Hisense U5120G 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar (review)
The Hisense U5120G 5.1.2 is a basic, Dolby Atmos soundbar. It is decent enough and will add better sound than you can get from any TV. But you need to know upfront that it is made to a price and has several compromises that those in the know won’t appreciate.
Australian review Hisense U5120G 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar
|Website||Product page and Manual|
|Price||RRP $799, but shop around as it is readily available for <$550|
|Company||Hisense is a Chinese multinational white goods and electronics manufacturer in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China. Televisions are the main products. It retails products under several brand names, including Hisense, Toshiba, Gorenje, Kelon, Savor, and Ronshen.|
|More||CyberShack Hisense news and reviews|
We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.
First impression – big and black – Pass
Spoiler Alert: Let me tell you a story about two soundbars. One has great sound and features and costs <$550. The other with similar sound and features costs $799 and is not so great for that price. Which would you buy?
That describes the Hisense U5120G 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar. If you can get it for <$550, it is a bargain, and you can overlook any foibles as you don’t expect more. If you pay retail, there are better featured and sounding alternatives like Sonos Beam Gen 2, 5.0 Dolby Atmos ($699), JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam Dolby Atmos ($599) and the 2021 LG SP9YA 5.1.2 520W RMS Dolby Atmos soundbar that is on runout at $799.
It is big at 1200 long x 112 wide x 75mm high x 5kg. The sub-woofer is 350 x 250mm square x 7kg. The soundbar has front and top acoustic black metal mesh. The sub is Melamine coated custom wood with acoustic front metal mesh and a rear passive bass port. It can be wall-mounted with the supplied brackets.
Speakers – Pass, but it is not 510W – it is 170W RMS
Our investigations show 11 speakers and amps in the all-in-one soundbar and one in the sub-woofer with a passive bass reflex port. Note that the wattages RMS we quote are estimates based on our substantial audio electronics knowledge and information from the FCC ID Number approval.
- Front-firing left/right/2 x centre (4 x 10W=40W RMS)
- Front-firing left/right/centre tweeters (3 x 10W=30W)
- Left/right side-firing surround woofers (2 x 10W=20W)
- right/left up-firing woofers (2 x 10W=20W)
- 1 x 8” sub (1 x 60W) 40-120Hz
It has 12 speakers and 170W RMS, which is a tad low compared to the far more featured, true 520W RMS LG SP9YA 5.1.2. But it is not so much about raw wattage – a Mini Cooper can beat a Ford Mustang around corners but not in the straight.
Setup – Pass
You have a choice of HDMI ARC (we think it is HDMI 2.0, 18Gbps 4K@24/30Hz compressed), Optical In, Coaxial, USB (music playback) or BT 4.2 (SBC codec).
Assuming you use an HDMI 2.0 Cable (read HDMI cables are not all the same. Which one do you need ? (guide) for more information on the type); plug this into the TV HDMI ARC/eARC port.
Apply power to the soundbar and sub-woofer, ensure the TV is set to HDMI CEC (to use the TV remote as the soundbar volume remote), and that is it.
If you are using Optical Out, the soundbar only processes PCM 2-5.0.
IR remote – Pass
The IR remote is the only way to adjust any parameters, and there is a front LED window. It has buttons for:
- Display brightness
- HDMI ARC or eARC
- Source (HDMI 1 and 2, Optical, Coaxial, BT and USB
- Bass/Treble +/-
- Surround sound on/off (this turns it from a 3.1.2 to a 5.1.2 soundbar (see Psychoacoustics later). If you have the optional rear speakers (not sold here), it becomes a 7.1.2
- EQ Pre-sets )Music, Movie, News, Sport, Night, Game and AI)
- Lip-sync delay
- DTS Menu (Neural:X, DRC, DTS dialogue)
- Power Menu – Auto wake on/off
We make the point that this is a basic soundbar, and there is no App, room calibration or independent volume controls for 3D height or faux surround.
Note: if used with Hisense EzPlay compatible TVs (we have not seen this), an on-screen menu with basic adjustments appears.
The heart of the soundbar is the Digital Signal Processor – Pass
It uses a Sunplus SPA300 DSP – a single-chip ‘Swiss-army-knife’ approach that offers soundbar makers the lowest cost-performance ratio over using discrete chips. Audiophiles will eschew it because it removes functionality like individual volume channel controls, room tuning etc. In reality, sound quality depends on how good Hisense is at programming things like frequency cut-overs, sound signatures etc. In our opinion, it does an OK job.
It can decode Dolby Atmos, DTS: X/Virtual X, MP3/AAC/HE-AAC/WMA/WMA Pro, and FLAC/ALAC/WAV Hi-Res. It then outputs sound data to the 11 x 10W Class-D amplifiers (and speakers), routing treble and bass crossover (from 40-120Hz) data to the tweeters and sub-woofer.
Eilex Prism – WTF
Eilex PRISM – jargon-wise – equalises acoustic power volume density frequency (APVD) response and corrects a speaker system’s time and phase alignment errors. Speakers with Eilex PRISM perform as near-perfect electro-acoustic transducers providing true-to-original sound with the highest musicality and intelligibility.
In layman’s terms and according to Eilex Prism’s Yoshi Asahi, it is not a conventional room EQ and is not intended for use as a room acoustics correction tool. It simply means Hisense’s DSP programming uses data from Eilex to tune the speakers in a soundbar.
EQ pre-sets – Movie/ Music/ News/ Night/ Sport/ Game/ AI EQ – Pass(able)
We tested at full volume (85dB) on all pre-sets using our test tracks and Dolby Vision/Atmos content, but frankly, there was not a lot of difference between them.
The soundbar has two centre woofers and a tweeter and should have an excellent clear voice capability (1-4Khz), but it was average at best. Night mode reduces the louder sounds and increases voice, but it does not provide the crystal clear voice that the hearing-impaired need. Here the LG and Sonos Beam Gen 2 shine.
Movie mode tended to accent the bass to the extent that it was overbearing and distorting. Sure, you can back bass it off with the remote, but the pre-set should cover that. News mode was closest to clear voice, but it was tinny and hollow. Sport mode did not adequately separate the action from the commentary.
All of these things should be fixable in firmware, but it really seems to me that the soundbar is tuned to small Asian apartments rather than large Aussie open-space loungerooms.
Sound signature – Pass
We use a white noise generator on the AI EQ setting to push speakers to their limits. Pre-sets then should be able to downscale from there.
Deep-bass starts from 40Hz (as promised) to mid-bass at 100Hz. It is the kind of bass that you can feel – good. But the sub-woofer grill starts vibrating, and you need to back off the speaker volume (or the overall soundbar volume) considerably to get this under control. The sub-woofer has a cross-over frequency of 120Hz, but there is quite a dip from 120-300Hz when the speakers take over. This means you are losing the bass ‘oomph’ or impact that you can hear.
It is relatively flat (good) from 300Hz to 5kHz, but it clips (compresses) the music, so you start to lose that dynamic range – sparkle. From 5kHz, it dips a little (good) to avoid harshness and then is pretty flat to 20khz.
We were left a little wanting no matter which EQ pre-set was used. However, to Hisense’s defence, it was more controlled when we backed off from 100% volume to normal TV listening levels (60%).
Overall, it has a reasonably neutral signature that neither adds nor subtracts from the original music! The only issue here is garbage-in, garbage out – the better the music quality, the better it sounds.
Dolby Atmos – Technical Pass but practical fail
It has a Dolby Atmos decoder that can take 128 channels (sound objects) and downmix to the soundbars 5.1.2 channels.
Our tests with Dolby Atmos demo content show little 3D spatial height at 4 metres from the screen (typical viewing distance). As you moved to about 2 metres, the DA effect was slightly more noticeable.
This has left/right side-firing surround speakers that expand the narrow stereo sound stage slightly wider than the soundbar.
Ports – Pass(able)
- HDMI 2.0 ARC/eARC 4K@24/30fps with 18Gbps bandwidth (not HDMI 2.1 48Gbps)
- HDMI x2 (we assume these are 1.4 as the specs only mention HDR passthrough)
- USB 2.0 5V/.5A For Audio and Firmware updates, max 32GB no file structure
- USB-C (only for optional rear wireless surround dongle that is not sold here)
Even though it has two HDMI-IN ports, the bandwidth of the ARC/eARC port is insufficient to pass through 4K@30fps and uncompressed Dolby Vision and Atmos. Similarly, you must plug a Sony PS5 or Xbox X directly into a fully implemented HDMI 2.1, 4K@120Hz TV port.
Bluetooth – high latency (Passable)
It is BT 4.2 and has a maximum distance of 8m and latency of well over 200ms. If you use BT (not HDMI) as the sound source from the TV, you may have to adjust the lip sync.
Power use – Pass
At full blast, it uses nearly 100W (soundbar and sub); at idle, it is around 1W—an insignificant amount of power.
Voice assistant – No
It does not have Wi-Fi connectivity, so it cannot be used as part of a multi-room speaker setup. It does not have a mic/s either.
CyberShack’s view – Hisense U5120G 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos soundbar – if I had my druthers!
Sorry to be harsh. Honesty is a hallmark of CyberShack reviews. We have done our job as long as you know what you are buying.
The Hisense U5120G 5.1.2 is a basic Dolby Atmos soundbar that relies heavily on psychoacoustics to deliver any semblance of Dolby Atmos 3D spatial and surround sound. You will be disappointed if you don’t have the right room type. To Hisense’s credit, that statement applies to any all-in-one soundbar. On the positive side, it provides an immediate improvement to any TV sound.
But our knickers got in a bit of a twist over the rubbish marketing hype that paints this as the ultimate 5.1.2 soundbar – it is good if you pay <$550, but there are far better at its RRP of $799.
First, is the rubbish spec of 510W ‘Peak Music Power Output” (PMPO)
In reality, it is still a respectable total of 170W RMS (Root Mean square) of the combined 11 soundbar speakers and one in the sub-woofer. The FCC ID Z8M-HSS12F reveals the soundbar uses 11 x 10W RMS Class-D amps.
Second, it relies heavily (as any all-in-one sound bar does) on psychoacoustics
If you don’t have the correct room type, you need a system with discrete rear, forward-firing and up-firing to compensate. Such soundbars need room tuning (calibration) or, at worst, independently adjustable height and surround volume – this does not have either. So, in the average Aussie open space lounge room, there is ‘virtually’ no 3D height (overhead) or surround (coming from the sides around you) in a typical seating position/listening point about 4 metres from the TV.
Third, Hisense uses terms like Hi-Res Audio.
If you stream Hi-Res audio content, you can’t use it over Bluetooth (SBC codec only). Hi-Res does work over HDMI eARC (but where do you get the content?), but the bitrate and frequency are not disclosed.
Fourth is the overreliance on marketing fluff like Eilex Prism
It does not deliver multidimensional audio quality for a next-level cinematic sound experience. It does improve TV sound but, for most, will not give them a genuine Dolby Atmos experience. The all-in-one DSP is not a high-performance model – it is to deliver a soundbar at a price. Nor does it pass through Dolby Vision (carefully not claimed) – its HDMI Ports only support the lowest level 4K HDR.
Fifth is price
RRP is $799, but it is at Videopro for $495, and most CE retailers sell it for <$550. So, we are going to rate this a <$500 soundbar. Why? Well, frankly, it does not measure up sound-wise to other $599 to $799 soundbars.
Note to Hisense
Before you get your knickers in a twist, let’s draw a line in the sand. I know you have to sell soundbars and more, but unsubstantiated marketing claims leave you wide open to reviews like these where marketing claims are called out.
Before you buy any soundbar, please read our guides
Hisense U5120G 5.1.2, Hisense U5120G 5.1.2, Hisense U5120G 5.1.2