Sound bar systems were developed for those who want to enjoy the full surround sound experience without the classical hassle offered by 5 or 7 speakers and a subwoofer. A simple sound bar can offer the same sound quality with a single piece of equipment and an optional subwoofer. In most cases, the sound bar itself will be located somewhere near your flat screen TV, perhaps mounted on the wall. The illusion of surround sound is offered through various technologies, such as bouncing the sound off the walls. Other technologies can offer complete surround audio by changing the orientation of each driver and cancelling out certain noises. The process can be quite complicated, but the result is the same: you will enjoy watching HD movies without having to buy a large audio system.
The need for a sound bar appeared recently, when people realized that a flat screen TV can offer high quality video, but it can’t deliver proper sound. No matter how much you are going to pay for your TV set, the built-in speakers will never perform properly. Instead of trying to make room for a large 5.1 channel audio system and setting up cables all over your room, you can simply get a great sound bar which offers the same sound quality, without taking so much space.
There are two main types of sound bar from which you can choose: passive and active ones. A passive system has to be connected to an amplifier or receiver and an active one simply has to be plugged in and it will be ready to go.
Passive sound bars won’t offer amplification, which might turn out to be a serious problem. You will have to add a second device to your sound system, which will only complicate the appearance of your equipment. The surround sound offered by these systems is not complete, but it is better than that of 2.1 channel systems or than that of the build in speakers of your flat screen TV. Some of the best passive sound bars out there will impress you with what they have to offer, but you need to know what you’re looking for. These systems are cheaper than active sound bars and the right one can offer you a great surround sound experience. It all depends on the size of your room, the type of technology used for delivering sound and the amount you are willing to spend on your future audio system.
Active sound bars are the most popular ones available. You won’t need to connect a receiver or an amplifier and the sound offered by such a unit will go through signal processing. This means that the result will be closer to the real surround sound effect you usually get from a 5.1 channel system. Some of these products will even include a DVD console, an iPod dock or FM radio.
The whole idea behind sound bars relies on the mechanism of the human ear. We identify the location from where a sound comes through various methods, such as noticing the time delay between sounds. A proper sound bar will use the right technology for tricking the human ear into thinking that sound is coming from behind you, creating a full 360 surround sound effect. The main problem which sound bar manufacturers face is offering a wide sound stage. If you sit right in front of your system, the sound will most likely be perfect. However, if you change your location, your ears will start perceiving different sounds and the effect will be ruined. Luckily, all sound bar systems have a way of dealing with this problem.
Some producers have focused their research on offering surround sound by bouncing the sound off the walls of your room. A calibration test is required first because all rooms are different and the result has to be perfect. If you have large wall openings, the effect won’t be satisfying and there are a few other factors which can temper with the result, such as large pieces of furniture or the placement of your sound bar.
What You Should Know Before Buying a Sound Bar
The easiest way to make a decision is to figure out what you need. If you want a simple set up, you should go for an active sound bar. You simply have to plug it in and connect it to your TV. After that, you will only notice a couple of cables at most and the system is ready to go. The sound offered by active sound bars is usually better than that of passive ones, but this is not always the case. The presence of a subwoofer is always a plus and if the system doesn’t offer one, you should check to see if you can get a separate one. You will be surprised to see how much of a difference can a simple subwoofer make.
Stereo or Surround?
You should figure out if you need surround sound or stereo from your audio system. The difference in price between these two options is significant. If you don’t plan on watching HD movies and you are just buying a sound bar because you want to listen to music, you should go for a cheaper model. Even if the price is lower, the quality of stereo sound can be impressive.
Surround sound will certainly make the difference if you are watching movies or playing video games. There is nothing like the experience of hearing the action happening around you and each movie will seem different after you hear it on the right speakers. Even a medium range sound bar which offers the illusion of surround sound will be satisfying to a certain extent.
Room Size and Shape
The size of the room in which the sound bar will be located is quite important. Some of the more powerful sound bars will cost much more than regular ones and you don’t need to buy one unless you have a really large room. You should find a system which can offer you intense sound, but you shouldn’t get one which is too strong or too weak for your room. When you are still getting informed, you should take a look at the technology used by each sound bar. If your room is not a rectangular, you should avoid systems which offer surround sound by bouncing the sound off the walls because you won’t like the result. Luckily, you can always get a system which uses some other technology for making the sound come from behind you.
Connecting and mounting your sound bar
Most people who decide to buy a sound bar will first look at the model and specifications of their TV, video game console, PC or DVD player. Make sure that the sound bar you are trying to buy has the right connections or you will have to deal with a lot of cables and adapters if you want to make things work. The best type of connection is HDMI and if both your source and the sound bar have the right sockets, you will enjoy high quality video and audio.
Placing your sound bar in front of your TV is not always a good solution because the height of your new audio system might interfere with the signal of your remote control. This is why most people choose to place their sound bar above or underneath their TV, by mounting it on the wall. In this case, be sure to cover any loose cables.
If you already own a home theater receiver, you can buy a sound bar which doesn’t come with amplification. After you connect these components, you will be ready to go. If you don’t own such a system, you should probably look for sound bar models which come with built-in amplification; this will save some space and you won’t have to worry about connecting all of the units together.
There are only a handful of sound bar systems out there which can offer high quality sound without a subwoofer. If you are not looking for a top of the line product, you should check if your preferred model comes with a subwoofer. If this is the case, you will get a stronger effect and the presence of the bass will certainly be noticed. If not, you should certainly consider buying a subwoofer separately.
Upconversion is a great feature which can help you watch your regular movies in Full HD format. Some of the best sounds bars can offer this result, but they will cost more than regular ones. If you want to get the best video experience, you should certainly look for a system which can upscale to 1080p.
Those who don’t have a DVD or Blu Ray player should look for a system which comes with a built-in DVD console. There are many of them out there and buying one will save you some space.
In the end, sound bars are a great alternative to 5.1 or 7.1 channel systems. You can get surround sound from a simple piece of equipment and your budget will decide the power, quality and resistance of your new audio system. If you know what you’re looking for, you will surely get a great deal, but you need to get informed first.