You need to think about size to ensure the soundbar you choose is suitable for your home:
- Is a soundbar suited to the size of your room? Sound bars suit small-to-medium-size rooms.
- Does the soundbar suit the size of your TV? It can be narrower than your TV, but wider will look odd.
- Is there space for a soundbar? Will it fit in front of the TV, on the shelf underneath or the wall?
You can wall mount your sound bar under your TV to save space, and wireless speakers eliminate cable clutter for minimalist style.
2. Surround Sound
Soundbars have multiple built-in speakers and channels. They assign specific speaker/speakers to each channel, so the greater the number of speakers and channels, the more the sound will seem to surround you.
What do soundbar channels do?
All the different aspects of what you hear (dialogue, music and action) have different frequencies. The channels inside the soundbar isolate and direct these different frequencies to different speakers, so the sound you hear appears to come from all around.
What do soundbar numbers mean?
When you’re comparing soundbars, you’ll see that they all have a number, which tells you:
How many channels it has (first number) – more channels imitate surround sound better.
If it has a subwoofer (second number) – which creates deep bass in action scenes and music.
If it has any upward-firing speakers (third number) – to simulate sound coming from above.
So when you see these numbers used to describe a soundbar, they mean the soundbar has:
- 2.0 – two channels to improve your TV’s sound (zero = a soundbar with no subwoofer ).
- 2.1 – two channels for better TV audio, plus it’s a soundbar with a subwoofer for deep bass.
- 5.1 – five channels simulate surround sound better than a 2.1, plus there’s a subwoofer for deep bass.
- 7.1.2 – seven channels create the best faux-surround-sound, plus there’s a subwoofer for deep bass, and two upward-firing drivers simulate sound coming from above.
So in a nutshell, when the numbers are higher, what you hear sounds more like surround sound (even though technically it’s not because there are no speakers behind or above you).
If your living room is too small for a home theatre system (around 25 square metres or less), but you still want real surround sound, you can create a compact home theatre system with other wireless speakers (that you already use for your music, or you can buy a rear speaker kit for your wireless soundbar ) . Position the wireless speakers behind you, and then link them to your soundbar wirelessly using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity.
You need to ensure that the TV sound bar you choose has all the connections you need for your TV and other entertainment sources such as your set-top box, DVD player, Blu-ray player, media player, gaming consoles and USB storage devices, but don’t pay more for more connections than you need.
If your soundbar and TV both have HDMI ports you can connect your devices to either, and once you’ve connected your soundbar to the TV, all sound will be played through the soundbar instead of the TV speakers.
You can also connect your compatible wireless devices to the soundbar wirelessly, if it’s a:
- Bluetooth soundbar – Bluetooth stream music to it from a compatible phone, tablet or PC.
- Wi-Fi soundbar – stream music and audio straight to the soundbar from the cloud via Wi-Fi, and use your compatible smart speaker for voice control convenience.
- Chromecast soundbar – cast music and audio to it from compatible devices. If the soundbar doesn’t have built-in Chromecast and you want it, just plug in a Chromecast Audio dongle.
Older TVs will most likely need analog inputs, or if you’ve got a 4K Ultra High Definition TV you can match it with a 4K video compatible soundbar for the ultimate in home entertainment.
Some sound bars come with cables included and some don’t, so check whether you need to buy cables separately.
4. Music Speakers
Soundbars are also great for listening to music. With a USB input you can plug in your favourite music files – just make sure you check which file formats it supports – MP3, WMA, and Dolby Digital audio?
If you choose a soundbar with Bluetooth connectivity you can connect your compatible phone, tablet or computer wirelessly and play music through the soundbar. You can also listen to CDs through your Blu-ray player for enhanced audio.
Soundbars with built-in Wi-Fi also allow to you listen to your online music libraries and streaming services.
Your soundbar can also help you set up a multi-room music system, with lots of soundbar brands allowing communication with other music players, speakers and receivers using your Wi-Fi network so you can stream music wirelessly throughout your whole home.
Most soundbars come with their own remote, but if you hate having too many controls and have the right TV and soundbar connections, you can program most TV and cable remotes to control your soundbar.
Many also have remote apps so you can use your phone or tablet to control the soundbar. If your soundbar has lots of features it’s probably best to use the soundbar remote or remote app.
A subwoofer boosts the bass, which is important if you like action movies, TV shows, games and music with lots of lower frequency sounds.
Some soundbars have:
- A separate subwoofer that’s usually wireless and just needs to be plugged into power.
- A built-in subwoofer that saves space (because you don’t need a separate subwoofer).
If there’s not enough space for a separate subwoofer, a broad platform-style sound bar is recommended, as the larger speakers give you better overall bass than a slimmer soundbar.
Different soundbars have different features so think about which ones are important to you:
- Dialogue speaker or settings – to enhance the characters’ speech so voices sound clearer.
- Special modes – designed to specifically enhance your movie, gaming or music experiences.
- Volume-leveling technology – makes all sound consistent for quieter ads and sound effects.
- Distortion-cancelling technology – helps prevent distortion for deep, detailed-sounding bass.
- Surround Sound Expansion technology – helps extend sound sideways and upwards so you feel immersed in the action.
- 4K/HDR/3D Pass Through – maintains the quality of 4K, HDR and 3D content as it passes through the soundbar (so you can connect your devices to your soundbar instead of the TV).
- Google Assistant compatible – can connect to a compatible Google Assistant device for voice-controlled music on the soundbar.
- Alexa compatible – can connect to an Amazon Echo smart speaker for voice-controlled music on the soundbar.
- SmartThings compatible – can connect to Wi-Fi for convenient soundbar control using the SmartThings app.
- Dolby Atmos technology – reproduces audio created in Dolby-Atmos with impressive clarity, richness, detail and depth for immersive entertainment.
- Dts-X sound technology – reproduces the audio carefully crafted by TV and film makers in Dts-X for an immersive surround-sound experience.
- Harman Kardon sound technology – produces rich, refined audio for lifelike sound.
- Meridian sound technology – produces clear, heart-stopping, high fidelity sound.
8. Whole House Entertainment System
To create a complete home entertainment system that services the whole house, connect your soundbar to multi-room speakers in the bedrooms, kitchen and study. That way, you can listen to the music you love in every room as you move around the house, setting the mood and giving your daily happiness a boost.
You can also use your connected TV, soundbar and multi-room speakers to amplify party music and create impressive cinematic sound, all controlled by your smartphone via the relevant brand’s app.