How to choose a soundbar speaker
Edited by Frank Fazio, VC, Mdsuvo, Alma
Deciding On A Soundbar Speaker
You can think of a soundbar as a long thin box made up of many small speakers, that when placed under your video display, will give you surround sound without the need to position additional speakers throughout your room. So by installing a soundbar in a room, you eliminate the messy wires and speaker position problems that you would get if you had 5 or more speakers to deal with.
Now, it should be noted that although these soundbars are quick fixes to your tight living space problems, there is no substitute to individual speakers placed in their proper positions around the room.
How Many Channels Does It Have? Whether you're watching a movie or listening to music, you want to immerse yourself in surround. You can do this a number of ways, but most people do not have the budget, time or environment to set up a number of speakers around their room. There are soundbars for a number of different setups, whether you want one just for your TV viewing or want a more full sound because you will be watching movies and need surround sound. The number of channels your soundbar accommodates will dictate your sound experience. Think of number of channels as how many speakers it mimics.
- 2.1 Channels For a simple setup, you can explore the 2.1 channel soundbar. This soundbar is used primarily for TV viewing, as it mimics the left and right speakers on your TV. These soundbars are on the lower end of the price range and will only give you that stereo effect unless it has offers different movie modes through the soundbar software.
- 3.1 Channels When you start to explore soundbars for movie watching, you will come across the 3.1 option. What you're seeing here is the basic left and right speaker setup, but it will also add a speaker in the middle that acts as your center channel. This added center speaker is used for dialogue, in other words, when you see people talking on your screen, the voice will come out of the center speaker instead of the left and right ones. The .1 refers to the subwoofer.
- 5.1 Channels The 5.1 soundbar starts getting into the more serious quality sound and you will notice the price jumps. These are made for movie soundtracks and will mimic the feeling of you sitting in a room surrounded by speakers. The 5.1 channels refer to the front left and right, the center, the back left and right, and the .1 refers to the subwoofer.
- 7.1 Channels The 7.1 soundbar moves into the full surround sound as it mimics not only the front and rear speakers of a home theater, but it also mimics the side left and right speakers. This should give you a full circle of sound around you with not only the higher frequencies, but the .1 insures that you also have the lower bass frequencies.
- 9.1 Channels Now if you want to outdo the neighbors, you'll go to the 9.1 soundbar. This soundbar mimics the 7.1 setup, but also adds two more speakers. So you will have the front left and right, the center, the back left and right, the side left and right, and you will add two more speakers in the front of the room ABOVE the front left and right speakers. You now will have a lower front left and right, and a high front left and right. The subwoofer is also included and is the .1 of the setup.
Do You Want Passive Or Active?
Soundbars are placed in 2 different categories when it comes to how they work. Passive soundbars need a home theater receiver to power their internal speakers and active soundbars have everything on board to power their speakers, so no receiver is needed. As you have probably figured out, the active soundbars are going to be more expensive due to all the internal amplifiers that will drive the individual speakers. If you are serious about getting good sound out of your soundbar, I would stick with the active variety.
Does A Subwoofer Come With It?
Getting a soundbar for your audio is sufficient for a range of normal movie frequencies, but if you want some bass, you'll need to add a subwoofer. Many manufacturers offer subwoofers with their soundbars for that extra kick during movies.
How Does It Connect?
There are basically two ways that it will connect into your system and you will need to make that decision before you buy. You will either want to connect all your components (cable box, satellite, Xbox, etc) into the TV and then connect the TV to the soundbar, or you want all your components connected into the soundbar and then connect your soundbar into your TV.
Wall Mounting Or A Stand?
Depending on your room, you will know if your soundbar is going to be placed hanging on a wall under your video display, or sitting on a TV stand in front of your video display. If you are hanging on the wall, you will need to get a wall mount that fits that particular brand. If it is just to be placed laying in front of the video display, then you need to be careful that it isn't tall enough to block your remote control sensor on he bottom of your TV.
What Will It Cost You? When it comes to choosing a soundbar, like I've said many times before, it all comes down to your budget. Buy what you can afford. Entry level soundbars, which would be in the passive 2.1 channel variety, usually will be in the $200-$300 range. As you keep adding channels and functionality, you will also see the price move. The active 7.1 and 9.1 channel soundbars can go as high as $2000 depending on the manufacturer. Once you get to the $2000 price range, you've basically topped out and the quality of sound will not get any better than that.
Questions and Answers
Can I hook up a soundbar to a TV?
Is it possible to hook up a soundbar to my Philips TV?
Yes it is possible to hook up any soundbar to your Philips TV. There are usually two different inputs on the back of the soundbar that you can use to hook up to your TV. For digital sound, you'll see an optical input connection, and for analog sound, you should see a white and red RCA jack input.
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Recent edits by: Mdsuvo, VC, Frank Fazio