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Fluance AB40 High Performance Soundbase Review

by October 13, 2017
  • Product Name: AB40 High Performance Soundbase Home Theater System
  • Manufacturer: Fluance
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: October 13, 2017 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 250
  • SPEAKER CONFIGURATION- 2 Way 6 Driver TV Soundbase with Integrated Amplifier
  • TWEETER- Dual 1 inch Silk Soft Dome Ferro Fluid cooled
  • WOOFER- Four 3 inch Aluminum Cone with Butyl Rubber Surround
  • POWER- Class D 90 Watts
  • INPUT- Digital Toslink Optical / 3.5mm Stereo AUX
  • BLUETOOTH- Yes; aptX codec
  • DIMENSIONS- 3.9 x 26 x 14 inch
  • WEIGHT – 24 lbs.


  • Deep rich bass without a subwoofer
  • Super simple setup
  • Inexpensive price


  • No Wi-Fi or HDMI
  • No manufacturer Code to operate Volume via your HDTV Remote Control


AB40 Soundbase Introduction

Earlier this year speaker manufacturer Fluance made their first foray into the soundbar craze that every audio manufacturer has added to their lineup: The AB40 High-Performance Soundbase Home Theater System.  We covered the release in a preview of the AB40, but wanted to see for ourselves what a speaker manufacturer could do with a better enclosure than the limited dimensions of a normal soundbar. Unlike a soundbar, a soundbase is designed to fit under your TV, rather than above or in front of it. In this way, the soundbase acts as a TV stand, but can only be used if your TV has a center stand and not two sets of legs on either end. 

AB40box.jpg      AB40box2.jpg     AB40 contents.jpg

The AB40 came double boxed in corrugated cardboard. Upon opening the boxes, the unit was nicely nestled in soft foam inserts to protect the unit itself and the accessories.  The entire product arrived intact without damage or missing pieces. For the price point, it is good to see that Fluance included the optical sound cable and batteries for the remote control with the AB40.  These are the little touches that Fluance puts into their products that sets them apart from many other manufacturers. Sure we can go out and get better optical cables and longer lasting batteries, but when you are unpacking the system for the first time it’s good to know that everything you need to get started is right there.

Build Quality


At 24 pounds, the AB40 is not especially heavy, but the cabinet itself is rated to hold up to 150 pounds! I didn’t think Fluance would appreciate me testing this particular feature since invariably they want their product back after the review. The AB40 does have a beautiful real wood exterior in a black satin finish. The woodgrain shows through and complemented our mahogany TV stand extremely well. The front metal grille is very strong, and will do well in households where curious fingers might be an issue.

 AB40 under tv.jpg

The biggest concern with a soundbase is finding one that will fit your TV. With the overall width of 26” the AB40 is 3” too narrow for my TV. Though the AB40 can be used above or below the TV like a normal center channel speaker, it might just be the push I need to mount the TV to the wall (or upgrade my TV). In fact, if we look at some of the best-selling TVs of 2017 the AB40 will not fit under the majority of them in the 50” range. But where the problem of compatibility is the soundbases’ biggest downfall, it is also its greatest advantage. The first reason is covered in our article Myths & Facts about Loudspeaker Cabinets. The AB40 is made of engineered wood whereas most soundbars are made of ABS plastic that are intrinsically inferior at suppressing resonances and destructive vibrations. The second advantage of the soundbase is the additional enclosure volume compared to a soundbar that is acoustically tuned to enable the speakers to perform at their optimum level. Much like an in-wall speaker, there are many pros and cons for soundbars vs. soundbases and the idea of free-standing vs in-wall is covered in our article The Truth About In-Wall Speakers.


Under the hood, the AB40 has an impressive 90-watt Class D amplifier to power dual silk dome tweeters for the highs, and four midrange/woofer drivers for the lows. The outer drivers are angled at 35 degrees to help create a larger soundstage and broaden the imaging. Personally, I think that either the soundbase itself should have been curved to fit the 35 degrees angle of the outer drivers, or Fluance should have had more of an angle on these side drivers to widen the soundstage.


Each of the six speaker drivers is solidly encased in the cabinet, including the four 3” aluminum cone woofers with butyl rubber surrounds and the pair of 1" silk soft dome ferro fluid-cooled tweeters.

Set Up

Some quick start guides are getting too quick (ie. Apple). So, when I took out Fluance’s guide for the AB40, I thought there was going to be trouble. After getting my soundbase and TV on a sturdy table (yes those are the first two steps in the quick setup guide), I used the supplied optical cable to connect the soundbase to my TV. I turned off the speakers in my television’s menu, and turned on the AB40.


Inputs on the AB40 are pretty basic.  Optical cable, 3.5 mm aux and power.  That’s it. No HDMI, RCA, or anything else, so if you’re using an older Blu-ray player with just RCA jacks you’ll have to buy an RCA to 3.5mm converter.

 ab40 inputs.jpg

On the top of the AB40 is an LED behavior sticker that explains how the LED colors correspond to the input source, along with power and volume. White light pairs with the optical cable, green light with the 3.5mm Aux, and the blue light is for when the unit is paired with a Bluetooth device.


I expected to see these lights shine through the wood just above the sticker on the top of the cabinet and became impatient when the power light wouldn’t come on.  It wasn’t until I looked at the front of the unit that I realized the light colors are displayed through the front grille.  While using the AB40 it is important to note that the light does stay on (White, Green, or Blue), which some users might find annoying.

The sticker on top is designed to be peeled off by the user, and just above the sticker are some of the functioning buttons for the unit itself, including power, source, and volume control.  The buttons are not buttons per se, but touch-enabled spots in the wood.  By looking at them I wasn’t sure that they did anything at all, but they function very well in turning the device on or off and changing the volume and source with just a small amount of pressure from your finger.

The AB40 also features AptX enhanced Bluetooth technology so you can also stream your favorite media from your portable devices. That's a lot of technology packed into a product of this price class.

Our 3D Sound uses Bass Boost and psychoacoustics to calculate precise harmonics that are related to the fundamental tones of sound, virtually reproducing the lowest frequencies just as if there was a subwoofer in the room.


I am leery of any product using circuitry to artificially boost the bass response of the system without having the physics behind the air displacement. This was our biggest concern we had before listening to the AB40. EQing a driver to get more bass is valid provided that there is enough amplifier power and displacement in the driver and I wouldn't totally write it off.  In the case of the Fluance, they probably boosted in the 80-100Hz range to give a fuller bass sound. Fluance claims their AB40 soundbase can reach bass frequencies down to 30 Hz (though no spec on output level is given), which will be pretty impressive from four 3” aluminum drivers. We revisit this bass discussion in our listening tests portion of the review.

Fluance AB40 Soundbase Listening Tests

Again, I do have to give Fluance credit for the ease of setup of their AB40. One optical cord and power and you’re done. One problem I had with the product was the lack of HDMI connectivity or Wi-Fi, which means no onscreen relay information so input options, bass boost, 3D sound and volume changes are relayed to you by flashes in the light coming through the front of the device. Other similarly-priced units like the Polk MagniFi Mini that we reviewed recently have a learning remote control to help eliminate redundant remote controls. This also means that your favorite music streaming services will be entirely pushed and controlled through your phone, tablet or computer. There currently isn’t an AB40 app, which is good and bad. I like pushing my music through my iPhone or Apple TV. I know where everything is and already have my playlists organized and setup.


Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone (No spoilers)
I’ve been waiting for this opener for what seems like years, GOT.pngand although it did hit on all the major players, there weren’t any huge battle scenes to really test the limits of the soundbase. The dialogue came through clear, which has been a problem for other compact soundbar-type systems emphasizing the bass without a subwoofer. Whether it’s the whisperings of Arya Stark, the clipped over-enunciated Cersei Lanister, or the tense conversations between Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, the AB40 provided a precise centered dialog that could easily be heard and understood even at lower volumes. There was a short scene showing the Army of the White Walkers heading south. The AB40 revealed subtle highs and lows, from the snow swooshed footsteps of the undead Wights, the breezy snowstorm moving across the screen, the clop of the White Walker skeleton horses. The scenes featuring Dany’s dragons gave the AB40 a chance to flex its muscles a bit. The depth of sound filled the room, but I still would have liked to see better imaging as the dragons moved across the screen.

Star Wars Episode 8 The Force Awakens
Alright, I’ll admit it, I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Growing up iforce awakens.jpgn the late 70s early 80s, I was a prime target for everything George Lucas. And I still liked the new iteration of the franchise. I skipped forward to the scene where Finn first meets Rey on Jakku and are quickly attacked by Tie fighters. I was surprised by the depth of the bass presented by the AB40.  The bass boost technology made a big difference and the explosions around the town were felt as well as heard. If the goal of the AB40 was to simplify your system setup by eliminating a cheap subwoofer, then I say Fluance has hit the nail on the head. Our ears are most finely tuned to dialogue and the mids and highs of the AB40 came through nicely in the dialogue arena, but there was some mushiness in this area. Not enough to distort speech, but since the background music in all the Star Wars movies is so dynamic, it is certainly noticeable.

When Finn and Rey steal the Millennium Falcon, the roar of the engines comes through and again the bass boost technology shows its claws. Less impressive are the 3D enhancements. I expected a larger soundstage and imaging from the AB40. Tonally, the sound was quite good, it was just limited in movement across the room. Fluance does a good job of creating a soundstage across a 26” platform, just not a great one. Of course, we do have to remember that this is a $250 system and overall it sounds better than some soundbars I’ve heard at twice the price. I really think Fluance has the right idea with this system, but the outermost left and right speakers could be tweaked for better imaging and soundstage.


The AB40 really impressed me as a Bluetooth speaker. I had some friends come over in the middle of writing the review for this system. They took turns playing music from their phones and all of them commented on the surprisingly strong bass coming from the system. For me, that brought up the point that if you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker system that has exceptional sound for $250, the Fluance AB40 might be the way to go even if you’re not looking for a soundbar. The craftsmanship of the cabinet could easily fit in with many decors and would not necessarily have to have a TV placed on it. Unfortunately, Fluance doesn't offer a manufacturer code to program your HDTV remote to control the volume of the AB40.  You can, however, use your phone or tablet to control the volume of the device when streaming to it or perhaps use a learning remote to learn the codes from the Fluance remote control. If you opt for the AB40 remote, you can control not only the volume but can also move between tracks as well.  One note though, like other Bluetooth devices we’ve reviewed, if you get a call or text your alert sound will come through the AB40 instead of your phone which can be quite annoying if you get into one of those group texts where everyone responds.

Marian Hill – Down
Although fairly clichéd as far asmarian hill down.jpg a demo song goes, Marian Hill’s song “Down” has everything a great demo track should have. Simple piano riffs combined with single slow melodic runs of a smooth clear clean female vocal transitioning into bass pounding techno music. The music came through loud and clear on the AB40. The vocals were as clean and crisp as they should be, and since her voice is artificially synthesized up and down the spectrum, the 3” drivers held true. Once again, when the bass kicked in I was impressed at the amount of sound delivered without a subwoofer.


If your TV fits on the AB40 or you have room below oab40 w TV.jpgn a shelf in your entertainment center, the Fluance AB40 would be a remarkable addition to a simplified home theater. At just $250 you get an amazing Bluetooth speaker that also works well as a soundbar without the need for an additional subwoofer.  Yes, their bass enhancement circuit really does work!  As I’ve commented on in past for these budget-minded soundbar systems, this isn’t a substitute for a full-fledged 5.1 system, but in the case of the Fluance AB40, it does deliver a dramatically improved level of sound compared to the simple TV speakers that come with your set.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Tony is our resident expert for lifestyle and wireless products including soundbars. He does most of the reviews for wireless and streaming loudspeakers and often compares soundbars in round ups and helps us cover the trade shows.

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