The Ultimate Soundbar
Typically, when you buy a new iPod, iPhone, iPad or android mobile, they include small earbuds that provide less than adequate sound quality. Consequently, many people opt-in to buying better quality headphones such as your high-end Bose or Sennheiser headphones providing luxury, crystal clear and accurate sound output. Back to the point of this article, modern flat screen TVs today possess exactly the same ‘standard’ sound quality problem as the cheap plastic earphones included with mobiles. It is no surprise that Soundbars – the alternative to a home cinema system, are becoming an increasingly popular choice for consumers to achieve cinema-like sound from their home theatres.
So just what is a ‘Soundbar’?
Traditionally, if you wanted to have movie theatre-like sound at home your only option would have been to purchase a home cinema system (aka sound system). These come in a variety of formats, the norm being ‘5.1’ or ‘7.1’ channels of sound. A 5.1 home theatre system consists of a centre speaker, two left and right speakers at the front, two left and right speakers at the back, and a slightly bigger subwoofer speaker providing the lower sound frequencies, or bass. These, although more popular today, were originally a flop that consumers weren’t interested in investing in.
Soundbars overcome some of the traditional problems with a home theatre system. Instead of having to have an array of different speakers positioned in the absolute perfect spot around your living room, you can now have a long and relatively thin speaker placed under your flat screen TV that is an all-in-one home theatre system. Some soundbars have integrated subwoofers and others have external (and some wireless) subwoofers. Most soundbars provide at least 2.1 channels of sound (stereo), however there are a lot of new innovative models providing 5.1 channels of sound and even 7.1 channels of sound.
Soundbars commonly come in a variety of different modern styles to match both your TV and living room décor, so it’s no surprise these seem to be catching on more than your traditional home theatre system with several speakers and wires cluttering up your living room.
Bluetooth: The majority of speakers have Bluetooth built in. What this means is that you can stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device (such as your iPhone or Android mobile) to your soundbar to enjoy music with great bass and quality.
HDMI Pass Through: Many soundbars allow you to utilise them as your ‘media hub’. You can plug in as many as 4 HDMI inputs from your other devices (game consoles, Blu-Ray players, setup boxes) and use the soundbar to select one output to your TV. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to select the audio input on your soundbar every time you change media device selection for your TV.
Wall Mountable: Most soundbars, with the exclusion of some ‘TV stand’ like bars your TV sits on, can be mounted on your wall. This is perfect for your living room if your flat screen TV is also mounted. Thus you can mount your soundbar neatly and discretely underneath your TV
The sound quality on many modern soundbars is comparable to that of a 5.1 home theatre system. That said, the more budget-friendly 2.1 soundbars will still provide an improvement in sound quality to that of your TV’s but will not give the cinema-like ‘surround’ for your ultimate viewing pleasure. If you want the surround, we suggest opting for a 5.1 or 7.1 surround soundbar. Yamaha’s new soundbars use some impressive technologies and ‘magic’ to provide virtual 7.1 surround with great bass for an incredible entertainment experience.
Our Top Picks:
We have quite a diverse selection of soundbars available through our online store here. Our top picks are as follows:
- Goodmans 45W 2.1 Soundbar with Bluetooth – The Goodmans 2.1 soundbar is available for a fantastic price (currently £49.99) and is sure to suit most budgets (certainly cheaper than most entry-level home theatre systems). It features Bluetooth for streaming and is perfect for TVs 30” or more. That said, it does only provide two stereo channels of sound so you won’t achieve a surround sound with this soundbar.
- LG 120W 2.1 Soundbar with Bluetooth – LG’s 120W 2.1 soundbar is slightly more expensive than the Goodmans 45W but only marginally. It features a significant increase in audio output in comparison to the Goodmans soundbar and also features Bluetooth and a wired subwoofer for added bass and depth. If you can afford the small step-up in price we certainly recommend this soundbar.
- Yamaha 120W 7.1 Soundbar – Yamaha’s 120W soundbar provides an impressive 7.1 virtual channels of sound with an integrated dual subwoofer at a fantastic price. This soundbar from Yamaha is really impressive and is without doubt one of our best soundbars for the ultimate home theatre. 7.1 channels of surround sound will provide you with a cinema-like surround sound so you can experience your movies as intended. The only real disadvantage we see is the lack of Bluetooth with this particular model.