While soundbars are far more popular than soundbases as a simple solution for improving your TV's sound, a soundbase can be right for specific circumstances — if, for example, you have a TV with a stand that the soundbase can go under. But if you also want impressive sound quality, few soundbases will meet your needs. Fluance's AB40 offers a sweet spot in terms of price and performance for a soundbase. It delivers full, loud sound with big bass — without a subwoofer — all for $199.
Its dark wood top lends the AB40 a refined and sturdy look. Of course, you won't see the top of the speaker very often, because your TV will be on top of it. The solidly built unit accommodates TVs weighing up to 150 pounds. By comparison, the ZVOX 570 has a weight limit of 110 pounds.
You can connect to the unit via optical digital audio, 3.5mm auxiliary or Bluetooth; it doesn't include HDMI. It has touch-sensitive spots on the top for power, input selection and volume, but again, your TV stand may cover these. The remote looks as nice as the speaker and has good-size buttons for changing the volume, switching inputs and more.
Inside, the speaker features two 1-inch tweeters and four 3-inch woofers, which help it deliver very good sound for its size.
Despite its relatively small stature, the AB40 pushes out big sound with plenty of bass. Dialogue is resonant and clear, though the bass can overwhelm spoken voices at times.
When I watched Logan, the slashing sounds of Wolverine's and Laura's claws rang out, and the anguished cries of their victims sounded realistic and full. As Dr. Strange's car flipped over down a cliff in his film, each impact delivered a satisfying thump. However, because the AB40 has no subwoofer, the sound lacked the tactile vibration through the floor. Dialog among characters on Twin Peaks: The Return was easy to hear (if not quite comprehensible).
The unit also works well for music. Bruno Mars' vocals were well-balanced with the bass line on "That's What I Like," while the ultra-distorted guitars on Japandroids' "Near to the Wild Heart of Life" had good detail.
The AB40 has plenty of power to fill a large room. I measured 92 decibels at max volume, but as the speaker reached that level, the bass overwhelmed other aspects of the sound.
Setting up the AB40 was simple. I connected the optical digital audio cable to my TV with a single cable. Pairing with Bluetooth also went smoothly.
Other than connecting it, there's little to do. You can enable 3D sound modeling through the remote, which helped spread the sound wider, I found. You can also engage bass boost if you want even more low end, but I found that to be too much bass for most types of audio. The speaker lacks any other ways to tweak the sound; it would benefit from a separate treble control to better balance the big bass.
If you've got a TV with a stand and want a simple way to get better sound, you may like the Fluance AB40, which delivers very good audio at an affordable price. Its impressive bass will make dialog more resonant and give action sequences some oomph. Since it doesn't need a subwoofer and is only 26 inches wide, it takes up little space, too.
This speaker doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but that's not the point. If you need more features, like HDMI inputs and 4K pass-through, the JBL Cinema SB 450 may be a better choice. But for the price, you'll be hard pressed to find a better sounding system than the Fluance AB40.
Image Credit: Fluance