If you’ve only experienced movies and TV shows through your flatpanel TV’s speakers, then hearing them through the Bar 1 will be a revelation. It capably articulates music, speech and effects with a crisp, dynamic character, making your average flat TV sound like a transistor radio.
We gave it a workout with Star Wars on Blu-ray – piped directly into the unit’s analogue stereo ports from a Samsung deck – and the Roth does a great job with the iconic action. From the deep, gruff tones of Darth Vader to C3PO’s prim electronic jabbering, dialogue is consistently clear and open. It also excavates plenty of the disc’s high-frequency detail despite the use of a down-mixed analogue connection.
We’re also pleased by the cohesion between the soundbar and the sub – the two cross over smoothly, and the sub delivers thick, thumping bass without excessive boominess or lag. Subtle bass ambience during quieter scenes (like the deep background drone of the Death Star, or the bassline of the Cantina bar theme) is also nicely handled. Sure we’ve heard tighter and punchier subs, but for everyday use it’s solid.
The Roth can go reasonably loud, but when you crank up the volume to near-maximum a couple of cracks begin to show. Loud effects like screaming spacecraft and blasting lasers start to spit and distort, which isn’t easy on the ear and will make you reach for the volume controls. Keep a lid on the level though, and you’ll be treated to smooth and engaging audio.
As for virtual surround, the FX mode certainly adds extra zing to the regular stereo mode, delivering a more spacious soundfield, but describing it as surround sound would be a little optimistic.
The Roth Bar 1 is a soundbar with a very clear purpose – to boost the power and clarity of sound from your TV – and on that score it does a stand-up job.
Movies sound clear and detailed, the subwoofer handles bass information with reasonable power and agility, plus FX processing and the VF side-drivers add extra spice. Push the volume too high though and cracks start to appear.
The inclusion of a wireless subwoofer and the slim, compact shape of the soundbar are also big benefits, likewise the easy installation and operation. Some may hanker after more connections, perhaps a digital audio input or two, but the Bar 1 wasn’t conceived as an audio epicentre – for day-to-day TV listening it’s a satisfying solution.