Updated: May 8
Soundbars are all the rage these days, but who are they really for? Do they iprove the sound quality of your TV? Can they replace a full-sized home theatre system?
Read on to learn this and more!
What Is a Soundbar and Why Should You Care?
Although a soundbar looks like a wooden block, it usually houses the three components of any sound system: speakers, amplifiers, and a signal source.
To make sound, you first need an electrical audio signal. In modern systems, these are produced by digital-to-analog converters (or DACs). Unless the soundbar is very old, it probably contains one or more.
A DAC converts data streams into analog electrical fluctuations that only need to be amplified to drive the speaker membranes melodically. The amplifier does just that. It copies the incoming line-level signal from the DAC unit by modulating a direct current with a higher voltage from its power supply.
The loudspeaker is a device that creates precise air movements depending on the signal it receives. All of this should be in a sturdy and nice-looking box to please both the eye and the ear.
The point is that even your big fancy TV screen has these components so it can claim to have speakers. As we both probably know, the reality is that today’s TVs have lousy speakers that are suited, at best, for checking if the sound is on. That's because all the key components are cheap and small. If you have a decent TV, the manufacturer trusts you to match its quality with a complementing speaker system.
Enter the Soundbar
While not a full-fledged home theater system, a quality soundbar is leagues better than your TV's built-in speakers.
It's actually two smaller speakers conjoined in the middle. It's visually unobtrusive, yet it stands a good chance of impressing you and your friends with its quality.
Like any manufactured good in this world, every soundbar is made for a certain budget.
Cheaper models will probably (hopefully) sound better than the speakers in your TV, but the sound quality will leave a lot to be desired.
Plus, chances are they won't be loud enough to fill your listening room with sound.
The rule of thumb is to invest as much in a soundbar as you would in a receiver and pair of speakers. A soundbar is an all-in-one audio system, so the components are similar; you just save costs on the extra enclosures of a multi-component system. It requires extra care (and budget) to make everything fit in the small enclosure without sacrificing quality, so there is no free lunch.
When to Get a Soundbar?
If space is an issue, always choose the best soundbar in your budget. It will sound better than the speakers in your TV, and – if well-designed – most entry-level speaker systems.
Besides, most stand-alone speakers rely on their user knowing how to install and optimize them for top performance.
With a soundbar, it's usually like this: put it under the screen, and you get the best out of it. Since most soundbars have a fixed distance between speakers – designers can pre-calibrate them for optimal performance.
There's just less room for error with soundbars compared to at-home theatre systems, making soundbars excellent gifts for people who aren’t very tech-savvy.
Soundbars’ main limitation is their small size. Around 300-400 euros is the price-to-performance ratio where cheaper products don’t perform as well, and more expensive soundbars only get louder.
Paying more may be justified if the soundbar comes with a bundled subwoofer. Still, one sub-output is often sufficient.
A sub from an experienced designer can provide a better performance, and you can reuse the subwoofer if you upgrade to dedicated speakers.
More expensive soundbars often brag about the ability to play multichannel audio, but this only indicates compatibility, not performance. You can install as many speakers as you want, but they can only mimic multichannel sound while packed so close together.
Klear’s LAYLA soundbar uses the same processing power to enhance performance where it counts – stereo sound. There is no trickery – only a proven method of surgically removing sound coloration, leaving you with pure audio.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the space for a dedicated speaker system, it’s worth purchasing one.
Just make sure you know what you’re getting into! Performance can be higher if you know how to achieve it.
A quality soundbar is a good stepping stone before you dive into the deep end. Even if you switch to dedicated speakers, it works nicely as a secondary bedroom or kitchen system. That way, you don't have to be tied to the living room when you want to jam out. Just pair your smartphone via Bluetooth™ and play some tunes or a podcast to stimulate your ears while you cook. You'll be surprised what proper audio does for speech intelligibility!
Have a decent screen but little room for audio? Buy the best soundbar in your budget so your ears arn’t starving while your eyes feast.
Do you have a big screen and some room for a speaker system? A soundbar is a good start, but over time a dedicated system will serve you better if you know how to operate it to its full potential.