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Hitachi HSB40B16 Bluetooth-enabled Sound Bar - Review

Hitachi's Flexible Sound Bar Enhances your TV Viewing Experience

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar - Front View - With Accessories

Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar. Photo of Front View with the included Accessories

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Sound Bars continue to flourish as a viable way to get better sound for TV viewing, without the hassle and expensive of a home theater system. Although they can't provide the same type of listening experience you can get from a multi-speaker audio system, they are affordable and easy to install and use, and sound just fine for many consumers.

Hitachi has entered the sound bar market with the HSB40B16. For a closer look and perspective, keep on reading this review, and afterwards, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile.

Product Overview

The features and specifications of the Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar include:

1. Design: Amplified Sound Bar with left and right channel speakers featuring a bass reflex configuration. The HSB40B16 can be placed on a shelf above or below a TV, or mounted on a wall (wall mounting screws require extra purchase).

2. Tweeters: Two (one for each channel) .75-inch Soft Dome Acoustic Lens Drivers.

3. Midrange/Woofers: 4 (two for each channel) 3-inch Drivers supplemented by dual front mounted ports for extended low frequency response.

4. Frequency Response: 80 HzHz to 20kHz.

5. Crossover Frequency: Not Provided

6. Amplifier - Digital, Stated Power output (both channels) 133 watts (measured with a 1kHz test tone with 10% THD). Under normal operating conditions, the undistorted power output will be a lot less.

7. Audio Decoding: Dolby Digital.

8. Audio Processing: CONEQ Sound Enhancement, 3D Sound.

9. Audio Inputs: One digital optical, One digital coaxial, One set analog stereo (RCA), and One set of 3.5mm Audio inputs.

10. Additional Connectivity: Wireless Bluetooth (CSR/Apt-X compatibility).

11. Subwoofer Outputs: Subwoofer preamp out provided (subwoofer requires additional purchase).

12. Control: Top mounted onboard controls and wireless remote control provided. Front panel LED menu and status display.

13. Dimensions (W x H x D): 39.83 x 5.41 x 4.24 inches (with table stand), 39.83 x 4.5 x 4.24 inches (without table stand).

14. Weight: 7.7 pounds

Additional Components Use For This Review

Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar - Rear Connections

Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar. Photo of rear panel connections

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-103.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Subwoofer Used: Polk PSW10.

TV: Westinghouse LVM-37s3 1080p LCD Monitor

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs: Battleship, Ben Hur, Brave (2D version), Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, Jaws, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Rise of the Guardians (2D version), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Dark Knight Rises.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

Set-up and Performance

For this review, I placed the HSB40B16 on the "shelf" just below the TV. I did not listen to the sound bar in a wall-mounted configuration.

In the shelf placement the HSB40B16 provided a very good full-bodied mid-range and clear high frequency response for music.

Also, with movies, vocal dialog was full bodied and well anchored, and background sounds were, for the most part, clear and distinct. The high frequency and transient sound effects (flying debris, car noises, wind, rain, etc...) where also reproduced well - but didn't quite have the sparkle you would get from a higher-end speaker setup, nor the more precise directionality you would get with a 5.1 channel speaker system.

The HSB40B16 does project sound slightly beyond the physical borders of the sound bar for a mild surround effect, but I thought that the 3D sound setting provided a more enjoyable listening experience, as it brought the left, center, and right channels a little more forward towards the listening position, which drew me in further into the film and TV content I was watching.

Using the frequency sweep test on the Digital Video Essentials Test Disc, I was able to hear a faint low frequency output starting at about 60Hz increasing to normal listening levels between 80 or 90Hz, which actually isn't bad considering that the HSB40B16's does not have a built-in, or come with, a subwoofer. This certainly helped to give a little more body to the midrange.

However, Hitachi does provide a subwoofer preamp output and I highly suggest that in order to get best listening experience a separate subwoofer be considered. For this review I found that even the modest Polk PSW-10 listed earlier in this review, balanced fine with the HSB40B16, bringing out even more depth and detail to both music and movie listening. Also, the HSB40B16's remote has a separate volume control for the subwoofer once it is connected to the sound bar - which helps further in balancing the two.

What I Liked

Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar - Remote Control

Hitachi HSB40B16 Sound Bar. Photo of remote control.

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
1. Good midrange and high frequency sound reproduction.

2. CONEQ technology provides a more linear audio power output of the built-in speakers across a wider range of frequencies - resulting in smoother sound.

3. 40-inch width matches well in appearance with LCD and Plasma TVs up to 46-inches.

4. Well spaced and labeled rear panel connections.

5. Incorporation of Bluetooth technology provides access to more audio playback devices (such as smart phones and digital music players).

What I didn't Like

1. No HDMI connectivity - HDMI connectivity could have provided easy integration between an HDMI source device and the TV, as well as providing access to the Audio Return Channel feature available on newer TVs

2. Minimal projected surround sound field.

3. Remote control not backlit - which would make it easier to use in a darkened room.

4. Subwoofer requires additional purchase.

Final Take

For a sound bar that carries a $199 suggest price, the Hitachi HSB40B16 certainly delivered more than I expected, both in features and sound quality (especially with vocals and dialog).

However, as with most 2 channel sound bars, although the built-in surround sound processing widens the front sound stage, there really isn't enough there to say that you getting a surround sound listening experience.

On the other hand, the Hitachi HSB40B16 is definitely a suitable alternative to listening to a TV's onboard speakers, and even if you already have, or prefer, a 5.1 or 7.1 channel home theater system in your main room, there is always that bedroom or office TV listening experience to consider.

Seeking this sound bar out is well worth your time and consideration - but set aside some extra cash to purchase a subwoofer to go with it. For an additional close-up look at the Hitachi HSB40B16, check out my Photo Profile.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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