Ahh, surround sound. Once you have it, you never want anything else in your home cinema life. Except those wires. You can always do without the wires.

Wires have always been the main problem with true surround sound setups. A classic 5.1, room-filling surround sound, the kind that makes you feel like you’re at the movies, generally has one wire that goes to your TV, one that goes to an outlet, another connecting it to a subwoofer (and maybe a wire powering that too), and still more wires connecting each individual speaker. It’s a recipe for a room full of tripping hazards. And let’s be real: It’s just plain annoying.

But more and more, surround sounds are demanding our attention, especially since ultra-skinny flat-panel TVs deliver especially tinny sound. Especially if you’re a gamer, you want that surround sound too, to bring Call of Duty to life, put you on the court for NBA 2K, and power explosive audio whenever you rewatch the Avengers.

Enter Bluesound, a venerable audiophile company that’s suddenly offering gamers (and everyone else, really) an ultra-versatile, truly wireless surround sound setup that’s fully customizable to your needs and wants. The Pulse Wireless Home Theater setup is actually a collection of three different Bluesound devices (Pulse Soundbar 2i, Pulse Flex 2i speakers and Pulse Sub+ subwoofer), that group together to meet all your home theater needs in elegant, wire-free fashion.

Bluesound’s Pulse Soundbar 2i is the key to unlocking all this goodness, an easy-to-use, ultra-potent home cinema sound solution that can take things to the next level if you pair it with the right force. It’s perhaps the first competitor into a space that Sonos has owned. And while there’s room to improve, it’s a strong first entry into the space for Bluesound, and a unit that anyone should be proud to have in their living room.

It starts with the Pulse Soundbar 2i ($899) as the base, and this soundbar has pop. It’s built to be the centerpiece to your home theater, and the Pulse Soundbar 2i delivers excellent well-rounded sound. Bluesound is an audiophile company, after all, so the crescendos of the score stand out at the beginning of the 2015 film “Hitman,” and when Rupert Friend’s character shots his first target, there’s a spectacularly special echo of the bullets falling, something I’ve missed on other surround sounds. When the bullets fly frenetically in Borderlands 3 on Xbox Series X, there’s similar detail; drawing that from a video game is special.

This of course, is part of the magic of the Pulse Soundbar 2i when it comes to gaming: If your game offers distinct sound detail, Bluesound grabs it. There’s a little extra gravel to Batman’s voice in Arkham Knight, rustling of footsteps in Cyberpunk 2077, and in games with a musical score, like Tetris Effect, you get an even more pronounced treat.

That Pulse Soundbar 2i (and really, all Bluesound devices) is a unique to open too, premium from the get-go. Inside the box is a soundbar wrapped in a cloth bag, and a box that gets you started with everything you could possibly need (two power supply cables, an HDMI cable, and even an optical cable. There’s no way you can’t get rolling with this, and it plays easily with today’s newest gear, from Xbox Series X to PlayStation 5 to standard Blu-Ray.

The bar itself is heavy and stylish, with speakers that angle upward just slightly, and a minimalist blue circle the only light on the device. A la Sonos, you control the entire experience through an app, BluOS. BluOS offers you fine control, too, letting you adjust sound in nuanced fashion, altering gain on your subwoofer and tweaking other settings. Bluesound keeps things simple enough, though, offering enough toggles and quick setting adjustments that you never feel overwhelmed with the experience. There’s room for improvement on the app (finding all these settings can take awhile, and I hit the wrong button several times and went down a rabbit hole that took a few seconds to figure out), but by and large, the app does its job.

You’ve got two wires with the Pulse Soundbar 2i: One to connect to your source, and more to link to power. That’s it. And you won’t run anything else to your speaker, and that’s the beauty of it. Your rear speakers are a pair of Pulse Flex 2is, tiny, ultra-versatile speakers that can easily stand alone in any room. These speakers are potent in their own right, delivering quality bass but strong vocals when left in a room alone.

When paired with the Pulse Soundbar 2i, they can be plugged in anywhere in the room and work together to create an easy surround sound experience. Linking them to the Pulse Soundbar 2i takes just a minute or two through the app. Again, it takes awhile to figure things out, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a masterful experience.

The finishing touch is one of the smartest subs I’ve ever worked with, the Pulse Sub+. It’s an ultra-versatile unit that thinks ahead for you, built to be stood on its side or hidden under a high couch or bed. It also comes with a wall-mounting bracket. Truth be told, I actually left my sub out and exposed, partly because it’s design is so attractive, with a smooth black exterior and a bit of fabric in the center, that I wanted to show it off.

This sub is both powerful and subtle. It can deliver impactful bass when you want it, but that bass never ever overpowers the rest of the sound, even handling the bouncing basketballs that sometimes wreck the NBA 2K experience with aplomb.

It all adds up to a special surround system, and a new way forward ahead of old wired setups. Bluesound is giving you a unique option if you’re ready for a wireless sound future, and it does so without forcing you to pay everything in one moment. Just buy the soundbar now, add the Pulse Flexes later, and finish with the Sub+.

Or grab it all now. Either way, your home cinema life will never be more enjoyable.


4 out of 5 stars


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