Monoprice SB-300 Virtual Dolby Atmos 2.0 Ch Soundbar

Manufacturer & Model
Monoprice SB-300
MSRP
$179.99 Internet Direct
Link
https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=42033
Highlights
Virtual Dolby Atmos® soundbar
Two HDMI® inputs and an HDMI eARC output
Bluetooth® and USB streaming
Coaxial and optical digital inputs
3.5mm analog audio input
DSP sound modes
Included IR remote control
Includes a High-Speed HDMI® Cable and mounting hardware
2.0 channels with 100 total watts amplifier
Summary
A two-channel soundbar that simulates Dolby ATMOS Surround using DSP. The speaker has an excellent connectivity package that includes eARC HDMI, two additional HDMI inputs, Coaxial and Optical Digital audio inputs, and one analog input. There is also a USB input that will allow the play of Mp3 file formats. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to play audio using your mobile device of choice. The soundbar comes complete with mounting hardware and all necessary cables. No provision for adding a subwoofer is made.
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The Review
I was intrigued! The Monoprice SB-300 is a two-channel soundbar that is purported to simulate Dolby ATMOS sound fields through DSP.

The deal was made, and as quick as you can say, "DSP Magic" Monoprice sent their SB-300 Virtual Dolby Atmos® 2.0 Channel Soundbar to me for review!

I've been interested in the idea of DSP sculpted soundscapes since the "Digital Stone Age." In the mid-70s, the studio world was introduced to digital recorders and the first crude digital manipulation devices in the form of digital delay lines. Those digital delay lines were just a precursor for the myriad of digital space builders to come.

Then Yamaha introduced to the home audio world the fully programmable DSP-1 in 1985. That device included sixteen digital soundscapes and Dolby Surround in a box. All fully tweakable!

Then, in the early 90s, I purchased a brand-shiny-new Yamaha DSP-A2070 (Digital Sound Field Processing Amplifier).

This miracle device contained seven channels of amplification: 80 watts x 2 the main right/left channels, 80 watts x 1 for the center channel, 25 watts x 2 for the front effects channels, and 25 watts x 2 for the rear effects channels.

While essentially a 5.1 Dolby Pro Logic system, this device's true "magic" came from the second set of front speakers. These channels/speakers were designed to work with the regular right and left channels and the rear speakers to help reproduce the different DSP manufactured soundstages.

The DSP soundstages in the DSP-A2070 were meant to simulate live music venues. Unfortunately, Yamaha’s attempt to bring the feeling of space and dimension found in live venues to your living room was somewhat of a success…. and somewhat of a failure.

Fast forward to today and the Monoprice SB-300, and I was, as said, intrigued.

Delivery Day
A friendly FedEx driver dropped off the SB-300 at my front porch, rang the doorbell, and hightailed it for his truck.

The slender, white, printed box survived its journey without any untoward results. I quickly opened the 49" x 6" x 4.5" box and unpacked the soundbar and accessories.

The wrapped soundbar was securely held in the box with two closed-cell foam endpieces and another foam ring around the speaker's center. All the necessary accessories were contained in a cardboard box that plugged one end of the shipping carton.


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First Impressions/Construction and Design

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The soundbar is a sleek black plastic case with a perforated plastic grill covering the entire front of the speaker. The bottom of the case has two good-sized soft rubber feet that allow the unit to sit directly on a flat surface without marring the finish.

When the power is applied, and the unit turned on, a large display scrolling across behind the perforated grille face becomes visible.

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There are six push-button controls on the top-center of the soundbar that allows direct control of power, source selection, Bluetooth Mode, mute, and volume ±. All controls, and more, are reflected on the included IR remote.

The rear holds the connectivity panel with a figure 8 style AC receptacle, coaxial and optical digital audio ports, USB type-A port, 3.5mm audio input, 2 HDMI inputs, and an HDMI eARC connection.

The specs claim a 100-watt (50 watts per channel) amplifier onboard. No other amplifier specs are given.

The grille does not come off, and the specs don't reveal what comprises the speaker complement. However, a flashlight shining across the grille face revealed what looked to be a 1.5" (give or take) tweeter and an oval 1.5" x 4" (give or take) mid-range/woofer. Each of the two separate channel sections has a small port aiding better low-end extension.


Set-Up
I attached the soundbar using the included hardware to my "Speaker on a Stick" reviewing platform and connected it to my Samsung 55" 4K TV via eARC. My TV is not DOLBY ATMOS equipped, so for ATMOS testing purposes, I connected my Apple TV 4K to the soundbar via HDMI input #1.

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Measurements
The Monoprice supplied specifications are relatively sparse and include a frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz and an amplifier power rating of 100 watts (50x2). Oddly, the specs mention a nominal speaker impedance of 4 ohms. I say oddly because the speaker is self-amplified, so speaker impedance means little to the product's end-user if the designer matched amplifier to speakers correctly.

The rest of the specs are not measurements per se but are Bluetooth specs and supported formats information.

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I ran REW Frequency vs. SPL curves at 1 Meter and then at the listening position for each of the four DSP modes available, Voice, Sport, Movie, and Music.

The little soundbar showed promise with an extended high-end and a low-end that was surprisingly solid to 60 Hz and then dropping off by 17.2 dB to the Monoprice specified low-frequency mark of 40Hz.


Listening
I first watched some news on one of our local channels. The dialog was crisp and well-defined. Switching between the different sound modes, I determined that the "Voice" mode helped a tad with intelligibility. However, the difference between the other various modes was slight at best.

Moving on to Netflix on the Apple TV 4K, I re-watched the first episode of Wu Assassins. This series is presented in Dolby ATMOS and has plenty of energy floating around in the "surrounds" usually. The overall presentation was good. ATMOS did show on the display as being active. When I toggled the surround off, the sound field collapsed, and any sense of spaciousness disappeared.

I then watched a bit of the Tom and Jerry movie on HBO Max. The film is also in Dolby ATMOS and has an interestingly cartoonish soundtrack. The sound was clear and concise throughout the sample. Low-end was decently solid with a smooth, clear high-end. Mids were satisfactory, clean, and clear. The dialog was concise, intelligible, and forward. As before, the surround mode activation made a perceptible, albeit slight, difference in spaciousness when activated.

Cueing up John Wick #1, I jumped to the ending fight scene in chapter 15. The soundbar's DSP magic provided a more pronounced ATMOS effect than previously as the rain started falling. The soundstage very noticeably collapsed when the surround was disabled, becoming more in-your-face than with it engaged.

Lastly, I sampled last year's Wonder Woman 1984 via HBO Max in 5.1 surround. The SB-300 held its own during action sequences and delivered clear, concise dialog during the boring bits. Surround mode added an indefinable "something" to this 5.1 presentation.

Switching to the MUSIC Mode, I paired the SB-300 with my iPhone. The pairing was simple and quickly done. Music was pleasant through the soundbar with a somewhat muted mid/high presentation and good small speaker bass at low to modest volumes.


Summary and Closing Thoughts
Soundbars have come a long, long way since their introduction. They have earned a solid niche in the market by being easy to install and minimal setup devices. And that's what we are looking for in many cases and situations! However, most soundbars will not be a one-to-one replacement or compete with a well-heeled and set-up home theater system. So, why use a soundbar at all?

Many/Most TVs now feature rear-firing speakers and rely on reflected sound. This less than desirable "feature" simply can't be avoided anymore. Soundbars can be a suitable solution to rectify the crappy dialog and less than stellar sound those rear-facing speakers engender.

I found the Monoprice SB-300 a solid performer for what it is, and for the modest outlay of $179.99 (less if you catch it on sale). The soundbar universally improved dialog clarity and vastly improved overall sound character over the built-in speakers of my Samsung TV.

The tiny speakers in the SB-300 aren't going to go super deep or go super loud, but that's OK. They do what they are supposed to do… Elevate TV sound to the next level! While I was not overly impressed with the soundbar's "Surround" or Dolby ATMOS capabilities, the different modes did add something in the way of perceived space and air. Because of this, I considered the surround capabilities more of a gimmick than actual functional features. The non-ability to easily add a subwoofer is a negative, at least to me. Having said that, however, I found the slender soundbar more than capable enough in other areas that matter most to me anyway! Sound quality and dialog improvement!

If you have a TV in a secondary area such as a study or bedroom area that could use better sound with minimal fuss, this could be just the ticket!

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Monoprice SB-300 Specifications - P/N 42033
  • Video Inputs: 2x HDMI®Video
  • Output: HDMI with eARC
  • Audio Inputs: Digital Coaxial, Digital Optical, 3.5mm Analog Audio
  • Input Sensitivity: 500mV
  • Nominal Impedance: 2x 4Ω
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz ~ 20kHz
  • Amplifier Power: 2x 50 watts
  • Bluetooth®: Version 4.2
  • Supported Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP
  • Bluetooth Frequency Range: 2400 ~ 2483.5 MHz
  • Bluetooth Maximum Transmission Power: ≤5dBm
  • USB: Version 2.0
  • Supported USB Formatting: FAT32, FAT16
  • Maximum Supported USB Capacity: 32GB
  • Supported USB File Format: mp3
  • Remote Control Range: up to 19.6 feet (6 meters)
  • Remote Control Operating Angle: 0 ~ 30°
  • Remote Control Power Source: 2x AAA batteries (included)
  • Input Power: 100 ~ 240 VAC, 50/60 Hz
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 30 watts
  • Standby Power Consumption: ≤ 0.5 watts
  • Dimensions: 39.4" x 2.9" x 4.2" (1000 x 74 x 106 mm)
  • Weight: 6.0 lbs. (2.7 kg)
 

Todd Anderson

Editor / Senior Admin
Staff member
Joined
Jan 20, 2017
Messages
7,152
Location
Balt/Wash Metro
My AV System  
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Great write-up, Tom. $179 seems like a relatively reasonable investment for better sound. I do wonder, however, if money wouldn't be better spent on more impactful equipment. Yes, budget is paramount, but with some well-planned savings, you could easily move into a soundbar category that will inject more notable pop into your TV viewing experience... at least I'd assume that something better exists in the $00-$500 category?
 

Tom L.

Reviewer
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Joined
Nov 5, 2018
Messages
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Location
Lewisville Texas
Hi Todd, Sorry I missed this. Just returned from a trip with limited internet access.

Overall, I think the product is great for what it is. The way I tend to look at such things is by the possible utility. If it were the only system in the house most of us would certainly miss a more robust system. As a system in a kid's room, a bedroom, or in a location where a TV is present, but rarely used, it would be great. It could function well as a system to enhance intelligibility for aging ears. Definitely a step up from most rear-firing TV speakers!
 
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