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Fluance AB40 Soundbase Listening Tests

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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.

Video

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.

Music

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.

Conclusion

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
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStar
SoundstageStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStar
ValueStarStarStarStarhalf-star
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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Recent Forum Posts:

Steve81 posts on October 13, 2017 12:27
Star Wars Episode 8 The Force Awakens
Alright I’ll admit it, I’m a huge Star Wars fan.

Sure you are
gene posts on October 13, 2017 01:40
Looking for improved sound from those wimpy little TV speakers? Sure you could go with one of those ubiquitous soundbars being sold in any of the big box stores, but why not buy a soundbase instead? The Fluance AB40 Soundbase goes under your TV rather than in front of it. Does the larger cabinet equate to larger sound? Read our in depth review of the AB40 to find out.

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Read: Fluance AB40 High Performance Soundbase Review
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