Ask any home theater enthusiast, and they’ll tell you that the one aspect that TVs could improve on is sound. But with TVs being limited in terms of size, you just can’t expect to get the same experience as with a dedicated speaker set.
The thing is, not everyone has room in their home for a full speaker set, which is where sound bars come in. A soundbar is an all-in-one solution that’s compact and offers a much improved audio quality, without taking up too much space around your TV.
With that in mind, sound bars are the perfect compromise between a full home theater surround set and the oftentimes inadequate sound you’ll get from most TVs. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons, how they compare to speakers, and how to make the most of them.
A common misconception that used to be true a few years ago, but is now not the case, is that any speaker set is better than a soundbar. The thing is, technologies advance rather rapidly, and modern soundbars can sound really good, making them a worthy alternative.
Soundbars are essentially an all-in-one system that, in their simplest form, include multiple speaker units in a single cabinet. The result is a stereo, or in the case of more premium models, a surround sound that takes up very little counter space, and is oftentimes more affordable than a surround set.
Compared to a speaker set, the main advantage a soundbar has is the actual size. They’re very compact and meant to sit right in front of your TV, directing the sound straight at you. This is, after all, why soundbars exist – when ultra-slim LED TVs came out, the size limitation meant that you were very limited with audio quality. A soundbar deals with this pretty effectively, and unless you use it for something like audio production, you won’t really need studio quality.
The other important advantage of sound bars is the simplicity of setup and use. You only have a single device, which you place in front of your TV. You don’t have to worry about angles, complicated cabling and setup, or anything else. The most complicated thing you’ll need to do is connect the wireless subwoofer to the soundbar, but even that is a 30-second process.
Last but not least, we need to mention the price as well. While the prices for a basic set of speakers and a basic soundbar aren’t all that different, things take a different turn when you go into the midrange or premium segment. When you’re looking at these price ranges, you must also consider that most speaker sets require an audio/video receiver, or a different kind of amplifier, which only adds to the cost. A decent amp or AVR can easily cost more than a soundbar, and you’ll still need speakers for it!
On the flip side, a speaker set does sometimes have important advantages, the two main ones being actual sound quality, and surround experience. Even though modern soundbars function extremely well in this regard, a speaker simply has more room to work with and use, which allows for a higher quality sound. To add to this, a virtual surround is a great feature, but a good actual surround will always be better.
That being said, modern soundbars such as the Google Assistant-enabled TS9030 Ray Danz by TCL offer astonishing sound quality and a great surround implementation in a compact package, at a great price. To add to this, while many soundbars seem to lack bass, adding a wireless sub solves this problem, and the result is a deep and punchy bass.
So, now that you know all the advantages you stand to gain with sound bars, let’s check out a few tips to make the most of it.
The first thing you should know is that placement makes a massive difference. The key thing to remember is that the front of the soundbar must be unobstructed. This will ensure nothing blocks the sound and everything sounds clear and crisp. If using a soundbar with Dolby Atmos, nothing should be on top or around the sides either, as the soundbar needs clearance for surround sound effects all around it.
If you have a wall-mounted TV, why not mount the soundbar right below it? Wall mounting is definitely an option, and having the soundbar right below the TV itself will go a long way towards directing sound right at you.
Now, we should discuss connectivity. You can make the most of it with one of two options: HDMI ARC, or an optical connection. The choice is yours, as both options have their own pros and cons. And while both are used to pass multi-channel audio, HDMI has the advantage of being able to pass technologies like DTS HD Master Audio, as well as Dolby TrueHD audio. Optical will limit you to a feature like Dolby Digital, which isn’t too bad.
But, probably the more notable thing is that ARC part – which stands for Audio Return Channel and means that you can use your sound bar for every device that’s connected to the TV. That includes Blu-ray players, game consoles, or any other device you might be using. And to further sweeten the deal, you can control everything with a single remote, which helps declutter things a little.
Last but not least, you should consider the sub placement. It is best placed on the ground, and you can either have it close to your TV set or put it wherever is convenient that’s close enough to you. With most modern soundbars, you’ll get a wireless subwoofer, so you don’t need to run a cable from the TV to the sub itself.
The overall setup isn’t all that difficult, especially since soundbar production and technologies have come a long way towards making things as simple as possible. So, now that you also know how to set them up, let’s take a look at a couple of options for soundbars in Australia.
The current TCL lineup includes three options: the budget TS3010, the midrange TS7010, and the premium TS9030 Ray Danz.
The TS3010 is a 2.1 channel soundbar that also comes with a wireless sub and an incredibly subtle, all-black design. The peak power is 160W, and the clarity is excellent when you consider the price. The sub does an excellent job at providing a rich punch in the low end, significantly enhancing the overall experience. Oh, and it also has a Bluetooth feature, so you can use it to play music from your smartphone, for example.
The TS7010 takes things up a notch by doubling the peak power to 320W and adding three listening modes. You can pick between Music, Movies, and News, and the soundbar will automatically tune the sound for the best possible quality. The sub comes with a 6.5” unit for deep bass, and you also get Bluetooth so you can connect your smartphone or other multimedia device. You do get a wall mount kit as well, so mounting the TS7010 on a wall is a breeze.
The TS9030 Ray Danz is the flagship model and the perfect choice for a premium solution. From the premium design to the 540W peak power and smart technologies, this is an excellent option. There are three speakers and a wireless subwoofer to make this a 3.1 solution, and Dolby Atmos elevates sound to the next level. Streaming content is a breeze, with Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, and support for the Google Assistant, making this a true flagship in the world of sound bars.