Soundbar: Why You Need One

Elevate Your Listening Experience

Sources: Crutchfield, Digital Trends

So you have the sleekest, thinnest TV on the market. It’s perfectly mounted on your wall and has a picture that looks more HD than real life. But you have to turn the volume to max just to hear the dialogue (and grandma is left trying to read lips). A sound bar might be just what you need to level up your home audio experience (and protect your ears from loud, poor quality sound which can cause hearing fatigue and ear damage over time.)

The tiny speakers in most TVs are not capable of reproducing the frequencies at which dialogue is most intelligible. A sound bar produces the full range of sound allowing you to hear dialogue at much lower volume levels. Even the simplest of soundbars— like a $99 version from Vizio— sound far superior to your TV's built-in speakers.

Crutchfield and Digital Trends wrote two solid articles breaking down everything you need to know about shopping for a soundbar:

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The gist:

  •  Soundbars make dialogue easier to understand and maintain even volume levels to ensure commercials aren't louder than show soundtracks.

  • Multi-channel sound bars create a “three-dimensional” surround sound effect.

  • Some soundbars can actually reflect sound off your walls to trick your ears into thinking there are speakers all around you. TechDad can customize this to your space!

  • Dolby Atmos enabled sound bars have special drivers that reflect sound off your ceiling creating a 3D effect for your ears.

  • It doubles as a music player with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities for easy streaming.

  • Many sound bars can communicate with other music players and smart speakers via Wi-Fi so you can stream music throughout your home.

  • Cheaper models have basic connections, more expensive ones add superior HDMI inputs (including 4K/HDR passthrough), and a USB input so you can load up a thumb drive with your favorite tunes, leave it plugged in, and listen to them anytime.

Things to consider when shopping for a soundbar:

  • Placement- Will the sound bar sit on a TV stand, under your TV, or be mounted on the wall? Be sure the soundbar doesn’t sit in front of your TV’s infrared (IR) sensor, which is where the remote control sends its signal.
  • Make sure you pick one with the right connections for your TV and other components. Some soundbars rely on optical cables, which work fine, but HDMI is preferable.

  • Will you need a subwoofer? Most sound bars are too slim to reproduce lower-frequency sound, so in many cases, a separate subwoofer ensures your favorite action movies, video games, and TV programs get the bass quality they deserve.

  • Decoding all those numbers: ‘2.0,’ ‘3.1,’ or ‘5.1’

    • The first number tells you how many channels a soundbar has: 2 channels mean two drivers, left and right, 3 means left, right, and center; 5 adds channels for rear or surround sound speakers.

    • The second number (1) tells you there’s a subwoofer or (0) that it does not.

    • If there’s a third number — i.e. 5.1.4 — that means the soundbar supports Dolby Atmos surround sound and refers to the number of dedicated drivers that fire upwards at the ceiling, bouncing sound down.