You’ve invested in the perfect flat-screen TV for your new home entertainment mecca, but the thought of setting up multiple speakers, running wires and connecting everything to get top-notch sound quality leaves you cold. A sound bar is one long speaker that replicates surround sound in your home, giving you incredible audio quickly and easily.
When it’s time to outfit your home theatre with a sound system that’s compact, easy to install and devoid of tangled wires, you have options. With a wide variety of sound bars to produce stereo sound, surround sound, or act as a multimedia unit, the perfect sound bar for your room is out there.
What is a Sound Bar?
A sound bar is a speaker bar that uses the long design to blast sound from your flat-screen TV without the need for a complicated speaker setup. With three or more speakers built into one unit, you get stereo quality sound or even surround quality sound with advanced digital audio processing bouncing signals off of the walls to simulate the sound of rear speakers.
Small Size, Big Sound
The main point of a sound bar is to sound big without actually being big. It’s perfect for use in multi-purpose rooms, or those that simply aren’t big enough for a full surround sound system. Designed to work with LED TVs, LCD TVs and HDTVs, sound bars increase the audio quality of your flat-screen TV in a stylish, unobtrusive way.
Sound Bar Types
Not all sound bars offer surround effects. Instead, some focus on providing high-quality stereo sound. If you have an open floor plan or want superior sound in a room that isn’t dedicated solely to entertainment, a stereo sound bar is a great option.
A surround sound bar uses advanced technology to generate virtual surround sound. Audio processing modes create a surround effect similar to that of a dedicated multi-speaker setup by using sound delays and bouncing audio off of the walls of your room for a compact, cost-effective solution.
Multimedia sound bars can be used as a central entertainment hub. Often with a built-in CD/DVD or Blu-ray Disc player, or the ability play music through an integrated AM/FM tuner, iPod doc or auxiliary port.
Matching your TV
Because sound bars are specifically designed to increase the sound quality of flat-screen TVs, it’s important to get a size that matches your television. Keep in mind that sound bars are long, thin units. You want one to pair perfectly with your TV for optimal sound quality and aesthetics.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Each type of sound bar has its own distinct features, and the one you choose should fit your room setup.
- Multi-purpose room with limited space? Choose a stereo sound bar.
- Just starting out? Try a multimedia sound bar.
- Dedicated entertainment room? Get yourself a surround sound bar.
Features and Specifications
Total System Power
Total system power varies depending on the model you get. Like all speakers, the size of the drivers and tweeters will vary, as will the power of the subwoofer if one is included. Most sound bars have a lower total watt output (RMS) than bigger systems with similar audio levels.
Sound bars typically have two, three or five channel sound, and might even include a subwoofer. The difference in sound quality will vary depending on how many full range channels you have and whether or not a subwoofer is part of your sound bar setup.
One of the biggest perks with sound bars, aside from the boost in sound quality, is how easy they are to connect. They plug into your television directly, and often times have one or two other HDMI ports for you to connect your Blu-ray Disc player or gaming console.
Size varies, but it’s important to select a sound bar that matches your television setup. Make sure the one you buy won’t stick out from your cabinet; otherwise it will be an obstacle you’re likely to trip over.
Some sound bars come packaged with a subwoofer, which is recommended for larger screens and for people wanting a fuller audio experience. While sound bars have excellent mid-range and high frequency response, their ability to reproduce low bass is often poor. Even if your sound bar doesn’t include a subwoofer, you may want to pick one up for the full sonic experience.
Because they use either a coaxial and audio cable combination or an HDMI cable, sound bars are quick and simple to hook up to your flat-screen TV. Make sure that the cables you use are of a high enough quality to transfer a strong audio signal for the best sound possible.
Blu-ray Disc, DVD Players and Gaming Consoles
If your sound bar is going to be the central unit connecting your HDTV to your peripherals, it’s important to make sure that it’s compatible with the equipment you have or plan to acquire. If you have a Blu-ray Disc player and a gaming console, make sure that your sound bar has enough HDMI inputs to let you hook them up. If you purchase your sound bar first, double check that the peripherals you pick up have compatible outputs.
Take the Next Step
Regardless of what type of sound bar you end up deciding on, Best Buy has the options on-line and in-store to help you find a sound bar that will make your flat-screen TV defy your sound expectations. With the accessories and mounts that will help it blend seamlessly into your room, it will be your turn to host movie night soon.