Toshiba SB3950E1 - Operation, Performance and Verdict

Score

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Toshiba SB3950E1 – Operation

The single-cable connection means setup takes seconds, unless you’re mounting on the wall, in which you can add a couple of extra minutes for drilling and screwing.

Likewise it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the SB3950E1 is an absolute doddle to use. It’s controlled using a tiny credit-card style remote with even tinier blister buttons. It isn’t the most ergonomic zapper we’ve handled but poses few problems.
Toshiba SB3950E1
There are just seven buttons, among which are volume controls, individual buttons for the two inputs and a DTS button that turns TruSurround on and off. Power and mute keys sit right at the top. If you want to continue using your existing TV remote to adjust the volume, the SB3950E1 offers a learning function, which is really easy to programme.

Toshiba SB3950E1 – Performance

The SB3950E1’s sound is fairly enjoyable, but with just 2 x 20W of amplification under the bonnet and no dedicated subwoofer, movie playback lacks richness and depth – the sort you get from other standalone soundbars like the Pioneer SBX-N500 and the Roth Sub Zero II.

Sure, there’s enough volume and midrange dynamism to elevate it above most TV speakers, but it’s sorely lacking in the bass department. This is painfully obvious throughout The Desolation of Smaug on Blu-ray, a disc bursting with low-frequency information.
Toshiba SB3950E1
As Smaug stomps around Erebor’s caverns, his footsteps barely register, while its fire-breathing roars are all midrange crackle and no rumble. Throughout the film, Howard Shore’s majestic score is boiled down to the strings and brass, with only subtle depth to the percussive kettle drums. This puts a ceiling on the size and scale of the soundstage.

The SB3950E1 also strains the ears a little when playing loud, forceful noises like Beorn’s roar as it chases the dwarves through the woods. We cranked the volume up to the maximum of 30 and couldn’t bear it for very long.

But there are positives to take from the Toshiba’s performance. First, the focus on midrange means dialogue is nice and clear. That’s helpful when watching TV shows through the unit, especially talky genres like game shows and news broadcasts.

There’s also a pleasing amount of detail in the mix, and there’s a definite improvement when you activate the TruSurround mode. Surround sound it ain’t but the soundfield widens slightly and the sound is a touch fuller.

The SB3950E1 makes a poor music player though – tracks sound narrow and compressed, again due to the underwhelming bass output.
Toshiba SB3950E1

Should I buy the Toshiba SB3950E1?

We know the SB3950E1’s low price tag is enough to convince many people to whip out the credit card, regardless of how it performs. It’s easy to setup, looks nice and sounds louder than any flatpanel TV. If that’s all you’re looking for then by all means give it a whirl.

But we want more from a soundbar, and sonically the SB3950E1 just doesn’t cut the mustard. Its bass output is disappointing, leaving you with a narrow, midrange-heavy sound that strains when pushed loud.

What’s more, there are several better-sounding rivals available for only a small step-up in price, such as the Roth Sub Zero II and the Wharfedale Vista 100 – both of which, coincidentally, get you Bluetooth into the bargain.

Verdict

Toshiba’s super-saver soundbar is attractive and easy to use, but a lack of bass grunt ultimately lets the side down.

Next, read our Best Soundbars Roundup

Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 6
  • Features 5
  • Value 8
  • Sound Quality 6
  • Design 8