In the ever changing technical world of Home Theatre and Electronics, the Sound bar has made a significant splash in the past few years. It can be a decent and inexpensive way to seriously upgrade your television’s audio output and your viewing experience. But if you already have speakers, do you need to purchase a sound bar?

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This isn’t a definitive yes or no response as there are reasons that could make a sound bar your better or cheaper option or reasons why you do not need to spend the extra money. So let’s take a quick look at some of those reasons.

Why a sound bar if I have speakers?

First of all, I think we can all agree that despite advancements in TV picture quality, the built-in speakers in almost every retail set leave a lot to be desired. Therefore, we need to upgrade the audio capabilities.

Why choose a sound bar?

Here are the top reasons I would suggest that a sound bar may be the choice for you.

You don’t want to buy an Amplifier

If you have speakers, whether tower speakers or bookshelf speakers, they do require an amplifier to power and run them. So unless your TV has an amplifier built in, you can’t simply connect speakers to your TV, it has to go through an amplifier. Even a receiver needs an amplifier onboard to power speakers. So even if you have the speakers, you still need to invest in a power source and since most new sound bars have a built in amplifier that is covered.

Sound bar is easy to set up & use

A 5.1 or a 7.1 channel surround set-up with an amplifier/receiver can be a daunting set-up for a lot of people and using a sound bar instead alleviates that concern. Straightforward by comparison, a sound bar can be connected in minutes.

Space constraints

A sound bar takes up much less real estate than an amplifier and speakers. So condos and small apartments in particular may require this space saving option. Mount it under your TV and there you go. If you are using an amplifier/receiver and speakers, you need places for your speakers and for the unit and this isn’t a concern with just a sound bar as it has the amplifier built in. Also with the sound bar, you obviously do not require external speakers so you do not have to worry about running cables and trying to hide them behind baseboards or under carpets. It is a minimalist aesthetic that many crave today.

I will add as well that I have a full 5.1 speaker setup with an amplifier in my basement media room and a sound bar setup in my bedroom and I do find that when it comes to movie dialogue, the sound bar seems to better centre the dialogue and make it easier to hear distinct from the rest of the audioscape.

When would I not need a sound bar?

If you already have speakers (even including rear speakers and/or a subwoofer), an amplifier/receiver, the space required, and don’t mind running wires in a more involved setup, then the traditional full speaker model can ultimately provide a better and more immersive soundscape in almost every circumstance.

In no way does this suggest that using a sound bar provides you with poor sound but I will personally take the multiple speaker configuration if at all possible. Now, having said that, sound bar technology is getting significantly better and is now able to virtually recreate sound movement that seems to defy the actual placement of the sound bar speaker itself.

A 5.1, a 7.1, or a Dolby Atmos configurations are best achieved and experienced with this traditional speaker setup, although there are now Atmos sound bars available. I have not had the opportunity to try an Atmos sound bar so I cannot speak to how good it sounds but I have heard a full speaker Atmos setup and can say, unequivocally, that it is by far the best way to experience a movie.

Conclusion…

As with everything, do your research and know what your personal requirements are. This will then determine which way you go. And as always, drop by your local Best Buy to talk to an expert employee and give a listen to your options before deciding. And most importantly, have fun!

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My day job is as an Assistant Professor in Media and Communication Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. My primary teaching and research interests revolve around popular culture and technology. I am an adequate at best guitar player currently attempting to romanticize my inglorious youth in a Hair Metal cover band called "Glam Chowder”. When not working or watching TV, I am usually listening to music, recording music, playing music, or trying to figure out what gear I need to make all of that music sound even better.