Soundbars are maturing as a product category and in the process improving in terms of fidelity. One performance category that’s getting a lot of attention is bass extension, with various models offering surprisingly deep response without a subwoofer. The wireless, networked, hi-res Bluesound Pulse soundbar is just such a model with a -3dB point of 55 Hz. In a demo at CES 2017, it proved capable of creating impact on its own.
While it’s true that the Pulse soundbar ($1000) can deliver a very satisfying listening experience on its own, adding a subwoofer allows the system to play louder and deeper. Adding the new Bluesound Pulse Sub ($600) to the mix allows for enviable anechoic performance: +/-1 dB response from 30 Hz to 20 kHz. A -3 dB point of 25 Hz become the new reality—these are specifications that make many speaker systems jealous.
Although I had heard the Pulse play at CEDIA, CES 2017 provided the first opportunity to audition the system in a quiet, controlled environment. During the demo, I noted that the system creates a surprisingly wide soundfield that is very detailed and cohesive. What’s more, thanks to the BluOS app, the Pulse offers software-based control puts many customization options at the listener’s disposal.
When it comes to high-res audio, Blusound delivers support for many formats. The system plays AAC, AIFF ALAC, FLAC, HRA, MP3, MQA, OGG, WAV, WMA, and WMA-L files up to 24-bit / 192 kHz. Yes it includes MQA, which is available to stream on Tidal now. Out of due diligence, it’s worth noting that the system does not support HDMI. Bluesound is primarily about streaming over a network, but the pulse does accept analog input through a pair of stereo RCA jacks or a digital signal over S/PDIF using an optical cable.
The Pulse Sub can play low and is thin enough to fit underneath—or behind—a sofa. Per the show demo, when the sub is part of a Pulse soundbar system, you can play it louder and experience more impact. Nevertheless, the Pulse soundbar is no slouch when operating on its own.
I watched scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakes and the Pulse system delivered very clear audio with crisp dialog. This is a genuinely high-fidelity soundbar that—thanks to Bluesound’s wireless and network capabilities, also serves as a music streaming powerhouse. $1600 for a soundbar and a sub may sound like a lot of money, but based on what I heard you get quite a bit of audio fidelity in a very low profile package.
Overall, the Bluesound Pulse is a soundbar system that’s worth checking out if your circumstance mandates choosing a soundbar over stand-alone speakers, yet you want it to sound as good as a competent stereo.