According to a recent NPD Display Search report, high definition LCD TV shipments declined for the first time ever. With an 84% share of the market, and declining shipments, it may be safe to exclaim the hyperbole, “Everybody has a high-def TV!” It may also be safe to assume that the want for high-def picture will be closely followed by the want for premium sound.
So what are the options? For years many people looking for sound beyond their TV’s capabilities had to run wire throughout the entire living room/entertainment area to large speakers – and speaker wires can get messy. Then came wireless speakers! Oh the joy, no more speaker wire to run! But still, those speakers located all throughout the room can be rather imposing at times, or just downright ugly. Not to mention, home theater systems tend to get pricey, and not everyone can afford to run their own little theater (hmm… could explain those outrageous popcorn prices).
So what’s left?
Say hello to a soundbar. A soundbar is a long narrow speaker, typically the length of an average high-def TV, that bridges the gap between basic TV sound and full surround sound. The single speaker design allows for minimal wiring, and complements the visual feel of many TV’s. So what’s the difference between a soundbar and a full sound system? Well, the obvious difference is the size and space needed. Soundbars are excellent for smaller rooms, while a full sound system may work better for larger rooms. The soundbar relies on the sound bouncing off of walls to create a “virtual” surround sound. The other advantage a soundbar may have is that they are typically more affordable than a full sound system.
So what’s best for you? The quick answer: it depends on the situation. A smaller room and a smaller budget is well suited for a soundbar purchase. A larger or more open room (as well as a larger budget) would work better for a full surround sound system. Audiophiles will also tell you that soundbars don’t even compare to a full system in terms of overall sound quality. Regardless, soundbars do provide a cheaper and sometimes more visually appealing alternative to a consumer that wants something more than the built-in TV speakers.