What to look for in a soundbar? Complete guide in 2023

To get the best experience with our television when watching a movie, a series, or a football game, the sound is a fundamental ingredient. Of course much more important still if we also play music taking advantage of its multimedia capabilities. Today we are going to review the world of soundbars with the guide to choosing the perfect complement for our Smart TV.

Because it is the ideal complement to bring together the comfort of use, and the installation, with the quality of sound that will help us round off the experience we enjoy in front of the television. If we are already talking about a curved TV, the soundbar system will help us immerse ourselves even more in the immersive experience these models offer us.

Why choose a sound bar over a complete surround sound speakers system?

In addition to image quality, one of the reasons the flat screen has succeeded is its design and the space it occupies. And now that we have our device installed on the wall or we have looked for a narrower piece of furniture to locate it, install a complete system of speakers, where perhaps there is no space or this is very fair to place various elements, it may not be the most desirable.

speakers (one centre, one left, one right, two rear) and a subwoofer. (All of which typically costs more than a sound bar alone.) The point? If you have space and a budget, you might want to consider authentic home theater sound because it’s amazing in so many ways. Put it this way: If a good sound bar improves your TV audio 100-fold, then a real home theater improves your TV audio — and the overall experience — 10,000-fold. But if you’re just looking for a simple solution, a soundbar will be a definite upgrade from your TV’s audio. The two types: Sound Bars and Sound Bases. Yes, this is a

The soundbar is much more compact and aesthetic, with less wiring and easier to install, but thanks to the internal distribution of the speakers it can fill the entire room with music. Your system emulates the sound of more complex speaker systems, bouncing the sound off the wall for that surround effect.

What should we take into account when choosing a sound bar?

If we are already decided on a soundbar, let’s see what we have to take into account so as not to make a mistake in the choice:

  • A number of speakers, depending on the use that we are going to give it. The simplest is 2.1, enough to play music or to watch DTT. If what we are looking for is a cinema system that provides us with a theatre-like experience, we will have to choose 5.1 to 8.1 systems, always depending on our budget. The simplest have all the speakers integrated into the bar, in other models, the subwoofer is separated.
  • Power and quality. Here we should not get carried away by the number of watts. We will not need very powerful equipment to watch movies or series at night, especially if we have neighbours. But it is more important than it is heard clearly with a good bass background that does not distort the sound effect.
  • Connections, an increasingly important aspect, from HDMI ARC, 3.5 mm jack or Bluetooth or NFC connections to pair devices such as smartphones or tablets.
  • in the room to get the best audio output. It needs to be placed centrally either just above your TV or just below. So, make sure you have the required space and wall socket to power your soundbar.
  • Also in this aspect, we are interested in buying a soundbar that accompanies our television, that supports Dolby Digital, DTS or that supports 3D or 4K. Both systems would have to go hand in hand in order not to lose quality in image and sound.
  • Sound emulation, ease of configuration, since it has to be simple to take advantage of all its features. It is also recommended that switching between different functions and sound quality can be done easily, so that choosing a sound mode for music, for cinema, standard depending on the use we are giving the soundbar.
  • Ease of location, to place it on the base of the TV, the possibility of hanging it if we have the TV installed on the wall, etc. Here aesthetics also count, for example, if we have a curved TV, perhaps the best option is to choose a curved sound bar that would be the perfect complement.
  • If we are looking to buy a soundbar, it is important to see how the bar is going to adapt to the dimensions and delimitation of our room. A square room is not the same as an L-shaped room or a more open space.
  • It is not easy to choose from the wide variety of models available on the market today. That is why we have to be clear about which features are the most important to us and choose based on the available budget.

Advantages of sound bars with NFC

Wireless connection with soundbars today is almost essential. A cleaner installation, with fewer cables involved, but also with the ability to reproduce sound from other devices in addition to the television, such as a smartphone or tablet.

The Bluetooth connection is the most common, and in the most modern models NFC connectivity has also been implemented, which allows our soundbar to communicate with other gadgets, taking advantage of the applications that we often have available and that allow us to connect with the bar. from the smartphone, raise and lower the volume, change the song or control the settings of the television, Blue-Ray or the soundbar itself.

This type of connectivity offers us the flexibility and comfort that we seek, the cleanliness in the wireless installation and the sound quality that we want comfortably, having full control with our smartphone or tablet, where we often have our music stored. or the apps of the services from where we reproduce our song lists.

Doubts between buying a home theater 5.1, 2.1 or a soundbar?

In this article, you will be able to check the advantages and disadvantages of the 3 teams. We will not go into assessing which one is better, but which one suits you best based on your needs. We will also tell you which is the best system that there is right now in the market value for money.

The final decision is yours.

We will start with the home theater. Since it was released in the mid-90s, this device has evolved. Depending on the number of channels, you can find systems from 2.1 to 9.2. Focusing on what concerns us, the difference between 2.1 and 5.1 is, basically, in the number of channels.

•  System 2.1 : it is the most basic and cheapest. It comes with 3 speakers, one of which is the separate subwoofer  (bass). The other two are placed one on the left, and one on the right. It is indicated for rather small rooms, less than 18 square meters. It has the advantage that it takes up little space and you forget about having cables throughout the room , because it does not have rear speakers.

5.1, 2.1 home cinema or sound bar

•  5.1 system : Consists of 6 speakers, 5 plus the wireless subwoofer. They are positioned as follows: one in the center (emits middle or voice sounds), two in the front, left and right (all kinds of sounds except bass), and two in the rear left and right (audio setting). As you can imagine, this equipment takes up a lot of space, so it is especially suitable for rooms between 18 and 35 square meters.

The sound is of higher quality and more immersive than in the 2.1 and the soundbar. It is the only system that will give you true surround speakers, but it is also more expensive and, unless you buy a wireless home theater, you will fill the room with cables.

Summarizing. What are the advantages of Home theater over the sound bar?

That you can have a dedicated speaker for each channel, the sound is of higher quality, has more power and is more versatile.

For its part, the good part of the soundbars is that it takes up less space, is more aesthetic, is easier to install and costs less money than a Home Cinema. In addition, you can choose a model that adapts to the width of each screen. It competes, above all, with home theater 2.1. Some models come with a wireless subwoofer, but still, most do not have as much audio quality as a home theater.

We say the majority because there is one option that can offer you virtual surround sound speakers: soundbars with Multi Room speakers. Its rear speakers are usually more powerful than the satellites of a home theater 5.1. Another advantage of this system is that you can add the speakers you want, even take them anywhere in the room. That is something you cannot do with a home theater. The bad, that the price shoots up.

Conclusion: a home theater is for you if you want the best possible sound quality at a reasonable price, you have a large space and you are not going to move the speakers to other rooms. On the other hand, if you are looking for a simple installation, you settle for a good sound than that of your television and your living room does not have the adequate layout to place a home theater, perhaps what you need is a soundbar.

Don’t be guided by the number of watts

Unless you want to throw a house party every day, do not be guided by those insufferable campaigns in which they only sell us the incredible power of a sound system. Many manufacturers offer sound bars with an excessive number of watts, something that can go against the quality of this one. Overdriving the speakers will affect the higher and lower frequencies, resulting in an unnatural sound. Therefore, do not be obsessed with this number since, as we have said, to watch movies and enjoy some music, you will not need an excessively powerful system.

However, if what you really want is power, do not forget that what you are interested in is the RMS watts, that is, the actual watts of the sound system. A bar can be sold with a power of, say, 200 watts, but the RMS is very different and can even be cut in half. Therefore, do not be fooled and look for good manufacturing materials or a good arrangement of the elements before a great power.

Connectivity, an increasingly important section

With the advent of BluetoothNFC, and other wireless technologies, the soundbar has been taking advantage of this pull. Now, what should we look for in one of these systems? Undoubtedly, an HDMI connection is essential for our television, although an optical input could also be very useful to be able to add speakers and, of course, increase the sound quality.

On the other hand, it is also quite common to find soundbars with 3.5 millimeter Jack inputs to connect any mobile phone via cable, just like RCA lines –the typical colored cables-. All this will depend, as always, on our needs and the television we have. As a recommendation, yes, a Bluetooth connection is something really useful (even USB ) since the latest Smart TVs have this type of connectivity and we can connect all our devices without cables, in addition to being able to play music with our mobile phone.