Fluance AB40 Soundbase review: This speaker delivers a bona fide theater experience in any room
This $250 soundbase has a big footprint that delivers equally big sound.
By Theo Nicolakis
TechHiveJul 8, 2019 3:00 am PDT
At a Glance
Excellent, rich sound and deep bass at an entry-level price
Sports aptX codec for near CD-quality streaming over Bluetooth
Solid build and high-quality wood veneer
Won’t fit under TVs with feet that are more than 26 inches apart
No HDMI ports
Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase delivers a bona fide, earth-shaking, theater-like experience to any room.
Fluance’s AB40 High Performance Soundbase is another in a long line of well-built, high-value home audio products (though there have been occasional exceptions). This speaker delivers a chest-punching performance that’s sure to please home theater aficionados on a budget. Read on to find out why I liked the AB40 Soundbase so much.
What’s a soundbase?
Don’t confuse Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase with a soundbar. A soundbase is specifically designed to sit on a cabinet and support the weight of a television. Soundbase enclosures tend to be physically bigger and deeper—though often not as wide—as soundbars. A soundbase cannot be mounted on a wall. A soundbar, in contrast, is typically designed to hang on a wall or sit on a cabinet in front of your TV.
Soundbases can be put inside cabinets, too. If you choose to do this, follow the user manual’s recommendation and move the soundbase as close to the front edge as possible to achieve optimum audio performance. Should you choose an in-cabinet placement, let your ears be your guide. Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase lacks a bass contour switch or EQ for closed spaces, so you won’t be able to tone down the unit’s excellent bass response. Given that it’s a ported design, you might get overly boomy bass with an in-cabinet placement.
The first thing you’ll notice about the AB40 is its size. This baby is big—and it needs to be to support TVs. It measures 3.9 inches tall by 26 inches wide by 14 inches deep, and it has a tank-like construction. I noted the Soundbase’s 24-pound heft while unpacking it. There’s no hint of cheap plastic anywhere in the cabinet. Fluance says the Soundbase is rated to support TVs up to 65 inches wide and weighing up to 150 pounds.
Should your TV have a single pedestal, you’re all set. If you have a TV with feet more than 26 inches apart (such as the 65-inch Vizio P-Series Quantum I was using), you’ll have a potential problem. The Soundbase’s 3.9-inch height made it too tall to slide under the Vizio, so I had to put the Vizio’s legs on wood blocks to lift the TV high enough to provide the needed clearance.
Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase comes in your choice of black or “lucky bamboo” veneer finishes. My review sample came in black. The Soundbase uses the same high-quality wood veneer finish as Fluance’s other speakers. Fit and finish passed muster.
The perforated front grille is all metal and conceals the Soundbase’s two-way, six-driver system: Two 1.0-inch silk dome tweeters, and four 3.0-inch aluminum cones with rubber surrounds. A 90-watt Class D amplifier does the heavy lifting.
The AB40 Soundbase is all about audio performance. You will, however, find some basic high-tech features. The AB40 Soundbase sports a 3D DSP mode and a bass-boost EQ setting. The former supposedly creates a “more room-filling soundstage” while the latter boosts the volume of low-end frequencies. These artificial modes rarely appeal to me personally (and that hasn’t changed here), though you might find them euphonic in your home environment. DTS Virutal:X, which is my favorite among DSP modes, isn’t available on the AB40.
The AB40 Soundbase supports three input modes: TosLink optical, 3.5mm analog, and Bluetooth. The AB40 can pair with up to eight device profiles, though it can only play music from one device at a time.
Fluance takes Bluetooth wireless streaming quality up a notch with native aptX support. The Qualcomm aptX codec is a low-latency codec that yields near CD-quality streaming. You’ll need an aptX-compatible source to take advantage of this feature.
Fluance has come up with an ingenious solution to decipher which input is active. An LED light behind the grille changes color depending on the selected input.
A white light means TosLink the optical is selected, green stands for aux analog, and blue means Bluetooth. Fluance includes a small sticker on top of the soundbase detailing the meaning of each color for those who don’t like to read user manuals.
You can change the intensity of the LED or turn it off completely via the excellent remote control.
It’s all about the performance
To mimic a typical home setup, I connected the Fluance to a Vizio P-Series Quantum via TosLink optical. Sources included the Vizio’s native apps and Chromecast streaming via Tidal from my iPhone XS.
For me, any speaker or soundbar must play music well to have any worth. If a speaker can pass music muster, then movies and TV programming should be a piece of cake. Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase didn’t disappoint.
The AB40 sounded wonderful with pretty much any genre of music. I played the Avengers Endgame soundtrack via Tidal and was pleasantly surprised at the Fluance’s ability to render a good sound stage and solid top to bottom performance—especially the bass. Orchestral works are often a tough challenge for all-in-one units at this price point.
The AB40 showed an uncanny ability to render foundational bass notes on tracks such as “Time” from Hans Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack, Lorde’s “Royals,” and just about any other track I threw at it. The AB40 Soundbase will absolutely satisfy your bass cravings even though it doesn’t come with a subwoofer.
I did notice some compression here there, but nothing unexpected at the $250 price point.
If your primary purpose four a speaker is watching TV programs and movies, you’ll love the AB40 Soundbase’s performance. I spent time skipping though different channels and streaming programming via Vizio’s built-in app. I noted the AB0’s ability to render dialog intelligibly across a wide variety of programming. And I didn’t need that to be a Hollywood-produced blockbuster with perfect audio. For example, I came across the 1982 film, They Call Me Bruce, where the protagonist finds his life hopelessly complicated with people continually confusing him with Bruce Lee. I had no problem whatsoever making dialog out clearly on this and other streamed programs.
I should note that the AB40 Soundbase has a sonic sweet spot dead center. You’ll notice an ever-so-slight shift if you move to the right or left. Those of you with large couches that can accommodate four or more viewers will be happy to know that the Fluance maintained very good off-axis performance no matter where I chose to sit.
A no-frills, high-value proposition
Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase delivers a bona fide, earth-shaking, theater-like experience to any room. If you’re looking for a solid, no-frills, high-value speaker system to pair with your TV, look no further than Fluance’s AB40 Soundbase. This speaker blew me away for the price.
Audio quality and dialog intelligibility are this speaker’s chief strengths. And at this price point, any drawbacks are really nitpicking. Fluance offers a generous 30-day, risk-free, in-home trial that includes free shipping in both directions, so you have nothing to lose. Something tells me, Fluance doesn’t get many units back.