"> TCL Alto 7+ Review & Rating - Engr Kabir Saleh

TCL Alto 7+ Review & Rating

It’s hard to find great 2.1 audio below $300, so our expectations weren’t too high for the $179.99 TCL Alto 7+ soundbar and subwoofer combo. But while the system doesn’t pack much in the way of power and extras, it sounds great for the price. Explosions in movies pack thunder, music sounds crisp, rich, and lively, and the whole setup simply exceeds our expectations. It also comes with a bunch of useful cables, which almost never happens even with $1,000+ systems. For these reasons, the Alto 7+ wins our Editors’ Choice award for budget-friendly soundbars.

Design

Measuring 2.5 by 36.0 by 3.9 inches (HWD), the black plastic Alto 7+ is on the smaller side, with a forward-facing grille covering dual 1.5-inch tweeters and dual 2.0-by-4.5-inch midrange drivers. A TCL logo is situated in the middle of the grille, above the status LED that tells you what source you’re listening to based on the color it emits. Up top, there’s a control panel with buttons for power, source, Bluetooth pairing, and volume control.

A recessed area on the back of the soundbar houses connections for HDMI ARC (cable included), optical (cable included), 3.5mm aux in (cable included), IR pass-through (cable included), and USB (no cable included). The Alto 7+ is Dolby Digital compatible, and can also stream audio via Bluetooth.

The sub measures 12.9 by 8.3 by 9.8 inches, with the 6-inch woofer placed on the rear panel (which we don’t see as often as front- or down-firing drivers), along with a ported area to allow for better airflow. This rear panel also houses the connection for the included power cable.

The remote measures roughly 0.7 by 6.0 by 1.5 inches and has buttons for power, mute, Bluetooth pairing, source, and three modes: Movie, Music, or News (unfortunately, you must be in one of these modes, as there’s no standard or off EQ modes). The remote also has a central control pad with buttons for play/pause, track forward/backward and volume up/down. There’s no individual volume control for the sub, which is a bummer.

TCL Alto 7+

Performance

In Movie mode, we watched Blade Runner 2049‘s crash scene, in which Ryan Gosling falls from the sky in something that looks like a military-grade flying Lamborghini. The scene features multiple explosions, and through the Alto 7+, they have some real thunder to them. The bass depth is matched by crisp treble edge, which makes the explosions—and the dialogue—more detailed and clear. It’s worth noting that, unsurprisingly, the Alto 7+ doesn’t get as loud as most soundbars we test, but at top volumes, it still delivers plenty of power, and the subwoofer depth is impressive.

When the Death Star explodes in Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Alto 7+ again delivers laudable thunder. The subwoofer isn’t insanely powerful, but it gets the job done, while the four drivers in the bar do a great job of keeping music and dialogue clear and crisp.

In Music mode, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Alto 7+ can deliver far more volume, and at maximum levels, the bass is delivered with serious power and no distortion. At moderate levels, you still get an excellent sense of the bass depth, and it’s well-matched with the high-mids and highs for balance.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Alto 7+’s overall sound signature. The drums on this track sound full and round, though not as heavy as you might expect with a subwoofer in the mix. Callahan’s baritone vocals get a solid low-mid richness, which is given some extra definition by some sculpting in the high-mids and highs. The tape hiss, acoustic guitar strums, and higher register percussive hits also get some added presence.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the drum loop gets plenty of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to maintain its punchy presence in the mix. There’s also plenty of boosting in the lows, adding some heft to the drum loop. The sub-bass synth hits are delivered with some reasonable depth, but they are overshadowed by the loop. This tells us that most of the Alto 7+’s bass depth comes from low-mids and lows, and not necessarily sub-bass frequencies, despite the inclusion of a sub. The vocals on this tracks are delivered cleanly and clearly, with no real hint of added sibilance.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound crisp and rich. The audio is sculpted, but ideally balanced, with added lower-register depth and plenty of definition in the high-mids for the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals.

We also checked out News mode. It essentially boosts the range of frequencies for human speech (actually, it sounds more like it cuts the other ranges), and can be used for watching movies if you wish to accentuate the dialogue.

Conclusions

Simply put, we’re impressed by the TCL Alto 7+. Movie explosions pack thunder, bass drums have some extra heft, and there’s strong high-mid presence to keep things crisp and detailed. For $180, the soundbar isn’t flawless, but considering all the extra cabling it also comes with, it more than justifies its price. It’s an even better value than the 2.1 Sony HT-S350, which delivers similar audio performance (but fewer cables) for $100 more.

Of course, for more money, you can get more power. We’re fans of the JBL Bar 3.1, the Sonos Beam, and the Sony HT-S350, all of which cost less than $500, but more than the Alto 7+. While they offer more in the way of features and controls, none offer the same shockingly affordable price, and for that, the Alto 7+ earns our Editors’ Choice.



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