What is a soundbar?

What is a soundbar?

A soundbar is a quick, simple way of taking your TV-watching experience to the next level. Once upon a time, CRT TVs were the norm, and flatscreens were solely for those who could afford a premium price tag. As technology has developed, though virtually all TVs nowadays are flatscreens. While this is good for picture quality, it’s not so great for sound.

For speakers to be any good, they really need to be larger than what will fit inside a thin TV panel. In particular, built-in speakers tend to be pretty rubbish when it comes to bass sound. If you like to watch Marvel movies at home, then you’ll find that those deep, booming explosions that you experienced in the cinema come across as more like a damp squib at home.

Of course, regular old 3.5mm speakers are always an option. Most TVs have a jack for these. Alternatively, you might consider a home cinema system, which involves wiring up multiple speakers around the room. But a soundbar is specifically designed to optimize your viewing experience- and they’re incredibly simple to set up.

How does a soundbar work?

A standard soundbar is a long, thinnish oblong, which contains multiple speakers within it. Most are designed to be placed on a TV table in front of the screen, but many are wall-mountable. Because this space is solely devoted to the speaker system, there’s no need to shrink down the size of those components. Inside, there are typically seven speakers, all carefully positioned to provide the best possible output. Thanks to this extra power, the sound from the speakers literally bounces off the walls, surrounding the listener with audio.

There are only two cables to worry about with a soundbar: one for the power, and another to connect it up to your TV. The vast majority of modern soundbars are also Bluetooth-enabled. With these models, you'll only need to plug them in and pair up the Bluetooth connection.

What other features should I look out for?

A few more expensive soundbars come with a separate subwoofer. This standalone unit will include a big bass speaker that can really capture the full depth of those low notes, so you get that real home cinema experience. Some subwoofers are wired, but wireless ones are becoming increasingly common. That has a clear advantage of letting you place the subwoofer anywhere in the room to get the maximum effect. We recommend popping it by your sofa to really feel that rumble!

If you want a soundbar that will provide a truly immersive experience, then look out for Dolby Atmos. This feature replicates the experience of surround sound from just one device. By sending out a signal to scan its surroundings, the soundbar will calibrate its speakers to make it feel as though you're right at the heart of the action. This feature is most often found in more expensive soundbars, but plenty of midrange models have Atmos nowadays as well.

It’s always good to look out for a soundbar with Bluetooth connectivity. This means that as well as using it with your TV, you can also connect up your phone to listen to music. That way, you’re getting better value for money by using it more! The components inside a soundbar are typically much higher-quality than those you’d find in a portable Bluetooth speaker, so it makes for a superior listening experience, too. Alternatively, if you've got a smart TV, then you can play Spotify directly through it via the soundbar.

Finally, some soundbars also come with a built-in virtual assistant. This lets you use them as you would an ordinary smart speaker when not watching TV. That way, you can get even more use out of your purchase- and save yourself a plug socket, too!