People with hearing loss or partial deafness may find dialogue the most difficult sound to discern when enjoying a movie or TV show. The TV Voice Pro soundbar and Air earphones combination aims to help with this and is designed to bring clarity to speech audio. The wireless earbuds, which can be used in conjunction with the soundbar or on their own as a standalone set of earphones, work well in either format. But by the end of our testing, we found that the Voice Pro concept is ultimately let down by the performance of the soundbar.
The inability to hear the speech or voice parts of a TV show or movie is a real issue for many people and becomes more complicated when two people with different levels of hearing loss live under the same roof.
The TV Voice Pro soundbar is aimed at helping people hear speech audio more clearly on their TVs, and it can also be packaged with either the TV Voice Pro Original or TV Voice Pro Air wireless earphones, allowing two people to set individual volumes for whatever they're watching.
The soundbar and earphones can be used in the same room to listen to the same movie or show, or you can use the earphones independently and connect them to a different TV or another audio source like a smartphone or speaker with Bluetooth support.
The bundle includes a soundbar with remote control and a Bluetooth earphone set with connection option to a TV using either an optical or analog input.
The TV Voice Pro soundbar is a small bar design at around 80cm wide and less than 7cm high, so it shouldn't interfere with your viewing when it's placed below the TV on a table. It can also be wall mounted, but the mounting solution is just brackets screwed into the back of the unit and seems to be more of an afterthought than part of the initial design.
The soundbar includes six individual speaker drivers and an array of inputs that should enable easy connection to just about any TV. HDMI ARC is the best and simplest connection method for almost all modern TVs, but you can also connect via an optical (TOSLINK) connection or analog audio. Cables for all of the supported types of connection are provided.
There's no subwoofer built-in or separately supplied, nor is there the option to connect one. The focus of this device is to bring the speech part of the audio out into the room.
The soundbar has on-board controls on one end, but the labelling is not easy to read. There's also no informative display, just four coloured LEDs on the same surface as the controls.
When using the supplied remote control you get a series of spoken responses (which are very clearly spoken and intelligible) from the soundbar, but spoken confirmation is only given for some commands, like power on/off and when you select the input source. There's no confirmation for commands like volume or tone adjustments.
Thankfully the remote uses AAA batteries and not a coin cell.
The remote is simple yet functional, although the buttons are quite small and closely spaced. Unlike the latest Bluetooth remotes, this one is very directional, meaning it needs to be pointed directly at the middle of the soundbar.
Once set up, we tested the soundbar by listening to a range of content including live TV news, a TV documentary, stereo music and a movie on DVD, with two of our audio experts providing feedback on general audio quality, particularly speech and clarity.
The 'Movie' and 'Music' modes made voices sound a bit harsh, but this may be a reasonable trade-off as the voices were very clear and distinct. The dialogue setting seemed to make the voices softer while also reducing background sounds. Overall, the sound was nice and clear, with good stereo separation for stereo music and the DVD movie.
The soundbar delivered a noticeable improvement on the audio produced by the 50-inch TV used in our test. On the downside, the panel felt the unit lacked a strong bass response for sound effects to be heard in the movie scenes.
While listening to live TV, our testers heard an occasional high-frequency vibration/sound, like a brief 'ZEEEP!' noise. This would be annoying for the average listener and we felt it may have been an issue with the unit we bought. The noise didn't occur when listening to music or movie footage delivered to the TV over HDMI.
You can connect the unit to your TV via an optical (TOSLINK) or analog audio connection as well as Bluetooth.
The TV Voice Pro bundle includes the TV Voice Pro Air earphones, which can be used in conjunction with the soundbar, as a separate TV audio solution using a Bluetooth transmitter connected to the TV, or as a standalone set of earphones you can use with any music player or smartphone that has Bluetooth support.
The in-ear earphones come with small, medium and large caps so that the buds suit different ears.
The Air earphones are model TVP03 and are rechargeable via the supplied USB power supply. The standard connection option is through a Bluetooth transmitter, which in turn connects to the TV via TOSLINK or analog audio IN. The transmitter is also connected to a second USB power supply.
The in-ear earphones are supplied with small, medium and large caps so that the buds suit different ears. While not truly wireless (the left and right buds are wired), you do get a small control on the connection wire to adjust the volume, but the controls have poor labelling.
The earbuds are a solid performer and work well in conjunction with the soundbar or as standalone headphones.
When purchasing the TV Voice Pro bundle online (just as any regular customer would), our CHOICE buyer found the experience to be clear and simple. The unit arrived within days and was in good condition. But as our listening panel wanted to rule out the potential for a faulty product with the background noise when delivering broadcast speech in isolation, we decided to order a replacement.
The customer service person we spoke to asked a series of sensible questions to check that it wasn't a poor connection process or set-up error and then sent out another unit which arrived the next day, together with a return label to send the original unit back to the factory. While the second unit still exhibited this occasional introduced sound or hiss when listening to TV commentary, we decided not to continue our tests with a third unit.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.