In the past, that solution came in the form of a pair of speakers and an AVR, but now the latest and more popular choice is a soundbar. Why? As TVs have become bigger and slimmer, the audio solutions have followed right along. Soundbars are sleek, thin, and often mounted right below the TV on the wall. But be careful, soundbars are not all created equal. In most cases, you will get what you pay for.
Tips for buying a soundbar
- The all-in-one powered soundbars seen at every big box store are a step up from the built-in audio on most TVs. They won’t produce the best audio, but they are an easy-to-install solution, often only requiring you to mount the soundbar and plug in the sub, cheap and easy!
- Multi-channel soundbars are a step up from the all-in-one models and offer the most options. They can incorporate two to five channels, can be passive or powered, and may or may not include a sub. They’re not as popular as the cheaper models but usually sound better than an all-in-one product. Their price/performance ratio is high and they offer a stealthier look than separate speakers arrayed around your display.
Tips for mounting a soundbar
- When looking for a soundbar, find one that closely matches the width of the TV it’s going to be used with. This will help to hide it better and because of this, some companies have actually started to make flexible versions to match any size TV (see below).
- Some soundbars can be mounted directly to the wall, while others can be attached to the TV’s mounting bracket. Both options work, but I always choose the one that puts the bar as close to the bottom edge of the panel as possible. This creates a very clean look and makes the soundbar appear to be part of the display.
- Make sure your soundbar is solidly mounted! It helps improve the audio and there is nothing worse than destroying your new soundbar if it falls.
This soundbar actually can expand retract to match the width of most TVs!
Tips for tweaking a soundbar
- If you have the option, invest in rear channel speakers. They will give you the ability to use surround sound and fill the gaps the soundbar leaves in the audio.
- A major issue with nearly every soundbar is that they have trouble producing low and low-mid frequencies. Ensure you have a subwoofer that can cover those ranges. Also, if your soundbar or AVR includes room correction, be sure and set it up according to the instructions. This can vastly improve audio quality in most spaces.
- Many soundbars have Bluetooth and other audio streaming options available, don’t forget to try them out with your smartphone!
Soundbars are clearly here to stay. They are the sleek and sexy new evolution of the home theater speaker. It’s hard to recommend the all-in-one soundbar found at most big-box stores when there are so many well-crafted products available from reputable speaker manufacturers. If you get a chance to demo a few, go for it! It’s surprising how good they can sound and you might just find yourself installing one in your living room.