Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar

FOR Mus­cu­lar sound; good fea­tures; hi-res stream­ing AGAINST More pre­cise ri­vals; po­si­tion­ing quirks; pricey

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

To call the Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar a sound­bar would be grossly un­fair. Yes, it’s shaped like a sound­bar, yes it’s de­signed to be placed un­der a TV, yes its main func­tion is to boost the TV'S sound qual­ity. But with wi-fi, eth­er­net and aptx Blue­tooth all on board, it does so much more. De­scribed as an 'all-in-one wire­less stream­ing au­dio sys­tem', once it's con­nected to a net­work, it can stream just about any mu­sic file from any­where to the Pulse Sound­bar.

It isn’t just Blue­sound’s first sound­bar – it’s also the first sound­bar to sup­port hi-res play­back and MQA files. Add in a mostly ma­jes­tic sound, and we can un­der­stand why it costs an eye-wa­ter­ing £1000.

Thwack at­tack

If we had to quan­tify the value of the Blue­sound Sound­bar in sheer heft, it’s worth the high price tag. At 7kg, the Sound­bar has the kind of solid build qual­ity you could thwack an armed rob­ber with.

The all-black fin­ish of the alu­minium chas­sis looks sleek and the curved edges soften the look. But there’s no es­cap­ing the fact you’re go­ing to have to clear some space in your liv­ing-room to house the Sound­bar. The bar’s con­sid­er­able height (14cm) means wall-mount­ing might be a bet­ter op­tion.

You won’t see any but­tons or dis­plays on the bar, which leaves it look­ing rel­a­tively dis­creet. There’s only a cir­cle of LEDS in the mid­dle that glows sub­tly. A neat trick is that you can flip the bar 180 de­grees and a built-in sen­sor will ad­just the left and right chan­nels ac­cord­ingly. But the big­gest ap­peal of the Pulse Sound­bar is its wire­less stream­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. From hi-res 24-bit/192khz files in just about all for­mats to the ‰edgling MQA, you’d nor­mally see such cre­den­tials only in pricey hi-fi stream­ers.

Es­sen­tial to us­ing the Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar is the BLUOS Con­troller app. Avail­able for Ap­ple and Android de­vices, the free app will be fa­mil­iar to any­one with an ex­ist­ing Blue­sound sys­tem. This dense and com­plex app might take a while to get used to, but it’s full of op­tions to play your mu­sic and movies through the Sound­bar.

Re­mote op­tions

The fact you don’t get a proper re­mote with the sound­bar will di­vide opin­ion, as it’s eas­ier to press a but­ton when ad­just­ing vol­ume rather than go­ing into the app. How­ever, the sound­bar has an IR sen­sor with learn­ing func­tion so you can use your TV’S re­mote to do those func­tions.

Con­nect the Pulse Sound­bar to your home net­work (us­ing a sta­ble wired eth­er­net con­nec­tion), open the BLUOS app and it should find the Sound­bar. You’ll be able to start con­trol­ling ev­ery as­pect of the sound­bar – vol­ume, tone con­trols, lis­ten­ing modes, in­put – as well as stream­ing from var­i­ous con­nected sources.

A multi-room ecosys­tem

Any mu­sic stored on your home net­work can be played, whether hi-res FLAC tracks from your NAS drive li­brary, CD rips from your lap­top or songs stored on your smart­phone. The main mu­sic stream­ing ser­vices – Spo­tify Con­nect, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Nap­ster and Tunein ra­dio – are avail­able in the app’s menu, or, for a more straight­for­ward ap­proach, aptx Blue­tooth is on board for stream­ing from all de­vices.

The phys­i­cal con­nec­tions are hid­den away at the back of the bar. You’ll find an op­ti­cal in­put and a pair of RCA in­puts for plug­ging in your TV, and a USB port for play­ing con­tent stored on sticks and drives.

You might won­der why you’re not get­ting any HDMI in­puts at this price. Blue­sound claims it wants to keep things sim­ple. Since the op­ti­cal in­put (and stream­ing over the net­work) sup­ports 24-bit/192khz con­tent and is eas­ily com­pat­i­ble with all TVS, it hasn’t felt the need to in­clude HDMI. Also, the Blue­sound

is a two-chan­nel bar: it’s ca­pa­ble of de­cod­ing Dolby sound­tracks, but will down­mix ev­ery­thing to stereo.

A forth­com­ing up­date means you’ll be able to in­sert other Blue­sound wire­less speak­ers (such as the Pulse, Mini or Flex) and use them as rear speak­ers for sur­round sound. Since it’s part of the Pulse fam­ily, we imag­ine the Sound­bar will be in­ducted into the multi-room ecosys­tem soon enough.

Nail-bit­ing ten­sion

If you’re ex­pect­ing a huge, wide sound from the large Blue­sound sound­bar, that’s ex­actly what you’ll get. Play the Avengers:

Age of Ul­tron Blu-ray and the sound­field that emerges is large-scale, spa­cious and ex­tends far be­yond its phys­i­cal di­men­sions.

With so much su­per­hero-en­hanced ac­tion go­ing on in the ex­plo­sive Avengers film, Blue­sound’s mus­cle and power (a claimed 120W across six driv­ers and two pas­sive ra­di­a­tors) is much needed.

There’s plenty of weight un­der­pin­ning the am­ple de­tail, and sound ef­fects move around con­vinc­ingly. It’s not quite the wrap-around 5.1 sur­round sound you get from Yamaha’s YSP sound­bars, but there’s a good amount of move­ment given to fly­ing Iron Man suits, the zing of Cap­tain Amer­ica’s shield and Thor’s ham­mer.

The sound­bar’s grand scale will draw you into the ac­tion, and the full-bod­ied ap­proach means it’s com­fort­able to lis­ten to. There isn’t a spiky edge in sight. The Hulk’s roars are huge, loud and mus­cu­lar, and each stomp lands with a de­cent thump. But the bot­tom edge is a bit soft, where we need a more im­pact­ful, satisfying punch.

We could do with more sus­pense when the evil ro­bot at­tacks the Avengers for the first time. Our Award-win­ning Dali Ku­bik Free builds up the ten­sion to a nail-bit­ing level with a touch more subtlety. The Blue­sound gets the ex­cite­ment across, but needs a dose of rhyth­mic ac­cu­racy, clar­ity and more ex­pres­sive dy­nam­ics too.

The thunk of me­tal hit­ting me­tal in any ac­tion scene has a good deal of punch through the Blue­sound, but we want more pre­ci­sion and con­trol. The edges of notes are rounded off enough to pre­vent the Blue­sound from be­ing as at­tack­ing and metic­u­lously pre­cise and sub­tle as we’d ex­pect at this high-end price. The nu­ances and sub­tleties of each voice are laid bare, but the Blue­sound doesn’t sound quite as pris­tine or crisp in com­par­i­son with the Dali.

Stream The Dead Weather’s 60 Feet Tall and the rolling drums in the in­tro could be han­dled with more def­i­nite con­trol and taut­ness. And while that lively bassline in Fleet­wood Mac’s Dreams has a nice bounce, we want it tight­ened up even more, so the rhythm is spot-on. It’s be­cause the Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar is priced at £1000 that we’re scru­ti­n­is­ing it so fe­ro­ciously against our class-leader.

The Dali sound­bar may not match the mus­cle or scale of the Blue­sound, but Dali’s stun­ning clar­ity and han­dling of rhythm and de­tail make it the best sound­bar your money can buy. The Blue­sound, how­ever, is im­pres­sive for its scale and rich­ness. And that fea­tures list is hard to ar­gue with.

If you’re look­ing for a grand sound­bar that has the perks of the best stream­ing fea­tures avail­able, this Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar will cer­tainly meet your needs as a main en­ter­tain­ment hub.

“If you’re look­ing for a grand sound­bar with the best stream­ing fea­tures avail­able, the Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar will cer­tainly meet your needs”

The Pulse Sound­bar comes with two sizes of rear-fac­ing feet, to be used when plac­ing it in front of a TV

Blue­sound hasn't in­cluded HDMI, say­ing the op­ti­cal in­put is com­pat­i­ble with all TVS The Blue­sound Pulse Sound­bar weighs 7kg and is 14cm tall, so wall­mount­ing may be a bet­ter op­tion

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