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Mi Soundbar review: An affordable way to enhance your TV viewing experience
If you watch a lot of movies or sports on your television, a good soundbar is an automatic recommendation. Most TVs offer average audio experience, and a soundbar can add that extra oomph to your TV viewing experience.
However, most of the good soundbars are quite expensive and hence prohibitive for most people.
Xiaomi’s first home audio product in India, the Mi Soundbar, aims to change that. After disrupting the smart TV market and introducing a slew of what it calls “ecosystem products” in India, Xiaomi has now ventured into a new category in the market with the Mi Soundbar.
The Xiaomi Mi Soundbar sports the now-familiar “Mi Look” that aligns with other ecosystem products by Xiaomi, like the Mi Air Purifier. It has a minimalist design with a mesh fabric overlay on the front that gives it an understated style.
The design is similar to other Xiaomi devices - white, understated, and minimalist.
Behind the mesh front, the Mi Soundbar packs in eight drivers – two 20mm dome speakers to transmit high-frequency sounds, two 2.5-inch woofers to reproduce a natural sound, and four passive radiators for a deep, enhanced base. The passive radiators do not emit any sound by themselves but add the thump in your music.
The Mi Soundbar only comes in white, which makes for a neat look but may seem out of place next to a black TV and other black peripherals on your shelf or cabinet. You can also mount the Soundbar on the wall below the TV (the screws are included in the box).
Connectivity and performance
The Mi Soundbar is simple and fairly straightforward to set up and pair with your devices. It offers an array of connectivity options – Bluetooth 4.2, S/PDIF, Optical, Line-in, and 3.5mm aux-in – essentially allowing a breadth of devices to connect seamlessly, including much older televisions. You can also setup the TV with S/PDIF, for example, and your phone via Bluetooth so that you can switch between devices as you’d prefer.
There's an array of connectivity options allowing a breadth of devices to connect seamlessly.
While S/PDIF was my first choice while setting up the Soundbar for the best audio experience, I switched to Bluetooth despite the perceptible loss in quality. That’s because the absence of a remote control meant I had to get up from my couch to change the volume on the Soundbar each time. With Bluetooth connectivity, the TV remote worked just fine for the audio.
Given the price, the lack of remote isn’t much of a compromise, but you’ll have to make a decision on the input choice based on your setup keeping that limitation in mind. Also, you’d have to walk to the Soundbar to switch sources from the physical button on top if you plan to use it with more than one device.
There’s also no companion app unlike other Xiaomi devices, so you can’t toggle the equalizer settings and such. Xiaomi smartphones have always had an IR sensor and a Mi Remote app that works with most consumer appliances at home, and one wishes there was a similar integration here as well.
The audio signature of the Mi Soundbar is distinctly V-shaped and, as is expected for a soundbar, the emphasis is on voices for crisper dialogues while watching a movie.
For a mid-sized room, keeping the volume on the Soundbar to about 60 percent delivers a pretty good surround sound simulation and a satisfactory audio experience. It will be, of course, foolhardy to expect home theatre-like performance at this price.
Priced at 4,999 rupees ($71), the affordable Xiaomi Mi Soundbar is a no-brainer, really. It offers a vastly improved TV viewing experience than what most mid-range televisions offer out of the box.
The Mi Soundbar looks pretty good and in terms of audio quality, punches above its weight. If you’d want a similar or better experience than this, you’d have to spend a bomb.