Onkyo is not exactly a popular brand but many home theater enthusiasts know that several of the best AV receivers are manufactured by Onkyo. Others may also be familiar with the company’s universal media players that can handle Blu-ray discs and just about any other disc format. But head to their website and you will find that the company makes several other equipment for the living room. Onkyo even makes a couple of sound bars for people that are not so contented with their TVs with embedded speakers. The Onkyo LS-B50 is a bit costly at $599 so this sound bar has to live up to the brand’s image.
The LS-B50 is a cleanly designed black sound bar that reflects Onkyo’s style in making a solid piece of hardware for the living room. It might not be the highly stylish sound bar that some people might expect from a $599 sound bar but the Onkyo LS-B50 still looks simple yet handsome. One nice thing to note about this sound bar is how compact it is for the specs. The sound bar is close to 910 millimeters wide making this sound bar significantly smaller than comparable sound bars equipped with multiple drivers. The top of the LS-B50 features a few basic buttons like the power button, volume buttons and sound mode button. Rather than having its own display panel, the Onkyo LS-B50 makes use of a few small light indicators paired with labels. These lights conveniently point out the active source and active sound mode. There is also a status indicator light on the front of the sound bar. The light will stay on as long as the sound bar is on and the light will flash if you mute it.
The connection inputs are scattered in 2 main groups. The group on the left side of the rear end includes the coaxial, optical and analog jacks. The other side features the IR Out terminal and USB port. The layout of these ports is designed this way to allow quick access even if you decide to mount this sound bar to the wall. The package comes with a wall mounting template and the necessary cushions and mounting screws. If you don’t wish to mount the sound bar to a wall, you can use the included stands instead. The LS-B50 also comes with a remote control complete with a battery so you can immediately control the sound bar from afar.
The included subwoofer matches the simple design of the sound bar quite well and it doesn’t require a wire to connect it to the sound bar. For best performance, the subwoofer should be placed not more than 10 meters away from the sound bar.
Not including a Bluetooth functionality on a $600 sound bar is simply a bad idea so it is refreshing to know that the Onkyo LS-B50 has this feature. This feature makes it possible to connect any smartphone, tablet or any mobile device with Bluetooth to the sound bar. Even PCs and laptops with either built-in Bluetooth or a connected Bluetooth dongle can send music to the sound bar. Owning a smartphone or tablet will bring out the best experience since many mobile apps like SoundCloud, Spotify and other audio streaming services support Bluetooth. The sound bar lacks AirPlay support but at least Bluetooth offers broader compatibility.
The LS-B50 package also includes an IR flasher in case you want to install the sound bar under the TV. This basically allows remote control signals from the TV to pass through. In addition, your TV remote may even be able to control the sound bar since the Onkyo LS-B50 has the necessary IR codes to recognize remote controls made by several popular TV brands. If ever your remote doesn’t work, you can use the learning function to properly map the key buttons to the most important functions.
While Bluetooth serves as the most convenient way to play back music from other sources, you can still use the USB port if you have a flash drive containing your music collection and your TV or other home theater components lack a USB port. USB support is quite limited as the sound bar can only read MP3 files stored in FAT32, FAT16 and FAT12 formatted drives. It also won’t be able to detect any MP3 files stored in folders.
Because the LS-B50 is a 6.1-channel sound bar, it can make better use of digital signal processing technologies. Onkyo has its own proprietary version called AuraSphere DSP. The technology optimizes the driver outputs resulting to a wide 3D surround effect. Out of the box, the wireless subwoofer is already paired with the sound bar so you can fire up the whole system after the connections are made. But the subwoofer’s small size can cause balance issues with the sound produced by the sound bar. That being said, the bass is very strong and those that don’t mind the bass to be overpowering at times will really like this sound bar. The subwoofer does have its own control on the remote so you may have to adjust the settings to get the desired balance.
You can also try changing the mode which should improve the audio quality if you are playing the right content. For instance, the “Music” mode adds a concert hall-like effect while the “News” mode is ideal for TV news channels. Finally, the “Movie” mode cranks up the 3D effect to make the movies more immersive.
The Onkyo LS-B50 is in a pretty tough spot because there are plenty of highly-capable and some Bluetooth-enabled sound bars that cost in the $300 to $400 range. But what the LS-B50 brings to the table is a resounding 6.1-channel setup with a compact subwoofer that can pump out some deep bass. You don’t have to worry about the Onkyo brand though because this sound bar should pair up with any modern TV and the extra TV remote control support is nice.
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