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Sound Bar Vs Surround Sound

In the age of OTT services and long movie nights, most people crave some movie-theatre-like ambience in the comfort of their own homes. For such people, having a home surrounding system often works great.

But, many buyers often need clarification while shopping. You will find numerous models of surround sound systems or compact sound bars at your budget. The main question is- which one is the best for you?

Sound Bars Overview

A sound bar is a specialised design of a loudspeaker with a wide enclosure to project audio. It was first introduced in 1998 by Altec Lansing, who used these sound bars as a powered speaker system for digital theatres.

His wide audio projection technology produced modern media speakers that offered a better sound experience than conventional speakers of that time.

The modern sound bars are sleek and petite, with higher-quality audio projection capability. A single soundbar has multiple speakers to produce a wholesome audio experience. It creates a virtual 3d sound effect without any complicated wiring procedure.

Soundbar – Pros And Cons

Soundbar Pros

1. Soundbar Are Extremely Simple

The best part of getting a sound bar is its simple design and installation procedure. You can easily play the sound bars at any place you wish to. On top of that, these are movable, and you can change their positions quickly. Furthermore, you can even take these with you when you relocate.

Since the sound bars don’t require any complicated installation procedure, there is no need to get expert technical assistance. Even if you relocate, there will be no hassle to set up the sound bar again at the new location.

You have to connect the soundbar to your TV through an HDMI cable, and you are ready to go. Many sound bar models also work as an HDMI hub. So, if you have a sound bar, you can easily connect it to your set-top box, TV, or even mobile.

Modern soundbars are also wireless and can easily connect to your smart devices! Furthermore, you can also control the modern soundbars with your smart devices to start or pause playing while you stream any video content on the TV!

2. Soundbar Tend To Be More Compact Than Sound Systems

Another advantage of the sound bar is its compact design. The sound bars are known for their sleek and stylish designs that can come in all shapes and sizes. There are also smaller sound bars that can fit in a small place.

Besides, you can wall mount the sound bars if you have little space left in your cabinets.

Alongside their shapes, sound bars also have less weight. That means you can easily carry these. The models also do not have many wires, which also tends to minimise the bulk weight.

3. Soundbars Are Affordable (Most Of The Time)

Most people tend to get soundbars, which are available for a pocket-friendly price. You can quickly get a high-quality sound system at just $100. That means you can only sometimes get a sound bar to enhance your audio experience, even if you are on a tight budget.

The best part is the experience you get against the price tag. You can even get a sound bar without a subwoofer at a price tag of $200. Such models come with 5.1 or 7.1 setups, multiple HDMI ports, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, and a great sound experience.

4. They Are Well-Designed

Most modern sound bars are now designed in different ways. From classic bars to minimalistic ones or even fancier ones- you can buy any design you like. Modern soundbars can even be used as a part of your interior decoration due to their appearance and aesthetic appeal.

Soundbar Cons

You already know about the advantages of getting a sound bar. But, these modern sound systems have the following disadvantages as well-

1. Soundbars Offer Less Flexibility

The main problem with sound bars is the system. Whether you buy a single soundbar or even a set of sound bars, you only have to use the recommended components. That means you cannot upgrade a single thing even if you want. Furthermore, if you’re going to enhance the sound quality, you may need help, as most sound bars have built-in speakers and subwoofers. Hence, customisation is not possible.

If you want to upgrade, you will have to upgrade the whole system, which can sometimes be challenging.

2. It’s Hard To Match The Sound Quality Of a Traditional Surround Sound

You can never get the same sound quality as a surround sound system by using soundbars. In the case of sound bars, the front speakers come built-in. That means you do not get separate front speakers like surround sound systems, and you cannot remove and use the speakers separately.

Hence, you may not get the immersive sound experience throughout the room. For this, often sound bar users install separate side speakers to get that all-around and immersive sound experience.

On top of that, surround sound system speakers can be moved to different places to get a more immersive sound experience. You cannot do that with sound bars. The less flexible nature makes soundbars a problematic choice for larger rooms.

3. Sounds Better In Smaller Rooms

You already know that in sound bars, speakers are usually integrated into the front part of the machine. That means you get front speakers with subwoofers. Such placements create a directed sound experience or a front-heavy sound experience. In other words, the sound waves only travel in a direct way in the same direction instead of travelling in different directions.

Due to this, the immersive sound experience can only be felt in a smaller space. So, sound bars may offer a great experience in a smaller room. But, if you have a bigger room, a conventional sound bar will not provide you with the same sound experience you get in front of the system.

In such cases, you can try using models with two or more surround speakers or extra side speakers to enhance the sound experience. But, such models are not readily available and may be expensive too!

Surround Sound Systems Overview

The surround Sound system is more of a concept than an actual system. It is known for its theatre-like atmosphere with an immersive sound experience throughout the room where you use the system.

The surround sound system uses a simple concept of mammal physiology to create a wholesome effect. Humans and most other mammals have two ears in the opposite parts of their heads, which allows us to hear sound from different directions.

On top of that, our tympanic membranes or eardrums capture the sound waves, while the earlobes create an antenna effect to capture sound waves from different directions.

The sound waves are then transmitted to the brain through the auditory nerves. Our brain processes the waves and the smaller delays between each period to understand the direction and the effect of sound.

In surround sound systems, the sound is transmitted in two different directions. Hence, we hear the same sound from two directions, which creates a sense of directionality.

A surround sound system comprises subwoofers(for bass effect), centre speakers, satellite speakers or side speakers, and equalisers or mixers. Each of these components is placed strategically so that the sound effect is wholesome.

The subwoofers create a profound bass effect and are usually placed in the corner of the room. Next are the side speakers placed on the ride and left. These prominent speakers are more advanced than regular speakers and come with in-built speaker cones to offer immersive effects for dialogues and key SFX while you are watching TV. In recent surround sound models, a separate centre speaker is also included.

The satellite speakers differ depending on the system. The conventional 5.1 system uses four side speakers and one subwoofer.

The advanced 7.2  surround system uses seven speakers in different positions with two subwoofers at the centre. The most recent version is 9.1 surround home systems, made of nine speakers and one subwoofer.

Most of these systems come with an in-built equaliser or use the equaliser mix apps or other technology to properly mix the sounds for the best results.

Surround Sound – Pros And Cons

Surround Sound Pros

1. Traditional Surround Sound Systems Offer Great Results

The best part about getting the surround sound system is the results are limitless. You can get a model depending on your preference, and you will never be disappointed with the sound effects you get. A surround system means a complete set with speakers and subwoofers.

On top of that, you can also customise the surround sound system for a better experience. If you want a more immersive experience, you can always choose a 7.1 or 6.1 system over a 5.1 system. Besides that, you can also customise your line of a surround system with compatible speakers and subwoofers.

In other words, you can always get the surround sound system that suits your preference, and there is no limit to options!

2. They Have Better Overall Sound

The best part of getting a surround sound system is the experience you get. These advanced systems are known for their immersive sound experience throughout a place, regardless of the size of the room.

That means whether you have a large or small room, you will always get the best sound experience. On top of that, the sound effects are equal at any place in the room.

3. Traditional Surround Sound Is Great For Larger Rooms

If you have a larger room, nothing but a surround system works.

The speakers and woofers are strategically placed in surround sound systems throughout the room. Hence, you will get a similar sound experience at any place. So, whether you are sitting in front of the TVC or longing in a corner with a chair, the sound will always be incredible and equally cinematic.

On top of that, you can add more speakers as per your choice to get the best results.

4. You Can Customise It As Per Your Choice

Another benefit of getting a surround system is the customisation options. You can add as much as speakers or more than one subwoofer to enhance the full cinematic effect.

So, there is no limit to creating the best home theatre experience for yourself.

Surround Sound Cons

1. Surround Sound Systems Are More Expensive

Even though the surround sound systems work great, their price tag is a concern. The advanced system requires some serious investment.

To get at least a basic surround 5.1 system, you will have to spend at least $400. It can be an issue for those who are on a tight budget.

2. They Are Much More Complicated

Surround sound systems are much more complicated and require epical installation. You need to place each component strategically to get the desired result.

To customise the system, you must research to find compatible components. It can be a lengthy process.

3. More Difficult To Install And Not As Neat

The installation procedure is also complex, and you may need technical assistance to install it properly.

The components also come with multiple ports and wires and must be installed correctly. For this, you may even need to hire a technical expert. The complicated installation makes it difficult to reinstall the surround sound system after you relocate or remodel your home.

The wires also pose an extra challenge as you must hide these aesthetically to ensure your room does not look shabby.

Difference Between Soundbar vs Surround Sound

1. Sensitivity

Sensitivity stands for the power consumed to produce the highest volume of the speaker you are using. A sound bar or surround system with a higher sensitivity rating indicates a better audio experience.

In general, speakers come with the sensitivity ratings:

  • The speakers of rating A make 85 dB sound while consuming 100-watt electricity.
  • A speaker of rating B offers a sound output of 89dB with 50-watt electricity consumption.
  • A speaker of rating C produces 92dB sound output with an input of 25-watt electricity.

Besides, if a speaker produces higher sound volume output with less energy input, it will last longer. It will perform better in the long run.

2. Frequency Response

The human ear tympanic membrane can recognise sound waves within the frequency range of 20Hz to 20000Hz. The lower frequency waves are felt or realised more than it is heard. These are called infrasound. For example, low rumbles on the screen are more felt than you can listen to those sounds.

These sounds often have deep bass effects, and the subwoofers are used to produce such sound waves. A good system or sound bar with a diverse frequency range means you can experience different sounds clearly with an immersive SFX.

3. Power Handling

Power handling refers to the maximum power a speaker can handle without getting damaged.

4. Impedance

Impedance is the electrical resistance in the sound system that works against the current flowing from your electricity plugs. It usually fluctuates as the sound systems often simultaneously produce sounds of different frequencies. Generally, most sound bars or surround systems come with an impedance limit of 8 ohms. But, some advanced models can also handle the impedance level of 4 ohm.

Which One Should You Buy?

The question for any buyer is which one they should get for home entertainment. Well, here are some fundamental criteria that you can consider.

1. The Budget

The first criterion people often start with is the budget. A sound bar is cheaper than a surround sound system. But, there is an underlying factor that buyers often need to pay attention to.

Most people get multiple sound bars to get a better audio experience alongside a subwoofer. In this case, they often spend $180 to $220 or even more. You can easily get a 5.1 surround sound system at $350. Many advanced Dolby atmos home theatre models are available at that price tag.

In short, if you have a smaller budget, get a soundbar. But, for a better experience, always opt for a surround sound system, even if that costs a bit more.

2. Audio Experience

You can be a bit confused with so many brands offering multiple ranges and variations of sound bars and surround systems.

But, a sound bar will never offer a similar experience to a surround system unless you use multiple sound bars alongside a subwoofer. Since the surround sound systems use equalisers to mix the channels, the overall experience is always better and more immersive.

On the contrary, modern sound bars do have such channel mixing abilities. They use a virtualisation process that offers a sense of multi-channel sound experience.

3. Aesthetic Appeal

Aesthetic appeal is also a criterion you may need to check out; Sound bars are often preferred because of their sleek design that blends with your interior. But that doesn’t mean you cannot get a surround sound system. Modern systems have small speakers that are aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.


To purchase the right audio system, you first need to understand how sound bars and surround sound systems work and their pros and cons. A sound bar seems a good choice if you need a mess-free high-quality audio experience without burning a hole in your pocket. On top of that, if you have a smaller room with little to no vertical space left, sound bars will be your saviour.

But, if you want a movie-theatre-like experience inside a larger room, it is better to get a functional surround sound system. It may cost a bit more, but it will work better.

We have collected some helpful information from the article. You can take it as guidance to make the best decision to get the desired audio experience.

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