If you’re looking for budget audio options beyond the Roku Streambar or Vizio’s soundbar lineup, TCL has unveiled several models for this fall that should pair well with its Roku-powered smart TVs. The Alto brand is expanding on last year’s lineup with additional lines that should give you much better sound without adding a ton to the price or requiring buyers to move things around in their living room.
With the exception of the Alto 3, all of them are Roku TV Ready, so if you’re connecting them to a compatible TV you’ll be able to handle setup and manage settings directly from the TV OS and remote. While a couple of them include subwoofers, they all rely on simulation for surround sound effects so there aren’t any rear speakers to connect, whether wired or wirelessly. They do all have Bluetooth, and other than the Alto 3, plug into your TV using HDMI, with the two more expensive models including HDMI passthrough.
At the top of the range, the Alto 9+ is a 3.1-channel soundbar with an accompanying subwoofer that relies on processing to create surround sound effects including height. The setup doesn’t include upward-firing drivers but still promises “multi-dimensional sound that delivers depth and excitement for a more cinematic experience” thanks to the dedicated center channel and support for Dolby Atmos. It’s also compatible with Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay, and is available right now for $299.
The Alto 8i sound bar ditches the subwoofer add-on for dual internal subwoofers, making it cheaper and more compact. It’s a 2.1-channel sound bar that easily fits into your existing setup and maintains processing for Dolby Atmos audio tracks. It costs $179, and will start shipping next month.
The Alto 6 and 6+ drop the Dolby Atmos support featured in TCL’s more expensive models, but allow buyers to pick between having an add-on subwoofer or not. They’re still Roku Ready for extremely easy setup and use, and are made to match TVs in the 40-inch size range. According to TCL they’ll be available at the end of the month, with a price of $79 for the Alto 6 and $129 for the Alto 6+ that comes with a subwoofer.
The Alto 3 is the smallest and cheapest option, and is intended for smaller areas like dorm rooms. It doesn’t have a subwoofer built-in or provided externally, so what you can expect is stereo audio that at least outpaces what speakers on small, cheap TVs can provide, as well as Dolby processing — but not via HDMI, since it doesn’t have any of those jacks for input or output. The Alto 3 goes on sale in October for $59.
Correction (9/29) - The sound bars that tie-in with Roku smart TVs are certified as Roku TV Ready, not Roku Ready.