The soundbar is one of the most popular solutions for people who are looking for a home cinema system but who do not want many speakers in the room. However, such a solution does not only have advantages. In this article, we list all the advantages and disadvantages of a soundbar home cinema system.
What is a soundbar?
It may be known by now what a soundbar is exactly, but in short, it is an elongated speaker that can reproduce a wide sound field thanks to a number of built-in small speakers. The soundbar is equipped with its own amplifier to control these speakers, comes with various connection options to connect your equipment and TV, and can often be equipped with a (wireless) subwoofer. The average soundbar can be mounted on the wall under the TV or placed on the furniture of the TV.
Sound bars come in different shapes and sizes; from very slim and small models to large and thick models. It is often the case that the larger the soundbar, the wider the sound field and the more small speakers are incorporated. The Samsung HW-K950 is an example of this. This model comes with extra built-in speakers that have to provide a Dolby Atmos effect through reflections from the ceiling. Almost every model offers virtual surround sound, which actually means that a surround effect can be achieved through the arrangement of the small speakers in the soundbar and the acoustics of the room. This gives you a little more depth in the sound, but if there are no speakers behind you, it will never really be surround.
Since 2013, there are also sound bars that are not placed in front of the TV but can be placed under a TV. These systems are designated differently by each manufacturer. Some call it a Sound Plate or a Base Speaker, others call it a Speaker Plate. However, the principle is the same; a sturdy and flat speaker on which you can place a TV. The speaker contains everything you need, so it is actually a standard for your TV with integrated speakers.
Advantages of the soundbar
The most important advantage is of course the compact size and what is included in that compact size. With one elongated speaker that you can place in front of or under your TV, you are actually all set and you also have a good and spacious sound image. No cables through the living room and no extra speakers – although there are sound bars with extra speakers at the back of the room. There is often a subwoofer, but in most cases it can be connected wirelessly.
In addition, soundbar systems are often also slightly cheaper than extensive home cinema systems with a large number of speakers. With a budget of 300 to 600 euros, you can already buy a great soundbar. Note that the price also says something about the quality. More expensive sound bars are often more extensively equipped; more HDMI inputs for all your equipment, more speakers for a better audio experience and also better speakers for a longer range and a more impressive audio reproduction.
Sound bars are actually compact hubs for your home theater system. Nowadays most sound bars also come with access to streaming services, bluetooth and WiFi. This makes it easy to display your own music from your home network and online services. The operation is usually also very simple; with a compact remote control or an app from the manufacturer.
Disadvantages of the soundbar
However, a soundbar does not only come with advantages. You are dealing with a compact system, so there are certainly limitations. A misconception that we regularly encounter (and that manufacturers encourage by using the term surround sound) is that sound bars can provide a surround experience. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case when you are dealing with one speaker in the front of the room. The elongated speakers try to imitate a surround experience with special directional drivers in the device and the acoustics of the room (reverberation). In practice, however, this means that you get a slightly deeper and wider sound field, but the sound will never surround you. The shape of the room and the accompanying acoustics must be optimal if you want to get some kind of surround effect. However, there are models that (can) be supplied with (wireless) speakers in the back of the room. This immediately provides a much better surround effect.
t is also important to pay attention to the bass reproduction of the soundbar. When the soundbar is delivered without a subwoofer, chances are that the really deep tones are missing from the sound. An external subwoofer or a system with accompanying subwoofer is then desirable. You can actually assume that a soundbar of less than 500 euros that is supplied without a subwoofer cannot reproduce impressively low sound.
Another disadvantage of the soundbar is the limited range of connections, especially if we compare it with the average receiver or amplifier. Sound bars are provided with a minimal number of connections, especially in the lower price categories. The HDMI ports in particular are only installed sparsely, which is a shame considering that almost all devices nowadays use HDMI. With the central point that the speaker occupies, the connections should also reflect this. But, it is therefore important that you have clear what you want to connect and how you want to do this before buying a soundbar. In any case, choose a soundbar with at least one HDMI input and output, and preferably at least one digital audio input. The more the better.
When to buy a soundbar?
A soundbar is not a substitute for a home cinema system with a large number of physical speakers. With such a system you create a real surround experience and with a stand-alone soundbar that is not possible. The average soundbar is especially suitable for those who want to improve the sound that the TV produces, have a smaller budget and have a small room. If we look at the more expensive models, larger space can also be provided with excellent sound quality and films with a surround audio track can also have more impact. Although a soundbar does not achieve the quality of a full surround system, its size and convenience make the speaker ideal for rooms with limited set-up options.