into them. No sizes are specified but they looked to be around 65mm. Each of the six full range drivers is supplied with 9 watts of power (presumably shared with the tweeters for two of them).

The subwoofer has a 160mm downwards firing driver in its base and uses a bass reflex enclosure with the port also pointing down in the base.

There are three — or is it five? — inputs on the soundbar. The unit will play back audio from a USB device (MP3 only), via Bluetooth, or from a 'TV'. There are three connections associated with this last: optical digital audio, coaxial digital audio and 3.5mm analogue stereo. But you only get input selections of "TV", USB and Bluetooth. Through experimentation I determined that the unit runs a hierarchy, with analog at the bottom. If you plug in coaxial digital audio, it will switch off the analog input and use the coax digital instead. If you plug in optical, it will override both coax and analog.

All of which is a pity. That means that for practical use you're going to have to plug your disc player into your TV and use its optical output to drive the soundbar. Many TVs convert surround sound to stereo and get rid of the low frequency effects channel. Had you been able to switch between these inputs, you'd be able to leave one plugged into the TV and one into a player, using the latter input for best performance in disc playback.

You can set the unit up so that basic controls on your TV's remote will control the soundbar. It comes with an IR "blaster", which can be plugged into an output on the unit to pass on remote control signals to other devices, most likely your TV if its remote receiver is obscured by the soundbar.

(Credit: Onkyo)

In use

The soundbar and wireless subwoofer were pre-paired, so as soon as everything was plugged in, they worked together. Indeed, the moment I paired the system via Bluetooth to an Android device and started playing some "Switched On Bach" (a 1960s recording with marvellous bass), the subwoofer was all too obvious. The remote has a subwoofer level control, so I wound it down, down, down to the minimum setting, and it was kind of in balance but with a rather resonant, woody-sounding mid-bass. The deeper notes on the Moog sounded fine, but as they went up an octave they rang out quite a bit.

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