Irrespective of whichever TV you buy, whether it is an expensive flagship or a more affordable bargain, whether the design is ultra-slim or not or whatever the display technology or smart TV software is, there is always one shortcoming with televisions—sound is mostly quite disappointing. The smaller the speaker, the more compromised the sound quality tends to be. Bereft of bass, which can be really annoying while watching movies or listening to music. The solution then, isn’t to throw something with significant mass towards your TV, but to invest in external speakers. A soundbar perhaps. That is where the Xiaomi Mi Soundbar, the company’s latest addition to the audio-visual product portfolio. It is priced at Rs 4,999 and doesn’t really have many rivals.
At first glance, the sheer simplicity of the Mi Soundbar will make you look at the straight lines and the curves again and again. The while plastic enclosure looks great, with the matte finish. The grille at the front is basically a grey fabric, which lends a rather generous dollop of sophistication. At a time when most soundbars tend to be black in colour (not that it is a bad colour choice), but white with the grey just looks different. And refreshing. At the top of the soundbar are the controls for volume and switching between different input sources. The connectors are all the back, including optical, coaxial, line-in for older TVs and AUX-input. The Mi Soundbar can also be wall-mounted.
The Mi Soundbar has Bluetooth as well, which makes it a breeze to get this working with your phone or tablet to stream music if friends are over and you need a soundtrack for the evening, for instance.
Setting this up as simple as running a knife through a brick of warm butter. You simply connect this to your TV with any of the connectivity options we mentioned above—though we would recommend optical or coaxial for the best sound quality, if your TV has those connectivity options. Switch the Mi Soundbar on, switch the TV on and voila. You are all set. That said, in some older TVs, you may have to head into sound settings and manually set the sound output to the external device, but most newer TVs detect an external sound device has been connected and make the switch automatically.
The best part is that, at least on different TVs we tested this with, the TVs remote can be used to control the sound level from the Mi Soundbar. With almost all soundbars before this, you needed the soundbar’s own remote to control the audio. This convenience aspect is great. Not only that, if you have the new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K with the new Alexa Voice Remote, the volume keys on that remote also can be used to control the sound of the Mi Soundbar. This simple universal compatibility is extremely important and convenient.
Inside a soundbar that is not much bigger than 87mm in height and 72mm in depth, Xiaomi has packed in four different pieces of audio hardware. There are two 20mm dome tweeters, two subwoofer drivers each of which is 2.5-inch in size and four passive bass radiators, each of which measures 70mm x 55mm in size. That is a lot of audio prowess inside a soundbar that weighs less than 2kg (not that the weight matters since you won’t carry a soundbar around anyway—but still indicates the extent of hard work that has gone into the research and development).
The sound, from the outset, has the sort of signature that one usually expects from a soundbar more expensive than what the Mi Soundbar costs. We can say that with conviction, since we swapped out our trust Yamaha YAS series soundbar (which also costs a lot more) to test the Mi Soundbar, and what we heard was sound that proved to wider, equally well detailed and the clarity of vocals even at high volumes wasn’t compromised in any way. This bodes well for pretty much genre of content you may watch, be it movies, sports, sitcoms or the noisy news debates. With literally no sound equalization controls on the Mi Soundbar, it is pretty much an as-is setup. If your TV or audio source has any sound tweaking options, then you may try those. But for the most part, everything about this sound just works.
If we have one grouse against the Mi Soundbar, it is that the bass could perhaps have been a tad more powerful than it actually is. While it is still a subjective issue, we would have preferred more profound lower frequencies during movies and while listening to music. Clearly, the Mi Soundbar has the hardware packed inside it, this could perhaps be more about a sound optimisation issue than anything else.
It may be a bit disconcerting initially that the Mi Soundbar does not have a remote control. Since your TV remote (or Fire TV Stick remote) seamlessly becomes the controller for the Mi Soundbar as well, there really wasn’t any pressing need for that extra hardware. However, for multi-taskers, that means you will need to get up, walk to the Mi Soundbar and physically change the input source every time.
It is without doubt that the Mi Soundbar is quite simply the slickest piece of implementation we have seen on a soundbar in a while. It is all about simplicity, does well as far as the performance is concerned and the price is the icing on the cake. We really cannot find any deal-breaking faults with the Mi Soundbar. The Mi Soundbar is certainly an affordable upgrade that your TV might really be in the need of.