When flat-screen LCD TVs became popular, they were considered a technology breakthrough. However, within a few years, they have now improved drastically with energy-saving features and higher definition display panels.
And they became smarter too. With high speed broadband internet now in every home at very affordable prices, streaming 4K content is now considered a norm. However, even though you can boast about your latest smart TV featuring the highest resolution, can you say the same about its audio performance? Surely, not many of you would be vocal about it.
Conventional televisions today (full HD or 4K, LED or OLED) may feature big smarts, but the brands don’t do much about the audio performance. Well, in the race to make the television slimmer and bezel-less, the one element that gets sacrificed is the audio since speakers need to be larger to produce better audio. And that’s where a soundbar is advised by most.
A soundbar is nothing but an external audio amplifier with multiple speakers built-into a single frame and placed beneath the television. Some even sport subwoofers for better bass performance, while others are super expensive and feature multiple audio formats and interfaces along with wireless satellites and subs. So which one should you opt for?
Well, it all depends on your budget, the audio performance you require and the type of content you stream/play — they all go (almost) hand-in-hand. You could get the best of performance from an expensive brand, but they may not do justice if your television output does not support it, and vice versa. But if you don’t want to spend a bomb and yet have some above-average audio quality to enjoy your daily entertainment, then you should check out the Zeb-Juke Bar 9000 by Zebronics. For a mere ₹13,999 (MRP ₹29,999), it is a good value for the money you spend.
Featuring a simple black exterior with a mix of metal and plastics, it sports a single long unit that houses six speakers and a large passive subwoofer. Encased in a glossy plastic body and a metal grille in front, the soundbar looks pretty sleek and can blend well with any television or home decor. The subwoofer is made with engineered wood and sports a matte-finished black exterior with a large bass reflex port up front in glossy black.
The soundbar, sadly, has no provisions for wall mounting directly. However, Zebronics has provided two small metal brackets that mount on the wall and the soundbar can rest on them with 2-way stickers to prevent it from slipping off. Additionally, you can also rest it on the table, below the TV, and the two rubber legs on the underside will prevent it from moving around. The front, as mentioned earlier, has a metal grille that covers six drivers (4 x 2.7in upward facing, 2 x 1in forward facing) for mids and highs respectively that combine to give a total power of 60 watts. It also encloses a small LED display that informs you about the status. There are two reflex ports on each end of the soundbar too. The soundbar also has a 6.5in subwoofer with a power output of 60 watts, combining the entire kit to raise the volume at 120 watts.
The soundbar has just four buttons for controlling its power, volume and inputs, while the rest can be done using the IR remote. The remote allows you to control the bass and treble, while presets for music, news, movie and 3D have individual buttons for each. The business end is at the rear of the soundbar — a 230V power socket, an HDMI ARC, an optical in, an AUX port and a USB port for pen drives. The 9000 also supports Bluetooth for wireless music playback from compatible devices. All of this weighs around 2.7kg, while the subwoofer, which is almost as tall as a standard PC cabinet, weighs around 4.3kg.
If you connect your TV to the soundbar using the HDMI ARC interface (which we would recommend), you could control the TV and soundbar together using either the TV or soundbar’s remote. This route will also give you the best audio performance. However, make sure you use the latest version of the HDMI cable.
As for the performance, we liked it to an extent since it changes the entire experience of watching television as opposed to listening on the TV’s own speaker system. At peak volumes, it gets pretty loud, and we found absolutely no distortion either. The mids are more vocal, while the highs are more pronounced. The bass is where we could say it fizzles out. Not that it’s bad, but it’s a bit too muddy and boomy. The needed punch in the bass was missing.
We also found that the bass level needed to be reduced a bit since it tends to overshadow the vocals or mids. But that may not be the case with all installations since the audio performance will differ in different locations or setups. It all depends on the size of the room, the construction of the walls, the amount of and placement of furniture around the room, the type of materials placed in that room, the placement of the speakers itself and a lot more factors. You may need to fine tune the EQ or bass/trebles accordingly as per your liking.
The Zeb-Juke Bar 9000 also features Dolby Digital Plus, which will enhance your audio experience if you have a compatible television and if your stream or video content has Dolby too. Switching to the 3D mode (EQ preset on the remote) enables spatial sound so that the audio bounces around to create a virtual surround sound effect. It does work well, but as mentioned earlier, it all depends on the room where you have installed it.
The soundbar does make a huge difference if you are using it while gaming. The additional bass could help with certain titles, but sounds such as gunshots sound a tad weird and you may need to tune down the bass accordingly.
Overall, while the bass performance was a tad overload to us, the rest of the performance was pretty much above average in comparison to conventional soundbar kits available in the market. At ₹13,999 we would say it justifies the value for the price tag. However, lack of AptX and a coaxial SPDIF for older televisions is a downer. If you are looking for a good soundbar at an affordable price, and if you like higher bass performance, the Juke-Bar 9000 is a good investment for your tele.