PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar Review

Disclosure: PRISM+ Australia provided Blog of Dad with the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar and other products mentioned for the purpose of review and ongoing use. Any thoughts expressed about PRISM+ products in this article are based on my own experiences. For more information, visit my disclosure statement.  

Many years ago I invested a reasonable amount of money in a 5.1 home theatre speaker setup consisting of Paradigm surround speakers, a Yamaha amplifier and a substantial amount of quality wiring. I diligently wired up the speakers and calibrated everything so that it the sound was perfect and it’s fair to say that I was thrilled with the result of all my hard work! It’s also fair to say that my wife was less-than-thrilled about the exposed cabling that was neatly run along the skirting board and the bulky speakers that disproportionately filled our small living area.

Then we moved. And while I love almost everything about my townhouse, the inability to in any way set up rear speakers has been something of a frustration for over seven years. Concrete slabs, hard floors and full brick walls make concealed cable runs impossible, while inconveniently-placed doorways and hallways rule out even using exposed cables run along skirting boards.

I have considered spending more money and investing in wireless rear speakers, but a lack of appropriately placed power points rules this out too. So, for the best part of the last decade, I have made do with a (still-great-sounding-but-not-what-I-want) 3.1 setup.

“Conventional wisdom” on audio forums will insist that one must invest significant sums of money in the pursuit of audio perfection and you don’t have to look too far in order to find someone tearing shreds of a newbie who dared suggest they would try a soundbar. This attitude, however, fails to account for the less-than-ideal spaces in which the vast majority of our televisions sit. A dedicated, perfectly fit out and calibrated home theatre room is simply out of reach for the average Australian.

As for the soundbar, it has come a long way since the underwhelming first generation offerings that may have negatively influenced people in the past. The PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar is one of the newest offerings in the Australian market, and given the specifications on paper I was extremely excited to check it out. Could this finally be the ideal audio solution for my awkward living room space?


PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar

10 out of 10
PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar

In some ways, the PRISM+ Symphony is a soundbar that is ahead of its time. Dolby Atmos is still a developing area and content can, at times, be a little tricky to access. It also relies on all elements in the setup supporting Dolby Atmos, so pairing via HDMI ARC with a compatible television such as the excellent PRISM+ Q55 PRO QE is a great idea.
But whether enjoying everything that Dolby Atmos content has to offer, or more standard Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks… or even good old stereo audio tracks, the PRISM+ Symphony soundbar delivers an enjoyable listening experience. The wide array of speakers and the clever downward-firing subwoofer have left me smiling with every use, and I genuinely marvel at how far soundbar design has come.
Sure, you can spend significantly more and get an even better listening experience, but that has always been the way with audio and it is a treacherous path to do down. The price of some audiophile-grade equipment is truly staggering! For the vast majority of users looking to improve the sound of their living room television setup, or for those seeking the Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 experience without the significant home alterations required to properly install new speakers, the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar presents a compelling option. As is the PRSIM+ way, the value proposition here is extremely hard to beat!

Ease of Use
10/10
Look & Feel
10/10
Value for Money
10/10
Performance
10/10

Pros

Very simple to set up

Amazing value for Dolby Atmos

All formats tested sound great

Plenty of connectivity options

HDMI ARC/eARC for simplified connectivity to TV

11 speakers (including subwoofer)

Clever subwoofer works well

Plenty of power

Cons

Directional sound not quite as profound as with dedicated speakers

Finding Dolby Atmos content can be tricky if you do not have Netlflix or Disney+ subscription.


PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar – First Impressions

I received the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar alongside the PRISM+ Q55 PRO QE 4K Android TV that had also been sent for review, so its fair to say it was a big day for home entertainment in my house! You can read my detailed thoughts on that excellent television in my full review.

The PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar is a long (1.2 metres), slender soundbar that is aesthetically a great match for any modern, streamlined TV. I was surprised by just how large it is, although once I started to delve into the inner workings of the Symphony I realised there was a lot going on inside. Even with its extreme length, the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar is still visually less disruptive than the three individual Paradigm speakers and stand-alone amplifier that it replaced. In my eyes it looks fantastic!

PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar

In part, those good looks are down to the streamlined form. A single wrap-around black mesh grill covers the entire front and top of the Symphony Soundbar, with only a few small features, such as the PRISM+ logo on the left and the Dolby Atmos logo on the right breaking up the look. On top of the soundbar, four small round physical buttons in the centre provide fast access to basic controls, when you don’t want to bother with the remote.

The black mesh doesn’t only cover the impressive number of discrete speakers hiding below, it also disguises the white LED display. This lights up to provide key information such as selected input, volume, sound mode and source format. It is a clever design and I really like the way it works.

The soundbar is accompanied by a subwoofer that is sizable by soundbar standards, although smaller than the Paradigm version it replaced. The speaker component is downward firing, which creates an acoustic coupling with the floor and produces more output for the power used. The downside is that a small amount of finer detail is lost, but it is a smart choice for this kind of setup. The subwoofer connects to the Symphony Soundbar wirelessly, meaning that positioning it is easy and it comes pre-paired and ready to go.

PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar Review

The PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar is extremely easy to set up. Simply plug in the power cable for the soundbar, the power cable for the wireless subwoofer and a connection to the television and you are up and running!

I first tried it with my older television, which is sadly lacking in ARC support but could connect via an optical cable. The PRISM+ is pleasingly accommodating of older hardware, with several different options available for connection including optical, HDMI, AUX, USB, Bluetooth and even coaxial. That is an admirable set of options and should cater to the needs of just about every possible user! 

The PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar has two additional HDMI ports. This can be used for plugging in devices such as Blu-ray players or gaming consoles, without having to run them directly to the television.


PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar – Specifications

I wasn’t kidding when I said that soundbars have come a long way, and the specifications packed into this long, slimline unit prove it! A massive 11 individual speakers combine to deliver a 5.1.2 channel surround sound experience. These speakers include four upward firing (two silver diaphragm and two silk dome tweeter), four full range frontal speakers and 2 surround speakers that project from each end of the soundbar. The 8″ down-firing subwoofer speaker rounds out the package by bringing the bass.

All those speakers require a suitable home and that goes a long way to explaining the impressive length of the Symphony Soundbar. It comes in at 1.2 metres long – coincidently almost a perfect fit for the PRISM+ Q55 PRO QE 4k TV! The other dimension are much more constrained – just 7cm of height and 10.8cm of depth. All together the entire package weighs a respectable 9.7kg.

PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar Review

A peak power output of 760 watts means that the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar packs a decent punch – it is certainly able to fill my open-plan living area with loud and clear music at a volume well above my comfortable listening level. In my volume test (using AC/DC’s Highway to Hell via the Deezer app on the Q55 PRO QE) I gave up well before the Symphony reached full capacity out of fear that my ears might explode. With a Max SPL of 98dB, it’s safe to say that the Symphony Soundbar can get plenty loud.

The PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar is compatible with a number of important formats, such as Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and (amazingly for this price) Dolby Atmos. Atmos is the show-stopping feature here, although that comes with one caveat – actually accessing Atmos content at the moment can be a little… challenging if you do not have Netlflix or Disney+ subscription.

As mentioned above, interface options include optical, coaxial, AUX, Bluetooth 5.0 USB playback, HDMI video, and HDMI (eARC) and HDMI ARC. That is a huge range for a soundbar and must surely cater for just about every need. Perhaps those with multiple consoles may find themselves short an HDMI port, but even that shouldn’t be a big deal as the eARC connection means that it really shouldn’t matter whether devices are plugged into the television’s HDMI ports or the soundbar’s. 


PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar – Use

As I mentioned, setting up the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar was a breeze, so I was up and listening in no time.

I started by testing the optical connection with my old television, at it lacks ARC. This is the same way that I connected my previous Paradigm 5.1 (or 3.1) system, so it seemed like a good starting point.

It was a good thing that the Symphony was so quick and easy to set up, because it was rapidly approaching Bluey time in my household and NOTHING gets in the way of Bluey time. Bluey is actually a pretty good way for me to test a soundbar – it has a great musical soundtrack that I am extremely familiar with and plenty of balance between dialogue and music. Sure, it isn’t broadcasting in Dolby Atmos, but then again neither is the vast majority of what we consume on our televisions. A good soundbar must be able to deal well with the lossy, compressed stereo audio of streaming services, as well as the high-end.

My first impression was that I certainly hadn’t lost anything by moving away from the much more expensive (and cumbersome) home theatre system. The Symphony Soundbar came to life with the joyful sounds of Australia’s favourite cartoon family! Dialogue was crisp and clear, and the soundtrack was vibrant and fun as always. The subwoofer worked away subtly in the corner of the room – delivering pleasing bass that enhanced the mid and highs of the soundbar, without overwhelming or dominating.

PRISM+ Q55 PRO QE Review

The same could be said of The Wiggles, where vibrant, upbeat music is a staple of the experience. I must say that the Red Wiggle’s (Simon Pryce) big booming baritone voice took me by surprise! There was a pleasing rumble when he fired up!

My next test was to use Deezer Premium via Bluetooth streamed from my phone. I set Flow to run and sat back to enjoy the experience. Flow was in a cruisy jazz club mood, starting with Why Try to Change Me Now before moving on to What A Difference A Day Makes and then On the Sunny Side of the Street. These tracks provided a very pleasurable listening experience at a moderate volume, with clear vocals and a good balance of the multiple instruments, each clearly definable.

As Deezer’s Flow tends to do, it then took a hard right turn into Nirvana’s Come As You Are. Naturally I cranked the volume and wallowed in some teenage angst, before remembering that I am now a middle-aged man conducting a review of a pretty impressive soundbar. I can tell you that the teenage version of me would have been thrilled to have such amazing instant access to high-quality streams of the entire mid-90s grunge catalogue, delivered over such an impressive piece of audio equipment!

Bluetooth is convenient and reasonably enjoyable, but it is still a compressed format and suffers some loss as a result. Thankfully, the new PRISM+ Q55 PRO QE 4K tv that I also had in for review comes with Android TV. This operating system is packed full of apps, including a Deezer app that can support high quality streams. I immediately replayed Come As You Are through the TV app and it sounded even better, with noticeably more depth. To get the most out of the PRISM+ Symphony soundbar, feed it the high quality audio it deserves!

The PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar is well balanced out of the box, but it does also come with a couple of features that can fine-tune the experience. A “mode” button switches between sound profiles including news, sport, gaming, music and movie, while bass and treble levels can also be adjusted easily via buttons on the remote. I tend to be more than happy with the default levels in the music setting, although I do occasionally crank the bass up a notch or two, if the song calls for it!

Speaking of that bass, the 8″ subwoofer is an interesting beast. In terms of pure thumping power, the Symphony Soundbar’s sub isn’t in the same class as the 10″, 120 watt Paradigm version that it replaced (although it can still get plenty thumpy when cranked). However, the downward firing design creates an interesting sensation. Even at moderate listening levels, there is a very gentle vibration from the speaker interacting with the floor. It doesn’t rattle things around or feel out of place, it just creates a unique sensation… Kind of like being more physically connected to the music through the bass. I really like it! I will note that I am testing the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar on a very robust concrete slab floor covered with hybrid floorboards. I have no idea what impact other types of flooring might have.


 

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is the headline act with the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar and, frankly, it is an impressive feature for a soundbar in this class to have! Dolby Atmos content takes advantage of those upward-firing speakers to create a 3-dimensional audio experience that is truly immersive. It is spectacular audio technology, but it is worth keeping in mind that in may ways it is still in its infancy and actually finding Dolby Atmos-coded content can still be a little challenging. Fortunately, where Atmos isn’t available, the other (still thoroughly enjoyable) Dolby surround formats kick in, creating a 5.1 experience that is thoroughly enjoyable.

It is also worth keeping in mind that the PRISM+ creates this 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos experience entirely by using speakers positioned at the front of the room. Essentially it works by bouncing sound off walls and the ceiling, in order to create a “dome of sound”. Full home theatre setups physically place speakers in the ceiling and to the sides of the room. Naturally, the experience is slightly different, but then again so is the price-tag and the amount of effort required to get up and running. I have already mentioned my struggles (and failure) with a standard 5.1 system, and I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of us have no intention of going through the expense and hassle of installing speakers in the ceiling anytime soon, so to even have this option in a convenient soundbar it a huge plus!

PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar Review

I used Disney Plus to test both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital tracks on the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar. This in its self was not as straightforward as I had hoped. It appears Disney’s application of Atmos is not consistent across apps and that the Android TV app isn’t supported. I tried a range of movies that were labelled as “Atmos”, but the soundbar consistently identified the soundtrack as Dolby Audio.

I switched to the Roku-based Telstra TV and Dolby Atmos fired up without a fuss in the Disney app. Hopefully as Atmos-enabled speaker systems become more commonplace in households, access to Atmos content will also improve.

The good news is that the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar delivered a pleasing and thoroughly enjoyable listening experience no matter in both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital 5.1. I used the differences between the two sources to switch between them while watching a range of movies, including Encanto, some of the latest Star Wars films and Black Panther.

In both 5.1 and Atmos, dialogue came through crisp and clear – even at low volume settings (vital for parent enjoyment after the kids go to bed!). This is thanks to the dedicated centre channel speakers that do an excellent job. At louder volumes, action and soundtracks packed plenty of punch – certainly more than I would ever need! In action movies in particular, that rumble from the sub through the floor adds an extra layer of satisfaction.

PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar Review

The directional sound is not quite as profound as having side speaker positioned directly next to your ear, but it is there and it adds subtle layers of depth that add to the immersive feel of movies in both 5.1 and Atmos. Disney musicals such as Encanto are an absolute blast no matter which format is used and I had trouble really discerning much difference between the two. 

The height of Atmos became slightly more noticeable in elements of Star Wars movies, although it was still reasonably subtle. The most enjoyable Dolby Atmos experience so far has been Black Panther, where the upward-firing speakers worked to develop a more 3D sound experience than 5.1 – especially during the action scenes! It has certainly made me eager to explore more content that is able to take full advantage of the Dolby Atmos setup.


PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar – Final Thoughts

In some ways, the PRISM+ Symphony is a soundbar that is ahead of its time. Dolby Atmos is still a developing area and content can, at times, be a little tricky to access. It also relies on all elements in the setup supporting Dolby Atmos, so pairing via HDMI ARC with a compatible television such as the excellent PRISM+ Q55 PRO QE is a great idea.

But whether enjoying everything that Dolby Atmos content has to offer, or more standard Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks… or even good old stereo audio tracks, the PRISM+ Symphony soundbar delivers an enjoyable listening experience. The wide array of speakers and the clever downward-firing subwoofer have left me smiling with every use, and I genuinely marvel at how far soundbar design has come.

Sure, you can spend significantly more and get an even better listening experience, but that has always been the way with audio and it is a treacherous path to do down. The price of some audiophile-grade equipment is truly staggering! For the vast majority of users looking to improve the sound of their living room television setup, or for those seeking the Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 experience without the significant home alterations required to properly install new speakers, the PRISM+ Symphony Soundbar presents a compelling option. As is the PRISM+ way, the value proposition here is extremely hard to beat!

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