Learning Center : Shopping Tips
Soundbar Speakers Fill A Room without Taking Up Space
You may be buying a top-of-the-line TV, but that doesn’t mean the sound coming out of the built-in speakers is anything worth bragging about. If you truly want to want to feel engaged with what you’re watching, you’re going to need an external speaker system. And since the thought of installing speaker tower sentries around your room’s perimeter is enough to make some folks cry, the speaker industry wisely created the soundbar. It may not outperform those massive tower speakers, but it’s guaranteed to run circles around your TV’s built-in music makers.
What is a Soundbar?
As its name implies, a soundbar is a long (usually 36” or longer), rectangular (bar-like?) enclosure that houses two or more front-firing speaker drivers. Although many simple soundbars contain two speakers for an improved stereo experience, more elaborate systems contain up to twenty or more drivers to simulate a room filled with multiple surround speakers.
With some soundbars measuring mere inches tall and inches deep, it should come as no surprise that soundbars typically require the help of a subwoofer to handle the low end of the sound spectrum. Thankfully, many soundbars are sold as soundbar/subwoofer packages; this gives you everything you need in one box without having to worry about which type of sub will work best work with your soundbar. Also, an increasing number of soundbar/subwoofer packages feature wireless subwoofers.
Good, Better, Best
As you may know, the subwoofer makes up the “.1” in a 2.1 or 5.1 speaker system. When you see a soundbar described as a “2.1” speaker system, this means you’re getting a subwoofer plus two speakers inside the soundbar. If your standard TV speakers are “good,” 2.1 soundbars are “better.” If you want to step up to “best,” look for a virtual surround sound model with more than two speaker drivers. This will have a much better chance of recreating the 5.1 experience of having discrete speakers placed in different locations around the room.
Obviously “best” is a subjective term and the best soundbar for you may not be the best soundbar for me. This is especially true when comparing the advanced features on some of the latest and greatest soundbars. For example, some soundbars feature an integrated iPod dock, while others feature built-in Bluetooth support. If it’s important to you to be able to stream music from a Bluetooth-enabled iPhone, this may be a feature that quickly sets one model apart from the competition.
Active vs. Passive Soundbars
One of the benefits of using a soundbar is the simplified wiring scenario of not needing an A/V receiver. This is possible because most soundbars provide their own amplification; for this reason such models are often described as “active” or “powered” soundbars. Powered soundbars allow you to directly connect your source devices (or your television’s audio output) using analog, RCA-style cables or digital connectors such as optical and, in some cases, HDMI.
A passive soundbar is one that lacks internal amplification and relies on an A/V receiver or external amplifer for power. In many ways, these soundbars are simply providing a more space-efficient replacement for your front left (L), center (C), and right (R) speakers. These soundbar models, often called “LCR Speakers” or “LCR Soundbars,” typically lack source connections out back and simply feature binding posts for each speaker contained within.
Many soundbars feature slim, attractive designs that emulate the look of today’s flat panel displays. This means that a wall-mounted soundbar can look like a natural extension of the display itself, with many models featuring widths that closely match those of the most common display sizes.
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