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What Is a Soundbar: Everything You Need To Know

Updated: September 13,2022

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You’ve probably heard of soundbars by now, but what exactly is a soundbar? A soundbar is a long, thin speaker placed above or below the television for optimal sound. 

Soundbars come in all shapes and sizes, with various features to choose from, making them an excellent way to improve the sound quality of your TV viewing experience. This article will cover everything you need to know about soundbars, including what they are, how they work, and the available types.

What Is a Soundbar Speaker?

A soundbar is a type of loudspeaker that produces high-quality audio from a slender and unobtrusive package. Unlike a traditional home theater system, which uses multiple speakers to create a surround sound experience, a soundbar uses just one or two speakers to produce clear and powerful audio. 

Soundbars are becoming more popular as consumers seek ways to improve the audio quality of their television without taking up too much space. While soundbars are not as immersive as a full surround sound system, they provide a convenient and cost-effective way to improve your TV audio.

Types of Soundbars

There are two main types of soundbars: active and passive. Because active soundbars have a built-in amplifier, they can be used without an external receiver. Passive soundbars, on the other hand, lack an internal amplifier and must be supplemented with an external receiver. 

Most soundbars are active because they are easier to set up and less expensive than passive models. However, passive soundbars frequently provide better sound quality because the receiver can be tailored to match the specific speakers in the system. Whether you go with an active or passive soundbar, you can be confident that it will significantly improve the audio quality of your TV speakers.

A Soundbar vs. a Sound Base

Here’s a quick rundown of key differences between soundbars and sound bases:

Because soundbars are generally thin, they are an excellent choice for a low-profile solution. Sound bases, on the other hand, are typically larger and heavier, designed to sit beneath the TV, and are best suited for TVs already on a stand.

Soundbars typically have multiple horizontally positioned speakers, whereas sound bases usually have a single vertically positioned speaker. For this reason, soundbars have a larger “sweet spot” for stereo or true surround sound effects but can take up more space.

Some soundbar systems are available with additional subwoofers that improve the device’s bass. Because sound bases have larger cabinets, the speakers can “breathe,” resulting in deeper bass response. This means you can get full-range sound from a sound base without purchasing a separate subwoofer.

Soundbar Channels

The most basic of soundbars have two or three speakers, while more advanced models have five or seven, and the most advanced of all, the Dolby Atmos soundbar, creates the widest possible soundstage if installed correctly.

How Does a Soundbar Work?

Soundbars are a popular audio solution for modern TV sets, providing significantly better sound quality than the built-in speakers found in most televisions. But how do they work?

At its most basic, a soundbar is simply a long, thin speaker sitting in front of or beneath your television. Most soundbars contain multiple speaker drivers (small speakers) that handle different frequencies. This gives the soundbar a more well-rounded sound than that produced by a single speaker.

Some TV soundbar speakers also include subwoofers, which are larger speakers designed to reproduce low frequencies. Subwoofers give the sound more heft, making movies and games sound more immersive. Most subwoofers are wireless, which means they can be placed anywhere in the room without the need for wires.

Finally, some higher-end soundbars include extra features such as Dolby Atmos support or a built-in smart assistant. These features, however, are not required for a basic soundbar setup.

What Is the Best Connection for a Soundbar?

In addition to Bluetooth or wireless connections, there are three basic ways to connect a soundbar to your television: optical, HDMI, and analog. The most common type of connection is optical, which connects the soundbar to the TV via a digital audio cable.

HDMI transmits audio and video signals, and most soundbars are compatible with HDMI or HDMI-ARC. Finally, analog connections connect the soundbar to the TV via standard RCA cables.

How To Install a Soundbar? 

You can begin connecting your soundbar once you’ve determined which type of connection you require. Simply plug the cable into the corresponding port on the soundbar and TV if you’re using an optical or HDMI connection.

To make an analog connection, connect the RCA cables to the audio input ports on both the soundbar and the TV. After you’ve plugged everything in, turn on your soundbar and enjoy higher-quality TV audio.

What To Look For in a Soundbar?

When shopping for a soundbar, it is important to consider the size of the unit and the number of drivers it contains. Some soundbars are designed for small rooms, while others are meant for larger spaces.

In general, soundbars with more drivers will produce better sound quality. However, these units can also be more expensive. Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not the soundbar includes a subwoofer. A subwoofer can greatly improve bass response, but it will also add to the unit’s overall cost.

Where To Put a Soundbar?

Now that you’ve decided to upgrade your home theater setup with a soundbar, it’s time to figure out where to put the audio device. The placement of your soundbar can significantly impact the sound quality, so it’s important to spend some time determining the best location.

You’ll generally want to put the soundbar directly below or above your television. This will ensure the sound is direct and doesn’t bounce off the walls. If you have a large television, you may want to put the soundbar on a separate cabinet or stand to not block the screen.

A soundbar should be placed as far forward as possible on a shelf inside a cabinet, so the sound coming from the sides is not muffled. If your high-end soundbar supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, or DTS Virtual:X, you shouldn’t place it on a cabinet shelf because those formats require it to project sound upwards.

Also, you can mount a soundbar on the wall. The soundbar can be placed either below or above a TV mounted on the wall. However, the sound is more focused on the listener if the speaker is placed under the TV.

Soundbar vs. Speakers - Pros and Cons

Many people’s decision between a soundbar and a traditional speaker system boils down to one simple question: Which will provide better sound quality? Unfortunately, the answer is not always obvious.

Soundbars are an excellent choice for people looking for a simple-to-install home theater system. Aside from that, soundbars provide good sound without hassle. However, some higher-end soundbars can be more expensive than speakers, while they don’t offer the same placement flexibility.

Speakers, on the other hand, have several advantages over soundbars. Sound quality can be improved by placing the speakers in different parts of the room, and the speakers’ audio quality is usually superior to that of a soundbar system. However, external speakers are not only more difficult to set up than soundbars, but they also take up more physical space.

In terms of pricing, a high-end surround sound speaker setup is typically much more expensive than a high-end soundbar. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re shopping for a soundbar, don't just focus on the cost. Ask yourself, “Do I need a soundbar?” Think about how easy it is to set up and use. 

Although a soundbar can’t replace a full-on home theater system with a receiver and multiple external speakers, it does offer many advantages, including convenience and portability. Soundbars are an excellent option for those with a robust home theater setup but who want to add a second TV.


Is a soundbar better than speakers?

The answer to this question depends on what you want and need. Suppose you want to quickly improve your television’s audio quality. In that case, a soundbar is a good option because it is typically less expensive than stereo sound systems and simpler to set up. On the other hand, speakers are the better option if you are an audiophile or require the highest-quality sound possible.

Can you use a soundbar on any TV?

In general, any TV will work with any soundbar. However, you must ensure the devices have compatible connections to ensure proper operation.

What does a soundbar do?

This question is akin to “What is a soundbar?” A soundbar is a horizontal bar-shaped speaker that produces sound and is intended to improve the audio quality of your viewing experience. These audio devices are typically 28 to 36 inches long, and some soundbars include multiple drivers to produce stereo or surround sound.

Where should I put a soundbar?

The best location for your soundbar will be determined by your room's layout and the effect you want to achieve. Soundbars can be placed in front of or behind your television, and most can be wall-mounted beneath or above the television. 

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While Damjan started his career in humanities, his interests quickly moved on to the tech and IT world. VPNs, antiviruses, firewalls, password managers - cybersecurity is what he knows best. When Damjan’s not losing hair over the dwindling of our collective sense of tech safety, you’ll find him looking for solace in 100-hour-long RPGs and rage-inducing MOBAs.

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