TCL teamed up with Roku at CES 2020 to release a soundbar that eased the TV setup process with on-screen instructions and settings courtesy of the “Roku TV-Ready” program. The two companies are doing it again at this year’s CES with a new soundbar that connects wirelessly to Roku TVs.
TCL 8-series 4K UHD LCD TV (65-inch class, model 65Q825)
Slated to arrive later this year, the Alto R1 is an all-in-one, 2.0-channel soundbar that marks TCL’s first truly wireless soundbar—well, wireless save for the power cord.
The Alto R1 manages its wireless audio trick with help from a reference design from Roku that allows for a point-to-point Wi-Fi connection between a soundbar and a Roku-powered TV, meaning there’s no need for HDMI or optical cables. Roku announced its new reference design late last week.
As with the Alto 9+, the 3.1-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar that TCL unveiled a year ago at CES, the Alto R1 will be a Roku TV-Ready model, which means Roku TV users will be guided through the setup process with on-screen instructions and settings.
Unlike the Alto 9+, the R1 won’t support Dolby Atmos, nor will it offer virtualized 3D audio via DTS Virtual:X. Instead, the soundbar will come with straight-up Dolby Audio support, similar to many budget soundbars. Also missing will be support for Alexa and Google Assistant, although you will be able to stream audio to the Alto R1 from your phone via Bluetooth.
TCL also announced a few higher-end, HDMI-enabled soundbars for 2021, including its first models with built-in AirPlay 2, plus support for Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Due later this year, the 3.1.2-channel Alto 8e boasts a wireless subwoofer and upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos, it will also come with AirPlay 2, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Spotify Connect support.
Meanwhile, the Alto 82i will be yet another Dolby Atmos soundbar (no word on the exact channel configuration) with AirPlay 2, Alexa, and Google Assistant support, although it will swap out the wireless subwoofer for a pair of built-in subwoofers. Rounding out TCL’s 2021 soundbar lineup will be a fourth, “premium” model with Dolby Atmos support, TCL said.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.