Just as it’s doing with its latest smart TVs, TCL is reorganizing its 2023 soundbars into two groups: the entry- to mid-level S-Series and the higher-end Q-Series. And while all TCL’s new soundbars are arriving with 3D audio capabilities, only the pricier models get coveted room-calibration functionality.
Unveiled Wednesday at CES, TCL had a total of five soundbars to show off: three S-series soundbars in 5.1-, 3.1-, and 2.1-channel configurations, and two Q-series models with 5.1- and 3.1-channel setups.
All of TCL’s 2023 soundbars offer 3D sound in the form of DTS Virtual:X, a virtualization technology that can produce realistic-sounding 3D audio from practically any sound source, even 2-channel stereo, without the need for upfiring drivers or surround speakers.
That said, it’s worth noting that none of TCL’s 2023 soundbars support native object-based 3D formats; namely, Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. So while the TCL Q- and S-series soundbars can produce virtualized 3D audio, they can’t reproduce the specific surround and height cues in soundtracks mixed for Atmos or DTS:X.
Rated at 430 watts for the 5.1-channel model and 350W for the 3.1-channel version, the Q-series soundbars are more powerful than the S-series variety, which top out at 300W for the 5.1-channel S-series soundbar.
The wireless subwoofers that come with the Q-series are also larger than those with the S-series models, TCL said.
Another key differentiator between the Q-series and S-series soundbars is that the former offers auto room calibration, a feature that (generally speaking) uses a series of tones to measure a room’s acoustic properties and then adjusts the soundbar’s audio accordingly. It’s an enticing feature that we’ve seen before in soundbars from LG, Samsung, and Sonos, among others.
Both the Q- and S-series soundbars have relatively low profiles, measuring 2.7 and 2.44 inches high respectively. In addition to being slightly shorter, the S-series soundbar cabinets are also a tad more rounded than their Q-series counterparts.
As with previous TCL soundbars, the Q-series and S-series speakers are Roku TV Ready, meaning they can be set up and configured using a Roku TV’s on-screen user interface.
TCL didn’t detail availability or pricing for its Q-series or S-series soundbars at the show.