Flat-panel TVs are sleek, slim and packed with tons of cool technology. But where are the speakers? Look closely. See them? No? That's because the speakers on an HDTV are usually tucked behind or under the cabinet. This means the sound is directed away from, not toward, your ears. How can this affect the sound of your movies and music? Dialogue that can be hard to hear. Musical scores that don't inspire. Special effect audio that is anything but special.
The good news is you don't need to fill your room with speakers to experience the theater-like thrill of surround sound. It just means choosing the right speaker for your space. Single-speaker sound bars provide the perfect answer for dramatically improving flat-panel TV sound, especially in small to medium-sized rooms. Learn more in our FAQ below:
Why would I want a sound bar instead of a larger surround-sound or stereo system?
Sound bars pack a sonic punch inside a single speaker. They are ideal for small to medium-sized spaces, like a bedroom or den, as they save you from having to place multiple speakers and wires all around the room. They also provide a sleek, modern look that will complement your HDTV.
So can a sound bar really create a surround-sound effect?
Most can, absolutely. While the traditional surround-sound setup includes multiple speakers placed all around the listening space, many sound bars contain technology that lets them create a virtual and very effective surround-sound environment. They do so in several ways:
- One method is to basically bounce the sound off the walls in the room, which works especially well in a square or compact rectangular room.
- A second method is the use of sophisticated audio processing that tricks you into thinking sound is coming from different directions. For a room with an open-floor plan, this technology will usually work much better than one that bounces the sound.
There are sound bars, however, that merely provide a very good-quality stereo sound (and don't provide a surround-sound effect), so read the specifications of the models you are interested in.
Do sound bars pump out enough bass?
Many sound bars come packaged with a separate subwoofer to provide the essential booming bass of a movie theater experience. This subwoofer is designed to be placed out of the way, on the floor, and still provide excellent performance. If the sound bar does not come packaged with a subwoofer, it will still include the ability to connect one. If you're looking for the ultimate compact experience, some higher-end models now include a powerful subwoofer right inside the sound bar cabinet.
Do I need to connect a receiver for my sound bar to work?
Many sound bars have built-in amplification, so you can connect the sound bar directly to your HDTV (without the need for a receiver). Some sound bars do need a receiver for amplification, so be sure to read the specifications of the models you're interested in.
Can I connect other devices to a sound bar?
Sound bars with built-in amplification can act as your receiver, so make sure they have the number and type of inputs you're looking for. Some things you might want to connect include a cable box, Blu-ray or DVD player, or gaming console. HDMI inputs will provide the best quality connection, followed by optical and coaxial digital audio inputs. Some sound bars include a USB link for hooking up a flash drive or other USB device, or an MP3 player link for your portable music device.