It's officially a trend. Sound bars — in addition to making your television sound a lot better than it would on its own — are getting smarter. We've seen Android TV baked into a JBL Link Bar. Roku has its own Roku Smart Soundbar. And now Amazon Fire TV has gotten into the game with the Anker Nebula Soundbar.
Like the others, the gist is pretty simple: It's a soundbar with Amazon Fire TV baked in. That's it. That's the tweet.
The details, though, very much are worth discussing. Let's do this.
Amazon Fire TV
Make your TV smarter and sound better
- Sounds better than your TV speakers
- The same great Fire TV experience
- Nicely designed, usable remote
- Just doesn't have a lot of "oomph" to it
- Power cord could use another foot or two
Bottom line: It's a soundbar with Fire TV baked in. Like others in the class, it's better than not having a soundbar. But it's still lacking in the low end, doesn't have an option for an external subwoofer, and you can get better 5.1 systems for about the same price.
Looks good, sounds decent
Anker Nebula Soundbar What I Like
When it comes to basic soundbars — and audio equipment in general — you've got to set your expectations. While there are diamonds in the rough that'll outperform their price, more often than not you get what you pay for.
The Anker brand has made a name for itself in the world of accessories by making good stuff that does what it says, and does it well enough for the price. Generally speaking, we know it from batteries and headphones and Bluetooth speakers. They're good, and they don't cost too much.
|Speakers||2 3-inch 3W subwoofers, 2 1.5-inch 20W full-range|
|Inputs||1x optical, 1x 3.5mm|
|Output||1x HDMI ARC|
|Also||Remote control, HDMI cable, wall mount|
And so it's with that sort of context that we approach the Nebula Soundbar.
The result is twofold. First is that I very much enjoy the design of the Nebula Soundbar. It's right up there with the much more expensive JBL Link Bar. The fabric is taught (and hopefully remains so) and nicely contrasted by the gloss on the ends. The semi-hidden LEDs are prominent (OK, maybe a little too much so) and easy to read. The buttons on top — for power, input, EQ, and volume — are easy to use and plain to see.
Setup goes exactly the same as it does with any other Amazon Fire TV device. You'll sign in with your Amazon credentials, update some things, install some apps, and that's that.
The remote control basically is an Alexa Voice Remote, with a few tweaks. Most obvious is the inclusion of four custom shortcuts for Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, HBO and Amazon Music. There's also a dedicated button for soundbar settings and app switching, and another to switch to whatever live guide you've got. (Mine looked for the Fire TV Recast, for example.)
All in all, those are some pretty good changes to what already was a pretty functional remote control. And it's worth mentioning that this is still how you'll integrate with Alexa — hold down the microphone icon and start speaking.
You get what you pay for
Anker Nebula Soundbar What I Didn't Like
This is where context and expectations come back into play.
The Nebula Soundbar sounds decent, but not great. It crows about having dedicated subwoofers built in, but that's a sort of generalized spec than it is an indication of how things actually sound.
(And like in other soundbar reviews, this is where I'll repeat that I live with an entry-level, Dolby Atmos-enabled, 5.1 soundbar that pumps far more sound into my living room on a daily basis.)
While the end result will vary depending on the source material, my experience left me wanting more bass. Cranking the volume helped with that, but it's still just not the same as having a system with a dedicated external subwoofer. And as of this writing, the Nebula doesn't have that option.
My other issue was just a general lack of separation between the left and right channels. Again, I've been spoiled by a bigger, better (and more expensive) setup. The Nebula should be fine in a smaller bedroom. But it just doesn't hold up in the same way for an immersive living room experience.
Anker Nebula Sondbar
Should You Buy It? Sure
There's nothing about the Anker Nebula Soundbar that would lead me to tell you to not buy it. It's a perfectly decent soundbar. It's a perfectly good Amazon Fire TV device. And it's one of a new crop of soundbars that combines the audio and smart TV experiences in a way that's simple for folks to use, should they not want to muck about with any more wires than is absolutely necessary.
What it is not, I'd argue, a premium experience. (Whatever that means.) It's better on its own than the Roku Smart Soundbar, but not by much. (And it's $50 more than that option.) And it's definitely not as good as the $339 JBL Link Bar. And both of those have the option of external subwoofers — which I'd very much recommend if you're going to use a soundbar in a common area like a living room.
What you do get, however, is a decent audio experience. And you get the usual Amazon Fire TV experience. And you get it in a package that's easy to use and streamlines the entire viewing experience. There's something to be said for that.
As with all things, just know what it is you're getting before you buy.
Amazon Fire TV
Make your TV smarter and sound better
It's a soundbar with Fire TV baked in. Like others in the class, it's better than not having a soundbar. But it's still lacking in the low end, doesn't have an option for an external subwoofer, and you can get better 5.1 systems for about the same price.
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