As TV screens have become thinner and thinner over the last few years, there is far less space available for decent inbuilt speakers, which has made soundbars a necessity if you care as much about audio quality as visual fidelity.
However, if you don’t want to spend the big bucks on a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar, it is possible to find cheaper options that still pack an audio punch: enter TaoTronics’ TT-SK019 40 inch sound bar.
Price and availability
The TT-SK019 is available from the TaoTronics website for $89.99 (around £70 / AU$125), which is extremely cheap compared to other soundbars on the market, which typically range anywhere between $100 to $1000 and beyond.
In the UK it’s only available to buy from Amazon, and is slightly more expensive than the conversion rate at £79.99 - however, as it’s eligible for free delivery it more or less works out as around the same price.
Design and features
Design-wise, this sound bar doesn’t exactly look expensive, but it certainly doesn’t look cheap either, and absolutely gives the competition a run for its money. Like most other models on the market, it comes in black, which looks nice enough, but it would be great to see it in other colors like a lighter grey or silver so that it can be integrated into more decor styles.
We also didn’t love the gloss finish on the back and sides of the sound bar - not so much for aesthetic reasons, but mainly because it is so easy for the casing to become smudged with fingerprints and dust. If you need your tech products to look flawless at all times, you may prefer the TT-SK15 which has a matte finish and is less susceptible to grimy fingerprints.
The TT-SK019 is a 40 inch model (wider than our TV screen, but that’s not TaoTronics’ fault), and although it was a little large for our relatively small living area, it didn’t actually intrude too much on our space as it is fairly slim. For the majority of living spaces and AV cabinets, it shouldn't be hard to accommodate.
The front of the soundbar is almost entirely taken up with the speaker grille, which allows for a really wide and encompassing sound that can bounce of your walls and envelope you in the auditory space.
The sound bar has a built-in LED display which indicates when it’s switched on, and which kind of connection mode you are using.
The back of the sound bar has an optical input which can be connected directly to your TV, DVD player or games console for high quality audio. There’s a coaxial input if you prefer to use your own phono cable to connect it, or an left/right AUX input, meaning there are lots of options to choose from.
The soundbar is also Bluetooth enabled, meaning you can easily connect it to your smartphone, laptop, or tablet to stream music, although TaoTronics doesn't recommend that you connect via Bluetooth to your TV, as this can cause audio delay.
Setting up the TT-SK019 is super simple, and it will look great placed on the shelf of your TV stand - we would recommend this if your TV isn’t wall-mounted, as placing it directly in front of your TV means the signal from your remote control can be obstructed, with the soundbar itself being quite tall. This will of course vary between different TV models and brands, plus you can wall mount the TT-SK019 if you’re feeling fancy.
The most basic measure of how well a soundbar works is whether you can hear a difference between the quality of the audio it puts out and that of your TV’s inbuilt speakers, and the TT-SK019 definitely makes a difference.
The Bluetooth connection worked well, and we were able to stream music from our smartphone fairly seamlessly - although a stand up or portable speaker is probably more appropriate for filling a room with music, especially if you like to move around the space as you listen.
This is particularly noticeable when watching films - we opted for something we knew would be loud, so we tried it out with Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, and were not disappointed.
Despite the fact that we were using just one speaker, the sound felt all-encompassing as it bounced off the walls in our living area, making this sound bar a fantastic option for those who want bigger sound on a smaller budget.
The TT-SK019’s strength lies in its bass capabilities; with two woofers built-in, bass frequencies sound powerful and warm, with more than enough potency to fill a small room with sound. If you’re lucky enough to have a large lounge, you may find yourself wishing for a subwoofer however.
The soundbar falls down slightly on its mid-high range capacity, as these higher frequencies can be overpowered by the dominant, and sometimes muddy bass. This makes the TT-SK019 far more suited for noisy action films instead of dialogue rich dramas and casual TV viewing, as speech can sound a little muffled.
After living with the TT-SK019 for a couple of weeks, we found it to be a really neat little soundbar, with great value for money. At $89.99, it’s not going to blow your socks off in terms of audio quality, but it absolutely gets the job done, and really makes a difference to your entertainment system, particularly when watching films.
With a variety of different connection options, it’s a great choice for anyone who wants to try out a soundbar without spending a lot of money, which is great if you have kids or pets that are liable to knock over your expensive technology purchases.
One downside is that the TT-SK019 is not particularly well suited to mid-high frequencies, meaning may need to look elsewhere for that spoken-word boost - especially if you already find dialogue difficult to make out.
Even if you do only use the sound bar for movie nights, the price is so reasonable that it’s still economical to use it only on occasion.
Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find a better sound bar for a better price.