In recent years, soundbars have become an increasingly popular audio solution for home entertainment. They are sleek, easy to set up and provide a significant audio upgrade from your TV's built-in tiny speakers. With the advancements in technology, many people are wondering if buying a soundbar in 2023 makes sense. In the past five years, I have tested dozens of different soundbars and home theatre systems, and here’s why you should buy one soundbar in 2023.
What is a soundbar?
Before I drop the ball on why buying a soundbar makes more sense now, you should know what a soundbar is. A soundbar is a compact audio system that is designed to enhance the audio experience of your TV. They come in various shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they provide an immersive audio experience without the need for multiple speakers. It’s like a home theatre in a box but smaller and more compact. Soundbars usually come with multiple speakers built into a single unit, which can simulate surround sound, making it a popular choice for those who do not want to invest in a traditional home theatre system.
How is a soundbar different from a regular 5.1 surround system?
The primary difference between a soundbar and a 5.1 surround system is the number of speakers. A 5.1 surround system consists of six speakers, including a center speaker, two front speakers, two rear speakers, a subwoofer, and an AV receiver to power it all. The center speaker is used to provide dialogue, while the front and rear speakers provide directional audio. On the other hand, a soundbar typically has fewer speakers, with some having as few as two speakers. Some soundbars even come with additional wireless speakers that can be placed in the room to provide a more immersive audio experience. Just like a soundbar, they are smaller and sleeker and do not match the sheer size of speakers in a 5.1 surround system.
If you want to delve deeper, check out this detailed comparison by the New York Times.
Can you use a soundbar in large rooms?
One of the most significant concerns people have when considering purchasing a soundbar is whether it can provide a suitable audio experience in larger rooms. The answer to this question is, it depends. Most soundbars are designed to work well in smaller or medium-sized rooms like bedrooms or living rooms. We’ve seen brands like LG, Samsung, and Sony push their flagship soundbars to deliver a good audio experience even in larger rooms. However, if you have a considerably large room, you may want to consider a wireless home theatre system with multiple speakers.
Did you know LG launched this 9.1.5 soundbar? Honestly, it’s mind-boggling. Like how did they manage to pull this off?
Why buying a soundbar makes sense?
Easy to set up - Unlike traditional home theatre systems that require multiple speakers to be placed and wired around the room, a soundbar is much easier to set up. Most soundbars come with a simple plug-and-play setup, which means you can have your new audio system up and running in minutes. In simple terms, there’s no need to crimp and run those ugly wires across the room. Just plug in the speakers and subwoofers to the power socket and they are good to go. I once had to re-wire the entire home theatre system at one of my friend’s places and it was a mess.
Setting up a soundbar is super easy. Just plug in the cables, install the app and you’re good to go. If you’re using streaming boxes like Apple TV or Roku, you might need to plug in the streaming box directly into the soundbar or use the HDMI ARC port depending on your TV and soundbar.
Space-saving - If you live in a small apartment or have limited space in your living room, a soundbar can be an excellent option. Since they are designed to be compact, they can fit neatly under your TV stand or on a shelf or even a wall mount, taking up minimal space. On the other hand, there are super long soundbars that can complement a 65-inch TV. They come in all shapes and sizes now, ranging from a 27-inch compact Bose 300 soundbar to a 45-inch minimal-looking Sonos ARC.
Affordable - Soundbars are generally less expensive than traditional home theatre systems. If you're on a budget, a soundbar can provide a significant audio upgrade without breaking the bank. On the flip side, if you want to go premium, then there are soundbars that go above and beyond and cost more than $2,000. It totally depends on your budget, requirements, and space. You can rest assured that you’ll find almost every desirable feature in most soundbars today.
Wireless connectivity - Many soundbars come with wireless connectivity options like Bluetooth and even Wi-Fi streaming. This allows you to connect your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or even your TV to your audio system easily. You can easily play your music, TV shows, movies, or podcasts wirelessly, without the need for any additional cables. Heck, you can even double down and customize a multi-room music listening setup with Sonos soundbars and smart speakers.
Simulated surround sound: Although soundbars cannot provide the same level of surround sound as a traditional home theatre system, many soundbars use virtual surround sound technology to simulate a surround sound experience. Even soundbars support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X these days. In simple terms, you can even hear sounds from your room’s ceiling without any extra speakers. This can provide an immersive audio experience that is much better than what you get with your TV's built-in speakers.
Should you buy a soundbar?
If you don’t want to go all-in and want your bedroom TV to sound better, I’d recommend you go for something small and value for money like Sonos Ray or Polk Magnifi Mini. These small soundbars offer significantly better sound quality than your TV’s built speakers and give you a taste of what it’d be like to own a soundbar for your living room setup. Stay on the lookout and you might grab super cheap deals like this one.
In short, if you are looking for an easy-to-set-up, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing audio solution that can improve your TV viewing experience, then buying a soundbar in 2023 may be the right choice for you.
If you want something with a smaller footprint then you can grab two smart speakers and use them as a stereo speaker with your smart TV. No kidding. Check this out: