Sound Bar Buying Guide
the proliferation of streaming devices like Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku
and Apple TV, we’re in an age where it’s easy to upgrade our TVs by simply
buying add-on gadgets.
probably already have the full streaming experience. Now all you need is great
sound. Today’s modern TVs keep getting thinner and are forcing their speaker
counterparts to follow suit. So if you seek significantly better audio than
your TV can deliver on its own, then it’s time for a sound bar.
is a sound bar?Sound
bars are compact, slim speaker systems that sit in front of or beneath your TV,
rather than surrounding it with lots of satellite bits and pieces. There are
two main types:
traditional sound bar is shaped like its name suggests — a rectangular
bar that’s 2 or 3 inches high and nearly the same width as your TV. It can be
wall-mounted or placed on your TV table in front of your set. It commonly comes
with a wireless bass speaker or subwoofer.
bases are sleekly designed
to go underneath your TV like a stand. The advantage here is the high-quality
sound with such a small footprint. Unlike the traditional design, sound bases
generally do not come with a separate subwoofer; however, certain models like LG’s slim
SoundPlate come complete with
built-in dual subwoofers.
designs offer significant upgrades to most built-in TV speakers. In general,
however, a traditional sound bar with a subwoofer will be better at delivering
that powerful, deep bass that really takes sound up a notch.
boom for your buckWith
many models retailing under $100, such as the Ematic ESB210, Philips
HTL2101A and iLive
ITB382B, a sound bar is the
most affordable upgrade to your TV’s existing sound.
By paying just a little more, you’ll gain additional
connectivity options and better control of tone and sound that rivals large
home-theater systems. For this, consider the 50-watt Pioneer
SP-SB23W or the Toshiba 2.1 Wireless Speaker System, which is designed for a 50-inch screen.
of the big selling points of sound bars, relative to their home-theater
siblings, is that they’re super easy to set up. A traditional sound system will
have several speakers and a pre-amp to wire, whereas sound bars usually require
just a single optical or analog cable to connect to your TV.
sound bars allow you to manually adjust the sound coming from it, and some may
also offer noise reduction. Keep in mind, however, that your TV also has tone
controls like these built in, so having them on your sound bar is more of a
nice-to-have rather than a necessity.
big bonus of sound bars? You only need one remote: the one that controls your
power of BluetoothSome
sound bars offer additional wireless connectivity. In most cases, you still
connect the main speaker unit to your TV using wires. Other devices, however,
can connect to the sound bar via Bluetooth, so you can stream music from your
phone, tablet or digital music player.
is also how a sound bar is paired with its wireless subwoofer.
of which, you might be thinking, "Do I really need that subwoofer?"
It ultimately depends on your preferences. Sound bars are almost always an
improvement on the relatively thin sound of a modern TV, and that might be
enough for some. But they’re also built to be compact, so the lower-end models
might lack a little oomph for some tastes. If you crave bass, get a model with
a separate subwoofer. It’s becoming more common to include them, even with the
most affordable systems.
some sound bar units say they produce surround sound. But keep in mind that to
get true surround sound, you need to actually surround your setup with
speakers, something that is unachievable with a single sound bar.
sound bar systems are active, which means they have built-in amplification.
Passive sound bars need an external pre-amp to power them and are usually more
expensive. They’re a great choice for home-theater fans looking to build a
system piece by piece, but active is the best choice for most sound bar
shoppers. It’s a simple, all-in-one unit that will deliver a rich stereo
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