So you just bought that awesome new 60″ 4K HDTV that’s only an inch thick only to realize that the manufacture could not cram decent sounding speakers in such a small package. Watching your favorites shows and movies is like listening to someone talk through a tin can. It’s time to upgrade your audio system with a sound bar system. Let me help guide you through what to look for so you can find the best sound bar for your audio/visual setup.
So here’s the hundred dollar question, what do I need to consider when shopping for a sound bar? Let’s first consider the following:
- How large is your TV?
- Is your TV on a stand or mounted to the wall?
- What TV outputs are available to plug in to your soundbar?
- Do you want surround sound?
- Do you want a subwoofer?
- Would you prefer a wired or wireless subwoofer?
- Do you want to play music from a source such as your phone?
- And of course, what is your budget?
Does this sound difficult and way too complicated? Let me walk you through each so you can be sure to select the best soundbar for your needs.
How large is your TV?
Sound bars are typically selected based on your TV size. There’s two primary reasons why – how filling you want the audio to be and aesthetically how the sound bar looks with the TV. As a general rule of thumb what you’ll be looking for is a sound bar that’s about the width as your TV. This will give you the best sound and best look without being an eyesore.
Is your TV on a stand or mounted to the wall?
How your TV is situated will affect how you want to mount your sound bar. You could put the soundbar on the TV stand or even mount it to the wall just below your TV. Placing it on your TV stand will be the easiest. In cases where your TV is mounted, you’ll have several options. There are both fixed and adjustable options available that will range in price, but generally will stay under $50. My recommendations for an adjustable sound bar mount would be the Soundbar Mount with Depth Adjustments for TV Wall Mount Brackets. My recommendation for a fixed soundbar mount would be the TechSol Universal Soundbar Bracket Mounting Brackets.
What TV outputs are available to plug in to your soundbar?
Just about all soundbars will connect to your TV via a HDMI cable. What will typically happen is the soundbar will act as a HDMI pass through. This means it will be connected in between your cable box/dvd player/game console/etc and your TV with HDMI cables to both. Be sure to pick up several additional HDMI Cables as ordering them online is always cheaper than buying from your local store that are typically five to ten times the price. Six foot lengths are typically OK. If you need a longer one, 15 foot HDMI cables are also available. Be sure to pick up a couple of each.
Do you want surround sound?
Most soundbars come with multiple channels to give you a surround sound experience. At the minimum there will be 2 speakers, a left and right, in the main sound bar. In most cases you’ll have 3 – left, center, and right available in the soundbar, plus a subwoofer. In some of the higher end setups you could have as many as 5 to 9 channels (aka speakers) in the soundbar. My suggestion would be not to worry about how many channels you’ll have as it will be decided based on your budget.
Do you want a subwoofer?
Do you want a speaker that hits all those lows (think action movie gunshots, explosions, etc.). The answer is yes. If you say no, you really mean yes.
Would you prefer a wired or wireless subwoofer?
Just about all of the higher end (read $150+) soundbars offer a wireless subwoofer. This gives you the flexibility of placing the subwoofer anywhere within several feet of a power outlet. If you like to feel the bass rumble, you could place it near your couch or recliner. If you want to hide the subwoofer behind a decoration so it doesn’t stick out you could do that to.
In the case where the subwoofer is wired, it will need to stay within a few feet of the soundbar. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and honestly I’ve seen most people just leave their wireless subwoofer up by the TV too. It all comes down to personal preference, though my recommendation would be to go with a wireless subwoofer for the most flexibility.
Do you want to play music from a source such as your phone?
Just about all of the best soundbars nowadays have bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to wireless connect other devices such as an iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, or computer to the soundbar to play music. The setup will typically only take 1-2 minutes and you’ll be playing your jams. Some systems will also have a 3.5mm audio jack, similar to your headphones, where you could plug in directly if you’d like.
And of course, what is your budget?
I don’t care what anyone says, budget will always play a role. The good news is that there are incredibly good systems ranging from about $150 all the way up to $700. You could even piece together your own system for several thousand if you wanted. Be sure to check out my comparison table to help you start your research.