Living in this fast-paced, technologically-advanced world nowadays certainly has its benefits, especially if you consider yourself an audiophile. You’re given plenty of options on how you can enjoy your favorite pastime, whether you like listening to music or watching movies. And this brings us to our next topic: televisions and sound systems. If you’re a self-confessed audiophile with a penchant for watching high quality television, you’ve probably dreamed of setting up or owning a home theater system… or at least an awesome flat-screen TV that you can use to brag to your friends.
The good news is that it is not that hard to reach that goal, especially with all of the of snazzy HDTVs in the market. The bad news is that with plenty of companies dishing out televisions after televisions of varying specifications and sizes, it is sooorta hard to choose one right out the gate. You have to do your research on what HDTVs you can buy for your home entertainment system. But, let’s get straight to the point, no matter what HDTV you buy, you’d always end up lamenting about the same thing: the sound.
It’s not that all of them lack the sound delivery prowess, but sound can always be better. And it can BE better, simply by hooking your HDTV to an epic speaker sound system. Just like deciding which TV deserves a spot in your entertainment room, choosing the best sound system can get a bit tricky, especially with all the speakers flooding the market. They all come in various sizes, designs, sound specifications and prices, but there is always going to be that ONE which is the most suitable for you. Well, let’s put it this way, each of us have different taste, and when it comes to picking an external speaker to improve our HDTV’s audio delivery, we also have our own opinions on what should be done and what not.
Not all of us have the room capacity to use giant sound systems with multiple wirings snaking around the room (or wireless ofcourse for double the price). They’re too bulky and they hog too much of the valuable room space. Not to mention, they also cost a heck ton of money (however, if you have a room space with the size of Disneyland and the cash to go along with it, please disregard this paragraph.). If you’re worried about limited space and expenses, but still in dire need of an awesome speaker to spice up your home system, then it looks like it’s time to invest in a soundbar.
So, what is a Soundbar?
Much like what its name suggests, a soundbar is a speaker shaped like a bar (and no, I’m not kidding), or sometimes they are shaped like a tidy, little box. These compact sound systems are the easiest way to improve your HDTV’s sound delivery. Thanks to their form, they are either tucked neatly on a table top, underneath your television like a pedestal, or even mounted on the wall if you have a wall-mounted television. They also come in a variety of designs and sizes, along with a corresponding price range.
With all that said, if you’re just sitting there, contemplating on getting yourself a very good soundbar after you read this paragraph, don’t. Not yet. Just like trying to know are the actors in a movie and what the movie is all about before watching it, there are several considerations for you, before you go out there get one of these nifty gadgets. It is an investment after all. Granted, that some of these words do not really mean much to a non-techie individual, but you have to have an idea on what a soundbar can offer before buying it. And don’t worry, no overly-technical jargon will be used.
Measurements: Decibels, Watts, Hertz
If you have already owned a sound system before, you’ve probably heard of these units of measurement that are usually used when it comes to sounds and speakers. When looking at the side label on the box of the sound system, you would probably see numbers like 120W or 220W. This is what we call Watts (W). Watts is the unit of measurement we use to refer to electrical power or energy conversion. It is very important to know the electrical wattage of your sound system components versus the wattage in your home because if you connect the system to an incompatible power source, the sound produced would probably turn out muddy or, worse, it might even damage the sound system itself.
Another unit of measurement you should know about would be Decibels (dB). In few words, this would refer to how loud the output is. It ranges from 0dB (weak) to 194dB (as loudest as possible). In short, the higher the decibel, the louder the sound. There is also what we call the Hertz (Hz). Hertz measures the frequency of the waves, which is commonly known as a pitch. Simply put, the higher the Hertz, the higher the pitch. To give you an idea, an average adult human ear can perceive sounds ranging from 20Hz to 16,000Hz, whereas a dog can detect frequencies from 67Hz to 44,000Hz. This kinda explains why dogs can easily hear sounds that are above the range of human hearing, such as that of a dog whistle, which produces frequencies within the range of 23,000Hz to 54,000Hz. This unit is very important since it could help you in selecting the type of speaker you want to use.
Drivers: Tweeters, Squawkers, Woofers, and Subwoofers
Since we already discussed the units, let’s talk a bit more about the speakers themselves—what makes them deliver those full-range sounds that we demand? The answer lies in the nifty mechanisms that are place inside your audio gadget: the drivers. Drivers would be the components hat “drive out” the sound, there are a few different types that you want to be familiar with. Each one of them corresponds to a different sound frequency. There are also bars that make use of the full-range drivers which are capable of delivering the entire sound frequency range, whereas coaxial drivers can combine 2 or several of the sound frequencies.
The first type that we will discuss delivers sounds that are of the highest frequencies. It is known as the tweeter. They are working in frequency ranges between 2000Hz to 20,000Hz. Middle-range sounds are delivered by the mid-range drivers or the squawkers. Middle frequencies are typically those between 300-5000Hz. There is also what we call woofers. These drivers are primarily responsible for delivering low frequencies, typically between 40-1000Hz. Very low frequency sounds, such as those falling between 20-200Hz are taken care of by the subwoofer.
So, you want to buy a soundbar…
Now, there is one last thing (or things) before I let you go on your merry way to purchase an audio companion for your TV. We have been through all the basics that you should be familiar with. We all have our own needs and for these needs, we have created our own criteria that would be our basis on whether an audio system is a definite winner or an obvious fail.
One criterion that must be taken into consideration would be the size of the room, and yes this is important, your soundbar speakers will be living in this area for a relatively long period of time. Determine the size of the room—even a rough estimate would do. There are plenty of options in the market, you don’t want to choose a soundbar that can only go up to a small volume elevation when you have a room with the size of the Grand Canyon. On the other hand don’t go for powerful solutions that are capable of rattling the walls when you live in a small space.
Тhink about the size of the television, as well as the placement of the bar itself. If you’re planning to mount it on the wall underneath your awesome wall-mounted HDTV, consider the measurements and how the soundbar matches with the television. Some audiobars in the market come with specifications that tell you what television size it is most compatible with.
If you plan to just place it on a tabletop in front of the TV, make sure that the bar isn’t high enough to actually obstruct the television and interfere with the remote control signals (though some speaker models come with an IR repeater that allows you to use your remote control without interference). There are also pedestal-type audiobar models that are meant to be tucked neatly underneath your TV. Just make sure that it can safely accommodate your television’s weight as well as the TV stand. If still in a stump, go for the same brand as your HDTV, speakers and televisions made by the same brand usually work well together.
Features and Sound Specifications
Remember our techie terminologies a while ago? This is where they will come in handy. If you’ve already set your sight on a specific candidate, try to do some research on the technical part as well. Do not forget to check the compatibility with your HDTV. This is important in a sense that if you bought a soundbar system that is not compatible with your current television, the sounds would come out almost the same or worse.
Some bars come as a solitary speaker, complete with full-range drivers and built-in woofers or subwoofers. These gems are designed to deliver clear sound without the use of an extra speaker. However, if you prefer more powerful bass delivery, try to go for the soundbar-subwoofer combination, or at least try the systems that offer you the option of being able to attach an external subwoofer later on.
If you do go for the soundbar-subwoofer combination, you could choose between a wired connection or a wireless one. A wireless subwoofer would probably be the more popular choice since it gives you the freedom to place the subwoofer anywhere in the room, within a considerable range, of course.
For the true music, movie and gaming enthusiast, there are those sound systems that offer you a full surround-sound listening experience. While some models come with features that can somehow replicate a surround sound delivery, others offer a true immersive listening environment. This might mean additional speakers in the room, but hey, that’s a small price to pay for obtaining a surround-sound cinematic listening environment.
Other features might include various connectivity options, which is also important, especially if you’re planning to connect a lot of media devices or gaming consoles to the system. Bluetooth connectivity is also another nifty feature, which is definitely a plus if you’re planning to use this gadget for music as well.
Money, Money, Money…
One last thing to consider would be the price range. True, you can’t put a price tag on an awesome experience, but awesome listening experiences don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. Ranging from prices that are less than a hundred dollars to prices that can make you cry, there is always an audio system with a price suitable for your budget. That’s not to say that inexpensive audio systems are always going to sound horrible and expensive soundbars are always going to work out great. On the contrary, there are plenty of sound systems that cost less than a few hundred dollars that sound like angels while there are systems that cost thousands of dollars that are better left forgotten. Again, try to determine your budget before purchasing your audio device.
Soundbars are a dream come true, especially for audiophiles on a budget and for those who want to improve their television’s sound delivery without breaking the bank. With plenty of features, designs, specifications and prices to choose from, all it takes is a careful consideration to end up with the soundbar system of your dreams.