From its Capsule II portable projector, to its Liberty 2 Pro headphones, Anker is fast becoming a go-to brand in terms of affordable tech. Here’s why its Nebula Soundbar continues Anker’s trend of producing feature-rich accessories.
Up to now, the Nebula brand has designed and manufactured some excellent portable projection solutions, so it’s got the visuals nailed down. Where the Nebula Soundbar Fire TV Edition sets its stall is in terms of home-theater audio. It isn’t just a soundbar, you see. It offers plenty more in terms of extras, which we feel justifies the current $229 price tag.
It Looks the Part, to Start
If you are familiar with Anker’s Soundcore speakers such as the Flare 2 and Infini Pro , then you will probably know that it likes to dress its devices up in an understated grey fabric mesh. The Nebula Soundbar is no different. We found this to be a nice feature, as it enables the speaker to blend into its surroundings, particularly if you mount it to the shadowy underside of your TV stand.
This is a good job, as the soundbar is fairly hefty. It measures 92 x 11 x 6 cm (36.2 x 4.5 x 2.4 in) , so it can cast a fairly imposing shadow if it is fully on display. If you only have a small home theater setup, then the Nebula Soundbar can look a little out of place. That said, it does sit comfortably with the rest of my medium-sized setup.
Another point, where the aesthetics of the soundbar are concerned, is if you have any other of Anker’s mesh-covered accessories. If so, then this will fit in perfectly to provide visual consistency throughout your living space.
The left-hand end of the soundbar features the Nebula logo as a high-luster red badge, which stands out boldly against the grey mesh. At either end of the soundbar are the bass reflex ports, which are molded to match the sectional dimensions of the speaker. These have a glossy finish which contrasts pleasantly with the muted grey fabric.
A small glossy control panel sits up top (we’ll get to the controls in a second), and the rear of the unit houses the various inputs and outputs. These include your AC, AUX, optical, and USB inputs, and HDMI output for running Fire TV.
All in all, looks-wise it is really nice and blends in when placed with the rest of your home theater tech, providing you have a moderately sized TV stand. If you have a 42″ TV, then the associated stand should house it snugly. A recess over 38″ in width is ideal as the Soundbar is ~36″ in length. Anything bigger and you won’t have a problem fitting it in at all.
Staying in Control
The Nebula Soundbar offers several options in terms of controlling the unit. There are limited controls on the top of the system, as previously mentioned. These include the standby/power, mode select, EQ, and volume plus and minus.
The integrated controls are all included in one glossy strip, with each control being capacitive. This adds an ergonomic quality to the speaker, which we think adds to the visual appeal of the soundbar. The controls are responsive when lightly touched, as you would expect from a good-quality capacitive screen.
In the box, you also get a remote control. This offers significantly more functionality than the incorporated controls. It has to, since it needs to be able to navigate through a number of different platforms included with Fire TV, from HBO to YouTube.
From the remote, you can control the functions of the soundbar itself, Fire TV (and the many platforms it has available) menus, soundbar settings, and Alexa. Which brings us onto the third method of controlling the Nebula Soundbar…
…your voice! That’s right. Not content with loading their soundbar with Fire TV, the Nebula also has voice control built in, in the form of Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant. This obviously means that you can operate the soundbar with it, and you can connect to Amazon Echo(s) for example.
You should note that this is a Fire TV version of Alexa. So, while you can also command it to control, well, Fire TV, you can’t ask it to make any other Alexa-compatible devices to do your bidding. It won’t control a robot vacuum, for example. Imagine! A soundbar that cleans for you! Well, almost….
As if that isn’t enough, a fourth control method is also available. Downloading the Nebula Connect app from the Google Play or iOS App Store means you can control the soundbar using your smartphone or tablet (or both if you want).
This allows you to control the soundbar’s main functions, and also offers a cool touchpad style control as part of the interface. Swiping the touchpad moves menus in the respective directions, with a tap on the touchpad selecting options.
So, a high level of control functionality, then, and something to keep everyone happy, whether they prefer a traditional remote, voice activation, or smartphone control.
Fire TV is Great, Too
If you are a media junkie like me, then you likely have a range of subscription services at your fingertips. Fire TV allows you to access quite a few of these, with the big brands like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime all making an appearance. There is a huge range of other apps and games, too. The list of FireTV compatible apps is waaaay too long to list here, but you can view them all over on Amazon.
The in-app controls are nice and responsive no matter how you control them. Save, that is, for the mobile touchpad. One swipe across or up the entire touchpad seems to only shuffle the cursor a couple of millimeters at a time. This doesn’t work and I dropped it in favor of the remote control’s circular control pad.
If you have a 4K TV , then you can also take advantage of the fact that the Nebula Soundbar supports 4K streaming. In addition to streaming 4K at 60fps, it is also able to access Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+. This gives you plenty of scope to enjoy your movies with superb visual clarity.
You should note that despite a great many new TV sets being 4K, there isn’t that much 4K media to soak up just yet. Don’t let that put you off, though. If you have a 4K TV to connect the Soundbar to, you can watch whatever is available to you.
Another issue to be wary of is the HDMI ARC compatibility that the Nebula Soundbar features. If your TV isn’t capable of this, then you won’t be able to use it. To check, simply hop round to the back of your TV where the input/output ports are and, if you have HDMI ARC capability, there will be a port marked as such. (It will say HDMI ARC above the HDMI port.)
So, onto the Sound…
Given that this is a soundbar review, it makes sense to at least talk a bit about the sound quality. Let’s just say this … the Nebula Soundbar is quite the snarling beast, with its speakers capable of combined sound output of 100W. Nice and loud, then.
You can customize the sound in a number of ways. There are three fairly obviously titled sound modes that you can place the Soundbar into—Music, Movies, and Voice. These alter the frequencies depending on what kind of sound the speakers are pumping out.
In addition, you can also alter the bass and treble using the EQ function. Again, this allows you to emphasize those frequencies. On occasion, there is the need to fiddle around with these controls so the bass doesn’t flood the soundstage, but that isn’t a huge problem; it is the same with most other audio devices, as a certain degree of tinkering is generally required to get them to sound right.
The Nebula Soundbar uses a 2.1 channel design, which features two speakers and two sub-woofers. This obviously won’t provide the same depth as a 5.1 system, but it certainly packs enough punch in terms of volume, knocking spots of most integrated TV speakers.
Upon initial setup, for audio connectivity, we linked the soundbar to the TV using the included RCA to 3.5mm cable. We did notice that, at times, the sound can be affected, especially when watching certain films or listening to certain music. It doesn’t seem to like any music with pronounced bass distortion, for example, as this seems to interfere with the other elements of the music.
Similarly, certain movies don’t translate well through the speaker. I watched several movies and TV shows through the Nebula Soundbar and the sound can occasionally come across a little bit flat at times you aren’t expecting it to.
Whether this was a fluke or not, I don’t know, but I found that using the optical cable to deliver sound signals to the Soundbar really improved the performance. As soon as I switched to the provided optical cable, the sound became instantly clearer, with the balance between frequency ranges evening out.
With all its additional bells and whistles, the Nebula Soundbar sets itself apart from many of its competitors. The inclusion of Fire TV and Alexa are excellent features that made the soundbar even more enjoyable to use.
It looks great when integrated with your home theater and the ability to mount the soundbar using the provided brackets adds another layer of customization to it; you can place it below a wall-mounted TV and centralize the combination of sound and image.
Alexa is also a cool feature, which really makes the level of control available a lazy person’s dream. Perhaps if I hacked my robot vacuum to prepare light refreshments I would never have to move from the sofa again, given the ridiculous internet of things my home contains.
In all, the Nebula Soundbar is a great addition to your AV setup.
Here’s What We Like
- Stylish finish
- Great high-quality sound
- Alexa and FireTV built-in
- Nebula Connect app
And What We Don't
- Sound can take some configuring
- A bit on the big side