TVs are getting smarter and thinner and cheaper by the day. But they are also becoming worse at sound. Xiaomi believes a soundbar can fix the problem. Problem is, most soundbars are expensive and people would rather invest in a fancy home theater with that kind of money. There are inexpensive soundbars, but they are also ugly and imposing. A soundbar is a companion to your TV which means often, it would be out there in the open (preferably in your living room) for all to see. Which means, it ought to look good. Enter, the Xiaomi Mi Soundbar.
I have been using the Xiaomi Mi Soundbar for over two weeks now, and I have been impressed with everything that it offers. It’s surely not perfect but, at Rs 4,999, it is the best budget soundbar that you can get in the market right now.
The Mi Soundbar comes in white, and it’s ridiculously compact. It’s built entirely out of plastic and is a little over two feet long, 3.4-inches tall, and 2.8-inches deep, and weighs just under 2 kgs. More importantly, it’s a lot less imposing in comparison to many soundbars that cost 2X, 3X more. With its rounded edges and Google Home-like fabric mesh front, the Mi Soundbar has a contemporary look – Xiaomi calls it the Mi look, which is also in line with the company’s other ecosystem products like the Mi Air Purifier 2S. That said, a matte black option would have been nice.
On the back you’ll find a host of connectivity options, including power, Line-In, AUX, Optical, Bluetooth and S/PDIF alongside a switch on/off button. On the top, you’ll see physical buttons for volume and the various connectivity options with a dedicated status LED for each.
For most people currently using their built-in TV speakers, the Mi Soundbar represents a huge upgrade in audio quality
Setting up the Mi Soundbar is straightforward. You plug it into power and the bundled S/PDIF cable lets you connect it to your TV. Alternatively, you can connect it to your TV using either an AUX cable, Optical cable, or even Bluetooth. Xiaomi says the whole setup takes only 30 seconds, which isn’t very surprising because the Mi Soundbar is essentially a plug and play affair. There is no remote, no fine tuning and no setting to meddle with. That’s both a good thing and bad, but more on that later.
Xiaomi is really touting the fact that its Mi Soundbar can be connected to all kinds of TVs, old and new. Much like how its Mi TVs are compatible with new-age streaming services, as well as every other set-top-box in the market. But while its most basic of Mi TVs ship with an HDMI-ARC port, the Mi Soundbar does not. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but something that would have helped future-proof the device. More than anything, it would have helped enhance the all-round user experience.
HDMI-ARC will let you route all sound coming from your TV down to your soundbar so you can then use your TV’s remote to adjust the soundbar’s volume instead of the TV. You can’t do that using the Mi Soundbar. Either that or Xiaomi could have simply bundled in a remote. Unless you’re using AUX or Bluetooth, you have no choice but to physically get up and walk to the soundbar to alter its volume. You’ll have to go through the same drill to change inputs as well.
Once you’ve got everything set up, the Mi Soundbar sounds very good for its size and low price. If you’re aware of its limitations, that is. For a soundbar so compact, it is nice to see Xiaomi offering two 20 mm tweeters, two 2.5-inch woofers and four passive radiators. The output is 28 Watt (2x14 Watts). The rated impedance is 6 Ohm and the frequency response lies between 50Hz and 25,000Hz.
The Mi Soundbar has been designed as a TV speaker first and that means it focuses a great deal on the mid frequencies so it can make dialogue do most of the talking. That works well for watching TV -- cinematic sound effects sound richer and fuller than what your typical TV speakers can deliver. The lack of an external subwoofer means you don’t get chest-thumping bass, but the bass is definitely there. Also, the Mi Soundbar offers good stereo soundstage, especially considering that it measures just 33-inches.
All in all, if you’ve grown (tired of) listening to your TV’s inbuilt speakers, the Mi Soundbar will be a big upgrade. But, if your priority is music playback (which needs more clarity), it is better you look elsewhere.
Xiaomi isn’t claiming an ideal room size to get the most out of its soundbar, but it’s definitely not meant for large rooms and halls. The Mi Soundbar can easily fill a small (and to an extent, even a medium-sized) living room with good stereo separation and a high max volume with very little distortion. Sadly, the Mi Soundbar doesn’t feature any sound enhancements, such as a virtual 3D surround sound, or even an equalizer. It doesn’t have any under the hood fancy Dolby or DTS certifications as well. Basically, what you see is what you get.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Xiaomi Mi Soundbar isn’t meant to replace a high-end soundbar. Which means that it isn’t designed for hardcore audiophiles who like full control and have the means and technical know-how to tweak things as per their liking. The Mi Soundbar is meant for the beginners and for the enthusiasts who have for long been waiting to upgrade their TV speakers without having to invest in multiple speaker systems that take up unnecessary space. And lots of money.
If your priority is music playback (which needs more clarity), it is better you look elsewhere though
For most people currently using their built-in TV speakers, the Mi Soundbar represents a huge upgrade in audio quality. That’s a lot of people, and almost all of them will be very happy with what the Mi Soundbar does and how it sounds. It’s also simpler than other home theater products. While HDMI-ARC, a dedicated remote and subwoofer, and the ability to connect multiple Bluetooth devices would have been welcome additions, one look at its price, and you’re bound to sit up and take notice. The Mi Soundbar sticks to the basics and does as advertised. No more, no less. In typical Xiaomi fashion, the Mi Soundbar also punches way above its weight and even though it is a first of its kind product from the company in India, it also goes to show how far it has come from being just another smartphone company.