Soundbars are getting more and more advanced these days: with all sorts of virtual surround technologies, numerous HDMI ports and all-black-and-silver futuristic (and compact) looks. But with all those chips and acronyms and processors, one thing is sometimes overlooked – the sound quality.
Edifier’s S50DB soundbar goes the other way – it’s a very old-school speaker, mostly in a good way: it sports a beautiful wooden look (with actual wood, mind you), it’s huge, and most importantly – it delivers warm, but quite bombastic, sound.
And that’s about it – you won’t find Dolby Atmos here, or Dolby Anything for that matter. There are no “Virtual Surround” modes, no HDMI Arc controls. Instead, you’re getting a huge speaker with a few optional tweaks. Is that good enough? That’s what I’ll try to find out in this review.
Quick Look – Edifier S50DB Soundbar
What is it: A wooden soundbar with Hi-Res audio and a unique remote control.
Value for Money
- Powerful and warm room-filling sound
- Surprisingly strong bass (without a subwoofer)
- Certified Hi-Res audio
- Beautiful design
- No advanced surround technologies (PCM Only)
- Takes A LOT of space
- No HDMI port
Features and Specs
- Size: 113 x 13.7 x 11 cm (LxWxH)
- Drivers: 19mm Titanium tweeters, 70mm bass units
- Frequency Response: 55Hz-20KHz
- Audio Formats: None (PCM)
- Ports: Optical, Coaxial, Line In, Aux In, Sub Out Ports
- Wireless: Bluetooth
- Extra Features: Remote control / Three EQ modes: News, Music, Movies / 24Bit-192kHz Audio signalling
This soundbar is big, heavy and not particularly cheap – but it sounds as good as it looks, with warm audio that works well for dramatic, action-oriented soundscapes as well as music. But it doesn’t support any advanced surround sound formats, which is a downside for some.
Table of Contents
Who Is The S50DB Soundbar For?
Soundbars are quite popular these days, and for good reason: Built-in TV speakers are usually tiny and disappointing (due to the TVs themselves looking to be so thin and lightweight), and hanging multiple speakers around the room is both costly and messy.
So having just one speaker sit under your TV, is a more elegant (if not always perfect) solution.
However, many soundbar manufacturers have started to go the way of the TV – producing smaller and smaller soundbars (“compact”, they’re usually called), that rely on advanced technologies to compensate for the small form factor and the limited sound volumes it can produce.
Edifier is a Chinese company that’s been manufacturing audio products for several years – so it knows a thing or two about sound.
With the S50DB Soundbar, Edifier has gone against the grain: this soundbar is BIG, it’s heavy, and it offers no support at all for any surround technologies or Dolby formats that try to virtually “place” sound objects around you.
Personally, I don’t think you’re missing out too much by not having those sound formats here. When you physically place speakers around the room – they benefit a lot from content that knows where to “send” each sound element – so you’re ACTUALLY hearing a bullet behind you, or above you, with someone speaking in front of you – because that’s where the actual speakers are located.
Soundbars, however, only have one physical location – the one in front of you (with a subwoofer for extra bass, sometimes). Techniques used in Dolby Atmos and other codecs try to virtually project certain sounds to positions around you – and some do a better job than others, but generally speaking, I was never a big fan.
So, going back to the S50DB – instead of trying to simulate surround sound, this soundbar focuses on something else – filling your whole soundscape (as in, the room) with loud, booming sound. And it does that very well.
So if you want to go back to the days when speakers just filled your room with high-quality sound – be it music, or an intense chase sequence in a film – this S50DB fits the bill. And… it’s pretty.
Setting Up The S50DB
With the S50DB being so big (113cm wide), the first thing you have to consider is whether you actually have the space for it. In my case, it was wider than my 50″ TV, and was ALMOST too big for the TV cabinet.
It also has a unique angled design that throws the sound up and towards you (instead of down or directly forward) – that’s good for the sound, but means it’s quite high – so if you place it right under and in front of your TV, it might block the bottom part of the screen.
Other than that, the S50DB looks great. You need to be a fan of classic wooden designs, instead of high-tech flashy ones – but if you are, this makes for a great centrepiece near your TV.
The old-school style continues with the S50DB’s audio ports. On the one hand, you get quite a few connectivity options: Optical, Coaxial, Line In and Aux In.
However, as you can see, one popular port is missing – HDMI. Yep, with no advanced compression codecs present, Edifier also didn’t bother with HDMI connectivity.
In terms of sound – it doesn’t really matter. An optical connection, for example will sound just as good, assuming your TV has one (though HDMI is required for Dolby Atmos – which isn’t present here anyway).
It does mean, however, you won’t be able to control the soundbar via your TV, with HDMI Arc – so you can’t turn them both on and off at the same time, for example (There are ways around that, though – with devices that can use the soundbar’s Infrared signals, for example).
So once you connect the S50DB to your TV via Optical, all other devices need to connect to your TV – which then sends the audio from all of them to the soundbar – with the TV serving as your bridge.
Controlling the S50DB is done either via the remote, or a single physical dial on the speaker itself. Again, it serves the soundbar’s classic look, with a big, silver dial that’s reminiscent of old hi-fi stereo systems.
Above the dial, there’s a small – but very bright – LCD display that shows you the mode you’re changing, the volume levels’ etc.
The remote control is quite unique, as you can immediately see, as it’s… circular. It’s an innovative form factor, and once you hold it correctly in your hand, it’s easy enough to use.
However, forget about using it in the dark – there’s almost no way to know whether you’re holding it in the “right” direction when you can’t see, and I constantly had to light it up with my phone, when I wanted to turn the volume up or change modes at night.
The music control buttons on the remote are mostly there for when you use Bluetooth to stream music directly to the soundbar – from Spotify, for example. Will you be using that function enough to warrant so much space on the remote? That’s a good question.
And then, other functions that could have really used their own button, are almost hidden – to “Mute” the sound, for example, you can press the Play/Pause button (though that’s not even detailed in the instructions manual).
To manually increase/decrease the bass, in some modes, you need to long-press that same Play/Pause button, and THEN use the +/- to control the bass. And those are the two functions I probably use the most – so it’s a shame they didn’t get dedicated buttons.
The bottom line, though, is that BECAUSE the S50DB doesn’t support Dolby-Anything, and doesn’t have an HDMI port – setting it up is very easy. It’s pretty much plug-and-play, as you connect it with Optical or Coaxial cables, and then it just… works.
And finally, if you want some more bass – there’s a Subwoofer Out port, so you can connect a compatible subwoofer. Though – as you’ll see below – I was quite pleased with the bass levels, even without a sub.
S50DB Sound Quality
The soundbar has three distinct EQ modes you can switch between: Movie, Music and… News.
The Movie mode was, unfortunately, disappointing. For some reason, everything sounds “thin” in that mode: it’s almost hard to understand what people are saying, there’s some focus on the sound effects, but even those blend in a bit too much – and the speaker’s whole “warm” element just goes away.
I was ready to mark points off, when I discovered the Music mode. Turns out, you’re better off ignoring the Movie mode when you’re watching, well, a movie (or anything, really) – and just go for Music.
At that point, everything changes for the better: the sound is warm, the volume levels are powerful, and even the speech takes centre stage, and doesn’t disappear into the arms of loud sound effects, as is sometimes the case.
My only gripe with the Music mode is that its bass levels are a bit too low for my tastes. But fear not, you don’t need a subwoofer – a quick increase of the bass levels via the remote, and my room was booming with bass.
I happened to watch Matrix Reloaded as I was testing the soundbar, and the highway chase scene sounded wonderful: my whole living room was full of sound – music, gunshots, cars and characters yelling at each other – all blending together perfectly.
Sure, there are no Dolby surround effects, and at no point did I virtually hear bullets behind me or above me. But I can’t say that was missed, when the whole room was so full of sound.
Music also sounds good – whether you’re listening via YouTube, or Bluetooth – and this can certainly be used as your main living room speaker for music.
The third mode – News – is kind of redundant. It removes the bass almost entirely, and gives human speech a boost – it might be useful if you’re watching talk-shows or, well, the news – but felt unnecessary, as speech sounds just as good on my beloved Music mode.
All that being said, it’s still annoying that the so-called Movie mode is bad, and that each time I turn on the S50DB, I have to manually raise the bass levels again (it forgets my settings every time I turn off the device). Plus, people might get the wrong impression about the audio quality if they stick to Movie Mode and don’t think to switch to Music for everything… so that’s something to consider.
Bottom Line: Is The S50DB Soundbar Worth It?
The S50DB isn’t cheap. True, there are soundbars that cost a lot more, but for a device that doesn’t support most “modern” technologies – such as Dolby Atmos or even HDMI – it still feels kind of expensive.
Then again – the S50DB does what it sets out to do very well, in terms of the audio quality (once you find the right settings).
So if you’re after an almost bare-bones soundbar, that provides warm, booming sound that truly fills the room, whether you’re watching a film or listening to music – this is an exciting option.
Note: The S50DB was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.