Soundbars have come a long way

lparsons21

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Gone are the days of soundbars being the weak sister of the tv/audio world. There is a lot of work going on in the soundbar market these days. Supporting Atmos, DTS:X and other advanced audio codecs as well as upscaling from practically anything to faked versions of those codecs.

And they are doing it is interesting ways too! One of the biggest advantages of the soundbar setups is getting that surround feeling from something at the front of the room. Sony has some soundbars that do it with their processors, and some reviews indicate that the implementation is working very well where having rear speakers just isn’t an option, or the ceiling is just wrong to bounce sound off of. Their newest, affordable is the HT-G700. Hard to find reviews right now as it is so new, but at $600 it seems to be a lot of upscale soundbar for not a lot of money.

Others are taking the route of using wireless subs and connecting the surround speakers to them with wires. That solves the problem of wires from the tv area to the back of the room. Nakamichi is doing that with their Shockwafe line of soundbars and at pretty reasonable pricing also. Starting at $749 for their 7.1.4 with single sub, then a 7.2.4 setup at $999, and their top of line 9.2.4 at $1399.

LG is taking a different approach. Instead of connecting rear speakers to the wireless subwoofer, they have a 2 speaker + wireless receiver for the rears. It is useable on a few of their models, and come with at least one model.

Samsung is still in the game with a lot of different soundbar setups, under their own name as well as Harman-Kardon that they own. Prices are all over the place with these, up to about $1600 or so.

Seinhauser has their Ambeo soundbar that does away with subwoofer and rear speakers. It gets great reviews. It is a big soundbar, it is heavy and it is expensive at about $2500.

I’ve got the older Samsung HW-K950 and it is still doing great. Recently got the bug for a new setup and was literally moments away from ordering Nakamichi’s Ultra 9.2.4 soundbar setup. But last night I rented Vin Diesel’s latest shoot ‘em up, Bloodshot in 4K with Atmos and kicked up the volume. WOW! I had forgotten just how good it sounded since I’ve been watching mostly streaming, non-Atmos stuff recently. I’m surprised my neighbor wasn’t complaining!
 

harshness

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To my mind the modern soundbar is the logical progression of the old HTIB where they've more or less moved the front panel to the TV.

Most still lack the flexibility of lots of inputs (this unit has one input and one output and demands that your TV supports eARC) and your choice of speakers in exchange for seemingly trivial installation (beneficial if you move around a lot to be sure).

At the high end, they're awfully expensive and lack some of the adaptability to unique room layouts and source devices that you could get with a real AVR and conventional speakers.

I'm dubious about how close you can approach the performance of an ATMOS 7.1.2 sound field with an LCR speaker and sub configuration. I smell some near Bose-level marketing hijinx.
 
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lparsons21

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To my mind the modern soundbar is the logical progression of the old HTIB where they've more or less moved the front panel to the TV.

Most still lack the flexibility of lots of inputs (this unit has one input and one output and demands that your TV supports eARC) and your choice of speakers in exchange for seemingly trivial installation (beneficial if you move around a lot to be sure).

At the high end, they're awfully expensive and lack some of the adaptability to unique room layouts and source devices that you could get with a real AVR and conventional speakers.

I'm dubious about how close you can approach the performance of an ATMOS 7.1.2 sound field with an LCR speaker and sub configuration. I smell some near Bose-level marketing hijinx.
Ever the pessimist, you never fail to find fault with anything! :)

Lack of inputs certainly is an issue, or can be. A lot depends on what your TV is capable of. Earc is on some TVs now but not all, and while that could be an issue, it is only one if source material is more than DD5.1. Many of the more upscale soundbars suggest connecting the device that can do upscale audio directly to the soundbar and use ARC and connect the others to the TV. And that actually works pretty well in most cases.

As to speaker installation, well if you’d move to a house with the open design that is so popular these days, you’d quickly see that installing rear speakers is easy, installing wiring to them is not, and once those speakers are installed and connected, that’s it. If you change the setting of your furniture/TV to something different, you get to do it all over again. Or I suppose you could do it the way my son does, just run the wires all over the place. Might explain why he is still single.

My particular setup is 5.1.4. I have upfiring speakers in the soundbar and in each surround. I’m sure that it isn’t a perfect setup but it darned sure is a solid 5.1.4 Atmos setup and meets the requirement of Atmos.

That said, I’m sure some elite audio ‘expert’ could and would find fault with how it works and sounds. And could tell me how for just a few thousand I could have in ceiling speakers and all and be happier. To them and you, I say great! Do that for yourself. In the meantime the rest of the world will use much less. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most people don’t use much more than a simple soundbar, possibly one with a subwoofer.
 

lparsons21

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I got to thinking, always dangerous...

Yeah, soundbars are the modern, less intrusive version of HTIBs.

I started thinking about what various members of my family have for their TV setups. Only my brother is a geek and he lives in a small apartment with no subwoofers allowed, so he uses some high end headset.

My nephew would be next in line. He and his family live in a duplex so, similar to apartment rules, high volume listening isn’t looked upon kindly. He has a soundbar with sub, no Atmos or other high end audio, just 3.1.2 from it. He has a single AppleTV box and of course his TV is a Smart one.

The rest either have nothing but the TV speakers or some basic soundbar, some with subs, some not.
 

jayn_j

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Most people are not us. The majority think the tinny internal speakers are just fine, and when COSTCO or some other big box store convince them to upgrade, ease of installation is at the top of the list.

I still go to way too many houses where they have a fancy cable box and a nice flat screen, but the two are connected with the RF cable (tune to channel 3). If they can't get past that to get a decent high def picture, how many are worried about flexibility in rear speaker placement? Only on the list for us 3 sigma folks.
 
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Foxbat

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My bedroom TV is in the corner of the room on a cabinet. I tried a couple of different solutions (I had these $15 Cibertek PC speakers with a subwoofer that sounded much better than the price would lead you to believe, but they picked up the local AM station 2 miles away when off) and every sound bar I tried ended up blocking the IR sensor on my Sony.

I finally went with a Sony HT-XT2 which sits under the TV and incorporates the low-frequency driver instead of a separate enclosure. It connects via the ARC HDMI port and uses CEC to switch on and off with the TV and my 4K Joey.
 

rabbitt83

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My bedroom TV is in the corner of the room on a cabinet. I tried a couple of different solutions (I had these $15 Cibertek PC speakers with a subwoofer that sounded much better than the price would lead you to believe, but they picked up the local AM station 2 miles away when off) and every sound bar I tried ended up blocking the IR sensor on my Sony.

I finally went with a Sony HT-XT2 which sits under the TV and incorporates the low-frequency driver instead of a separate enclosure. It connects via the ARC HDMI port and uses CEC to switch on and off with the TV and my 4K Joey.
I have a normal 42 inch Panasonic
Plasna it is not a smart tv it is a normal hdmi cable, what is a hdmi arch?


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harshness

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Given the popularity of sound bars, I'm rather surprised that more of them aren't set up to have the TV sit atop them. You can't bury the IR receiver behind the screen anymore and so many of them seem to be blocked by even a modest sound bar.
 
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harshness

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My particular setup is 5.1.4. I have upfiring speakers in the soundbar and in each surround. I’m sure that it isn’t a perfect setup but it darned sure is a solid 5.1.4 Atmos setup and meets the requirement of Atmos.
Do you suppose that your many-speaker system is embarrassed performance-wise by a 3.1 speaker system with psychoaccoustic processing?

Sony used to be renowned for their "miniaturization" of consumer electronics gear but that can only go so far when it comes to loudspeakers.
 

lparsons21

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Do you suppose that your many-speaker system is embarrassed performance-wise by a 3.1 speaker system with psychoaccoustic processing?

Sony used to be renowned for their "miniaturization" of consumer electronics gear but that can only go so far when it comes to loudspeakers.
No I don’t, and there are reviews and such indicating that the soundbars using processing to fake your ears isn’t quite as good as having discrete speakers. Nakamichi is doing things a bit differently too. They have discrete forward firing speakers but use processing to gain the height effect. And they are well rated but even the reviews note the difference between the Nakamichi using their combo methodology, and Samsung’s HW-K950/N950 and subsequent that are using discrete speakers.

Sony’s HT-G700 would seem to be a good trade-off for places that having rears and such would be an issue and some discussions indicate that it does do a hell of a job, but also note that without rear surrounds the effect for rears isn’t quite there. But they also say that $600 for a unit that comes so close to being able to completely fake your ears out, it is a great buy.

I’m tempted to get one for my bedroom but I seldom watch anything there that would benefit from it. Mostly late night talk or early morning talk.
 

TRG

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I still use my 5.1 system that I put together 10 years ago. :) Still sounds great. Bought the speakers from Axiom Audio in Canada when exchange rates were extremely favorable. My sub is from HSU research. I only had to replace the receiver so far. My brother is using a sound bar and he really likes it. I may get one for the bedroom TV one day.
 

lparsons21

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How do I use a sound bar with my tv my tv does have a optical outlet and hdmi regular


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Simple. Connect your TV as normal, connect the optical from the TV to the optical on the soundbar and you are good to go. I think every soundbar has an optical input.

Edit: I forgot. You will want to turn off the tv speakers in the tv’s menuing system.
 

Foxbat

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I have a normal 42 inch Panasonic
Plasna it is not a smart tv it is a normal hdmi cable, what is a hdmi arch
ARC is Audio Return Channel. It’s a way to hook an HDTV to an Audio-Video Receiver and send video from the AVR and its multiple inputs to a single HDMI input on the TV. The AVR plays all the audio from its inputs, but what about tuning an a local HD TV program?

To allow the AVR to play a signal from the TV’s tuner, ARC was created to allow the TV to send the audio back (Audio Return) to the AVR over the same HDMI cable (Channel).

This Sony HT-TX2 doesn’t switch any HDMI, but it feeds the Control GUI back through the HDMI cable. It can also connect to a Bluetooth device to play audio, a USB drive with music files, and the HT-TX2 can also act as a DLNA server and player if you connect to your home LAN through Ethernet or WiFi.
How do I use a sound bar with my tv my tv does have a optical outlet and hdmi regular
The HT-TX2 does have an optical input port, but I had issues with the HT-TX2 not detecting when the TV was on or off when I used that.
 
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DWS44

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Soundbars certainly have their place. I wanted to upgrade the TV sound in my garage setup. TV on a high-mounted shelf/arm and wanted something small to fit up with the TV...not interested in running wires all over the garage for multiple speakers and so on like I would for the home theater. Decided to try a Polk Audio Magnifi Mini that I found on a pretty good sale. It's a smallish soundbar with wireless sub. Fit nice on the shelf with the TV and I was actually surprised how nicely it fills the garage with sound, even when listening out in the driveway.
 

harshness

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Soundbars certainly have their place. I wanted to upgrade the TV sound in my garage setup.
There's a few places that surround sound makes little sense and you've identified two of them: garages and outdoors. In both cases, even stereo may do more harm than good.

Phase cancellation is a real thing and the more drivers you put in play, the more likely that you're going to have nodes (areas where the phases partiallially or wholly cancel out).

Sometimes a single full-range speaker is better than a haphazardly arranged array.
 

lparsons21

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There's a few places that surround sound makes little sense and you've identified two of them: garages and outdoors. In both cases, even stereo may do more harm than good.

Phase cancellation is a real thing and the more drivers you put in play, the more likely that you're going to have nodes (areas where the phases partiallially or wholly cancel out).

Sometimes a single full-range speaker is better than a haphazardly arranged array.
The Polk Mini he got isn’t a surround sound setup. It is a very small soundbar coupled with a smallish subwoofer. Basically giving pretty good sound especially compared to what any modern TV’s speaker will give. You could use that nearly anywhere and it would work just fine.

Soundbars definitely have their place. If you are an audiophile they aren’t the solution you would choose, nor are HTIB’s. But soundbars are taking over from HTIB’s because of the simplicity of getting them set up and working. And in the end, they can produce excellent audio without the hassle and fiddliness of a full AVR and discrete wired speaker setup.

And at the lower end of soundbars, you can get audio that is much better than the modern TV’s speakers produce for a very low price.

At the upper end of the soundbar scale you get a complete system that is matched to work together. And for object based, location sound, instead of 4 speakers in the ceiling or high on the front and back wall, 2 side speakers front and back and a subwoofer, all with wires you need to run, you have bouncing off ceilings and walls with wireless or semi-wireless speaker setups. Perfect sound? No, but a hell of a lot less hassle for something that will be more than good enough for most of us.
 

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