You don’t have to have Mozart’s “absolute ear” to check that the sound coming from the speakers of a computer monitor or television it’s quite discreet (to put it mildly). Design departments dominate the current technology industry and this leads to important deficiencies in an area as important as that of audio.
We have discussed it on other occasions. The sound section is still the “ugly duckling” on the big screen. New panel technologies have been greatly improving image quality, brightness, contrast, color rendering, or native resolution. At the same time, the sizes have been increasing to spectacular diagonals and the same can be said of the connectivity and potential to access Internet services of the new generations of smart televisions.
The sound section has not advanced to the same degree no matter how much marketing tries to convince you otherwise. In designs that are committed to anorexic thinness, there is simply no space to place good speakers and there are very few models that offer decent sound for the user who is looking for more than “noise”. We don’t talk about the bass, the multichannel or 3D sound … Don’t pay attention to the advertising because “where you don’t have it, you can’t get it.”
The importance of sound and the imbalance in the purchase
Let’s say it soon. Spending 2,000 euros on an OLED TV and settling for the sound it offers is an aberration. An imbalance of which there are great examples in the technology industry. A demanding user should bet on a full HD audio system and a good set of speakers. Or at least look for alternatives such as sound bars.
A modern mid-range A / V amplifier can be purchased in the $ 300 environment and is the best option to get started building a good system for home theater, music and everything. These audio / video receivers are responsible for receiving, decoding, processing, amplifying and transmitting audio and video signals from multiple sources.
An ‘all in one’ with a large number of inputs to connect consoles, CD / DVD players, living room PCs, multimedia equipment or Blu-ray, as well as audio outputs for your speaker system and of course video for the great home screen. The speakers are a point and apart and there you can spend whatever you want. You can start with little understanding that a 2 in 1 of quality will always be better than junk that promise zillions of channels that do not contribute too much to the ‘noise’ of the television itself.
However, not all consumers have enough space in their living room to mount these complete systems or to engage in a typically more complex installation that requires wiring, subwoofer, or satellites to be brought to various points in the room. Or they simply do not want to spend the high price that this type of complete solutions demands and in the long run highly recommended for those who want «something more».
Sound bars, a good alternative
This is where these solutions come in that stay halfway, but dramatically improve TV sound. They are accessories that are sold at affordable prices (relatively because the good here is not cheap), with compact sizes and good designs. Its assembly is very simple and they are visually aesthetic either in table or wall mounts if we have the TV hanging. In all cases, they offer a great improvement in the poor sound of flat-panel televisions and, according to the models, a greater potential since they can be used to connect other devices beyond the display screen.
Among the aspects to consider at the time of purchase we can highlight the following:
Size and Format
The market offers all kinds of designs in sound bars, with square, rectangular, hexagonal or round models that will fit the size and design of any television if you want to keep the aesthetics of the set. Located on top of furniture, under the same TV or hanging on the wall, you will have no problem finding a model to your liking that is in tune with that of the TV itself, furniture and general room.
The current offering of sound bars offers 2.0 single stereo systems, and the entire cast available in multi-channel high definition, such as 2.1, 5.1, 7.1 or 9.1, covering all user needs and using different technologies to make the sound “bounce” ”Through the walls offering surround sound experiences. Advanced models include DTS-HD, 3D, and even Dolby Atmos, although the price can increase a lot in the premium models with the increase in benefits. As we always say when buying any product: a 2.1 with good sound quality and connectivity is preferable to a cheap 7.1 that will not offer you a good experience.
Sound bars can be connected to the TV via cable or wireless, generally via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. Depending on the location of it you can choose one or the other. Some models include subwoofer and / or satellites separate from the soundbar, connected by cable and also wireless. Almost all sound bars include their remote control (although they can be operated with the television controller) and also allow music played from smartphones or tablets to be played. Medium or advanced models allow voice control integrated digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and are compatible with streaming services.
Virtually all current sound bars include HDMI and depending on the model and needs, USB port, optical / coaxial digital inputs, auxiliary, RCA and 3.5 mm jack, in addition to the referred wireless connectivity in some models. Evaluate your needs, as well as the possibilities of connecting external devices such as consoles, other sound equipment, portable players or mobile devices.
For a standard living room or lounge all sound bars are going to offer you enough power even if the model advertising invites you to buy some “zillion” watts. Betting on a refuted brand and for sound quality and not for the greatest power, will be a success, in addition to being free from conflicts with your neighbors due to a high volume that too often does not correspond and even penalizes the quality of the audio.
Offer and price of sound bars (July 2020)
It is a specialized segment whose offer does not change as much over time as other products such as computers and mobiles can be. It really isn’t necessary either. Once acquired, you will enjoy it for many years. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire industry and there haven’t been too many new releases since we offered you the latest guide.
In any case, the current offer of sound bars remains wide and fits any budget, with basic models below 50 euros and premium that can easily exceed 1,000 euros. I personally would discard both. The first ones because they are as bad as the television speakers themselves that you intend to improve and in that price range it is simply impossible to offer a «Experience 5.1. surround sound ” as you will see in some advertisement.
The top of the range models would not buy them either. If you have that budget, it is a better option to mount the complete high definition solution that we mentioned above, even if it is for time frames. First with a good A / V amplifier base, and then, when budget allows, a set of quality speakers that will last you half a life.
Note that wireless models are always more expensive in the same market range than cable models. If you can camouflage the wiring of these, you will get more quality and better prices. In balance is virtue and thinking about it we have selected some models that we like, adding solutions from the largest number of manufacturers with different features and prices. We leave you there:
The most basic thing you will find with decent sound is this 2.1 solution with subwoofer for TV, Computer and Ultra-wide Screens with Bluetooth, Optical input, ARC and AUX input, Remote Control and Wall Mount Kit. It has a price of 85 euros.
Supports Bluetooth and wired wireless connections, USB, Optical, HDMI. It offers multiple power levels, 2.0 channels, and support for DTS, Digital Surround, and Dolby Digital, plus features like the ARC audio return channel. Economic range, part of a price of 93 euros on the 80 watt model. You have the option of choosing models of 200 watts (137 euros) or 376 watts (346 euros).
2.0 system under Bluetooth connection, with HDMI ARC / CEC and a home theater or gaming entertainment experience. It can be connected to any tv with hdmi, digital optical audio or 3.5mm auxiliary output and allows wall or desktop mounting. It offers a total power of 150 watts and is priced at 93 euros.
Another economical solution, in this case 2.1 with Wireless subwoofer. It offers Dolby Digital, HDMI, Bluetooth, Digital Audio In and can be mounted on walls. It offers several versions, the 80 watt per 93 euros or the 200 watt for 137 euros.
Another 2.1 base model that includes a wireless soundbar and an additional wireless subwoofer. It offers several versions according to power and allows you to launch music from your mobile or tablet to the sound bar. The 160 watt version is priced at 99 euros, while the one that offers 300 watts costs 149 euros.
Simple Sound Bar with Bluetooth. Small footprint, compact design with Bass SLR speaker, quality sound with S-Force PRO Front Surround and a price of 120 euros.
Another basic 2.0 bar with integrated subwoofer, Dolby Digital, Game Mode, Bluetooth 4.2, One Remote Control or NFC to listen to music from the smartphone wirelessly. It has a price of 129 euros.
Philips 1000 Series HTL1510B / 12
A 2.1 70-watt sound with wireless subwoofer with which you can transfer your movies and music wirelessly to the TV and easily connect your mobile devices to the sound bar. It has a price of 174 euros.
JBL Bar Studio 2-0
Most economical from the manufacturer, it offers two tweeters and two woofer with a power of 30 watts. Wireless and wired features Bluetooth 4.2 and HDMI 1.4, one analog and one optical input, to deliver surround sound and wireless Bluetooth music playback. Cost 190 euros.
Includes two-way sound bar and external wireless subwoofer. It includes wireless connectivity technology with Bluetooth and wired, with digital audio, optical input and headphone outputs. Like most of these bars it includes HDMI with ARC for audio channel return. They are priced at 218 euros.
Sound bar with unusual 3.1 channel support and 420 watts of total power. It has DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Digital and has wired and wireless support. Cost 221 euros.
It offers a 5.1 system through a three-channel bar plus two rear speakers that connect (wired) to the bar itself and a subwoofer. It is a system that is being offered a lot, because it allows you to expand the multichannel sound of the bar itself at a reduced price. Sony assigns a total output power of 600 watts and a price of 279 euros.
The PC peripherals specialist also offers solutions that can be used in living rooms. It is a Dolby 5.1 surround system, with 3D, THX and peaks of up to 1,000 watts. Suitable for decoding Dolby Digital and DTS sound tracks, 6 devices can be connected through 3.5mm and RCA inputs. It has independently adjustable controls for each speaker with a wireless controller / control panel that includes almost all sound bars. It has a price of 299 euros.
Yamaha MusicCast YAS 306
Another of the greats in the sector stands out for its great connectivity, Wi-Fi, Airplay and Bluetooth, optical digital input, coaxial and stereo mini jack, as well as support for MusicCast and Spotify Connect. It is equipped with two woofers, two tweeters, and two built-in bass subwoofers and a Bass reflex port. It has dropped in price and is on sale for 300 euros.
Soundbar 2.1 with integrated subwoofers, Bluetooth support and support for Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, HDCP 2.3 for 4K HDR Sound. It offers simulated 7.1.2 surround sound and connection facilities. Connect a game console, a UHD Blu-ray player or a decoder, as well as your TV with HDMI input and optical digital connection. Cost 349 euros.
Smart bar compatible with over 80 streaming music services and with built-in Amazon Alexa for control from five included long-range microphones. Includes four long-range elliptical woofers and a tweeter. Three passive radiators boost bass power, eliminating the need to add a companion subwoofer according to Sonos. It is available in black or white colors currently on sale from 389 euros.
Bose Soundbar 500
It offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the integrated Alexa assistant, with control from your own control, external control or from a mobile app. In a profile of just five centimeters, it includes five speakers, three front and two lateral, and can be combined with external company subwoofers. It can be found by 439 euros.
The above is just a sample of a great deal where you can find dozens of models from all manufacturers in all price ranges. They are a good way to improve the audio of your television or use them to get the sound from other devices, with compact and visually attractive designs that integrate perfectly with the large screen and furniture in the living room.