I have an immense amount of respect for marketing folks. A good marketing campaign, after all, can beautifully and succinctly encapsulate a product in such a way that you just grok it nearly instantly. The old posters with the tagline, “They don’t write songs about Volvos” tell you everything you really need to know about the experience of driving a Corvette. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like?” Hell, that slogan makes me want to buy Old Spice, and I don’t even wear cologne. The flipside to that, of course, is that great marketing can also draw a pretty tight box around the way you think about a product at first. An example of this is Sonance’s new adjustable-width SB46 M Soundbar.
Sonance’s new adjustable-width SB46 M Soundbar. Mind you, the marketing is brilliant simplicity incarnate, like the product itself. What’s not to love about a passive LCR solution that can literally be adjusted, on the spot, without tools, to perfectly match the width of virtually any flat-panel display (between 50 and 60 inches diagonal for the SB46 M; between 70 and 80 inches diagonal for its larger brother, the SB46 L)? With smooth side-cabinet compartments housing the left and right driver arrays, which effortlessly retract into or extend out of the compartment housing the center speaker elements, the SB46 M makes one heck of a sexy alternative to tailor-built, one-off integrated LCR solutions that become obsolete the minute you or your client opts for a TV upgrade.
And the package includes literally everything you’ll need to mate the soundbar perfectly with any TV within its rated range, including wall mounting options and both flat and recessed brackets for mounting it to the display itself. Your choice between the latter will depend on the thickness of the display, and you can also fine-tune the depth of the soundbar’s installation with included bolts and washers and spacers to ensure that it not only perfectly matches the width of the TV in question, but also fits flush with its face.
With all that emphasis on mounting, mounting, and more mounting, though, it struck me as a little more than curious when I came across four little rubber tootsies in the package, along with references in the instruction manual to tabletop or cabinet placement. At the time, the most articulate response I could come up with was, “Wait, what? Why?” Why worry whether the width of your soundbar matches your TV if you’re just going to plop it on a credenza?
And we’ll actually come back to that point in a few paragraphs. But at the time, I merely shook my head and chuckled, then turned my attention back to the matter of mounting. Truthfully, the hardest part about marrying the SB46 M to the 50-inch Panasonic plasma in my bedroom was getting the TV off of its articulating arm mount and back on again once the process was complete. Sonance’s exhaustive instructions and accessories made the soundbar installation part a snap. And to match the width of the SB46 M perfectly to my display took no more than a couple of tugs. There are tool-free tightening screws on the back of the soundbar that allow you to lock in that perfect width, but I decided to ignore them since the retracting-expanding left-and-right sub-cabinets stay in place really well until you tug or push them.
With that done, my listening began, and I don’t mean to disparage Sonance a bit by saying this, but I was pretty shocked by just how good the SB46 M sounds. The company has a reputation for making amazing-sounding speakers, true, but we’re talking about a soundbar here. How many of them sound truly great?
To match the width of the Sonance SB46 M soundbar perfectly to the author’s display took no more than a couple of tugs.
No matter what your answer to that question was before, add one more to the list. In addition to being wonderfully and shockingly dynamic, I also found the sound to be incredibly well balanced and amazingly coherent. Every one of my go-to scenes for difficult dialogue clarity rang through with the utmost in effortlessness. Action scenes had all of the punch and sparkle I could hope for. And when crossed over at 110Hz or thereabouts, the soundbar blended beautifully with the subwoofer, in a way that so many soundbars don’t.
By contrast, a switch over to music listening was, at first, a little disappointing. Not that the SB46 M isn’t musical, mind you. Whether I turned to CDs or my favorite multichannel music releases, I found the sound to be wonderfully tonally balanced, nicely detailed, and appreciably impactful. Despite the slim depth of the cabinet, vocals sounded rich and neutral. The problem? Width. Soundstage. When perfectly matched to the dimensions of my TV, the SB46 M just didn’t span the room enough to really engage me with music.
And that’s when I realized: “Wait, who said the soundbar absolutely has to be the same width as the display?” And with that realization, like the rebel I am, I gave the SB46 M another few effortless tugs and pulled the left and right channels out to their furthest extremes. Suddenly the sense of space that was missing from my music before materialized in front of me. But then, of course, it looked kind of ridiculous: a soundbar the perfect width for a 65- inch display hanging off of my little 50-incher.
Of course, the solution to that could be just pulling the sides out when you want to rock out to some tunes, and pushing them back for movies or when the sound isn’t in use. And that’s totally viable. But I decided to pull the SB46 M off its mount and place it on the credenza underneath the TV just for kicks, and here too I found that the adjustable width really has its advantages. Not only could I establish the perfect soundstage for music, but I could also tweak the soundbar to perfectly match the width of its pedestal.
Interestingly, I also found that compacting the SB46 M to its narrowest width doesn’t negatively impact the sound, which you might expect that it would since as you retract the left and right cabinets into the center, it effectively doubles the thickness of the perforated metal cabinet/grille in front of the center drivers. I suspect that even at its narrowest, though, the coaxial 1-inch tweeter and 4-inch Kevlar + Nomex mid driver in the center isn’t covered by this extra grille thickness, because narrow or wide, vocal tonality remains the same.
Either way, the point is that in my experience with the Sonance SB46 M, there are many more advantages to an adjustable-width soundbar than I first thought there would be. Even if you’re not mounting every soundbar in concert with a display, the incredible installation flexibility (not to mention the fantastic sound quality) makes Sonance’s latest effort a real winner. And I’d love to see the company begin to promote these myriad advantages more fully.
But then again, what do I know? I’m not in marketing.
The Sonance SB46 M Soundbar sports a truly distinctive adjustable-width design that's great not only for mounting with a TV, but also comes in handy for tabletop and in-cabinet installations. And it sounds really fantastic for a passive soundbar.
Not a one.
• Height: 5 9/32” (134mm)
• Depth: 2 9/16” (65mm)
• Adjustable Width: 43 7/8” to 59 5/8” (1114mm to 1514mm)
• Weight: 21 lbs. (9.5kg)
• Display Size Range: 50” to 65” diagonal (127cm to 165cm)
• Tweeter: Three 1” (25mm) powder coated aluminum dome, Ferrofluid-cooled, chambered
• Midrange: Three 4” (102mm) Kevlar / Nomex laminated cone with a rubber surround
• Woofer: Six 4.5” (114mm) Kevlar / Nomex laminated cone with a rubber surround
• Frequency Response: 90Hz - 20kHz ±3dB
• Impedance: 8 ohms nominal; 6 ohms minimum
• Recommended Power: 50 watts minimum; 150 watts maximum
• Sensitivity: 88dB SPL (2.83V/1 meter)