As TVs got slimmer and slimmer, the first casualty was the built-in speaker. It’s plain physics, really. You need actual physical space inside the TV casing to fit in a larger speaker and you need to give it enough room to move to push out that sweet bass everyone loves. So, if you’re shopping around for a new TV (or find the existing TV’s audio to be anemic), you should consider some additional audio gear, and a soundbar is usually the simplest way to amp up your audio experience. While quality soundbars are usually priced upwards of Rs. 20,000, Xiaomi has entered the fray with an offering that’s priced to disrupt the market, just like it did with smartphones and then televisions.
Enter the Mi Soundbar, an audio companion to your new TV, that offers a host of connectivity options and good performance at Rs 4,999. Sounds like a steal? Let’s find out.
Mi Soundbar Pros
Design: It’s not something you say often about a soundbar, more so one at this price point, but the Mi Soundbar is quite the looker. It sports the minimalistic Mi Look that we’ve seen in other Xiaomi ecosystem products – a sturdy, matte white plastic casing with a grey fabric mesh in front which sits pretty on three rubber feet (or wall mounted) in most decors. It’s very Google Home-ish in overall aesthetic. The soundbar is only available in white though, which may look out of place next to a black TV, or an all-black peripheral setup.
Setup: It took longer to unbox the Mi Soundbar than to set it up over S/PDIF with the Xiaomi Mi TV 4X Pro — it’s really that simple. All you have to do is connect the TV via one of many options — Bluetooth 4.2, S/PDIF, Optical, Line-in, and 3.5mm aux-in, though optical or coaxial connections offer the best quality — and you’re all set. On some older TVs, you may have to head to the settings and specifically switch sound output to the soundbar, but most newer TVs auto-detect and switch on their own.
Connecting over Bluetooth works well (and overcomes one of the biggest downsides of the Mi Soundbar, see below) but obviously leads to a perceptible drop in quality. The soundbar only remembers one paired Bluetooth device at a time so you’ll need to keep that in mind if you intend to regularly switch between your TV and your phone with this soundbar. No HDMI ARC connectivity either, but that’s not surprising at this price point.
Performance: Under its stylish yet unassuming grey mesh lie eight drivers - two 20mm dome speakers for higher frequencies sounds with two 2.5-inch woofers supported by four passive radiators for a lower end of the spectrum. Thanks to how wide the soundbar is, there is a semblance of stereo separation and a sense of a real soundstage when you’re listening to well-recorded stereo audio. In terms of audio quality, the Mi Soundbar really punches above its weight — the tweeters push out clean high notes and the woofers and passive radiators take care of a pleasing, warm rumble on the low end.
The setup works well for mid-sized rooms (around roughly 200 square feet), and there’s enough volume to shake the room even at around 60-70 percent volume. Possibly the only place it lacks sonically is in the slightly subdued mids, especially when you’re listening to dialogues and the background score starts overpowering the vocals. This can be a little annoying when watching TV or a movie, but it’s not a deal-breaker, especially if your TV has an equaliser function.
If you’re buying this solely to listen to music, look away and pick up a dedicated speaker instead. That aside, the soundbar pumps out clean, distortion-free audio and will benefit your movie and TV show experience immensely if you’re coming straight from a TV-speaker setup. The Mi Soundbar in no way sounds like a “budget” 5K soundbar.
Mi Soundbar Cons
No Remote Control: The Mi Soundbar ships without a remote control, which isn’t such an issue if you’re connecting over Bluetooth or aux and the source device remote controls the volume. It’s only when you rig this up over S/PDIF to an Android TV such as the new Mi TV 4X Pro that you really feel the absence of the remote. You’ll have to walk over to your soundbar to adjust volume or change inputs (via physical controls) from S/PDIF to Bluetooth or aux.
One can’t help but feel a small bump up in price to accommodate a remote would have worked in Xiaomi’s favor. Or even a companion app that worked over IR control (a feature many Xiaomi phones still come with, even if the other brands don’t) to toggle inputs, adjust volume or equalizer settings at the very least — you’re pretty much stuck with having to like how Xiaomi has tuned this soundbar.
Mi Soundbar Alternatives
Want a remote? Or as dedicated sub-woofer for some added thump? Here are some alternatives to the Mi Soundbar:
Philips HTL1031 2.1 Soundbar: Featuring a 30W RMS output – 20W for the soundbar and an additional 10 for the subwoofer - the HTL1031 also comes with integrated FM Radio player and supports USB storage for MP3 playback. Ordinarily retails at Rs. 10,000 but can be had from Amazon for Rs. 4,290.
F&D T180X 2.0 TV Soundbar: Another good budget option, the T180X has a 3-inch full range driver and a smaller 1-inch tweeter per channel and offers a remote for bass/volume control and input selection. Look around on Amazon and you can find it for half off its original 9,990 price.
Portronics Sound Slick II: Nearly a meter long, this soundbar pushes out 40 Watts RMS and supports multiple inputs like AUX, USB and Bluetooth 4.2. It comes with a small infrared remote that lets you control power, volume and change tracks when playing audio from a USB drive. Offers decent bass and loud volume, and significantly undercuts a lot of the competition on price (Rs. 3,289 on Amazon).
- Speaker Units: Two 20mm Dome Tweeters + two 2.5 inch Woofer Drivers + four 70x55mm Passive Radiators
- Output power: 28 Watts RMS
- Size and Weight: 830 x 72 x 87 mm, 1.925kg
- Audio inputs: 3.5 mm stereo AUX input, fiber optic input, coaxial input, red and white audio input, S/PDIF, Bluetooth 4.2 supports A2DP music playback
- Frequency response range: 50 Hz - 25000 Hz ( -10 dB)
- Price: Rs. 4,999