In this article, we discuss whether it is better to use a Soundbar or speakers for music.
With television screens becoming ever thinner, the sound quality has had to give way to the ultra-slick and thin design.
This has necessitated the purchase of soundbars by consumers in order to provide the necessary kick in sound quality to compensate for the low sound from the TV.
Sound Bar vs Speaker for music: Which is better?
For the music lover and listener, speakers are better for listening to music than soundbars.
Floor-standing/Tower speakers are the best if you have a wide space and a relatively high ceiling and bookshelf speakers are king for small spaces.
In addition, a set of powered stereo bookshelf speakers will cost less than a traditional soundbar yet produce more sound
There are different levels of sound quality with respect to TV sound systems.
The sound coming from the TV its self itself is the simplest most basic sound and is nothing fancy.
One level above that are sound bars and soundbases.
One level above sound bars and soundbases are bookshelf speakers powered by an internal or external amplifier, and, of course, the crème del a crème of TV sound is a fully-fledged surround home theater system.
A decent sound bar can cost quite a bit of money.
They can range from $500 for a decent one and up to a few thousand for a top quality sound bar.
Sound bars can be complicated technologies to set up so one thing you want to look out for is a bar that is easy to set up.
If you have a moderately sized living space, say anywhere from 10’-15’ in breadth and 25-30’ in length, then a great and economical option for great sound would be a combination of a quality sound bar and a subwoofer.
This is especially so if you want to watch movies and TV. Also in as far a sound bars are concerned the level of quality does not increase exponentially past say the $700 mark.
When it comes to listening to music however then a set of good bookshelf or tower speakers can provide enhanced stereo listening experience.
If the speakers are powered by a sound enabled receiver then it is possible to get a decent virtual center effect.
The other advantage of tower speakers is that you can add more speakers to the system at a later stage.
Another appealing option would be a home theater in a box.
Obviously the option for speakers and home theater in a box will depend on the amount of space that you have available.
As far as speaker options are concerned I would certainly recommend the following options.
Two bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer is probably best.
I would also recommend twin floor standers, however the bass may be a little underwhelming especially when compared to the bookshelf speakers and the subwoofer.
In addition to the bookshelf speakers you will need an affordable multi-channel receiver.
The nice thing about these alternatives is that you can always make upgrades later on.
If you do go with the separate speaker option it is recommended that you use a center channel.
This makes it so that if any voices are coming from the characters on screen it will sound as if they are speaking right in front of you. Background noise will then come from the surrounding areas.
Let us now get into the nitty gritty of soundbars and speakers
What is a sound bar ?
A sound bar is a form of loudspeaker that projects audio from a wide enclosure.
Sound bars tend to be wide in breadth but short in height.
This design is for acoustic purposes.
Given the design of a sound bar, it can be placed below or above your TV/PC/Laptop or home theater.
In a sound bar, multiple speakers are placed in a single cabinet.
In other words, the sound bar contains many individual speakers placed side by side.
Most sound bars include “virtual sound” functionality.
The idea is that you can enjoy surround sound without needing a whole lot of rear speakers.
In my experience, virtual surround sound does not provide the highest quality surround sound.
It may however expand the sound field so that the sound bar delivers sound which may sound larger than the size of the sound bar itself.
Generally, a sound bar will be accompanied by a subwoofer to enhance the sound of the bar.
Different speaker types
With respect to listening to music there are 2 types of speakers that are probably the best.
Floor standing speakers and bookshelf speakers.
The type of speaker that should be purchased will depend on how loud you want them to be and the design and size of your living space.
Consider floor standing speakers if you have a living room with wide space and that is high.
The large acoustic chambers mean that floor standing speakers offer a large natural sound often accompanied by powerful bass.
For smaller spaces, ie a lounge in a small apartment or bedroom, bookshelf speakers may be your best bet.
Similar to a floor standing model in the same series, bookshelf speakers will often include the same tweeter and mid/bass driver.
A tweeter, often also referred to as a treble speaker is a dome or horn shaped speaker designed to produce high audio frequencies.
The main difference between floor standing and bookshelf speakers is that bookshelf speakers are more flexible and can be moved around without hassle, whereas it is far more complicated to move floor standing speakers.
How sound bars produce sound
Many people incorrectly assume that sound bars are a replacement for a surround sound system.
The so-called surround sound effect produced by sound bars is an over emphasized stereo effect driven by multiple speaker drivers.
Through bouncing sound waves off room walls sound bars can give a very impressive simulation of surround sound.
But of course, this surround sound is not in any way “real surround sound.
If you want the best in surround sound, then it is best that you save some bucks and get a quality surround sound system.
Of course, as technology develops, newer models of sound bars are becoming ever more effective at producing surround sound effects, this is especially so for newer models that include Dolby Atmos technology.
How speakers produce sound
Floor standing speakers can produce insane amounts of sound.
They generally include multiple speaker drivers, meaning that they can reduce high quality sound across the frequency range.
If you want to experience the full music listening experience, then consider tower speakers with front and rear ports.
Some Floor standing speakers may include a subwoofer which allows it to boost low frequency sound.
Not all floor standing speakers need to consume a significant amount of space in the living room. In fact, a 2.0 or 2.1 channel system allows you to get the sound benefits and the space saving benefits.
Is a sound bar good for music?
For a person who is not fussy, absolutely you can get a lot out of a sound bar.
If you enjoy having people over or having a good music listening experience, then the answer is a big fat maybe.
Sound bars can’t fill a room with sound nearly as well as separate speakers can.
Soundbar vs bookshelf speakers
Honestly speaking a set of powered stereo bookshelf speakers will cost less than a traditional sound bar yet produce more sound.
But when it comes to movies, things change significantly.
Sound bars do tend to anchor movie dialogue to the center of the stereo image.
You can only get this effect with stereo speakers if you are seated in front of the TV.
So, if you want to impress your friends and have movie night at your place then having a sound bar will create a more uniform sound experience.
What is the best sound bar for music?
There are an array of options and manufacturers to choose from when it comes to Sound bars.
Here are 2 sound bars that I believe are the best for music.
When you purchase the Sonos Play bar you get the following in the package.
Sonos Play bar, power cord, flat Ethernet cable, optical audio cable, Sonos Quick Start Guide, and Legal/Warranty information.
The main features of the Sonos Play bar are
- Nine Class-D digital amplifiers perfectly tuned to match the nine dedicated speaker drivers and the acoustic architecture.
- Three tweeters create the crispest and clearest high-frequency response.
- Six mid-woofers give you the full range of sound effects and music from the left and right channels, and crisp, clear dialogue from the center.
- Mid-woofers act together as a phased speaker array so what you hear matches what you see on screen.
- Optical input to connect to your TV. Allows Play bar to speak DOLBY DIGITAL and stereo.
- Adjustable bass, treble, and loudness controls to customize your sound preferences.
- Auto play setting lets you choose whether or not TV audio will begin playback automatically.
- Auto-switching 100-240 V, 50-60 Hz AC universal input.
WiFi, not Bluetooth
- Connects to your home WiFi network with any 802.11b/g, 2.4 GHz broadcast-capable router for uninterrupted wireless streaming.
- Two 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports to connect Play bar to a wired home network and bring standard Internet connectivity to other devices.
- TV with optical audio output.
- Broadband Internet in your home.
- Internet-connected TV not required.
The main features of the Sonos beam are
- Four full-range woofers ensure you’ll hear the faithful playback of mid-range vocal frequencies plus deep, rich bass.
- One tweeter creates a crisp and clear dialogue.
- Three passive radiators help move air around inside the compact Sonos Beam and add warm sound to the bass.
- Adjustable bass and treble controls let you customize your sound by individual room or groups of rooms.
- Five Class-D digital amplifiers perfectly tuned to match the speaker drivers and acoustic architecture.
- Five far-field microphone arrays used for advanced beam forming and multi-channel echo cancellation.
- When the microphone LED is on, Beam is ready for a voice command. When the light is off, the microphone is off.
- Auto-switching 100-240 V, 50-60 Hz AC universal input.
- One 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port. Wire directly to your router to operate your Sonos if WiFi is unstable.
Connects to your home Wi-Fi network with any 802.11 b/g/n router. 802.11n only network configurations are not supported—you can either change the router settings to 802.11 b/g/n or connect a Sonos product to your router.
Apple AirPlay 2
Works with AirPlay 2 on Apple devices iOS 11.4 and higher.
From the above discussion, I think for the music lover and listener, speakers are better for listening to music that sound bars.
The clear winner in my view would be a set of Floor standing/Tower speakers especially if you have a wide space and a relatively high ceiling.
Floor standing speakers also have the advantage of being adaptable and have great capacity for high frequencies.
For smaller spaces, it is probably advisable that you make use of bookshelf speakers.
The closest thing in a sound bar that can give you a similar feel is a sound bar accompanied by a subwoofer.
Soundbars are perfect in my view for TV watching. I also like the fact that sound bars are slim and simple and less cluttered than normal speakers.