Tag Archives: surround sound

Surround Sound System Buying Guide

Not all surround sound systems are the same. For your optimal listening experience—the kind that makes you forget about that whole “outside world” thing—you want the best surround sound system for your price range, arranged with precision and set up with enough knowhow to push its capabilities to the max.

If you’re hungry for steak, you don’t order a cheap, tough cut of beef and force yourself to enjoy it. When you really want to dress up and hit the town, you avoid black sweatpants and a T-shirt with a tuxedo print. And if you want surround sound, you don’t simply grab any old speakers, scatter them around, run some wires and hit play.

You want flowing, detailed, risk-a-noise-complaint-from-the-neighbors surround sound. You want crisp dialog, stirring musical scores, whispers you can hear and understand, and explosions that shake you to the core. You want to believe that helicopter is hovering above your roof, a dinosaur is stomping down your hallway, and that—for a couple of hours anyway—you are the center of the cinematic universe playing out around you.

You want high definition, high-performance surround sound.

Home theater systems that make excellent use of surround sound via quality equipment can elevate a typical move night to an event. All this transformation takes is a little background knowledge on how a movie’s audio makes its way from the disc through your speakers.

What is Surround Sound?

The definition of surround sound is sound that literally surrounds you, coming at you from the front, rear, and either side for a 360-degree listening experience. Surround sound puts you in the heart of the audio action, transforming the simple act watching of a movie at home into a rich and complex entertainment experience.

TV speakers alone send all of the sound at you from a single source. Rockets firing into the stratosphere, buildings collapsing all around, and heroes leaping toward the screen and beyond all sound like they’re happening in a box—because they are. Life doesn’t come at you from only one direction, so a single source for sound can reinforce the fact that what you’re watching is contained.

Soundbars can improve the experience by giving the audio more room to move, simulating surround sound without actually surrounding you.

Despite a soundbar’s impressive output, which is plenty for some people and room applications, true surround sound is the only way to re-create the movie theater experience at home, allowing you to hear what and the director intended. This immersion can boost your enjoyment of the experience by plunging you into the story. Watching becomes something more than just watching.

How Does Surround Sound Work?

When creating a production that makes use of surround sound, audio engineers will split all of the noises in a given scene into separate channels. Sounds that correspond to action happening to the left go left. Effects accompanying visuals on the right go right.

A surround sound receiver acts as a sort of traffic cop, directing all of the sound to be sure it gets to where it’s been ordered to go. The center channel does the heavy lifting in terms of handling dialog and whatever’s happening right in front of your face. The rest of the speakers take what’s been assigned to them. The system can be broad or specific. A setup with five speakers will transmit the sound accordingly, even if there are more channels encoded into the disc. Many movies are released on disc or broadcast in six channels, though an increasing number are coming to home viewers in an eight-channel format.

When connected and arranged properly, the speakers in a surround sound setup work together to properly fill the room based on its size and direct the sound toward the optimal viewing and listening area.

RP Atmos Lifestyle Social 1

Surround Sound Formats

You may notice that surround sound systems are referred to in numbers, such as 7.1 surround sound. This lets you know how many speaker components the system has. A 7.1 setup boasts eight channels: seven discrete main audio channels, divvied up among seven speakers, and one channel fed to the subwoofer for the low notes.

A 5.1 surround sound system includes the left and right speakers to sit in the front near the screen, one center channel for vocals, the left and right speakers for either side of your seating area and the subwoofer. The speakers flanking you while you enjoy your audio attack are known as the surround speakers.

A 7.1 surround sound system has the same basic setup as the 5.1, but also includes a right and left back speaker positioned behind the viewer.

The 9.1 setup adds another pair speakers to the 7.1 mix. While the speakers in a smaller setup (in front of, to the side of, and behind you) allow sound effects to freely travel left and right, forward and backward, it takes two more speakers, each mounted a few feet above a corresponding left or right front speaker, to give the noise some opportunity for altitude. Height gives music and audio effects another axis, creating a more immersive experience.

Any of these systems can also incorporate multiple subwoofers, upping the number on the right side of the decimal point. Got a pair of subwoofers? Put them on opposite walls so you receive bass from two directions. Four subwoofers should take up one point each on a diamond surrounding the listener, creating a web of thumping and rattling that will catch anything in the middle and ensure it gets a good shaking. What good do all of these subwoofers do? They even out the bass response and make your movies and music thump a little harder and crisper. One of the first recommendations you will hear from home theater buffs is to add at least one subwoofer if you are rocking a 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, etc setup. It makes a massive difference.

Like a doctoral student collecting new skills, prestige and a series of letters to add to the end of a signature, your sound system can continue to advance into the future. Dolby Atmos, a leap forward in audio technology that breaks from the traditional channel-based system to free the various audio objects in a soundtrack and allow them to move about and come at you in three dimensions—including from above your head—can prompt you to turn your 5.2 system (one center channel, four speakers, and two subwoofers) into a 5.2.4 by adding four speakers to ceiling mounts or four speakers that direct sound up to bounce back down toward the viewing area. No longer tethered to a pre-assigned output, these sounds can move to come from the direction that best serves your movie-enjoying experience.

Too much? Your ears (and friends) may disagree, but that’s OK. Keep it simple with a 9.2 system, creating an encircling perimeter of speakers anchored by two subwoofers.

THX Ultra2 Theater Exposed 1 social

Must-Have Surround Sound Features

There are several essential components necessary for anyone looking to showcase what a home theater system can do. The cinema-experience-level technology available to everyone these days should get you excited about letting your speakers off the leash to really run wild.

THX-certified standards ensure that the sound being created on the movie-makers’ end is getting its due with the audience on the other end. A production company can pull out all the stops in crafting a scene where a shot ricochets off of a dozen metal objects scattered around the room before hitting the target, but if the system meant to broadcast that intricate series of sound effects is incapable of properly handling the load, nobody’s going to be ducking to avoid taking a bullet to the skull. Be sure to invest in THX-certified speakers—such as the THX Ultra2 Series from Klipsch, which earned the highest possible certification rating. Boom.

Consider a setup that can best deliver the free-range, real-world-emulating, three-dimensional sound experience of the gotta-have-it-if-you-care-about-movies Dolby Atmos experience mentioned above, including a speaker that bounces everything off of the ceiling, raining down noises and music to soak you with sound effects. We tapped out at a nine-speaker system in our initial explanation of this audio gift to humanity, but the technology can work with up to 34—repeat: 34!—so we’re sorry/not sorry to say that you don’t stand a chance against that level of audio power (but why would you want it any other way?). The Klipsch Reference Premeire Dolby Atmos enabled RP-280FA speaker has a built-in elevation channel that does nothing but blast away at the plaster over your head. Actually, it does do one other thing: win awards.

Klipsch emphasizes Wide Dispersion Surround Technology for all of its surround sound speakers, which ensures the best sound, no matter the home theater system setup. Can’t get fit the speakers exactly where you want them? Don’t worry. You’re still going to feel like you’re in the middle of the action.

Reference Premiere HD Wireless 5.1

Wireless vs. Wired Surround Sound

Wireless surround sound is ideal for people who prize both performance and simplicity. You can place the speakers anywhere without worrying about connecting them to the amplifier or hiding the evidence of those connections.

The fact that wireless systems can hold their own against their wired counterparts is evidence of how far technology has come since sound first electronically made its way from a source to a speaker.

If you’re considering a wireless setup, know that time is of the essence. That means the more modern your speakers, the better. Older wireless systems operated on technology that could interfere with or be disrupted by other wireless signals in the home. They also tended to be more expensive and not as reliable.

Today, wireless technology has advanced to the point that it can deliver the goods. Just know that you will need a special control center. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry: It’s smart enough to start pumping out the sound you want within minutes of leaving the box.

What is the best wireless surround sound system?

Honestly, the best wireless system is one that works for you now, and will continue working for you in the future. This means it should be able to handle expansion as you add more speakers to the set, as well as advancements in technology.

Consider the Reference Premiere HD Wireless system from Klipsch, which delivers high-definition, high performance cinema-quality sound and welcomes new additions by recognizing them and adding them into the system without any need for physical connections. Klipsch offers lifetime upgrades on their Control Center’s firmware so you are sure to always have the most advanced and reliable technology.

Basically, the speakers talk to each other via a WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio) network that ensures each high-fidelity member of your surround sound system does what it’s supposed to be doing when it’s supposed to be doing it. WiSA coordinates every audio detail to ensure speakers are in sync, timing is precise, delivery is impeccable, and you are beyond impressed—all without interfering with other wireless devices around your home.

Palladium Surround social

What are the best surround sound speakers?

The cop-out answer: Whatever speakers work best for your wallet and room. While this is true (and, actually, really good advice), the you-know-you’d-rather-hear-this answer is more fun.

The best surround sound speakers are those that apply the most cutting-edge technology to the highest-quality materials with the most discerning audiophile in mind. Seek out well-crafted components from a reputable company with a tradition of creating speakers that continue to define the industry. Look for home theater systems built by people who understand cinema-quality sound because they also build for cinemas.

If you need to start small, there’s nothing wrong with that. The best surround sound speakers will make the system—not the other way around. Investing in a 34.7.15 surround sound system won’t deliver amazing sound if the speakers themselves aren’t high quality. Instead, get a small number of top-of-the-line speakers and build the system out as time and money allows. Great sound doesn’t go out of fashion.

Your ears will thank you (once they get over the initial thrill of their first dose of true surround sound).

What is your advice for someone looking to buy a surround sound system? Post it in the comments below!

How to Hook Up Your Surround Sound System

If you want to cement your home’s status as the best place to watch a movie—even taking the nearest cinema into account—you’re going to need more than your standard TV sound system. But even a shiny set of surround sound speakers might not be enough to earn you the title. Want that crown? You have to know how to precisely position those speakers and master the ins and outs of how to hook up surround sound to your TV.

Plenty of people find themselves practically paralyzed when it comes to the prospect of running wires and angling speakers. Countless more have given it their best shot but found they could still use some pointers on maximizing their surround sound systems. Allow Klipsch give you everything you need to know about hooking up your surround sound system. At the end of the day, you’ll stop calling your friends and family by their names and start referring to them as “the audience.”

How to set up a 7.1 System - Fig. A - The Klipsch Joint

Fig A. – The full 7.1 system setup.

Surround Sound Speaker Placement

Before you begin any surround sound setup, you have to believe one crucial truth: You are the center of the universe. The focal point. The Reason with a capital R. This also goes for anyone else you welcome into the heart of your soon-to-be marvel of audio engineering. Every speaker will be pointed at you to create a direct line of sound. These speakers and their carefully calibrated positions exist to please your ears. Focusing the surround sound speakers on a single, central point will best allow them to do what they were made to do.

Also important: the surround sound system itself. The number of speakers you get will help you to determine how to position them, which, in turn, factors into how you hook them up.

The most common surround sound systems are 5.1 and

, with the “5” or “7” indicating the number of speakers in the setup and the “1” indicating a solitary subwoofer. Either of these is a good-sized sound system for TV viewing, movies, game playing and more. Of course, you will never hear any complaining if you add an extra subwoofer, as that will even out the room’s bass response.

It should be noted that the arrival of Dolby Atmos sound has created an additional dimension to this traditional sound formula. Dolby Atmos sound calls for the addition of elevation speakers, allowing sound to come not only from all around you, but also from directly overhead. An example of a Dolby Atmos setup would be 5.2.4, which represents five speakers, two subwoofers and four elevation channels.

The Klipsch team has gone into great detail about 7.1 speaker placement elsewhere, but a quick explanation here can’t hurt: You’ll want a center channel front and, well, center, just above or below your screen. Set up the two front speakers to either side of the center channel, at least six feet apart and angled toward where you’ll be sitting. The general rule of thumb is to place the front speakers at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock to your listening positions. Two surround sound speakers should go to either side of—and just a bit behind—your viewing position, while the final two (ignore this step for a 5.1 setup) should settle three feet behind the sitting area, about three feet above the viewers’ heads and angled inward like the front pair.

You have some flexibility with the subwoofer, which can be tucked into a corner on the same wall as the screen or sit next to one of the front speakers. As we discussed in a previous blog post, there is no true formula for finding out where to place your subwoofer. It’s up to your ears to decide! Experimenting is key.

One final, but crucial, element of surround sound setup: the room itself. A lot of hard, flat surfaces can make for a less-than-ideal listening experience, since sounds will bounce around and grow muddy, ruining the effect. If you are blessed to have a dedicated home-theater room, you can get specifically designed acoustic material to go on your walls, ceilings and corners. Consider softening surfaces wherever you can, whether that means laying some carpet on a hardwood floor (or at least finding a nice rug that really ties the room together) or installing shelves on otherwise bare walls and stocking them with books. Don’t forget windows. Cover them with curtains and close them. This is best for stopping an unwanted muddying effect, as well as for preventing any neighbors from spying on you while you snuggle up with your special someone. Yes, romance movies come in surround sound, too.

As you arrange the room, be sure to keep anything from intruding into the space between your speakers and your viewing area. Direct access is a must for surround sound.

Quintet Receiver

How to Hook Up Surround Sound to TV

With the speakers positioned right where you want them, it’s time to connect them. Typically, they need to be wired to a surround sound receiver, which acts as the brain of the entire system, receiving input from your Blu-ray player, cable TV box or gaming console and sending the sound through the wires to its designated speaker. Of course, new speakers utilizing WiSA technology, like the Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless sound, substitute the AV-Receiver for the HD Control Center.

Having your setup positioned before you begin this step will allow you to determine the length of the wires necessary to connect the various pieces, assuming you’re not using cables with connectors, which are often called banana plugs. If you are, plug everything into the designated ports and move on. If you’ve got a wireless surround sound system, your speakers will coordinate through a specialized control center.

For any wiring endeavor, start by shutting it all down. Avoid the chance of an electrical shock by unplugging every component in the entertainment and surround sound system that can be plugged into the wall.

Next, run the appropriate length of wire from each speaker to the receiver and, if necessary, strip the ends to ensure enough bare wire is available to be secured in the clips. The back of your receiver should feature a bank of these clips, arranged in pairs: one for positive, one for negative. Red typically indicates where the positive wire should go, and black or blue indicates the negative.

Like jumpstarting your car, wires should run from the positive clip on the speaker to the positive clip on the receiver. Same with the negative clips.

Before actually securing any ends in place, be sure that all wires and cords are hidden and out of the way as possible. You’re not going to stretch them tight across a frequently walked-through area at ankle height, of course, but go the extra mile to tuck them beneath rugs and run them behind furniture and other features of the room.

Be sure that every speaker and subwoofer is connected. Subwoofers have a slightly different setup on the back, likely going from a port labeled with some variation of “sub” on the receiver end and “LFE” on the subwoofer end.

At this point, the receiver is ready to welcome inputs from your devices: your TV, disc player, gaming system, etc. This step will likely be as simple as plugging in both ends of an HDMI cable. For equipment that still uses an optical digital-audio out, follow the color coding to connect the cables, video to video, audio to audio. Component video and audio can’t travel through the same cables, which is why there will be cables for each. Same with composite, if you have them.

Consider developing your own labeling system for identifying at a glance which wires and cables go where, whether that means affixing your own color-coded stickers to the various cords or simply attaching tags that read “left rear speaker” or “Blu-ray.”

Surround Sound Test

Once everything is arranged and connected, run a surround sound test to ensure each speaker is getting the proper signal from the receiver and blaring it accordingly.

A surround sound test will involve more than popping in the latest superhero blockbuster—though you will want to use something of that caliber for your first showing. To start, follow the audio setup instructions on screen when you plug everything back in and turn it all on. These will walk you through any necessary steps to get your system running based on pre-set standards. Once a baseline is established, begin tweaking the system to deliver your customized surround sound experience.

Surround sound system tests are available on disc and for download, and will send sounds to each separate channel to ensure everything is working as it should. A test may also include sounds to check the interplay between two speakers, revealing whether they are in or out of phase with each other.

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How to Configure Surround Sound System for Optimal Sound

Modern technology has advanced to the point that some home system setups allow you to position a microphone where you plan to sit in the heart of your personal media temple, then fire up an automatic program, step out of the room, and let your surrogate ear and its attached gear do all of the work.

Not yet ready to welcome your robotic overlords—or at least their helpful, pristine-audio-delivering helpers? You can still assert your humanity by settling yourself in and fiddling with the surround sound system yourself. And by “settle in,” we truly mean it, since our guess is that you don’t watch your movies in a perpetual state of rigid-spined alert. Get comfy, like you’re going to watch a movie. You want your ears in the spot your ears will be the next time you hit play.

From that comfortable vantage point, do your best to accurately determine the distance from you to the front of each speaker. Your setup menu’s speaker settings should have a speaker distance/delay menu that allows you to enter these distances. The numbers will tell your sound system the precise point in the room where the different tracks need to arrive to form a harmonious whole.

The other main element of your configuration efforts involves setting each speaker’s level to ensure it’s at a volume Goldilocks would love: not too loud, not too quiet. This is different for everyone so you should determine your personal preference (generally aim for the 75- to 80-decibel sound pressure level range) and adjusts accordingly. Handheld devices with built-in microphone and decibel-reading sensors give you accurate readings as you navigate the system, moving from speaker to test-noise-emitting speaker.

Surround Sound for Gaming Consoles (Optional)

If you know games, you know that titles today are closer to cinematic experiences than the first-person shooters of years past. Graphics are stunning and the sound effects and scores tend to come in 5.1 or even 7.1 format. Plus, certain gaming systems, such as the PS4 and Xbox One, can also play movies.

The variety of input and output ports on various TV, receiver and game console combinations mean you may have to experiment to get the best surround sound between HDMI and optical cables. Keep in mind, though, that optical cable can only support 5.1 formats.

Great debates have been waged as to whether it is best, ports allowing, to connect an Xbox One or PS4 to the receiver, then the receiver to the TV, all with HDMI, or to route the game console audio to the receiver, but send the video directly to the TV, with the idea that a direct path for the visuals is best. The keep-the-audio-and-video-separate option is most often suggested by people who have no HDMI output connections on their receiver, meaning they use HDMI cable to transmit stunning graphics straight to the screen, while they pump 5.1-format sounds and music through optical cable to the central system that will farm it out to the speakers.

You may need to experiment with this on your own to get the most out of your own surround sound setup, but that should be no problem, given your gaming experience. Think of it as leveling up.

Just remember that no matter what you choose for games, movies or listening to music, any surround sound speaker setup—and heck, even a sound bar—is going to be better than the speakers built into your TV.

Do you have any questions on how to setup your system for surround sound? Post in the comments below!

Best Speaker Systems for the Super Bowl

Whether or not you like football, you’re probably going to end up watching the Super Bowl as the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers square off on Sunday, February 7. It’s one of the greatest spectacles in television from excessive press coverage, to commercials and, of course, the most important football game of the year.

Most Super Bowl party hosts only think about the size of their television when dreaming up the perfect setup for their guests. Obviously, your TV is an important component; however, it should not be your only concern. There is the seating, food and, of course, the audio to think about.

Don’t settle for the run-of-the-mill Super Bowl audio experience. You don’t want 20 of your guests leaning in to hear whether the play will be overturned or what the guy says to the adorable lost puppy in the beer commercial. Make sure every bit of dialogue is clean, crisp and that you practically feel every bone-crunching hit.

Below are some of our suggestions for the best speaker systems for the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is broadcast in 5.1-surround sound; meaning that there are quite a few options you can go with.

Klipsch Reference R-4B Design

Soundbar + Wireless Subwoofer

This is the quickest and easiest solution to upgrade your Super Bowl sound. Most soundbars provide a plug-and-play solution that is a significant upgrade over your TV’s crappy small, thin built-in speakers. Also, an included wireless subwoofer will add significant impact to your listening experience.

Thankfully, Klipsch has a variety of options depending on your price point. If you want to go all out, choose the Reference R-20B. Looking to overspend on snacks and adult beverages? Check out the uber-obtainable Reference R-4B. In between those two options is the excellent Reference R-10B.

Reference Luck

Traditional 5.1 Speaker Systems

We’re based in Indianapolis, so we have to admit that it is a total bummer that Klipsch Brand Ambassador Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts are not in the Super Bowl. Anyway, with a traditional, passive 5.1 speaker system, you’re going to have to run some wires and utilize an audio-video receiver (AVR), but your system will be the envy of all of your family and friends, including your neighbor Ron who brags about the dinky little satellite speakers he has hanging from the ceiling.

Whether it’s the Palladium, Reference Premiere or Reference series, Klipsch has plenty of kick-ass 5.1 systems to choose from that deliver room-rattling sound. Of course, if space is a concern, you may want a slimmer design like something from the flat panel Gallery series. The choice is yours.

Reference Premiere HD Wireless RP-440WF RP-440WC RP-110SW

Wireless Home Theater

OK, so Reference Premiere HD Wireless speaker aren’t available until after the big game; however, it’s going to be an excellent option for football fans across the country (and planet). Simply plug the speakers in the wall and set their positions using the one-button system on the back panel and you’re good to go. That means you can crack open a tasty beverage and it’ll still be ice cold by the time you’re finished setting up your new system. Plus, the lack of speaker wire for the surround speakers means that guests won’t potentially be tripping over any wires.

From 2.0 to 5.1 and beyond, any of the nearly endless configurations of the Reference Premiere HD Wireless system will be suitable for the big game. To get the full effect of the crowd noise, we would recommend a 5.1 system but the 2.0 setup provides a surprising amount of thump.

Klipsch Gate Powergate 1 social


If you happen to have a lot of guests over, chances are they will be wandering around your place and drifting into other rooms whether you like it or not. With the upcoming Klipsch Gate and Powergate amplifiers, you can turn your existing passive or powered Klipsch speaker system into a multi-room system, so that these transient people don’t miss a second of the action.

What is your speaker setup for the Super Bowl? Let us know in the comments!





Upmixing with Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is now. Not years from now. Right now.

While the stream of programming with Dolby® Atmos has only begun to fill the media landscape, you don’t have to wait to experience the the immersive, cinematic sound of Dolby Atmos thanks to “upmixing.”

You will immediately notice the benefits of upmixing compared to standard surround sound during movies as well as musical performances, video games and sporting events.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Dolby Atmos is the biggest advancement in home and cinema audio since surround sound. (Overview + FAQ of Dolby Atmos.)


A Dolby Atmos enabled receiver will handle most of the work by recognizing the sound that would typically be sent to the surround channels and sends some of that sound out to the Dolby Atmos elevation channels.

In Dolby’s own words: “The Dolby surround upmixer employs the original soundtrack to create a highly accurate rendering of the environment in the movie while simultaneously honoring and maintaining the artists’ intent for the mix.”

All of the major receiver manufacturers including Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, and Pioneer are making Dolby Atmos enabled receivers that will work with Klipsch Reference Premiere Dolby Atmos enabled speakers. Remember, if you need help picking the right receiver, check out our guide on how to find the best receiver for you.


Upmixing allows you to hear height/elevation effects, creating a much more immersive, true-to-life experience versus traditional surround sound. This isn’t a gimmick. It’s a honest-to-goodness improvement that will reinvigorate your existing movie collection, television programs, video games and music collection.

Dolby says “Unlike previous wideband upmixing technologies, the Dolby surround upmixer operates on multiple perceptually spaced frequency bands for a fine-grained analysis of the source signal. The Dolby surround upmixer can individually steer frequency bands, producing surround sound with precisely located audio elements and a spacious ambience.”

Don’t believe it? We strongly recommend a visit to your local Klipsch dealer who carries Dolby Atmos speakers to test this out for yourself.


“Pure” Dolby Atmos is only possible when source material is encoded (mixed and published) in Dolby Atmos technology. If you are looking at a Blu-Ray, it should be clearly labeled with the Dolby Atmos logo on the disc packaging.

With a “pure” Dolby Atmos mix, you are hearing sound exactly as the (human) sound editor intended it. In order to upmix to Dolby Atmos, an algorithm in the receiver determines which sounds go to the Dolby Atmos channels based on frequency and phase correlation. Essentially, upmixing is a synthesized, yet very effective Dolby Atmos experience that draws from the original 5.1/7.1 mix.

More and more content is being created in Dolby Atmos; however, you will be delighted by the immediate benefits that you will hear by upgrading to a Dolby Atmos setup.


Have you had a chance to check out Dolby Atmos? Let us know in the comments!


Sound Bar vs Surround Sound

Trying to decide between using a sound bar or a home theater system for your home? We’ve listened to your requests and put together this overview to ease your mind and open your ears to the difference in set up and sound quality.

As you know, sound bars are all the rage with their sleek design, easy installation process, wireless set up, and ability to produce a form of surround sound. Does this mean you’ve found a replacement for a separate-piece surround sound system with front, rear, and center speakers? No, of course not. Nothing can replace a full-blown Klipsch home theater setup…BUT a sound bar can be the ideal solution for those seeking an upgrade to their wimpy TV speakers.

Let’s break down the pros and cons of each so you can decide what’s best for you.

Sound Bar Overview


  • Easy installation and connectivity
  • Minimal wires
  • Modern design
  • Great for small-medium living spaces
  • Excellent virtual sound, which simulates the surround sound experience


  • May need to buy separate subwoofer (although many Klipsch systems include a sub, such as our HD Theater SB 3, R-10B Sound Bar and R-20B Sound Bar)
  • The placement of the sound bar creates specific “sweet spots” in your listening experience
  • Does not produce complete surround sound, especially in larger living environments

Surround Sound System Overview


  • Full range surround sound
  • Able to place speakers in multiple stations for optimal acoustics
  • Maximum bass
  • Audiophile theater system presentation


  • Most quality systems require running wires from the receiver to each individual speaker
  • Takes up more space
  • More involved installation process
  • More expensive

Q: Does Bigger = Better?

Big speakers may provide the look of a major sound producing machine, but remember, looks can be deceiving. While it is true large speakers have the ability to produce eardrum pounding sound and are an excellent choice for a large room, sound bars and smaller speaker systems are more than capable of producing quality sound. Make an informed decision and learn how to ensure a quality set up by reviewing the following section.

How Do I Compare a Sound Bar to a Surround Sound System?

As with any audio product, there are varying levels of quality and associated performance depending on the device. The best sound bars will overpower and outperform the run-of-the-mill surround sound system. So, the question is, what performance standards do you look for? We’ll make this part easy on you. Just refer to the below list on how to understand the specs to find the quality speaker system you desire.

  • Sensitivity

The speakers’ effectiveness of converting power (watts) into volume (decibels). The higher the sensitivity, the less power the speaker needs to deliver the effective sound. To put it quite simply – a higher sensitivity rating = loud, clear, high quality sound.


Sensitivity Rating

Power Needed To Produce High Volume

Speaker A

85 dB

100 Watts

Speaker B

89 dB

50 Watts

Speaker C

92 dB

25 Watts

*less power to produce higher volume is key for speaker longevity

  • Frequency Response

The range of frequencies that are audible to humans lies between 20 and 20,000 Hert (Hz). Some of the lowest frequencies (below 35 Hz) are more felt than heard (like an earthquake in an action movie), and are produced by the subwoofer. Review the frequency response range to understand what kind of listening experience you will gain with the associated highs and lows that the speaker produces.

  • Power Handling

How much power, in watts, a speaker can handle before it is damaged. Simply put, the higher the power handling, the more likely you are to piss off the neighbors.

  • Impedance

How much electrical resistance is presented against the current flowing from your outputs. Impedance will fluctuate since the speaker will produce sounds at varying frequencies, but all manufacturers will publish a nominal impedance figure. 8 ohms is the norm, though some speakers can handle a 4ohm load (just make sure your receiver matches this load).


Hopefully this helps to answer some of your questions on how to choose the right speaker system. Remember, much of it comes down to personal preference, but be sure to do your homework when it comes to reviewing the specs and associated performance standards of each sound system. We’re sure that either choice will amplify your current set up and make PWK proud.