Harman Kardon SABRE SB35 Ultra-Slim Home Entertainment Soundbar with Compact Subwoofer
A perhaps redundant word of caution before the ensuing wave of praise: sound bars will never match true surround sound 5.1 systems in terms of spacial realism and instrument separation simply due to the inherent physical limitations of the single-unit speaker form factor.
That said, the Harmon Kardon SB35 is quite simply the most impressive all around sound bar I have been exposed to. It has been called an "audiophile grade" product by some early adopters, a categorization that I find both unrealistic and unfair, because the SB35 occupies an entirely different market than audiophile speakers, and those expecting true surround sound befitting the price with be underwhelmed. What it does, however, is raise the bar for the level of tonal realism, digital sound processing, and functionality to a level that will far surpass the expectations of those used to conventional sound bars, and it does so in a game-changing form factor that makes it easy to spot as a landmark product.
While many will be wary of its small speakers, the included 100 watt subwoofer thankfully handles all bass-related duties, delivering deep, clean bass that easily outclasses the all-in-one entries in this segment. The digital sound processing does not challenge the absolute realism of surround setups, but actually bests them in one very important area that is a constant challenge for those desiring authentic surround sound: it has an enormous sweet spot. While conventional surround sound systems are often arranged in such a way that only one or two listeners can experience a truly realistic sound image, the SB35'S digital sound processing can decode and reproduce a true 8.1 signal while ensuring that essentially any listener in the firing direction of the speakers within 15-20 feet will experience a similarly impressive experience, with mild degradation beyond this range. The experience is even more impressive when the subwoofer is properly placed.
In the end, if absolute fidelity is your goal, the B&W Panorama 2 is more musical; if you want the most realistic sound reproduction, the MartinLogan Motion Vision sound more natural; if you are trying to get the closest possible thing to true surround sound from a sound bar, the Yamaha YSP5100 should be your target. But if you are looking for the sound system of the future, and have a home theater system that is intended for family or parties, the SB35 will help everyone have a great aural experience, and can be controlled from a smart phone to boot! It is a really impressive system that shows Harmon Kardon are trying to push the limits of technology, and has all the hallmarks of a product that will change the way similar units are designed in the next few years.
- Harman Kardon SABRE SB35 Ultra-Slim Home Entertainment Soundbar with Compact Subwoofer
- MartinLogan Motion Vision Gloss Black 5-Channel Soundbar
- Yamaha YSP5100BL High Quality Durable Digital Sound Projector
- Outlaw OSB-1 Powered Sound Bar with H-PAS
- Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 2 Integrated A/V Sound System