Choosing a Sound Bar Speaker
A sound bar is a great way to improve what you hear when you watch TV without the complexity of (or space required by) a conventional surround sound system. This type of speaker is easy to install, requires minimal set-up and yields impressive results.
Although a sound bar is only a single speaker and won’t perform the way a true surround sound system would, it can be the perfect solution for a smaller viewing area or for any situation where a more complex system just won’t work. There are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself before making your selection:
What kind of room will you be using the sound bar in?
Do you want stereo or surround sound?
Do you want a unit that comes with a built-in subwoofer?
What kind of audio inputs will you need?
The type and size of the room where you’re planning to install your sound bar will influence what type and size you need. If the room is small to medium-sized and square or rectangular, you can create a dynamic surround sound experience by choosing either a virtual surround or a “beaming” sound bar.
A virtual surround bar includes the left, center and right audio channels (also called LCR) all in one sleek cabinet. The LCR option won’t give you the range you’ll get with a true surround sound system, but will greatly improve the sound you get when watching movies, TV, or playing video games.
A “beaming” sound bar works by literally bouncing or beaming sound off the four walls around your listening area, essentially fooling your ears into thinking the sound is coming from different directions as it would with a true surround sound system. However, this won’t be as effective in an open floor plan or a large room.
If you just want stereo sound, or you are working with a larger room, you may consider a more conventional sound bar with built-in amplification. A good stereo sound bar will be a tremendous improvement over the speakers used in flat-screen TVs, your set-up will be easy, and you’ll achieve a streamlined look. Be sure to note what audio inputs you need (cable, DVD player, game console, etc.) before making your decision.
Most sound bars include built-in amplification, but some do not. Those that do not are called passive and will require a connection to a home theater receiver. This is a good option for anyone who already has a receiver, or who may want to create a complete surround sound/home theater system later on. Using a separate receiver can yield cleaner sound processing and a higher quality sound overall, and usually a receiver will offer all the audio inputs you need.
Lastly, you might want to consider adding a separate powered subwoofer. A sound bar can only go so far in reproducing lower bass tones, so if you enjoy deep bass a subwoofer may be worth the investment. They are easy to set up and can be tucked away just about anywhere, as long as it’s near an outlet.