How To Choose A Soundbar Speaker For TV

6/17/2013 8:55:14 AM

Design, active or passive, connectivity, integrated Bluetooth and other features are factors that you should consider when choosing to buy a soundbar speaker for TV in your living room.

For most people, soundbar speaker is the best choice to get a better sound quality for TV in the living room. This type of speaker is simple, which is not too expensive and does not use those entangled cables like a real surround sound system.  It also does not offer the sound quality as good as a discrete speaker does, especially when listening to music, but if you want better sound when watching movies and TV programs, this type of speaker is much better than a built-in one.

You should consult the list of best soundbar speakers from the well-known evaluation site before buying. Besides, from the facts presented at the last CES, the manufacturer is preparing to release all kinds of 2013 new soundbar, with a few notable improvements and will probably release a variety of soundbar speaker that features built-in Bluetooth.

Here are a few suggestions when selecting the soundbar speaker according to the technology site Cnet:

Traditional design or tabletop design

There are 2 main soundbar designs: traditional and tabletop. Traditional soundbar is designed with long and thin speakers, often accompanied with a wireless subwoofer.  This type can be hung on a wall or placed in front of the TV's rack. This is a simple design, but there are drawbacks that it can cover the remote control sensor of the TV if you place it on the rack.

A traditional soundbar model from Philips

A traditional soundbar model from Philips

Meanwhile, tabletop soundbar is designed more beautifully, placed under the TV, looks like part of the TV's rack instead of speakers. Also, it does not cover the remote control sensor of the TV. The drawback is the lack of bass due to the lack of a discrete subwoofer. Also some kinds can do that, but if you want to hear the true bass, you should choose the traditional design soundbar. Of course, it is best to combine a tabletop soundbar with a wireless subwoofer, but there isn't any type of this combination on the market.

Bose Solo is one of the tabletop models has good performance.

Bose Solo is one of the tabletop models has good performance.

Number of input ports

Looking at the back of the soundbar speakers, you may be surprised to find only a few ports for audio in, it seems that it's not useful for home theater system with HDMI devices.

Today, most manufacturers want users to use the HDTV as an audio converter.  This means that you can connect all the devices in your home theater to the TV, then connect the TV's optical audio port to the soundbar speaker. This is a simpler overall design because you just need switch inputs on one device and that is your TV, instead of having to switch inputs on the soundbar.

This type of configuration has some drawbacks, too. You have some limitations due to the number of ports on the TV, such as if there are only 3 ports on the TV, you can only connect up to 3 devices. However, we can overcome these limitations by using a HDMI adapter, but it will be more complicated when using soundbar.

There is another limitation that most TVs reduced the audio signal into a stereo signal, not the true surround sound. This is not a big problem for most of the soundbars, as though to have true surround sound signal, it does not do any better. There are some special annoying cases when the TV emits true Dolby Digital signal but the soundbar speaker does not have Dolby Digital decoding feature. For most people, this is not a matter of concern.

Despite many limitations, most people will choose to use the TV as a converter. Therefore, when buying soundbar, you do not need to worry about the number of ports if the back of the speaker has an optical audio out port.

Intergrated Bluetooth

Bluetooth is the most convenient wireless connectivity to transfer the sound from smartphone or tablet. This feature runs to play music stored on your phone and any music applications.  Additionally, it can run on any platform that most iOS, Android and Windows 8 phones and tablets will feature built-in Bluetooth. If you use your phone to listen to music, you really need to have Bluetooth.

If soundbar is not equipped with an integrated Bluetooth connectivity, you can add this feature through a Belkin or Logitech adapter, but this is not a good solution because the input ports are often limited on the soundbar. The adapters are even more entangled in the case that you use TV as a converter. Then, you need to connect it to the analog ports and you will have to turn on the TV if you want to listen to music.

Hope that those 2013 new soundbars that are soon-to-be on the market will have Bluetooth built-in.  Therefore, you should not rush to buy a soundbar without built-in Bluetooth.

Remote control

Most soundbars do not have a remote control. Instead it depends on the TV's remote control to program and react to your command.

Theoretically, this is not a bad idea. No one needs too many remote controls to use when watching movies. However, the fact is that there are some problems. After you turn off the TV's built-in speakers, some kind of TV would display an annoying message each time the TV receive a volume commands from a distance, this phenomenon occurs if you use the controller to control TV control soundbar.

The easiest way to overcome this problem is to use the signal cable box's remote control that has volume button or use multifunction remote control.

Indicator lights on the front

Most soundbar do not have display screen or indicator light, so you do not know the volume level or which port is being used.

Indicator lights on the front of the Zvox Z-Base 420 speaker looks nice but not really necessary.

Indicator lights on the front of the Zvox Z-Base 420 speaker look nice but not really necessary.

However, there are also many soundbar speaker models with the beautiful front lights, especially when concealed within the grid layer diaphragm.  But the facts that the display lights are not really necessary but it's only a decoration and display the volume level of the speaker. Normally, you only need to increase the volume to a comfortable listening level and do not need to know that it's 20 or 30.

Powered soundbar or passive soundbar

Most soundbars which are being sold are "powered" soundbar, meaning that they have an integrated amplifier system and do not need a separate A / V receiver.  There are also passive soundbars with high-orientation and no amplification system, so you need to purchase an A / V receiver.

The purchase of additional A / V receiver will increase the cost quite a lot, in addition to being messy because you will have to connect the receiver to the soundbar. Instead, you can buy a stereo with an amplifier and a pair of good speakers and the sound is much better than this solution.

Apart from some special cases, you should select a standard powered soundbar speaker or using a full size traditional soundbar.


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