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How to choose a soundbar

The soundbar is a multi-channel speaker system in the form of a monoblock sound panel. It is used to reproduce high-quality sound and is a pleasant addition to plasma and LCD TVs.

Today, these are multifunctional devices that process and perfect sound, have many auxiliary options and advanced functionality and we decided to create a guide on how to choose a soundbar.

Advanced soundbar models in sound reproduction quality are not much different from a home theater, but they do not take up much space in the room. Good sound is achieved through a set of built-in speakers that are installed in different directions and at different angles. Many models are equipped with a subwoofer, which helps complement the sound range with bass.

These are not just extra speakers for your TV, these are devices that can work autonomously, paired with a TV, smartphone or tablet. They have ports for connecting external drives or memory cards, have wireless connection interfaces, are able to receive radio channels, support Smart TV via Wi-Fi, and convert 2D video formats to 3D and this article aims to solve the buyer’s problem -how to buy a soundbar? How to choose a soundbar

What to look for in a soundbar

Not all buyers know what to look for in a soundbar choosing. When choosing a device, you must pay attention to the characteristics that will be decisive:

  • appearance and dimensions of the device;
  • equipment, including the presence of a separate or integrated subwoofer, surround sound expansion, rear speakers;
  • number of channels;
  • switching
  • sound reproduction quality and device power;
  • type of speaker system;
  • support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X;
  • wireless listening to music files;
  • additional functions.

Appearance and dimensions

The soundbar is not only designed for high-quality sound reproduction, but it should also organically fit into the interior of the apartment. And here, the dimensions of the device, its appearance, and installation method play an important role. Three types of soundbars can be distinguished and one of the main things what to look for when buying a soundbar.

In the form of a TV stand. When choosing a soundbar, it is recommended to select its dimensions in accordance with the diagonal of the TV so that they form a system made in the same style.

Horizontal mounted (installed near the TV). When choosing such a device, you should rely on the fact that wider models have high-quality sound: a wide stereo scene and tangible separation of channels. A slight deviation from the size of the TV will not violate the aesthetics of the room.

Here you should pay attention to the fact that the width of the soundbar does not directly correspond to the size of the screen of your TV since the latter is measured diagonally. In this soundbar buying guide, we provide data that will help you determine the correct width of the soundbar in accordance with the diagonal of the TV screen.

Soundbar width - TV diagonal in inches

  • 35 cm (13,7 inches) - any TV diagonal
  • 96 to 114 cm (37,7 to 44,8 inches) - 42 to 50 inches
  • 127 cm (50 inches) - 55 to 65 inches
  • 152 cm (59,8 inches) - from 70 inches and more

The soundbar will not necessarily fit the dimensions of your TV, even if they are both from the same manufacturer. Therefore, if it is important for you, before buying, check the dimensions in the relevant characteristics of these models.

Package bundle

The soundbar package plays an important role in what kind of sound it will produce.

Without a subwoofer. This is the easiest option for sound panels that can play virtual multi-channel sound. However, its quality will vary depending on the model and manufacturer.

With a subwoofer. The subwoofer is designed to provide high-quality and natural sound with low frequencies. It can be external (located separately from the panel) or built-in (saves space, but does not guarantee deep and high-quality low frequencies). Soundbars with a subwoofer are an active speaker system with an audible rise in frequency in the “speech” spectrum and do not have a large set of functions.

With support for multi-channel surround sound. The sound of such systems is quite capable of competing with the full-blown acoustics of home theaters. This option will appeal to those who do not want to clutter up the room with speakers but want to get surround high-quality sound.

With a separate subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. This is a full-fledged multifunctional audio system that allows you to get three-dimensional sound and the ability to listen to materials in excellent quality.

It is worth noting that the external subwoofer can be connected wired and wirelessly. The first option is not entirely convenient and modern. Wireless connection using Bluetooth technology is more preferable, and there is almost no loss in sound quality.

Number of channels

The most common are models with the following configurations:

  • 2.0 or 2.1 (dual channel). Designed to improve television acoustics.
  • 3.0 or 3.1 (with a central channel emitter). Maximize the sound quality of television dialogs from movies or television programs.
  • 5.1. (the best option for a living room). It is used to work with various types of content.
  • 5.1.2 (advanced models supporting Dolby Atmos or DTS: X).

Commutation

Soundbars designed to improve the quality of TV speakers are equipped only with optical and analog inputs. More advanced models include HDMI. An HDMI connection is a prerequisite for reproducing high-resolution content. Especially the sound quality is improved if the HDMI output of the soundbar and the HDMI input of the TV are equipped with the ARS (audio return channel) function.

Some models also have a USB input. In more advanced versions, this feature allows you to view video files of various formats. soundbar commutation

Sound reproduction quality and device power indicator

When assessing the quality of the sound path, some technical characteristics should be evaluated. One such indicator will be power output. It is believed that the higher the power level, the better and louder the content will be played. But in practice, this is not always the case. The optimum power of the device is achieved when there is no desire to set the volume level above 60–70%, because when the volume level is increased to 85–100%, even very good models may experience distortion, wheezing, or blockages.

The power of the device is the total output power of the entire speaker system. It is calculated by summing the powers of all the speakers installed in the soundbar. But you should not fully rely on this indicator when choosing. Many manufacturers give indicators that are achieved with a sound distortion level of more than 10%.

A significant factor is the range of reproducible frequencies. It should cover all frequencies audible to the human ear: from 20 to 20,000 Hz.

No less important is decoding. Digital Theater System (DTS), Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro Logic decoders help you create a more accurate sound picture.

Soundbar type

Active. They are an absolutely autonomous system that is easy to connect to a TV. They are used as amplifiers, and some models have the ability to connect additional equipment through analog and digital audio outputs, equipped with built-in wireless personal Bluetooth network.

Passive. Such soundbars do not have a built-in amplifier function and are connected to the TV set using the built-in or separate AV receiver. They have higher sound quality.

Active soundbars are self-contained and easy to install and use. But for those who want to get a higher sound quality, it is preferable to choose a passive device type.

Compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X

A soundbar with support for three-dimensional sound is a good addition to the device, but you should not focus on this parameter only when buying.

There are models on the market that can decode the Dolby Atmos audio format exclusively. But occasionally come across samples that work with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X at the same time.

Wireless connection

Most modern soundbars are adapted for wireless music transfer. Wireless connection is carried out using:

  • Bluetooth: suitable for owners of smartphones and tablets based on Android.
  • AirPlay: useful for users of Apple devices based on iOS.
  • DTS Play-Fi. A universal solution is suitable for both Android and iOS.

If Bluetooth technology is used to transfer music files, then the soundbars should be selected with support for the aptX and aptX HD codecs. Only in this case, the sound quality will be high.

Additional functions

Advanced soundbar models feature a built-in Blu-ray player. With their help, you can play movies and music from CDs in very high quality.

Soundbars with basic equipment work exclusively as sound amplifiers, they do not have any additional functions. But modern and more advanced models can be equipped with the following auxiliary options:

There are models with built-in Blu-ray player with karaoke, with which you can play music or movies from CDs;

There are also soundbar models with network functions that allow streaming services Deezer, Spotify or even network radio.