TCL Roku TV Alto R1 Wi-fi Soundbar within the check: It is that straightforward

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TCL Roku TV Alto R1 Wireless Soundba

RRP $ 179.00

“Roku and TCL are teaming up to make the sound of your Roku TV a simple plug-and-play experience.”

advantages

  • Easy setup with just one cable

  • No additional remote controls required

  • Good audio quality

  • The voice enhancement and volume control features are nice

disadvantage

  • No Dolby Atmos

  • Only works with Roku-enabled TVs

  • No audio input connectors

When building a home theater, one of the first things you can do after choosing a TV is adding a sound system. One of the easiest ways to do this is to buy one of the best sound bars out there. Let’s face it, the built-in speakers in TVs won’t fill the space and will help you immerse yourself in your favorite movies. Roku knows this and is committed to enhancing your audio experience while keeping setup simple. At CES 2021 in January, Roku announced a partnership with TCL to launch a wireless soundbar for Roku-enabled TVs.

The new High R1 is the result.

This new soundbar is designed to work seamlessly with Roku TVs and is virtually effortless to set up. Where more home theater sound systems as a bare minimum require connecting a cable to your TV – the only cable needed to set up the Alto R1 is the one that supplies power. Part of the special sauce that makes this minimalist approach possible is Roku’s proprietary Wi-Fi audio streaming technology. What sounds good in theory, how does it look in reality? Follow us and I will answer exactly that question.

Can it really be that simple?

The back and connections of a TCL Roku TV Alto R1 Wireless Soundbar.Chris Wedel / Digital Trends

Unpacking the Alto R1 Soundbar only includes the 31.5-inch speaker, wall-mounting hardware, papers, and a power cord. No additional cables are included as none are required as the only connector on the soundbar is for the power cable.

My skepticism grew when I began to think that pairing the soundbar with the TV couldn’t be that easy. So I turned on my 65-inch TCL Roku TV and plugged the Alto R1 into the wall socket. To pair the soundbar with the TV, press and hold the Home button on your Roku remote for 5 seconds, select Set Up Devices, then select Wireless Soundbar. After that, the TV and Alto R1 recognized each other and the soundbar processed an over-the-air software update.

Adding the soundbar to my Roku TV couldn’t have been easier. There is no need to manage additional cables or remote controls. The TV will automatically know the Alto R1 is paired, and if the volume is adjusted using the Roku remote, the changes will be made through the soundbar rather than the built-in TV speakers. I use a Caavo Control Center to manage my home theater and after making a few adjustments, I controlled the volume for the newly paired soundbar.

Features and sound quality

TCL Roku TV with an Alto R1 wireless soundbar.Chris Wedel / Digital Trends

In use, the Alto R1 is just as straightforward as the setup. It’s a two-channel, 120-watt soundbar that is entirely controlled by the Roku remote and your TV. However, that is not a problem. If you just want to enhance the sound of your Roku TV or use it to play music from your phone via bluetooth, this soundbar can do it for you.

While you won’t find fancy features like Dolby Atmos and virtual surround sound in options like the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), the Alto R1 has a couple of tricks like the ability to bring the dialogue of everything you see more into focus and automatically lower the volume of commercials. There is also a bass boost feature and volume control options within the sound settings that can be accessed by pressing the star button on the Roku remote.

In addition to the skepticism I had about the simplicity of setting up the Alto R1, there were doubts about the audio quality and how in sync it would be with the content on the screen. Since the soundbar is completely wirelessly connected to my TV, I expected a delay in what I saw on the screen and when I would hear it. To my delight, I didn’t notice it in the least.

Roku remote control. Chris Wedel / Digital Trends

Roku uses Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth to handle connectivity, which greatly reduces latency and increases information capacity. I’ve seen 4K HDR movies, live soccer games, and regular TV programs and everything worked wonderfully. Of course, even with bass boost enabled, the Alto R1 won’t compete with a dedicated subwoofer setup, but it won’t try either.

I have a relatively large rectangular living room, so it’s difficult to fill it with balanced audio. The sound setup I usually use is a Vizio soundbar with two wireless satellite speakers and a wireless subwoofer – and it works. When I first started using the Alto R1, I lowered my expectations for a full-fledged audio experience. But surprisingly, the wireless soundbar did a good job.

The sound was crisp and the voice enhancement features did a good job. There was no difference between day and night, but there was enough improvement when it was on that I can safely say it is worth having. The soundbar is designed for TVs 43 inches and larger, and I think in most situations the Alto R1 will make most users pretty happy.

Our opinion

TCL Roku TV Alto R1 soundbar under a television on a media stand. Chris Wedel / Digital Trends

I’d love to say that the Alto R1 will be a great choice for anyone who just wants better sound for their home theater and doesn’t want to make a big fuss – and I almost can. I almost say because it’s only true if you have a Roku TV. Now, you don’t have to have the absolute best Roku TV, but you do need a TV with a Roku built in. So if you’re using one of the many great Roku streaming devices that you plug into your TV, you won’t be able to use the Alto R1.

Roku and TCL had a clear focus on what the Alto R1 would be good at – straightforward set-up process and ease of use. For those two points, the two companies did a fantastic job with this product. Moving from out-of-the-box to using the soundboard couldn’t be much easier. The Alto R1 does not advertise cutting-edge features or even those that are becoming commonplace among other products such as Dolby Atmos and virtual surround sound. By including options like these, the other by-product would be an increase in cost, and at $ 180 it’s hard to argue what the Alto R1 brings to the living room.

Is there a better alternative?

There are many soundbars out there that offer a full feature set, but are overpriced. However, if you’re willing to pay a little more but don’t want too much more, then the Yamaha YAS-209 tops our list of the best sound bars under $ 500 at around $ 350. This soundbar not only offers a wider soundstage with support for DTS Virtual: X, a virtual 3D surround sound profile, but also brings a quiet rumble to your favorite programs thanks to a separate subwoofer. It won’t be quite as easy to set up as the Alto R1, and it will cost you a few dollars more, but the Yamaha YAS-209 offers a more immersive home theater audio experience.

How long it will take?

TCL and Roku have both been in the home audio and video scene for a while and bring that experience to the Alto R1 soundbar. Both companies have also done a good job supporting their respective products, and thanks to the Alto R1’s Wi-Fi connectivity, the soundbar can receive OTA software updates to ensure it has a long life.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you’re someone who wants to be engulfed by what you see from every angle, this is not the soundbar for you. While the Alto R1 does a solid job of producing good audio with virtually zero latency, it’s not a surround sound device. This is because it is limited to 2 channels and does not have the ability to replicate 360 ​​degree audio. However, if your goal is to improve the sound well beyond what your TV has built in, aren’t spending a lot of money on it, and have a Roku-enabled TV, then the Alto R1 is worth considering.

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