To Soundbar or Not to Soundbar?

One of the most popular sound solutions for people with a flat panel television is to add a powered soundbar just beneath the TV.  They’re generally affordable, and offer a major improvement over using the TV’s built-in speakers.  As is the case with all technology solutions, there are pros and cons to going the soundbar route.  In this post I’m going to help you decide if a soundbar is right for your entertainment system.

The Whistler definition of a “soundbar”is a powered speaker bar with all of the front speakers and amplification built into the bar.  This is not to be confused with a passive speaker bar that only includes the front speakers and needs to be connected to a separate amplifier.  A soundbar should also include a subwoofer in the package.  NEVER buy a soundbar that does not include a subwoofer.  This is an incomplete solution and in my opinion, selling a soundbar without a sub is criminal!

Advantages of soundbars:

  • All-in-one, clean looking solution
  • Major improvement over TV speakers
  • No need for a separate equipment location (depending on sources)
  • Usually more affordable than traditional sound systems
  • Easy for DIYers due to fewer wires and connections
  • Most can be controlled with the TV or cable provider’s remote

Disadvantages of soundbars:

  • Small, less expansive sound stage
  • Poor surround sound support
  • Limited sound settings
  • More difficult to add sources to the system – especially those with physical media (like discs)
  • Generally inferior sound quality (mostly due to price point and size limitations)

The ideal use of a soundbar is in a casual viewing area such as a family room, where there isn’t really a good place to put three separate front speakers, and the TV is mounted on the wall.  The only activities we want are cable television and streaming video like Netflix and Amazon Prime.  We don’t really care too much about surround sound, because we have a theater room where we go for a truly cinematic movie experience!  We do know that TV speakers are terrible so we need something.  A soundbar is perfect in this case!


The best thing about this scenario, other than the much improved sound, is that we don’t need a designated spot to house our components.  The soundbar has its amplifier built-in, and the cable box and streaming players are small enough that we can tuck them behind the TV (or use the built-in TV apps).

There you have it!  If you want better sound but don’t need to be amazed or immersed in the experience, a soundbar can be a cheap and easy way to achieve it.  On the other hand, if you love movies, games, and music, and that area is your only spot for enjoying that content – you should probably consider doing a real surround sound system.

Have questions about your own situation?  Contact me and we’ll figure out what would be the best solution for your room!

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