It doesn’t take professional knowledge to tell that both sound bars, as well as surround sound systems, are going to be an upgrade over your TV’s (underpowered) built-in speakers, but if you aren’t an audiophile, or at least somewhat familiar with audio devices, it can be hard to determine which is the better option for your home.
1. They are affordable
If you were to get one in Singapore, a decent soundbar would set you back somewhere between $999 to $1,388, which is a fraction of the price of getting a surround sound system and having it installed in your living room.
2. They are compact
Unlike surround sound systems that require multiple speaker units (some of which need to be mounted overhead) to work, a soundbar only takes up some room on your TV console – and it’s for this reason why they’re a better fit for homes that are tight on space.
3. You get a better sound quality (vs TV)
It’s no secret that the speakers that come with modern-day TV screens just aren’t up-to-par with the picture quality that you get. Aside from lacking in sound clarity, these built-in speakers are also unable to achieve proper directionality. i.e., replicate the sensation of sound coming from different directions.
And while they aren’t able to offer the full experience of true surround sound either, soundbars of a decent quality will able to provide a sufficiently immersive virtual surround sound experience by making use of small, in-built speakers to trick your ears into hearing more sources of sounds around you than there actually are. That said, this is only the bare minimum if you’re actually planning to bring a movie/game/concert’s soundscape to life in your living room.
1. They create a more immersive experience
In comparison to both TV speakers and soundbars, a properly-calibrated surround or home theatre system offers an even more realistic experience as it makes use of actual, dedicated speakers that each handle individual audio channels (or types of sounds), including music, sound effect and voices.
This also has the effect of creating a true surround sound experience that’ll let you to hear sounds in live-quality, coming from all directions, be it on your left, right, top, front or back.
Think watching a Game of Thrones episode and being able to sense the hoofbeats of a galloping horse thunder past you on the battlefield or hearing Thanos snap his fingers in front of your face – if that’s the sort of realism you’re looking for, a surround sound system is what you need.
2. They ensure you can hear every line clearly
Have you ever felt frustrated watching a movie or TV show at home and being unable to decipher what’s being said, even after turning up the volume? If so, getting a surround sound system may be the solution.
True surround sound aside, another advantage of having multiple speakers is that you’ll be able to hear every articulated line in its full clarity as there’s a centre speaker that exclusively handles dialogue. In other words, you can say goodbye to muffled voices muddled by explosions, gunshots, or any onscreen sources of environmental noise.
3. They’re highly customisable
Depending on your audio requirements, surround systems can be customised to suit your needs. Want your movie-watching experience to have more ‘depth’? Get a 5.1.2 set-up with ceiling speakers that’ll add a ‘height’ effect. Otherwise, a basic 5.1 set-up will do just fine as it’ll provide better audio clarity and immersiveness than your TV’s in-built speakers.
The answer: It depends on your needs and preferences. If you’d like something akin to the full cinema experience, get a surround sound system because it’s unparalleled in sound quality as well as clarity, and also enhances your living/entertainment room’s audio ambience. Otherwise, if all you want is a device that’s a step-up from your TV’s speakers, a soundbar will do.