It’s no secret that the built-in speakers in most flat-panel TVs are less than stellar. But while installing a surround sound system can transform your living room into a mini home theater, some may be reluctant to pull the trigger. Enter the soundbar – the perfect upgrade to your TV’s default speakers. If chosen wisely, they can pack a big punch. In fact, this compact piece of equipment can majorly improve dialogue clarity while providing more vibrant, full-range sound. The kicker is that they take up minimal space and are designed to flow with modern décor.
With all the available options out there, shopping for a soundbar can be slightly overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve done your homework for you. Check out the way we’ve sized up the most important things to know before purchasing a soundbar. (You’ll thank us later.)
1. Get clear about what you want
Soundbars come in all different shapes and sizes. Some can be mounted directly onto the wall, while others are made to sit beneath your TV or rest right on top of your entertainment stand. Part of choosing the best soundbar for your needs involves taking measurements of your space. Nothing’s worse than unpacking an awesome piece of equipment only to find that it doesn’t suit with your TV and stand. Our advice? Measure the length, width and depth of your flat-panel TV and stand before shopping for a soundbar. Then use this info to help guide your search.
2. Understand the difference between active vs. passive soundbars
Soundbars are broken down as being either active or passive. Each one comes with its own unique set of perks. Active soundbars tout an all-in-one setup. This means that the speakers, amplifiers and the bits that process killer surround sound are all housed in one sleek bar. This lends itself to a more streamlined, compact look. Setup is also a cinch for active soundbars, which allow for super simple plug-and-play connectivity. If it’s clean installation and great sound quality you’re after, an active system might be the better fit for you.
Passive soundbars are different because they do not come equipped with built-in power amps. As a result, they require a separate amplifier or receiver and will need speaker wires running to either. An upside is that this provides ultra-crisp sound. The setup may be a bit more involved, but the end result also gives you more control to play around with different crossover settings and the ability to connect to more sources.
Here’s an example of how easy our R-10B active soundbar is to setup:
3. Look for Bluetooth connectivity
When shopping around, check to see if the soundbars you’re deciding between come with Bluetooth connectivity. Is it a deal breaker? Not necessarily, but having the ease of playing your favorite tunes straight off your smartphone or tablet is pretty sweet. It also allows you to stream music straight from your computer, a particularly attractive perk for get-togethers and dinner parties. The best part is that pairing your soundbar with your audio devices is a relatively simple process.
4. Does a subwoofer make a difference?
If you want your sound system to vibrate with deep, intense hums, and get the full effect from your movie explosion scenes, a subwoofer can make all the difference. It’s an external device, but the cool thing is that the newer ones are sleek, discreet and not ginormous. Some soundbars come packaged with a subwoofer in the box.
There are also a lot of wireless subwoofer options out there to make the setup process less cumbersome. (Check out the Klipsch R-10B and R-20B soundbars with wireless subwoofers included.) At the end of the day, a subwoofer won’t make or break a soundbar system. But you’re favorite action films will sound a hell of a lot cooler with that added bass.
And if you need help placing a subwoofer? Read, “Where to Put a Subwoofer: 3 Tips,” or if you’re simply deciding between a soundbar and a full theater system, read “Soundbar vs. Surround Sound” to get an overview of the two.
What soundbar or sound system do you have in your home or hope to have in the future?