Published on September 21, 2023

What is a Soundbar? (The Complete Guide)

TV’s built-in speakers are not always sufficient. The sound generated by them often turns out to be too flat or simply does not allow you to discover the full potential of movies, TV series or games. In such a situation, external devices, such as a soundbar, come to the rescue. What is it and why should you be interested in it?

The concept of preparing a separate audio system for the TV is well known to all lovers of good sound, as well as people who expect something more from their speakers. As it happens, there are plenty of products available in stores that allow you to significantly improve the sound quality. Among the most popular of these are soundbars. For this reason, it is worth taking a closer look at them to discover whether they really deserve recognition.

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Soundbar – description of the device

Wanting to use an official definition, it should be mentioned that a soundbar is an external audio system that can work not only with TVs, but also with other devices such as computers or game consoles. In practice, a soundbar is simply a set of speakers enclosed in one or more enclosures.

The way it works, as well as any operating capabilities, are mainly dependent on its type and the way it works. For this reason, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the key information on the subject. They will help not only to understand the functionality of soundbars, but also to choose the right, optimal model.

  • The division of the equipment in question relates to their design. The simplest and cheapest is a single soundbar. What is it? It is a thin strip that can easily be placed under the TV. Under the housing there are usually two speakers, although some models may have more.

There are also kits in stores that include a strip and additional elements – an external speaker or speakers and a subwoofer, which is responsible for the bass. On top of this, sometimes there is also a Surround system, thanks to which you are able to “surround” yourself with sound.

  • The key technical parameter, however, seems to be the number of channels, that is, the speakers used and the extras. If you’re looking for something cheap and compact, your choice will certainly be a 2.0 or 3.0 system, which contain two and three speakers, respectively. More options, on the other hand, are provided by 2.1 and 3.1 systems. why? Because they consist not only of speakers, but also of a subwoofer. Thanks to it, the bass tones (bass) are much stronger, which, of course, has a positive effect on the quality of the entire audio path.

Is that all? No! Manufacturers supply stores with very elaborate sets, such as 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1. On top of that, there are also systems with additional components, such as 5.1.2. The first number indicates the number of front speakers, the second indicates the presence of a subwoofer, and what does the third number mean? In this case, it’s two overhead speakers that further enhance the experience of listening to music, watching movies or playing games.

  • Regardless of the number of speakers, each soundbar for TV is distinguished by a certain total power. It mainly determines the capabilities of the set, as well as the volume of sound generated, so it is essential to pay attention to it. All this in order to properly adjust the equipment to your needs and the specifics of the room. As it happens, manufacturers supply the stores with sets ranging from 40 watts to well over 500 watts. As for the other parameters affecting sound quality, the main ones to mention are frequency response, sensitivity and noise reduction.
  • When you decide on a soundbar with a subwoofer, don’t forget to check its type! As you can easily guess, this has a decisive impact on its capabilities. In standard models it is integrated into the unit, while for more expensive sets you can use an active or wireless subwoofer.
  • In answering the question of what is a soundbar and what distinguishes it, the technologies used cannot be missed. We are mainly talking about sound decoders, on which depends the way the equipment works. Manufacturers often choose to implement both proven and new solutions that make movies, music and games sound simply better. Among the decoders used most often are Dolby Atmos, Digital, Pro Logic, TrueHD, as well as DTS.

When choosing a device, it is worth paying attention, moreover, to wireless connectivity (we will go into its discussion later in the text) and design. Although classic black models are most often available in stores, there are exceptions. In addition, there is some variation in terms of the shape of individual models.

Advantages of a soundbar

Now that you know what a soundbar is and what is worth checking before buying a particular model, we can address the most important advantages of this equipment. What makes TV owners so often opt for devices of this type?

The freedom of choice and the considerable expansion of the market are certainly important. Plenty of products are coming to the stores, which everyone is able to match in any respect. We are talking about technical parameters, as well as the number and manufacture of individual components. On top of that, there is a wide price range. How much does a soundbar cost? The cheapest of them can be bought for a few tens of dollars, and the prices of the most expensive ones run into several thousand.

The fact that there is an abundance of such a wide variety of audio systems for sale means that everyone is able to find something for themselves. If you have a small amount of free space in the living room, a single strip that you put in front of the TV will be enough, in a situation where you care about good bass, you will bet on equipment with a subwoofer, and if you want to surround yourself with sound, you will reach for a model with additional main and top speakers. There are plenty of possible configurations, so it’s only up to you to decide what you ultimately buy.

At this point it is worth mentioning the basic recommendation of the products in question. It is often brought up when discussing the choice: soundbar or TV speakers. It is, of course, about the quality of sound, which in the case of external equipment is often incomparably higher. Especially if you take care of the right choice of basic technical parameters. The sound will then become stronger and more realistic. Equally important, the soundbar is great not only for standard TV shows, but also for:

  • movies,
  • music,
  • games. 

The difference can be felt especially on TVs with weak audio systems. Buying good quality speakers means no more flat sound that does not convey the depth of a movie or game. To the set of advantages of the goods in question should also be added the possibility of free configuration – using the built-in control panel, remote control or mobile devices (such as smartphones).

Mini tower or Soundbar – the differences

This brings us to the comparison of soundbars with other audio equipment you can find in stores today. It’s well worth the effort, as it will allow you to make the best purchasing decision, as well as learn about all the options available to you regardless of your budget.

  • Soundbar or mini tower – which to choose? In this case, we are comparing a device that works well with televisions with speakers used primarily for music playback. When it comes to sound quality, much depends on the technical parameters, while it should be noted that a mini tower usually allows the use of CDs and DVDs. A soundbar, on the other hand, will prove to be a better choice for movie and game lovers.
  • Soundbar or stereo? Here, too, much depends on exactly what kind of set we are talking about. A single strip will not provide such an experience as a good quality stereo system. However, it is slightly different for more elaborate systems – 3.1, 5.1 7.1, or 9.1.4. So if you are wondering what to choose, pay attention to how both products are made, their parameters and price range.
  • Soundbar or home theater? This type of juxtaposition on the web appears really often. For many customers, a soundbar is a cheaper alternative to a home theater. And it’s hard to disagree with this. Especially since the prices of the latter devices can be as high as several thousand dollars. On the other hand, however, the higher expense is often really worth it. It gives you equipment with better parameters, as well as providing wider configuration options.

So to settle the soundbar vs home theater rivalry, you need to think about what is most important to you. If you are looking for compact devices that are easy to assemble and are ready to go right away, bet on soundbars. In a situation where sound quality is of paramount importance to you and you want to adjust all the parameters to suit your needs, choose a home theater.

Wired or wireless soundbar?

There is only one issue left for us to discuss. For as it turns out, both wired speakers and wireless models are hitting the stores. The former are usually connected to the TV with an HDMI cable. This way you get always stable operation, as well as the highest quality sound. Without any interference or delay. The latter, on the other hand, support one (or several) connectivity modules, among which we should mention in particular:

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, DLNA, AirPlay. What can they do? You can pair them with external devices such as smartphones, tablets or computers. Why. To remotely run music or perform speaker setup. Such a solution makes sense when the soundbar is intended to be more than just an external TV audio system. So again, individual preferences come into play.

Regardless of which exact solution appeals to you, be sure to familiarize yourself with all the key parameters and features before you buy. In addition, the opinions of other users who have already had a chance to try the system you are interested in, as well as popularity rankings, will prove helpful in your choice. A thorough analysis of the market is the best way to make a good purchasing decision.

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