Isn’t it almost a paradox that with the improvement in television technology and their having gotten thinner, the sound quality has dwindled? That the visuals have made dramatic improvements, but the audio quality has become worse over the years?
With the advent of flat display and ultra-thin TVs, the space to fit the speaker drivers inside TV cabinets has become less and as a consequence, the in-built speakers of these TVs are small and weak. To compound the matter, in most TVs, the speakers either face downwards or even backwards, away from us, which further reduces the sound quality.
The rise in the popularity of soundbars in the market is in direct proportion to the increasing sales of flat and thin paneled TVs. Soundbars are even sometimes bundled along with TV sets, or are offered with new purchases.
The soundbar as a component
A soundbar is a speaker system that projects audio from a thin, wide enclosure. They are much wider, instead of being tall and can be mounted above or below a TV or a display device like a computer monitor. A soundbar has multiple speaker drivers inside its cabinet that are designed to create surround or stereo sound. They connect to your TV and give an enhanced audio quality that had been missing from your brand new TV.
Sound quality in thin TVs
The in-built speakers of the new crop of flat, thin TVs, because of their small cabinets (and hence, small driver speakers) are incapable of producing deep, low, bass sounds. The design of these TVs being such, most of their in-built speakers do not face you directly but rather, are faced away from you. They are not capable of producing high-pitched treble sounds. So, it isn’t surprising at all the most TVs sound muffled and tiny. The small sounds like a movie dialogue sometimes become inaudible even in higher volumes.
Care for better sound in TV viewing?
Don’t you sometimes wish you could just jazz up the sound in your living room and make your TV experience awesome while watching your favourite movie? You know, something like a movie-theatre sound? Nowadays, most TVs can stream movies from online sources or music (e.g. Pandora) via your smartphone. You would certainly love to have a deeper and intelligible sound instead of the flat, weak sound of your TV. This is where soundbars come in almost as a saviour.
Sound in a soundbar
The best thing working in favour of soundbar is that unlike the modern TVs, the speaker drivers face you directly instead of facing away from you. This is the biggest plus point because now the sound is more rich and clear. Also, most soundbars come in bundled with separate tweeters and woofers in the same cabinet to create high and low frequency sounds.
Soundbars are of two types – the passive and the active type.
The passive type are similar to the traditional speakers in their functionality. They act as the central and main hub for your entire audio your video system but require a separate receiver (amplifier).
The active type has in-built amplifier and so the device can also act as a standalone music system. All you have to do with an active type soundbar is to just plug in your mobile or TV (Blu-ray player, DVD player, cable box, etc.) for an awesome sound. Some of these soundbars are equipped to create advanced surround sound processing for an incredible virtual surround sound experience from a single system.
Nowadays, most soundbars come along with a subwoofer (usually wireless) that one could place in some part of the room (in the vicinity of the TV or tucked away under the table). The subwoofer helps create really low sounds for a movie-theatre feel.
Are there any downsides to a soundbar?
Oh, yes. There are definitely some downsides to a soundbar.
Most soundbars aren’t tall or deep but they are wide, their width being similar to the width of your TVs. Although they do not occupy much space, and can be placed just in front of the TV, for some people the space might be an issue. Sometimes, the size could be a mismatch, if one’s TV screen is not too wide. Some soundbars could be wall mounted, below or above the TV. So, fitting the soundbar might not be an issue for people who could afford space but those with space constraints, the wall mount could be an issue. However, some soundbars act as pedestals and the TV could be placed on top of them.
The audio quality of soundbars are mostly good compared to the sound quality of TVs but they do have limitations. Most soundbars do not really measure up to the sound quality of a traditional two-speaker pair. The zing is surely missing if one is actually looking for the top-of-the-world awesome sound. They are undoubtedly inferior to a 5.1 surround sound system. This is because of the size of the soundbar which limits the fidelity in audio quality.
So, are soundbars actually useless?
Well, no. Definitely not. They offer excellent sound quality that you have been missing in your TV. Not many TV models are there that could match up to the sound quality of a decent soundbar system. The active type soundbar also act as a music system on its own and provides excellent sound from online streaming. So, those on the lookout for an improved audio experience during TV viewing and with a bit of space constraints that discourages placing bookshelf type of surround speaker systems, a soundbar is definitely the answer.