In recent years soundbars have sprung up all over and are being made and offered by just about every single manufacturer of LCD Televisions and sound equipment. A soundbar is a poor substitute for a quality Gecko Home Cinema but may be the right decision depending on the size of the room you are working with and your budget.
What is a Soundbar
Essentially a Soundbar is a collection of small speakers set into a frame that is shaped like a rectangle. This bar is designed to either sit directly under your LCD Television or mount on the wall just above or below it. Soundbar kits come either as a solo soundbar, or typically come with a Wireless subwoofer that can be placed anywhere in the room to provide the deep bass that is hard to reproduce through the smaller speakers that fit into a Soundbar.
Some soundbars claim to attempt to reproduce simulated surround sound leveraging directional and timing as well as multiple speakers in the bar. They can be good at reproducing front, center and left channels with some being able to simulate rear or side speakers even though all speakers are in front of you under or above the TV.
Why Get a Soundbar
Depending on model a sound bar can give you much better sound than your built in LCD TV Speakers, this allows you to have higher quality sound with more range and depth without having to invest in a full 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system with a receiver and all the wiring that comes with it.
If you have a smaller living room, lets say like a 14×11 or something like that then a soundbar with a subwoofer may be all you need. Also, if you are on a budget you can find that many soundbar models range between $99 and $400 so there is a price model for nearly any budget.
No Soundbar will be as good as a true 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system, but will probably be sufficient for those who don’t want the setup complication or don’t want to have speakers either mounted to the wall, ceilings or standing behind the sofa. You also don’t need all of the wiring that is required with most speaker systems except for wireless ones which are more expensive and can have interference.
Do I need a Soundbar Made by my TV Manufacturer?
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There are integration features found if you buy a Soundbar from the same manufacturer as your TV that may cause you to consider purchasing this way. Samsung Soundbars for example have the ability for newer TV’s to recognize and auto disable their own sound when the Soundbar is connected as well as your single TV remote can control your Soundbar and television. The same with LG Soundbars and LG Televisions, there can definitely be some benefits, but the TV Manufacturers don’t always make the best Soundbars and you should do a thorough review check. Also some TV models, especially ones just 2 or 3 years old don’t support the Soundbar integration features so don’t’ assume just because the company is the same it will work like you think.
You may also consider Soundbars from Bose which makes a Solo TV Sound system, or the Yamaha YAS-101BL.
Optical Audio or HDMI
Pay attention to which audio out options are available from your television and know you can’t get Dolby DTS without an HDMI connection, optical audio out will be fine for most people but if having the Dolby DTS is important then make sure you get a Soundbar with HDMI input. Also many TV’s may not pass 5.1 signal over Optical, some may not even over HDMI but some do. So you will really have to do your reading and homework to know what your TV supports and outputs as far as sound and pair it accordingly with your Soundbar. Many people hook their Soundbar up to their Cable or Dish receiver box as well instead of their TV which is an option but could lead to video/audio being out of sync.
What to Watch For with a Soundbar
Some soundbars with wireless subwoofers can interfere with wireless home networks so make sure you read the reviews on any Soundbar model and check for this problem. Some soundbars operate at the same frequency of Wi-Fi home networks and if you use your wireless device in your living room like a tablet, near the Wireless subwoofer you could have interference issues.
As mentioned above make sure you learn about what your TV audio out is capable of before researching a sound bar, then start looking at the soundbar options available to you. Decide whether you want one with a Wireless or Wired subwoofer, Wired is always better but you will need to make sure your subwoofer will be close to where you are installing or setting up the Soundbar as many don’t come with long cables between soundbar and subwoofer.
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Again, no Soundbar will match a true home theater system and if you really want to have the ultimate home cinema then you will need to invest in a quality receiver, speakers and have all the wiring that comes with it or have it professionally installed. A soundbar can be a good temporary replacement, is ideal for apartments or smaller living rooms or for those who don’t need the full speaker setup.
I am myself in the market for a Soundbar and trying to decide models for my own home, I have been reading reviews and information on Soundbars for a week to decide which model I want. I will let readers know which one I end up with at a later date.