Sound Bar Buying Guide

Chances are you’ve purchased a new flat panel TV in the last few years. With the release of LED, 4K, and OLED sets, HDTVs have continued to grow thinner and more compact. These slimmer TVs look great on the wall but often result in terrible audio. Movie dialogue can be hard to hear or distorted while music will lack dynamic range and punch. Unfortunately, there’s just no room in a thin TV cabinet for a quality set of speakers. Luckily, users can invest in a sound bar to enhance the audio for movies, music, gaming & more. With prices for every budget, it’s easy to hear an immediate improvement on whatever you are watching. Check out the benefits a sound bar can provide:
  • 1 Speaker means less gear to connect and no wire running all over the room
  • Easy setup Most installations will only require a single optical cable from the TV to the sound bar.
  • Thin & flat speaker profiles result in awesome sound with less equipment for a clutter-free look.
  • Wall mounting is no problem with most sound bars although some use a separately sold bracket.
  • Some models have built-in Bluetooth connectivity to stream music.
  • Many sound bars come with a wireless sub for easy placement in the room

Which sound bar is right for you?

With so many sound bars to choose from, which solution is the best fit for your needs? Here are some key differences that may help you choose:

Self-Powered Sound Bars

This variety is the most popular sound bar category. These speakers have a built-in amplifier so no receiver or amp is required. The speakers are thin enough to set on a table or hang on the wall and most systems come with a powered subwoofer. Most varieties are connected to the TV with a single optical cable. This allows the audio from any TV channel, program, movie, or video game to play through the sound bar. Virtual surround modes give the impression of speakers around the room without the hassle of running wire or hanging multiple speakers. These systems are easy to set-up and easy to use and greatly improve the sound quality for any flat panel television.

Receiver-Powered Sound Bars

These unique sound bars are thin and compact, yet lack the integrated amplifier. They're designed for users that want a low profile speaker, but still want the flexibility and power that a surround receiver provides. Modern surround receivers may have multi-room options, HDMI switching, universal remotes, network capability as well as plenty of wattage to power the sound bar. These passive speakers are often made by manufacturers that specialize in speaker construction and will often use the highest quality materials and engineering. This type of sound bar will offer high-end sound with the convenience of a compact speaker. For the full theater experience, be sure to add a powered subwoofer to the system

Digital Sound Projectors

Digital Sound Projectors use a multitude of tiny speakers to paint the entire room with sound. As the sound waves bounce off side and rear walls, individuals sitting in the room will get a truly immersive surround experience. Because this type of sound bar bounces sound off walls, the shape of the room can affect the sound. Most systems come with a self-calibration kit but this type of system still sounds better in rectangular shaped rooms. As this surround setup has its own digital amplification and processing, an external receiver is not required. For the very best theater experience, a powered subwoofer is recommended.

Final Thoughts

While a 5 or 7 speaker system still provides the very best surround sound experience, these sound bars provide an incredible sound system while saving homeowners time, expense and technical expertise that’s required for a traditional theater room.
For a more advanced sound bar, you may want to consider the Sonos PlayBar. Not only does it offer the space saving convenience of a traditional sound bar, but it allows users access to Sonos’s wide range of music services and digital music files in the home. In addition, Sonos allows users to add wireless speakers around the room at any time for a true 5.1 experience without the wires! Sonos offers several sizes of wireless speakers to fit any room. Be sure to check out our Sonos Learning Article for more information.
Whatever model sound bar you choose, it’s guaranteed to improve the TV sound dramatically. Ensure your movie dialogue is crystal clear while enjoying theater quality surround effects by adding a sound bar to your system today.