Most of us are never satisfied with the audio quality of built-in TV speakers. That is when we make the decision of setting up a home theater surround sound system. Deciding that you want a home theater surround sound system is not enough by itself, though.
In present times, there are two popular choices when talking about surround sound – soundbars and speaker systems. The common confusion that arises among users is if a soundbar would be better for them or should they go for a conventional sound system with multiple speakers! We are here to give you our two cents on the debate – “Soundbar vs Speakers,” so stay tuned!
What is a Soundbar?
You can say in a sense that a soundbar is a set of speakers arranged and assembled in a peculiar fashion to make its use convenient. It is a sleek, oblong-shaped device or a “single bar” that people often use as an alternative to conventional speaker systems. All soundbars are speakers but not all speakers are soundbars. Let us now learn the difference between the two in better detail!
Soundbar vs Speakers – Ease of Installation
The foremost point of difference is the ease of installation of a soundbar vs that of multiple speakers. Soundbars are an all-in-one device, i.e. it has all the components within the unit itself. You do not need to connect to any AV receivers, you can directly connect it to your TV.
There are only 2 wires that you find on most soundbars. One is the power cable to turn it on and the other is the connector wire to connect the soundbar to your TV. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is very easy to install sound bars.
On the other hand, the installation of a separate speaker system is not all that easy. Firstly, you need to assign lots of space for placing individual speakers, be it on the ceilings, floors or the walls. Secondly, all the speakers and the subwoofer need to be connected to an AV receiver which is further connected to your TV. This not only means additional connections but also an increase in the number of wires in your room (unless the whole system is wireless). Whether you’re buying the best floor standing speakers or best karaoke speakers, it can be daunting to install them.
In other words, there’s only one clear winner when it comes to ease of installation, and that is the mighty soundbar system!
Winner In Terms of Ease Of Installation – Soundbars
Soundbar vs Speakers – Design
With that, we come to our next point of difference which is the design. As discussed above, a soundbar system consists of one device only that houses all different components required to constitute a sound system. The design is concise, sleek and stylish. This should tell you how much space you need to install soundbars – minimal.
To top that off, they are very lightweight in comparison to speaker systems. This gives them some mobility, even making them portable to a certain extent. All you need to do is install it above or below your TV, as per your liking. It might end up blocking the use of certain HDMI ports or other ports but we feel the trade off is worth it if you can find extenders for those ports.
Coming to speaker systems, they are clunky, bulky and take up more space. You need to sacrifice some of your living space to accommodate your speaker system. If not living space, you need to set up speaker cabinets to accommodate your speakers and subwoofer. That, along with speaker cables, makes the speakers clumsy in comparison to soundbars. This also means that it is impossible to expect any kind of portability from a proper speaker system.
That being said, it is not necessary that you cannot make a speaker system look attractive. Rather, some people prefer speakers for their very looks and how they complement their interiors and furniture. There are a plethora of options when it comes to speaker designs, to make your home theater surround sound system look attractive.
You can say that if you have limited space, a soundbar is your best friend. If space is of abundance, then might as well go for a speaker system. But, if we had to choose a winner based on the overall design point-of-view, it has to be the soundbar!
Winner In Terms of Design- Soundbars
Soundbar vs Speakers – Features
We are all suckers for ‘extra features’, aren’t we? Your TV speakers surely aren’t giving you any extra features. On the other hand, soundbars these days come endowed with a lot of features such as Bluetooth connectivity, Assistant Support (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant), etc. But, with surround sound setups, we get all that and much more, depending on the AV receiver you go for!
The common thing between AV receivers and soundbars is that both mostly connect to your TV setup using HDMI ports. A soundbar usually only has one HDMI port, so that it can be easily connected to your TV. An AV receiver trumps a soundbar in this regard because an AV receiver usually has multiple HDMI ports (3 or 4), which allows you to connect more than just your TV to the AV receiver, viz. Blu Ray Player, Gaming Console, etc.
Connecting and disconnecting devices becomes a lot easier when using AV receivers. Also, one must keep in mind that there are two types of HDMI ports – HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC. The “e” in the latter stands for enhanced, and therefore gives you better sound-audio quality than a normal HDMI ARC port. You should always go for AV receivers or soundbars that support HDMI eARC ports, provided your TV supports the same.
With that being said, there’s only one winner when it comes to features!
Winner In Terms of Features – Speakers
Soundbar vs Speakers – Sound Quality
One of the most important differentiating factors between soundbars and speakers is the sound quality that they deliver. A soundbar is sure to have a better audio quality than that of your TV speakers, but if you really and truly want an upgrade, there is no match for a full surround sound system.
To put it in perspective, even a good 2.1 channel speaker system will give you superior sound quality than a great soundbar. The potential is infinite when it comes to the sound quality of speaker systems. This is because speakers are not constrained by size. You can go for speakers with big speaker drivers and a subwoofer that really has the power to blow your mind. But with a soundbar, you have what you get.
Imagine having a scary movie night with your friends. A soundbar will never be able to give you the jump-scare you deserve, like a speaker system will be able to! In other words, your TV speakers have average sound quality, a soundbar will have good sound quality but a speaker system will have better quality sound than the other two.
Winner In Terms of Sound Quality – Speakers
Soundbar vs Multiple Speakers – Which Is a Better Option for a Surround Sound System?
Which is a better option for a true surround sound system, a soundbar or multiple speakers? Although most soundbars promise to give users a surround sound experience, they fall short when we compare them to a real surround sound system. A surround sound system will always have a wider soundstage than a soundbar. The best surround sound systems on the market typically comprise a mix of powerful speakers.
Speakers have a clear advantage in this regard for two reasons. First, that you can literally place the speakers all around you, i.e., sound coming from all around you. Second, that you can add as many channels (separate speakers) to a surround sound speaker system as you like, giving you a much more immersive experience than a soundbar.
To truly extract a surround sound experience from a soundbar, you will have to add speakers to your system. This will require you to use an AV receiver, thereby negating the whole point of having a soundbar. Only the most expensive of soundbars will be able to give you a surround sound experience to some extent. But even that should not be as good as a basic 2.1 channel surround sound speaker system!
So, to truly enjoy your music, games or movie nights, speakers are your best bet!
Winner In Terms of Surround Sound – Speakers
Soundbar vs Speakers – Ease Of Upgrading
The prospect of upgrading is really limited with soundbars. The only real way of upgrading a soundbar is by replacing one with a better model, or by switching to a full-blown surround sound system. Whereas, there is an infinite potential of upgrading when we talk about surround sound systems.
You can start with two stereo speakers and one subwoofer i.e. a 2.1 channel system, and add a center channel, rear speakers and side speakers to convert it into a 7.1 channel. Moreover, you are also not bound by brands, as you can have assorted speakers for different channels.
You can add more speakers to a soundbar too, but why not get a surround sound system in the first place if that’s what you must resort to? Although, one upgrade that we definitely recommend if you have a Bluetooth-enabled soundbar is to get a wireless subwoofer. It will really amp up the sound experience for any music lover.
You can say that a speaker is more of a long-term investment, whereas a soundbar is a short-term investment.
Winner In Terms of Upgrading- Speakers
Soundbar vs Speakers – Price
Price is almost always the deciding factor when it comes to making choices. The same can be said for the war between soundbars and speakers. Soundbars are definitely one of the more affordable options when we talk about audio gear. A high-end speaker setup could set you back even by a few grands.
But, if you choose wisely, an entry-level speaker system with two stereo speakers and a subwoofer will not make you broke. Rather, it can match the price level of a soundbar and can even give you great sound quality, even better than that of a soundbar.
What gives the speaker system an edge here is the fact that if one component of the whole setup needs to be changed, you can easily do so. But in the case of a soundbar, you will have to get repairs, and when that is not a possibility, you will need to replace the soundbar itself.
Yes, we are thinking with a degree of cynicism. If we keep that aside, soundbars are definitely a budget-friendly option to get improved sound while TV watching, gaming or listening to music.
Winner In Terms of Price- Tie
Final Words – Soundbars or Speakers, Who Comes Out The Winner?
Before finding the answer to this question, let us quickly summarize what we have understood so far.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Speaker System
|Delivers the best audio quality possible||A high-end speaker system can be very costly|
|Provides the best surround sound experience||Installing a speaker system can be a tedious process|
|Comes with more features than a soundbar||Can take up a lot of space|
|Has a plethora of options when we talk about types and designs.||Replacing a speaker system is not a possibility without spending a lot|
|Can be budget-friendly at a starter level|
|Many permutations and combinations are available when assembling a speaker setup|
Pros and Cons of Buying a Soundbar
|Extremely easy to install||Its sound quality fades in comparison to a surround sound setup|
|Does not take up a lot of space||The options to upgrade it are very limited|
|Has a very sleek and has a modern design||Its features are limited in comparison to speaker systems|
|More budget-friendly than speakers|
|Has better sound quality than your TV’s sound audio system|
Now that we have everything in front of us, it becomes easier to decide in which direction to sway in the battle between soundbars and speakers – or does it? What we realize is that both these audio systems have their pros and cons and in the end, it boils down to personal choice.
Picking only mathematically, we would say that speakers have a slight edge over a soundbar. Although their benefits vary so much, it definitely comes down to choice. Feel free to share your feedback and suggestions in the comments below! We would love to answer any queries or questions that you may have.