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I replaced my expensive Klipsch soundbar with a $300 Hisense, and it surprised me in the best way

If you're looking to improve the sound of your television and don't want to pay upwards of a thousand dollars, the Hisense AX5125H delivers.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Hisense AX5125H 5.1.2Ch Sound Bar.

The Hisense soundbar is very easy to set up. In minutes, you'll be enjoying a much-improved sound experience from your TV.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I'm going to preface this by saying that for nearly a decade, my wife and I have been spoiled by a brilliant Klipsch soundbar that set the standard pretty high. Although our Klipsch is fairly basic (just a bar and a subwoofer with no EQ or other frills), the sound it produces is amazing. 

Because of that, the bar for reviewing similar devices is high enough that few can reach it. That means I have to temper my opinions on other soundbars… especially regarding midrange, which so many soundbars don't seem to handle well (more on that in a bit).

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Suffice it to say, it's a rare occasion that I review a soundbar that exceeds what I've grown accustomed to in that (no longer produced) Klipsch speaker system. So, when I received the Hisense AX5125H 5.1.2Ch soundbar, I knew not to expect the same quality that has been filling our TV room for years.

View at Amazon

Even assuming that expectation wouldn't be met, I was pleasantly surprised at the sound the Hisense soundbar produced. Before I get into my experience, let's talk specs.

The specs

The specs for the Hisense soundbar are fairly standard.

  • 5.1.2 Surround with 500W max audio power.
  • Nine speakers within the soundbar: Left and right front channel, center channel, left and right rear surround channel.
  • Wireless 6.5-inch subwoofer with 180W max audio power.
  • Wireless surround speakers.
  • Seven preset EQ modes (to deliver specific sounds for things like Movies, Music, Voice, and more).
  • Dolby Atmos.
  • Roku TV Ready through the HDMI (eARC) connection.
  • Wireless music streaming via Bluetooth.
  • Connectivity via HDMI, Bluetooth, or Optical.
  • One HDMI in and one HDMI out.
  • Price: Currently $320 on Amazon

My experience

First off, the setup of the soundbar is incredibly simple. Place the speakers where you want them, plug everything in, and the wireless connectivity will take care of the rest. In minutes, you'll have your soundbar up and running and ready to fill your TV room with glorious sound.

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But there's a problem, one that haunts so many soundbars. However, that problem can also be a blessing. Let me explain.

The very first thing I noticed with the Hisense soundbar was that the midrange sounded overly tinny. For many, this isn't a problem. For me… it is. I like the midrange to be a bit less subtle and warmer. Any time I hear midrange that's overly harsh (or tinny), I immediately assume the device producing the sound is cheap. And no matter what EQ setting I tried with the Hisense, the midrange never improved.

However (and this is a big however), have you noticed that, more often than not, voices are becoming harder and harder to hear (especially in movies)? The good thing about a midrange that's front and center is that those voices all of a sudden become prominent. Thanks to that, you won't miss out on dialog because of a too-loud score or sound effects.

And with the Hisense, the surround speakers bolster those voices even more, although that's not really how surround speakers are supposed to work (they're supposed to add ambient sound to whatever it is that you're watching to give you an immersive feeling). The way surround should work is voices are supposed to be focused in front of you in the center (unless a character is speaking from off-screen). But because the Hisense has a tendency to send voices to the surround speakers, it bolsters the dialog in such a way that you'll never miss a word.

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That, my friends, is a happy accident many users will greatly appreciate.

As far as bass is concerned, it's punchy but not overly so. The subwoofer adds to the overall effect of the sound, but it would have been great if the low pass filter could be changed to add just a bit of higher-end bass (to compensate for the tinny midrange and give the voices a bit more resonance). Even with that limitation, the bass is passable for both movies and television. Remember, however, the bass adjustments are very limited, so don't expect to add thunderous booms. The good news is the limited sound adjustments make it very user-friendly. You won't find anything overly complicated with this soundbar.

Another bonus is that when movies or TV sound is spot on, the Hisense AX5125H 5.1.2Ch soundbar really shines. On the other hand, if you're watching older films or TV series, the sound will suffer under the weight of too much midrange, making those laugh tracks of yore even harder to tolerate.

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Finally, the supplied remote is very easy to use and allows you to increase the bass and treble (though not by much), the volume, change the EQ, enable surround, connect via Bluetooth, and mute the sound.

The Hisense remote.

The Hisense remote is perfectly simple.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's buying advice

This is simple: If you're not an audiophile and you have trouble hearing dialog in your TV and movies, the Hisense AX5125H 5.1.2Ch soundbar will be a great addition to your experience. And at its current price of $320, it's a worthwhile investment… as long as you don't expect high-end sound.

For anyone with budget constraints who still wants to upgrade the sound of the TV-watching experience, the Hisense AX5125H 5.1.2Ch soundbar is a solid choice that will serve you well (especially when dialog is buried under decibels of music and sound effects).

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