The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of tech gear

AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Review

A good step up over built-in TV speakers, but falls short of premium sound quality
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $100 List | $100 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive
Cons:  Mediocre sound quality, flimsy looking design
Manufacturer:   Amazon
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Jun 12, 2017
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46
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 11
  • Sound Quality - 40% 2
  • Ease of Use - 30% 7
  • Sound Customization - 15% 7
  • Style/Design - 15% 4

Our Verdict

Is this soundbar for audiophiles? Definitely not. Is it still worth buying? For some people, certainly. TV's have been getting thinner and thinner, leaving less and less room for speakers. This has resulted in state of the art, 4K TVs that somehow sound worse than the 20-year old cathode ray behemoth rotting in your basement. That is where the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel comes in. For a fraction of the cost of many other models you get a substantial step up in audio quality from most flat-screen TV speakers. If you're looking for the most refined, high-quality listening experience possible, this isn't the soundbar for you. But if you just got a great new TV and love everything about it except for how it sounds, this is the least expensive option we've found for fixing that issue.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $100 List
$99.99 at Amazon
$700 List
$699.00 at Amazon
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$400 List
$399.00 at Amazon
$200 List
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Pros InexpensiveGreat sound, stylish, useful sound modesGood sound, lots of availbale sound customizationGreat sound, Alexa built-in, Airplay compatibleInexpensive, good sound, easy to use
Cons Mediocre sound quality, flimsy looking designInitial setup of the Sonos App can be finicky, expensiveQuite large, works best with 50"+ TVsInitial setup of Sonos app can be finickyFlimsy remote
Bottom Line A good step up over built-in TV speakers, but falls short of premium sound qualityThe perfect choice for those looking for the best possible sound qualityA good choice if you can find it on saleTop-tier sound for a mid-level priceA great choice for those looking for a better sound experience on a budget
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Rating Categories AmazonBasics 2.1... Sonos Playbar ZVOX SB500 Sonos Beam Yamaha YAS-108
Sound Quality (40%)
10
0
2
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Ease Of Use (30%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
Sound Customization (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
Style Design (15%)
10
0
4
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Specs AmazonBasics 2.1... Sonos Playbar ZVOX SB500 Sonos Beam Yamaha YAS-108
Dimensions 31.5" x 3.2" x 3.5" 35.4" x 3.4" x 5.5" 43.9" x 3.3" x 5.7" 25.6" x 2.7" x 3.9" 35" x 2.2" x 5.2"
External Subwoofer No No (optional) No No (optional) No
Inputs (wired) Digital audio in (optical), AUX 3.5mm, Dual RCA Digital audio in (optical), Ethernet ports (2) Analog stereo input, 2 x Optical digital input Digital audio in (optical), Ethernet, HDMI (ARC) Digital audio in (optical), AUX 3.5mm, HDMI

Our Analysis and Test Results

The AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel isn't a stellar performer, but at least adequately fixes most of the problems with the tinniness and lack of depth that comes with the speakers that get crammed into most flatscreen TVs.


Performance Comparison


While the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel earned the lowest overall score in our testing, we still think it offers value to the right person. If you're looking for the best quality sound possible, you might as well stop here and jump back over to our main review. But if you're looking for a cheap way to make your TV sound a bit better, read on.


Sound Quality


The AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel picked up the lowest score in our sound quality testing, earning just a 2 out of 10.


Some context would be helpful here. 2 out of 10 sounds like (and is) a terrible score. But that low score is in comparison to other soundbars. When compared to the sound quality of the built-in speakers of all the TVs we listened to, the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel is head and shoulders better. Comparatively, it makes dialogue sound less tinny and more crisp, it adds depth and nuance to cinematic scores, and even adds some punch to loud sound effects. Yes, every other soundbar we tested does this better, but they also all cost a lot more. The AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel doesn't cost much, and doesn't feel like a huge investment to make your TV sound a lot better.

Ease of Use


The AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel keeps true to its name and keeps things simple. That simplicity earned it a 7 out of 10 in our ease of use testing.


We had it up and running in less than 5 minutes, and its interface was straightforward enough that we didn't need the manual to get things started. The remote control is simple and streamlined, and the soundbar itself has some simple controls in case you lose the remote. We also had no issues pairing Bluetooth devices with the soundbar, and the connection always stayed solid.

The AmazonBasics' controls are simple and indicate which sound mode is engaged.
The AmazonBasics' controls are simple and indicate which sound mode is engaged.

Sound Customization


While the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel doesn't provide any EQ adjustments, it does provide a few preset sound modes. These include standard, new (similar to the enhanced dialogue modes of many other models) and movie. We did notice that the movie mode provided some better bass, and that the news mode made speech a bit crisper. Overall this performance earned the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel a score of 7 out of 10 in this metric.


Design/Style


The AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel was the worst performer in our design/style metric, earning only a 4 out of 10. This was for one reason: the construction just looks and feels cheap. The all plastic body and cloth cover give a sense of low quality manufacturing. Luckily the all black body is fairly inconspicuous, so it won't create a huge eyesore in your living room. However, it doesn't look nearly as nice as most of the other models we tested.

The AmazonBasics looks ok from a distance  but up close the construction looks low quality.
The AmazonBasics looks ok from a distance, but up close the construction looks low quality.

Value


For what it is, that feels like a fair price. If you've already sunk a bunch of money into a TV that pleases your eyes but not your ears, this is an effective and cheap way to bring the sound up to snuff. Yes you can get better sound by paying more on the Yamaha YAS-108, but if you're just looking to ditch some of the tinniness and lack of depth that comes with modern built-in TV speakers, this is a better deal.

Conclusion


The AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel doesn't sound amazing, but it is the least expensive option we've found for significantly improving the sound of your TV.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata