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Lifewire / Emily Ramirez
Sound is perfectly tuned for film
Lots of customizability
Audio delay hampers their accuracy
Not true 7.1 surround
Design doesn’t work for non-rectangular or open rooms
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Sound Bar set is an excellent system for film enthusiasts that offers lots of customizability. However, their sound is not suited for music or games, and they’re not the best value.
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Sound Bar Set is simultaneously a great system and a terrible system. It’s a phenomenal system that offers a movie-like experience to films and gives the user plenty of useful customization options, making it one of the better sound bar sets on the market. However, its unique design doesn’t work for everyone, making it a terrible system for games and music at its price point when compared to a traditional 5.1 home theater setup.
This soundbar set is a looker, with semi-transparent metal grills that show off the drivers and svelte wood-textured vinyl on the subwoofer. Everything else is made of a durable plastic. There’s a very strong triangular motif running across the speakers that give it a good balance of elegance and daring. However, these very aesthetic choices cause some major issues for the speakers’ sound design. The soundbars side-facing tweeters may look cool, but they cause the treble to echo off the walls of your room and reach your ears well after the sound from the rest of the set’s drivers. In short, the sound isn’t synchronized and it becomes muddy.
That said, if you’re looking for a sound setup with a relatively small footprint, the Nakamichi 7.1.4 soundbar set is pretty compact. The rear speakers come in at 5” x 5.4” x 8”, much smaller than a traditional bookshelf speaker. The soundbar is 45.5” long and 3” deep, which is just the right length to be about as long as a 50” TV. The subwoofer is a little heftier, weighing almost 20lbs and taking up 9.5”x12”x20.5” of space. For its performance, the size compromise is worth it.
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Sound Bar Set is one of the better sound bar systems on the market, but it cannot escape sound bars’ traditional trappings.
Should you buy the Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 Sound Bar, you’ll have everything you need to set it up, including HDMI, TOSLINK, and coaxial cables. You’ll even receive cable ties and a wall mounting kit to keep your space organized.
The wires from the subwoofer to the rear speakers are comically long, at least fifteen feet each, and super easy to tangle. Considering they made the transmissions from the soundbar to the subwoofer wireless, it would have been a nice touch to have wireless rear speakers, too.
The remote, while very useful, is busy with buttons. There’s exactly fifty buttons for adjusting each individual speaker, for each DSP preset, for room size presets, and more. You rarely need to use the menu to change a setting on the system. While it’s a boon for those with experience setting up speakers, so many settings may be intimidating for newcomers.
This sound bar kit comes with a comically large quickstart guide— it’s a single poster that’s as long and wide as the box the entire kit comes in (48.2" x 14.8")! To say you won’t miss it is an understatement. Thankfully, it’s also easy to follow, with plenty of diagrams and explanations to reference.
The set is not difficult to set up. You connect the soundbar to power and to your inputs, connect your subwoofer to power and your rear speakers, and then you turn everything on so it can synchronize the soundbar with the rest of the system.
While there’s a lot of tweaks you can make in the sound bar’s system, many of them feel gimmicky, and it lacks some of the most important customization options. Because the set doesn’t come with a YPAO mic or similar, it can’t measure your room size or your positioning to make sure the speakers are all tuned properly. Instead, it has default room sizes, which offer some customization, but it’s not precise enough to eliminate clarity issues arising from the asynchronization.
If you want to modify the volume on a certain speaker (say, the subwoofer), it’s easy to do with the remote. There’s dedicated volume buttons for each of the five. There’s also a setting for changing the subwoofer’s crossover frequency, which will allow you to customize your lower frequencies even further.
The DSP settings are a mixed bag. The Dolby DSP emulates surround for stereo tracks. Sometimes, it works fantastically and makes the sound richer, and other times, it turns the track into a horrid mess— it depends on how the track was mixed, so you’ll have to play with it and see what works for you. Clear Voice is another worthwhile DSP, making it super easy to hear voices on tracks where they may be unclear due to other noise. I found it works better on high-pitched, feminine voices, but it’s great for any poorly mixed film.
Otherwise, I kept the sound bar on direct audio. I didn’t find much value in the music, movie, sports, news, or game presets. Night mode is incredibly useful for those that have to be conscientious of their volume by keeping the subwoofer’s rattles down to a minimum.
Before we get to how the speaker sounds, let’s cover when the speaker sounds. Every time you start or pause and play anything— both film and music— the speakers will play for two seconds, go silent for one second, and then resume playing. Other reviews have also had this problem.
As for the audible experience, judging the sound of these speakers is tough. One the one hand, they have solid drivers, meaning any individual speaker sounds great. On the other hand, this is an oddly designed set, and it lacks the programming tools to make up for its physical flaws.
In short, the soundbar and the rest of the speakers have trouble synchronizing, so the sound from the soundbar reaches your ears later than the sound from the rest of the speakers. This causes the sound to be muddy and unclear, especially during busy audio tracks.
Nakamichi did try to address this problem with a “room size” preset on the remote. It allows you to select your approximate room size and time the delays accordingly, which does diminish the issue for many people.
But not everyone’s room is a perfect square. My living room has an entryway almost directly right of the soundbar, so I lose a lot of sound in the hallway and need to tune my speakers with that in mind. I can’t do that with this soundbar, and the problem is especially bad because the tweeters are on the left and right of the soundbar instead of on the front— most other soundbar tweeters are on the front, making this a unique problem of the Shockwafe’s design.
For the most part, this surround set is tuned for pop music, dialogue, and sound effects. When listening to film in particular, it has a movie theater-like quality to the sound. It’s a lot of fun to watch action movies, thanks to the subwoofer’s pronounced gut-punch at 80Hz. When watching Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, every little explosion, boom and crash has that extra little kick to it. Its chase scenes were delightful.
The bass is overall good, with the subwoofer punching well above its weight in performance. It goes down to 35Hz, and it stays clean up to its crossover point. “Bad Guy’s” bass line really sings on the Shockwafe system, with a pulsing beat that will keep you tapping.
The highs, however, are a bit of a mess on the Shockwafe Pro. Everything higher than 8,000KHz is extremely recessed, leaving the sound with little to no presence or sparkle. The discordance between the rear speakers and the soundbar make treble lines a mushed disaster when both sets of tweeters are in use. It’s not usually a problem for film audio, since voices and sound effects tend to happen at lower frequencies. This is a huge minus for music listening.
The mids are alright, depending on the use. They could be clearer, as delay rears its head here, too, but it’s not as apparent. As with the highs, it won’t make a big difference in your experience unless you’re into music with busy midranges, like rock or metal. The default crossover frequency is pretty high at 180Hz, so the bass sometimes bleeds in. However, you can make it lower.
The stereoscape on this surround system varies since it has no true stereo mode. On Ottmar Liebert’s “Fireopal,” it was easy to pick out the guitar’s plucked melody in the center and the gorgeous strumming on the right of the soundscape. However, on the mids-heavy “The Way You Used to Do” by Queens of the Stone Age, instrument separation vanished and many elements of this busy song became unintelligible.
Sometimes Dolby is a blessing, making the sound richer and more vibrant. It really brought “Plume” by Caravan Palace to life, although emulating the surround for a stereo track made it harder to get a sense of depth. This is a huge problem for gaming, since you need to know exactly where sounds are coming from so you can react accordingly.
Shooters like Doom Eternal and Overwatch were particularly difficult to play with Dolby enabled, since I couldn’t accurately hear my enemies’ footsteps or shots. Without Dolby, however, the sound wasn’t any more accurate, it was just flatter.
This is a soundbar system, so it would make sense if Nakamichi focused all its efforts on making sure the Shockwafe Pro shines with vocals and film. Well, they nailed it here. While the sound is not tight, the speakers really give a sense of immersion to shows that feels like watching it in a movie theater. Dialogue was easy to pick out, making The Expanse a joy to watch.
For films that don’t have a clear audio mix, the Shockwafe Pro’s Clear Voice preset can really bring out those voice tracks without ruining the background noises. After testing it with several movie trailers and films, we did find it works better on higher pitched, feminine voices than on masculine ones. Even so, this preset was almost always an improvement on soundtracks that needed it.
The Shockwafe Pro tries to do so much, with so few parts. This system runs all major audio formats from Dolby and DTS, and it has several useful audio presets to adjust the sound to your taste. It’s also bluetooth enabled if you want to listen to music on your phone.
The remote control has a button for everything, from estimated room size to individual speaker volume, and there’s an LED display on the soundbar itself that reads the last button you pressed on the remote. However, for all the Shockwafe Pro can do, we wish they’d have included a calibration microphone to customize the room tuning for best sound.
For all the customization you can do and all the formats it supports, the price is fair, but it’s not a soundbar for everyone.
If the Shockwafe Pro sounds like the soundbar setup for you, plan to spend $750 if you can’t find them on sale. For all the customization you can do and all the formats it supports, the price is fair, but it’s not a soundbar for everyone. To an extent, you can adjust the room size, speaker volumes and crossover frequencies in ways that make it easier for a non-audiophile. However, that basic customization doesn’t allow them to achieve the clarity they could otherwise have if the user tuning were more precise. It has everything a film lover would want but not much else.
The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a great value 5.1 sound bar set you can regularly find for $250 (it’s $500 retail). While its sound is not quite as immersive as the Shockwafe Pro for theater, it’s still a solid upgrade over your TV speakers, and it has a small footprint. Like the Shockwafe Pro, however, its music performance is lackluster.
If you don’t mind a bulkier, more complex system, you can easily beat the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Sound Bar Set by putting together a more traditional home theater setup (it’s easier to do than you think!). This Shockwafe Pro set, for all intents and purposes, functions like a 5.1 surround set, so I’ll give you my recommendation for a fantastic 5.1 setup.
For about $600, you can get a Yamaha RX-V385 A/V receiver ($250), four Micca MB42X bookshelf speakers ($80 per pair), a Micca MB42X-C center speaker ($70), and a Polk Audio PSW10 subwoofer ($129). You can swap out a pair of bookshelf speakers for tower speakers, but towers are larger and tend to be more expensive. You also don’t need to get a center speaker that matches your bookshelf speakers, but a matching set looks nicer than a mismatched one. You do need to make sure your front left/right speakers match and your rear speakers match, or you’ll run into setup issues.
Aside from a markedly better auditory experience, what I like about the above setup is that it also gives you the ability to organize your video inputs with the receiver instead of a seperate HDMI switch or your TV. It also gives you the flexibility to upgrade your speakers in a piecemeal fashion.
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Sound Bar Set is one of the better sound bar systems on the market, but it cannot escape sound bars’ traditional trappings. The individual speakers sound great, but the unique side tweeters on the sound bar can hamper their performance significantly in non-standard rooms. The system offers a lot of customizability to mitigate these shortcomings, and many of these features ultimately make these speakers excellent for movie watching. If you’re more of a gamer or music lover, you should consider looking elsewhere.