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Sound Advice: How to Select the Best Soundbar for Your Home Theater
In recent years, televisions have become increasingly larger, thinner and chock full of useful smart features. They have also integrated sophisticated 4K streaming capabilities and newer OLED screens that are capable of producing an even clearer, crisper and more vibrant picture than was ever possible before.
But this does come at a price. Thinner TVs mean thinner speakers, which can sometimes sound a bit thin or tinny. That is why many people consider soundbars to be such an attractive option. Not only do they provide a robust audio experience, but they are also easy to setup and much cheaper than a multi-speaker system.
If you're considering a sound bar, here are some tips to help get you started.
Sound bars come in in a variety of shapes, sizes and price tags. While larger sound bars often offer more drivers - and therefore the potential for fuller sound - bigger is not always better.
Before making a purchase, you'll want to do a little research first, read some user reviews and listen to a few for yourself. To help point you in the right direction, here is a list of The 10 Best Soundbars You Can Buy as rated by Digital Trends.
Aesthetically speaking, we recommend a soundbar that is shorter than the overall length of your television. You can use the following chart as a helpful guide.
Setting the Stage
The most popular soundbar design is generally a long, thin speaker that is frequently combined with a subwoofer, providing an additional low-end response.
There are newer designs available like the Sonos PlayBase in which you place your television directly on top of it. They have yet to reach the same level of popularity (and price point) as the standard long media bar, but can be a great solution depending upon your preference and set-up.
A soundbar can be mounted on the wall under a TV but is most commonly placed directly in front of the TV. Depending on the size of your speaker, this could position the speaker directly in your line of sight, or it could block your TV's remote sensor.
Many manufacturers recommend that for optimum performance, the soundbar should be placed roughly six to eight inches under the television screen.
Alternatively, positioning the soundbar on a lower shelf or within an acoustically transparent cabinet (as is the case with many of BDI's media cabinets) will keep the soundbar out of your line of sight while still permitting full sound passthrough.
Living the Stream
Another benefit of soundbars is their ability to wirelessly stream music from your smartphone or tablet through apps like Pandora or Spotify. Thanks to wireless connectivity, you won't need to get a separate speaker for your living room. If you have a soundbar, the sound, volume and clarity will be far superior to most wireless speakers anyway.
If the ability to stream music is important to you, make sure that you select a soundbar that is Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled.
Bluetooth is most common and easier to connect, but it is also more dependent upon proximity to the speaker. Wi-Fi enabled speakers (like Sonos) are generally part of a larger wireless audio system.
Most soundbars offer some form of simulated surround sound through complex audio processing and driver placement. This effect can create the sense of being 'surrounded' by sound, however the ones that do it best will usually carry a higher price tag.
If this is important to you, verify that the soundbar you're interested in offers simulated surround sound. But if you're simply looking for an upgrade to your television's built-in speakers, then a decent stereo-enabled soundbar will more than suffice.
Lastly, consider a unit that includes a subwoofer for that extra low-end response that is especially noticeable when you're watching the latest action blockbuster. Although high-end soundbars do a decent job of replicating bass, it is nothing compared to a dedicated subwoofer.
Wireless subwoofers are ideal, as they allow for a wide assortment of placement options, whether it's hidden behind a sofa, under a coffee table or positioned inside of your media cabinet.
Shop, Look and Listen
When shopping for a soundbar, be sure to measure your TV and home entertainment system so you can easily narrow down your search and make the right choice.
Research models online and read what others have to say about the units that you are interested in. You may find someone sharing a story or setup scenario that is similar to yours, which will help to inform your final decision.
When it comes to home entertainment audio, beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also the ear! Choose a soundbar that achieves the look, feel and sound quality you have established throughout your home theater space. With a little diligence, your new TV setup will stand up to the latest movies, music and video games at any volume, and be worthy of a complete home theater experience!
Do you have any soundbar recommendations that you'd like to share with our readers? Feel free to provide them in the comment section.