Let’s face it, for many of you, the idea of a discrete Dolby Atmos, 7.1 or even 5.1 Surround sound system with in-ceiling speakers, Audio-Video Receivers, Racks of equipment and wire going through your walls (along with lots of drywall cutting and patching )just isn’t a possibility for you. Further, it may not be something you even want or feel like you need. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have at least some of the surround sound experience in your home theater system that the local cinema and many dedicated home theaters rooms have. That idea was how the soundbar market was born and has been thriving ever since– especially in recent years. So the main questions everyone usually has is– what different types of soundbars are available and what type should I get for my home theater in los angeles?
So generally speaking, there are two sound bar types– active soundbars and passive soundbars. Passive sound bars are basically just speakers combined together in one enclosure– they still require a separate multi-channel AVR to power them. They don’t really “simplify” your AV setup much other than in physical appearance. As an example, if you needed to mount a 3-channel passive soundbar underneath your TV, you would have to run 3x speaker wires to that location for the 3 channels and connect them to 3 different channels of an AVR in addition to the wiring going to the TV itself. Active soundbars have both speaker and amplifier included in the same enclosure, simplifying setup but requiring an extra AC plug be available at TV height along with the TV itself for a wire free install. On those rare occasions where you just setting your TV on its stand, there is also a “soundbase” option that is similar in design to an active soundbar, including both speakers and amplifier in one enclosure.
When soundbars first came out, the passive versions were very popular as many felt they compromised sound less vs a discrete 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system than an active soundbar did. However, as Home Theater systems got more complicated and people started watching less TV & Movie programming on an actual TV (favoring tablets and phones), the discrete multi-channel surround experience became less important. Consumers have also always been swayed by convenience, often at the expense of performance, so the idea of an all in one device that provided a relatively good surround sound experience was appealing. Enter the active soundbar, which is pretty much the #1 preferred soundbar type for most consumers.
SOUNDBAR FEATURES AND PRICING:
Within the active soundbar category, there is quite a variance in pricing. This pricing is mostly due to the number of amplified speaker drivers and channels the sound bar has, and to a lesser extent the soundbars extra features. At the very low end of the spectrum are the 2-channel sound bars that have between 2-3 speaker drivers per channel. These soundbars are only slightly better than the TV speakers themselves, although they are forward facing so the sound is not as muffled as rear facing TV speakers can be. These soundbars are often paired with a small wireless subwoofer to give you 2.1 surround sound, far short of a basic 5.1 experience. On a positive note if funds are tight, the 2 channel soundbar is a good solution. Companies like Samsung, LG and Yamaha each make good offerings for this type of soundbar. Next up is the 3 channel sound bar which has the extra feature of a dedicated center channel. This channel is vitally important to a surround sound soundtrack as most of the dialogue and foreground noise comes from this channel. The 3 channel soundbar is also commonly paired with a wireless subwoofer and together provide you with a big step closer to the full surround sound experience. Samsung LG and Yamaha also make soundbars in this category. The final step up in soundbar quality is the 5 channel and Dolby Atmos soundbars. These soundbars have anywhere from 5-7 channels built into them, often with 2-3 drivers per channel. The extra channels added are effects channels which have their speaker drivers aimed at walls perpendicular to the TV location and trick your ear into a feeling of depth as the sound from that channel arrives at your ear slightly after the sound from the left front, center and right front channels do. These 5 channel and Dolby Atmos speakers are at least paired with a wireless subwoofer and often have the option to wirelessly add surround speakers channels if a consumer wants to get a bit closer to a discrete 5.1 or Dolby Atmos surround sound experience. Our personal favorite in this category is the Sonos Playbar and Wireless subwoofer which can be paired with an additional pair of wireless speakers for surround sound duty.
In terms of streaming capabilities, almost all soundbars can at least due bluetooth streaming. Although nice, you are limited by bluetooth’s close range and also hearing the audio cutout every time you get an email, text or phone call. Some of the soundbars in each of the categories I mentioned above also have various forms of Wi-fi streaming which eliminates the range and interruption issues. For the Sonos soundbar in particular, it can be part of up to a 32 zone wireless audio systems in addition to playing audio from your favorite movie tracks which is a nice feature if you have an open Living/Dining/Kitchen area and want to play the same music source in all three areas.
We hope you have found this information useful as you go about your soundbar shopping. In general please remember these key items: (1) passive soundbars require an AVR to operate (2) Active soundbars can be anywhere between 2 to 7 channels and are priced accordingly (3) Active soundbars may or may not come with additional speakers, subwoofers, etc., so check package contents carefully before buying and (4) know what music streaming and other features you want before buying as the ones offered on a soundbar you are looking at in a local retailer or online may or may not work for you.
If you have any more questions about soundbars and which soundbar system would work best for you for your Home Theater in Los Angeles, give us a call at 855-832-4775 or find us on the web at www.technospeakco.com.
At Technospeak, we take the “tech-y” out of Technology, leaving our clients with the knowledge they need to enjoy their electronics.