Published on April 17th, 2013 | by Greg0
Upgrade Your Audio With The Sherwood S9 Soundbar
Soundbars have had a mixed reputation in the past. These devices try to compress audiophile sound into a small package, which is a difficult feat. But the advantages are clear: instead of a multi-part speaker system taking up a lot of space around your living room, you can install a single component and enjoy much improved audio quality. At the most recent CES in Las Vegas earlier this year, we got a taste of a few that left us impressed- the noisy show floor is rarely conducive to audio demonstrations, but today’s component had us eagerly awaiting tests in a quieter environment.
The Sherwood S9 3D Sound Bar System should be arriving in stores any day now, and is definitely worth finding. Perfect for those with a wide-screen flat panel television and no exiting audio-visual equipment, it’s the ideal piece to add to a sleek room that will impress anyone watching movies or listening to music. Even the nightly news sounds better. Inside, you’ll find six separate speakers- two each of mids, woofers, and tweeters, for a total of 150 watts of power output. This gives the unit a wide range, and excellent sound separation- you’d have to upgrade to a 5.1 system to find a better option.
Installation is easy- just sit it in front of your TV stand or you can use screws to hang it on a wall. There’s no need to worry about tuning or directionality, and you don’t need a receiver or anything. Thanks to HDMI pass through and the three separate HDMI inputs, you’re able to go directly from your sources and then to your TV or projector. We connected an Xbox 360 and an Apple TV, as well as did some tests with our cable box and PS3. There’s an optical input and a stereo RCA input as well for older or other sources.
Unlike many soundbars, this one includes a few other functions that set it way above the rest of the pack. For starters, there is a built-in FM radio and an included antenna. Programming favorite stations isn’t easy, but it’s nice to have the option. There’s also a front panel USB input for use with memory card readers and USB thumb drives- it worked fine in our tests, with music only, in MP3 and WMA formats. DRM-protected files, of course, will not work. The only thing missing is a mini-jack or headphone input… but that’s where the Bluetooth wireless connection comes into play. Setup is as simple as other Bluetooth 2.1 pairing, and you can connect your tablet (iPad) or other mobile device (like an iPhone or Android smartphone) and then play your music via the system.
In terms of sound quality, the initial impressions were positive- the S9 offers clean, slightly-cool audio, with great stereo imaging. As you might expect, bass was slightly limited in range and depth, but mids and highs were excellent and balanced. Dialogue, critical for movies, was strong and superior to most others in this class. But the real magic happened when we turned on the 3D Surround mode, which boosts the sound. Suddenly, you would turn your head, certain that there were additional speakers that had somehow turned on. The cone of effect was fairly narrow, but within that area, it was some of the best virtual or simulated surround sound that we’ve heard. If you’re hosting a bigger party, with a dozen people gathered around, then you might not want to turn it on- but for smaller groups, it’s pretty great. Gaming is way better than with regular TV speakers, and movies especially are improved.
The Sherwood S9 might not come from a company you know, but it’s one we’re excited to hear more from. The unit is sleek black, with a perhaps too-small display and slightly awkward on-unit controls, but the remote is perfectly adequate. Available online and in stores soon, expect to spend around $400. A slightly less expensive model, the S7, will offer the same sound but without USB, Bluetooth, or the radio functionality.