We all know how rubbish most flatscreen TVs sound, but these days there’s no excuse for putting up with it – even if you don’t have the space, or budget, for a full 5.1 surround system. Soundbars provide powerful sound quality from a single unit without making a major impact on your living space.
There are different types of soundbar available – some, like LG’s BH5521A, are a complete home cinema system and Blu-ray player squeezed into a single unit with connections and features galore, while others are designed to simply be an extension of your TV’s own speakers. Roth Audios’ Sub Zero falls into the latter category.
The Sub Zero is so-called because there’s no need to add a subwoofer thanks to the built-in Ultra Bass drivers, plus you can mount it on a wall or place it on top of a TV stand – all of which gives you plenty of placement versatility and takes up very little living room space.
Although the Sub Zero doesn’t dazzle you with glitzy styling like some soundbars, it’s a tastefully designed, satin black unit that will blend in nicely with most surroundings. At 790mm it’s fairly narrow, making it suitable for TVs with a screen size between 32- and 42-inches, and with a depth of just 89mm it won’t jut out from the wall too far – certainly no further than your TV. Both ends of the bar are angled diagonally, allowing the Vector Firing (VF) Side Drivers inside to disperse sound into the room with greater width.
The black cloth grille that runs across the entire front section of the Roth Audio Sub Zero soundbar keeps everything nice and minimal so it doesn’t distract from what’s on screen, while the discreet control panel in the centre uses little twinkly LEDs that won’t bother you in a darkened room (plus they automatically disappear when idle). A vertical row of lights indicates the volume level, while others indicate selected sound modes. Also on the panel, large click buttons control the volume, mute, input, surround mode and standby.
On the back of the Roth Audio Sub Zero, the sockets are downward facing to make it easier to plug in cables while on the wall. You get a set of analogue stereo inputs, an optical digital audio input and a 3.5mm minijack input, which is perfect for on-the-fly connection of MP3 players and the like. This isn’t a particularly expansive selection of sockets but then it’s not supposed to be a hub for all your audio gear. That said, an ARC-compatible HDMI input and output might have been useful for connecting a Blu-ray deck directly, rather than having to pass the sound signal though the TV.
For wall mounting, you get a kit in the box, which is fairly simple if you’re handy with a drill, plus there’s a pair of table stands which easily clip on to the bottom of the soundbar. And as if that wasn’t generous enough, Roth is even donating a share of the proceeds for every Sub Zero sold to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).
Because of the simple connections and controls, it takes no time at all to rig everything up. You can connect the headphones output to the Sub Zero’s 3.5mm input (which means you’ll can control the volume using your TV remote or the soundbar’s); connect the TV’s digital audio or analogue output to the stereo input jacks (with volume controlled by the Sub Zero only); or connect a set-top box directly to the Roth’s stereo input.
Once installed it’s easy to operate. In the box is a remote control, which is larger and more substantial than the credit card-style zappers you normally get. Its layout is spacious, the buttons are large and clearly labelled, plus there are dedicated bass level controls, which could come in handy if the neighbours start moaning.