TCL TS8132 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos compatible soundbar (AV review)

The TCL TS8132 3.1.2 is a Dolby Atmos capable soundbar. That means it can decode Dolby Atmos 128 channels and downmix to its 3.1.2 channels.

What are those channels? It has left/centre/right front-firing (3), a sub-woofer (.1) and left/right up-firing speakers (.2). To a purist, the minimum Dolby Atmos configuration adds left and right side-firing surrounds (or dedicated rear speakers).

It is an all-in-one soundbar plus sub-woofer, so it relies on psychoacoustics – bouncing the 3D spatial height sounds off the ceiling to give the viewer the perception of overhead sounds.

You have to ask whether this virtual Dolby Atmos (DA) soundbar will work for your needs? Most of that will be listening to PCM 2.0 to Dolby Digital 5.1 (not Atmos) sound from free-to-air TV and standard streaming.

The short answer is that it audibly improves the sound of any TV, but DA purists will look for at least a 5.1.2 system.

Australian review: TCL TS8132 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos capable soundbar

WebsiteProduct Page and Manual
FromHarvey Norman, JB-Hi Fi, Good Guys, Bing Lee
Warranty3-years ACL (not confirmed – its TVs are)
Country of originChina
CompanyTCL Technology (originally an abbreviation for Telephone Communication Limited) is a Chinese electronics company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. It designs, develops, manufactures, and sells consumer products, including television sets, mobile phones, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators, and small electrical appliances.
MoreCyberShack TCL 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 – Pass

The TCL TS8132 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos capable soundbar looks well made with a woven fabric front and top over a plastic frame. It conceals a front white LED display panel. The Sub-woofer is melamine-coated custom wood.

The IR remote is pretty comprehensive, with 15 functions and backlighting. You will need this initially to select a listening mode, surround sound (which does not do much as there are no surround speakers), change sources (USB, HDMI, optical, BT) and alter the subwoofer volume. Once set, the TV should take over via HDMI eARC/ARC/CC.

Speakers – Pass

Inside are left/right 90 x 48mm forward-firing drivers, one 80 x 48mm centre forward-firing driver, two 25mm forward-firing Tweeters (left and right) and 2 x two 70mm up-firing (slightly forward-facing) speakers. The sub has a single down-firing 130mm speaker and a bass port. Avoid placing the sub on the carpet as the effect can be muffled and absorbed.

The Up-firing speakers are used for DA content, and if you enable surround mode, although this really does not provide left/right side-firing surround sound.

TCL claim 350W of peak power. That is about 250W RMS (give or take), assuming the drivers are 5 x 25W (125W), tweeters are 2 x 10W (20W), and the sub is 110W. It sounds good, but this is really a rubbery figure – it does not equate to volume and associated distortion levels.

Setup – Pass

You have a choice of HDMI ARC (it is HDMI 1.4b 4K@30Hz compressed), Optical In, USB (music playback) or BT 5.0 (SBC codec).

Assuming HDMI, you use an HDMI 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 port.

Apply power to the soundbar and sub-woofer, ensure the TV is set to HDMI CEC/Anynet+ (to use the TV remote as the soundbar volume remote), and that is it.

Note: Any content device like a 4K Blue-ray connecting to its HDMI port will not pass through uncompressed Dolby Vision metadata, so connect this to the appropriate 4K@60Hz port on your TV.

If you are using Optical Out, the soundbar only processes PCM 2-5.0.

This soundbar does not support DTS formats that will be treated as PCM 2.0.

Google Home – Pass

It is a Wi-Fi 6 AC enabled speaker, so it is Google Home, Alexa and Apple Airplay 2 compatible and adds Chromecast for music content to the soundbar. It does not have a microphone and requires a compatible smartphone or speaker.

Any firmware updates are via Wi-Fi.

Bluetooth – Pass

It uses BT 5.0 with the SBC codec. Latency is well over 200ms, making it unsuitable for games.

USB-A – Pass

It supports MP3 only. Power is 5V/.5A/2.5W, so it will not support external SSD or hard disks.

Modes – Limited but Pass

Pre-sets include Movies, Music And TV. There is also a Night mode that reduces noises to focus on voice. We will analyse these later.

Power use – Pass

At full blast, it uses nearly 60W (soundbar and sub); at idle, it is 1W. An insignificant amount of power.

How does it sound? Pass

The pre-set TV mode was poor. Tinny, hollow, lifeless, lacking any accurate bass or top-end treble.

The music pre-set added a much more balanced sound, but we had to disable the surround.

Movie mode added a hollow faux surround sound as if you were in an echoey room.

On the music setting, the bass starts at 65Hz and builds quickly to flatten at 85-100Hz (this is unusual), where it dips (100-200Hz). It is flat from 220Hz to about 2kHz, then slowly declines to 20Hz.

The TCL TS8132 3.1.2 is firmware updateable and I trust TCL will issue new firmware to fix the crossover and control the upper end better.

The maximum volume is 85dB – louder than most TV sound, but there is some distortion at that level.

What does this mean?

The mid-bass comes from the sub-woofer that starts at 65Hz and cuts out at about 120kHz when the soundbar should take over but does not. The soundbar cuts in at 220Hz, leaving quite a gap. You get most of the musically important bass but no ‘oomph’. The dip means the upper bass is muddy.

The graph shows a choppy, clipped response from 500Hz-4kHz, meaning that it has to compress or clip the music’s frequency response or face too much distortion. It is not for a clear voice.

The lower-mid-upper-treble is not well controlled, giving a harsh sound, and lacks the sparkle and directionality that this band provides.

The sound stage is narrow and very front-centric. DA content widens that a little.

Of course, all this is academic as it depends on the content quality. Now that is what an audiophile will tell you -read How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide).

The bottom line is it appreciably improves TV sound. But you may have to tweak (change modes) as you move from TV to movie to music.

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 3.1.2 channels. It provides virtual DA, not real DA.

Our tests with Dolby Atmos demo content show little or no 3D spatial height at 4 metres from the screen (viewing distance). As you moved to about 2 metres, the DA effect was slightly more noticeable.

This does not have left/right side-firing surround speakers, so there is no feeling of immersion. DA mode expands the narrow stereo sound stage to slightly wider than the soundbar.

CyberShack’s take – The TCL TS8132 3.1.2 is a competent soundbar if you forget about Dolby Atmos

I am not having a go at TCL. Dolby Atmos is a most used and abused term – a toaster with a single speaker claims it is Dolby Atmos!

All it means is that it can decode DA metadata and output it via however many sound channels the soundbar has. This has 3.1.2, and the DA height effect is negligible. The absence of any side-firing surround channel means it is not an immersive listening experience.

f you want to know more, read our How to buy a soundbar that meets your needs? (guide) and Five tips for better TV sound – Dolby Atmos for beginners (guide).

What it does quite competently is to improve your TV sound. Whether that equates with the $699 price depends on competition.


While the RRP is $699, it is at JB Hi-Fi for $499, which is really more where this capability sits. At $499, it is top-of-the-class with no real competition. At $699, however, it is competing with

TCL TS8132 3.1.2, TCL TS8132 3.1.2, TCL TS8132 3.1.2

TCL TS8132 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos capable soundbar

$699 but shop around as its currently $499 at JB



Value (at $499)




Ease of Use





  • Appreciably improves TV sound
  • Can be part of Google Home
  • 3.1.2 Class leader at $499 – not at $699
  • BT Chromecast and Airplay 2


  • Only HDMI ARC (not true uncompressed Dolby Atmos)
  • Pre-sets are limited, but Music is the best
  • Unusual sound signature - its mid-centric with a separate dose of bass
  • High gaming latency
  • Most sound ends up as 2.1 or 3.1