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Onkyo LS-B50 sound bar review: An underwhelming home-theater effort

Christopher Null | Feb. 27, 2015
Onkyo's LS-B50 sound bar system didn't arrive quite in time for our recent story comparing sound bars from TV manufacturers to their cousins produced by audio companies (Onkyo, of course, falls into the latter camp), but we wanted to consider it nonetheless. Like those systems, the LS-B50 includes a wireless subwoofer that communicates automatically with the 36-inch soundbar. Just plug both units into AC outlets, connect the sound bar to your TV, and the Onkyo is ready to rock.

Most soundbars offer some indication of their status, volume, or other mode settings through LEDs, text displays, or some other indicators on the device. The Onkyo basically has nothing in front to tell you what's happening, just a single white LED to indicate that it's turned on. While this isn't that big a deal when you're simply switching inputs, it's more of a problem when changing among the three audio modes or raising or lowering the volume.

The top of the sound bar has indicators for its three inputs and three sound field modes, but this information is bizarrely hidden away where you'll never see it unless you're standing directly in front of your TV. Nowhere does the Onkyo give you a visual indication of the master volume level or the subwoofer volume level. You'll just have to let your ears be your guide. As a side note I also encountered a strange issue once during my testing where the sound bar simply wouldn't turn on, and had to be unplugged and reconnected to work again.

The LS-B50 comes with a slim and basic remote that includes everything you need to operate the device, including basic play/pause/skip playback controls for USB-connected devices. But realistically, once you get the subwoofer set, you'll only ever use the volume control. You can also use4 your TV's remote to control the speaker (it's been programmed to recognize codes from nine major brands, but it can learn any it doesn't already know).

In the final analysis, the Onkyo LS-B50 is an entry-level sound bar that gets the job done, but its many limitations reveal themselves quickly in testing. Your investment will go further with a sound bar without quite so many limitations.


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