As technology advances, televisions have gotten lighter, larger and have screens that display a stunning kaleidoscope of colors. Unfortunately, the factory audio often doesn’t match the picture’s brilliance. If you’re looking for a way to elevate the sound to match the picture quality of your new TV, chances are you’re considering a home theater system with surround sound or a soundbar. There are pros and cons for each. The one that fits your needs best depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- Room size
- Existing technology
- Personal preference
Soundbars are a hot trend, but they may or may not be the right choice for you, depending on these factors.
Soundbar vs. Surround Sound
Before deciding between a soundbar and surround sound, it’s essential to understand the difference between the two. Soundbars come in various shapes and sizes, from small, slim models to larger units that are thicker and longer. Each contains several small, built-in speakers, which can deliver a wide sound field. The larger the soundbar, the more speakers are incorporated, the wider the sound field. As a result, you can achieve more sound depth.
Soundbars come with amplifiers and connection options for your television. Depending on the unit, it may also come with a built-in subwoofer. You can mount it on the wall under the TV or place it in the entertainment center.
Surround sound is what you get with a home theater system. These systems typically consist of five or more speakers placed around the room and a subwoofer on the floor at the front, pointing toward listeners. This configuration gives viewers 360-degree, three-dimensional sound. Once you decide to upgrade the sound, it’s time to determine what system works best for your setup.
The compact size is one of the primary benefits of a soundbar. Although it’s generally larger than a standard speaker, the all-in-one design gives you a lot of bang for your buck. You don’t have to worry about finding space for the speakers or placing the subwoofer from a home theater in an out-of-the-way location. Some models simulate surround sound by effectively bouncing sound waves around the room. However, the size is not the only benefit to soundbars.
If you rent your home or don’t want to deal with the wires involved with placing speakers in the various positions, a soundbar may be the right choice. For rooms with very little extra space, the compact design is ideal. Soundbars attach to the television with an HDMI or optical cable. Some models can act as an HDMI hub when connected to a streaming device, cable box, or gaming system. There are HDMI ports on the soundbar, so you don’t have to get behind the television to plug in your devices. Many of today’s options are operated via WiFi instead of being wired, which means connecting via a device such as remote control or smartphone is fast and easy.
You don’t have to make a significant investment to improve the audio quality of your entertainment center noticeably. Although some of the best soundbars can cost a thousand dollars or more, you can markedly enhance the sound, starting at about $100. Top surround sound systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars, making soundbars remarkably affordable in comparison.
Surround Sound Pros
Technology is a wonderful thing, and while soundbars can upgrade your electronic devices’ audio, nothing compares to authentic surround sound. The top benefit of a home theater system is sound quality. When the speakers are positioned correctly throughout the room, it puts you in the center of all the action. Like being on a soundstage, you can hear the roar of the crowd surrounding you at a ball game and hear the creak of a door behind you during a thriller. These systems offer the immersion of a cinematic experience. While this benefit is the most apparent, additional benefits may outweigh the cost.
Unlike the soundbar, which sends sound from only one location, you can place the surround sound speakers based on the room’s layout and personal preference. Mount them on the walls or ceiling, put them behind the sofa or wherever you get the best results. Home theater systems have several components, which you can often upgrade and add later.
Many brands use the same type of connection for their components. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can either stay with the same manufacturer or add those from other brands. Using the speakers from the same manufacturer helps you maintain a uniform look. If your home theater encompasses multiple rooms, you can add the style and type of speakers you want while keeping the style of each room.
Home theater systems with surround sound use receivers as the primary connection point. Even if your TV has only two HDMI ports, the receiver typically has several, making it simple to connect several audio-video devices, cable box, and speakers. Receivers that have multiple zone capabilities allow you to connect additional sets of speakers. Sync the audio throughout different parts of your home, even outside. Play your favorite movie or music as you move from one room to another without pressing pause or missing a beat.
Soundbars vs. Receivers
If you have a surround sound system with a failing receiver or need to downsize, you may be wondering if you can fill the gaps with a soundbar. A receiver processes the surround sound properties, digital sound features, and video data from the home theater system and sends it to the right equipment. If you have an active soundbar, you may not need a separate receiver. This type of equipment has a built-in surround sound processor. It acts as a self-contained amplifier and receiver and doesn’t need additional hardware.
Set up the active soundbar by connecting to your TV through the component port and turn it on. The upside is that you’ll have fewer wires to hide and achieve a digital surround sound effect with a single speaker. The downside is that the soundbar you want may not be compatible with the other speakers, and the sound quality may not be as good as it could be with a receiver.
Home Theater vs. Surround Sound vs. Soundbars
The decision about enhancing your entertainment lifestyle may come down to how much space you have available. A small apartment or cozy family room may not have the space for a home theater system, which can also be expensive. You can emulate surround sound with an active soundbar and wireless digital speakers. While it may not have the same quality as a high-end home theater setup, it can be a huge step up from the speakers that come with your television.
If your budget is small, a soundbar is a good way to get started toward a home theater system. Without spending a lot, you can enhance the audio quality of your television and gaming devices. At BTZ Audio Video, we carry a broad range of devices to meet your entertainment needs, whether you’re streaming the latest Epic game, Hollywood action flick, or looking for the best big-game experience from home. Contact us to learn more about how you can get the best equipment for your space and budget.
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