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I should say at the start that I am not an audiophile nor an expert in anything home-audio related. But recently I found myself looking to update my system because the audio from my TV’s speakers was unbearably muddled, and after doing a lot of research I ended up buying the JVC TH-BC3 unit. There wasn’t much information on it – even the Amazon page didn’t offer much in the way of specs or reviews, so I bought it blind and thought I should do a short review so other potential buyers have more information that I did.


Physically, the TH-BC3 is a relatively compact sound bar. It’s 35.5” wide and about 4” in height so it’s not what I would call small, but most of the other sound bars I looked at were generally about 40” or longer, and 5”-7” high. The front of the unit is mostly covered by a metallic grill behind which sit 6 speaker – three to the left and three to the right of the control panel. The control panel has six buttons and a dimmable LCD display. The buttons handle the basic operations of input, volume, surround sound etc. The remote has a few more dedicated buttons for some of the more obscure features that don’t need to be accessed that often. The LCD display shows time and also shows menu options as needed. Also on the front of the unit is a hidden, spring-loaded iPod connector that comes out with a light push. The iPod connector is constructed without sides, so it’s actually capable of handling iPhones and iPads as well, and all work just fine in playing music, streaming internet radio, or even video via RCA in and HDMI out. The less expensive TH-BC1 is identical in every way except that it does not have the iPod dock.


The back of the unit provides access to the inputs, and there are quite a few. First, the unit has a full HDMI pass through allowing two HDMI in and one HDMI out – this means you can hook your cable box and Blu-Ray player in to the TH-BC3 and then pass a single cable to the TV, making for a cleaner connection (though potentially causing confusion with remotes – more on that later). If you don’t want to use HDMI, options for optical, coaxial and RCA are also available. There is also a separate subwoofer pre-out on the back, though the sound bar itself is already a 2.1 system with subwoofer, and separate subwoofer wouldn’t be absolutely necessary.


Once it’s hooked up, the sound on this system is good, but not jaw-dropping. I’d say it’s on par with a good bookshelf system of 50w or so – capable of easily filling a room with sound, with some nice highs and pretty decent bass as well. And the volume can go high enough to really blast out – those looking for something that will put sound in the cheap seats of a home theater should not be disappointed. The separation of the speakers is pretty good, so there is some spatial sound effects provided the source is using that. The unit offers both a "SRS StudioSound" surround sound option that adds a lot of depth to the sound, and there is also a digital sound enhancer (DRC) that helps keep volume more even. That said, this is a 2.1 sound bar not a 5.1 system, so it’s not going to be like sitting in a THX theater or anything. It’s good, but not blow-your-socks-off good.


As a home stereo for playing iPod and such, I’d say it’s very good as well. It’s easy to use, it sounds good and is fully compatible with streaming audio applications and such. There is also an on-board FM radio with digital tuning and presets.


My one complaint about the unit was actually that I was not able to get it to work with my cable remote to adjust the volume. Theoretically (according to the instructions) this should be possible so long as the HDMI inputs are being used and the TV is CEC (aka AnyNet+, EasyLink, Bravia Sync, etc depending on your TV). Audio via CEC is a feature of HDMI 1.3, I believe, and I’m not sure that my TV has that so it’s worth checking in advance if your TV is compatible. I was able to program my universal remote (from TW Cable) to work with the basic functions of the TH-BC3 as an auxiliary device though, so that somewhat alleviated the hassle of having a separate remote just for volume.


Ultimately for my set-up, the sound bar just wasn’t right. I have my TV mounted above the fireplace and there was not enough room above the mantle to mount the speaker (the instructions call for at least 10cm of space above the unit to make room for the heat vents). And even if it is among the smaller 2.1 sound bars available, it’s still pretty big and I just couldn’t get used to the look of it. It was also a bit too much for my relatively small space – I’d say this is probably better used in a 20’ room than my relatively tight 14’ wide room. But overall I think it’s a very good product at a very reasonable price ($150 for the TH-BC1, $200 for the BC-3) and I think those looking for a sound bar would do well to consider the TH-BC3.
 

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Thanks for this review. Did you ever compare this to any other soundbars? I currently use the Vizio VSB200 with my TV, just need stereo for this TV (wife and kids) as have a surround sound system for my tv and movie watching. Was thinking of getting the JVC as it has an auto off (I keep the Vizio on all the time so kids don't have to try and figure things out if the remote does not switch it on automatically by mistake). Also it has a subwoofer out which I like just in case (I am trying to minimize all the wireless devices in the house).


Thanks
 

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Hey perfect, thanks for doing a review on this. I had just saw a soundbar at Target, that had FM tuner and iPod dock on it. I thought dang, that's awesome what a great idea to combine those. One of the first one's I got on a search was this JVC TH-BC3. I came here and found a review. I like the functionality, and the price range, and for my space and situation, I think it would work great.


What other soundbars are out there, with FM tuner and iPod docks? That's definately what I want to go with.
 
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