For most of us, the TV is where we spend more time than anywhere else when it comes to entertainment, and a huge part of the experience with your favorite movies, video games, and especially music comes down to the audio.
There are two ends of a spectrum when it comes to your TV audio experience. On one hand, there’s the speaker built into your TV, and on the other, expensive surround sound systems. Sound bars have proven to be a great middle ground, but Fluance’s SoundBase takes that idea to a whole new level.
Over the past several weeks I’ve had the pleasure of using the Fluance AB40 with my TV and I’ve been pretty blown away with what this speaker has to offer.
Delivering audio on the AB40 are six drivers with an integrated amplifier. There are also dual tweeters and four 3-inch woofers. That all combines to offer up some of the best audio performance you can get pretty much anywhere, especially in this price range. The volume this speaker is capable of is tremendous and everything is very clear as well.
The design of the Fluance AB40 is an important part of the reason why it delivers the quality it does. For one thing, the wood used to craft the entire device is specially designed to help create a warmer, richer sound, as well as giving the drivers the room needed for proper airflow. The curve along the front of the SoundBase also gives it a wider soundstage, easily letting it fill an entire room with audio.
Fluance includes an optical audio cable in the box with the SoundBase for getting better raw audio from the source device to the speaker itself. I, unfortunately, couldn’t use that with my TV, but a standard auxiliary cable works just fine as well. Users also have the option to use Bluetooth with aptX compatibility for getting improved audio from some devices which support the functionality (which includes most recent Android smartphones).
To switch between these modes you have to methods of control. The first is on the SoundBase itself in the form of a small list of capacitive buttons for power, volume, and switching between the three inputs. The included remote, on the other hand, includes even more control.
There you’ll find the same basic controls listed above, but also toggles for the EQ, virtual “3D” sound, and playback controls for when you are connected to a Bluetooth device.
Fluance’s virtual “3D” surround sound is designed to give the effect of surround sound without all the complicated setup and speakers required to do that. In practice, it works pretty well. You won’t hear it much in TV shows or music, but in movies, it really shines by adding some serious depth to the audio.
As I mentioned, standard audio quality on this speaker is fantastic. The AB40 does a really good job of having a very balanced soundstage, giving everyone something to enjoy in it. On “standard” mode the lows, mids, and highs are all great with a good amount of bass as well.
Where things get impressive, though, is when it comes to the “bass boost” EQ mode. Thanks to the powerful audio hardware on board, the AB40 is capable of pushing out some seriously impressive bass that will shake your entire room, even on lower volumes. It’s a bit hard to describe just how powerful this bass is, but its effects are clearly heard.
When you’re watching movies, especially action movies, the bass boost mode adds another level to the experience. Being able to feel the intense bass in these scenes is incredible, and it’s something that I can only really compare to a movie theater.
The bass boost mode also draws out texture to the sound in places you previously didn’t notice it. My favorite example of this is in The Office. I’ve probably watched the intro to that show a million times, but watching it with the AB40 drew out new sounds I’d never really noticed before.
That said, you’re not going to want to use bass boost at all times. For some things, like casual TV shows, for example, the extra bass can actually detract from the experience a bit. Further, this mode tends to let the sound travel more even at lower volumes, so if you live with other people or have thin walls, it could irritate those around you.
Overall the AB40 has blown me away, but it’s not perfect. I would have preferred having the option for adding more audio inputs, and it would be nice if I could get it in other colors to match other setups. Further, the LED light that indicates which input is being used can’t be turned off. If you use this in the same room you sleep, that means you’re basically required to turn off the entire system since that light will make itself seen in a dark room.
Further, the casing of the AB40 just won’t be for everyone. While sound bars can usually squeeze into any situation, the SoundBase requires you to put your TV on top. For me, that wasn’t a possibility at first since my TV had legs on the outer sides. Eventually, I picked up a mount from Amazon which lets the TV sit on top, but that’s something not everyone can do. It’s also important to be careful with whatever you sit on top, as the wood finish will scratch relatively easily (as mine did).
At the end of the day, I can’t recommend the Fluance AB40 SoundBase enough. If sound quality is important to you or you just want a stronger bass without the added gear, you’ll absolutely love this option. At $249, I think it’s an excellent value as well.
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