The 10 Best Soundbars
10. ZVox SB400
9. Sony HT-CT290
8. JBL Bar 3.1
7. Samsung HW-M450
6. LG Electronics SJ7 Flex
5. Klipsch Reference RSB-8
4. Samsung HW-J8500R
3. Paradigm Shift SoundScape
2. Bose Solo 5
1. Sonos Playbar
Surround Sound Without Being Surrounded By Cables
Not everyone has an entertainent room the size of a palace for accommodating huge volumes of equipment, plugs, and multiple speakers to emulate the experience of being in a movie theater or nightclub. The limitations of available space, combined with the consideration of an extremely tight budget, can easily create a niche for audio technology that is designed to deliver excellent sound without resorting to complex surround sound setups or multiple bulky speakers. This is where a soundbar's unobtrusive design and practicality come into play.
A soundbar is an audio device that consists of seven uniquely-positioned internal speakers within one cabinet assembly. Each speaker within a soundbar is specially fitted to simulate surround sound in the same way as a conventional audio system setup. A soundbar uses a psycho-acoustic effect to allow sound to literally bounce of the walls of your entertainment room. This effect can trick your senses into thinking that there are speakers behind you when there aren't.
These devices can be defined as either active or passive. Active soundbars feature the all-in-one setup, meaning that their speakers and amplifiers are all housed together within a single unit. By contrast, passive soundbars do not come equipped with built-in amplifiers, so they'll require some additional wiring, separate amplifiers, and a receiver. However, passive soundbars can also provide crisp sound quality, while also giving you additional choices for connecting other audio sources.
One of the major benefits to owning a soundbar is that the device is usually compact, thin, and very easy to install. Soundbars are typically paired with flat screen televisions and are designed to sit either underneath or in front of the television itself. If your television is wall mountable, many soundbars also come with their own mounting kits so they can also attach themselves to a wall directly below the television for an optimal audio experience.
The soundbar is also useful for anchoring movie dialogue. What does this mean exactly? Because of its acoustic design, the soundbar can disperse movie audio equally throughout a small entertainment room so that any listener, regardless of their location, will experience the same audio quality as though they were centrally-positioned right in front of the television and its stereo speakers.
Soundbars also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they generally work well in small entertainment rooms. While you may think that you're sacrificing audio quality by investing in a soundbar, the fact is that a small apartment doesn't command such an elaborate audio setup to carry sound over long distances. For that reason, a soundbar is also a more cost-effective audio solution for your apartment than a conventional speaker system.
Setting The Bar High
The first thing one must consider when investing in a soundbar is the space in which it is to be installed. The size of your entertainment room will help you decide what type of soundbar configuration works best. For a large space, consider purchasing a soundbar that also includes a subwoofer component so that the audio is carried throughout the entire room.
If you have a lot of music stored on your mobile device, computer, or laptop and plan to use your soundbar to project music as well as film dialogue, then you definitely want the soundbar to have built-in Bluetooth connectivity for accessing your favorite tunes wirelessly.
Consider how and where you plan to place your soundbar. If your dresser already accommodates a large flat screen television, then you may want to shop for a soundbar that can be used as a pedestal for the television, while also keeping the sound centralized as you watch.
Pay attention to the input and output ports available on the soundbar so that you have ample freedom to connect HDMI cables and USB devices.
Finally, determine whether an active or passive soundbar setup is right for you. If easy installation and lack of wire clutter are what you're after, then an active soundbar would be the logical choice. However, if you prefer additional pairing options and don't mind a few wires, then a passive soundbar may work best.
Soundbar Technology Over Time
The very first soundbar and subwoofer system was developed by Altec-Lansing in 1998 called the Voice Of The Digital Theatre (also known as the ADA 106). This device used the company's side-firing technology to simulate surround sound from almost any direction. This invention served to eliminate the need for excessive wiring of multiple speakers to achieve the same result.
In 2002, Pioneer Electronics released the first digital sound projector that used a single-source speaker to deliver 5.1 channel surround sound audio.
The Yamaha YSP-1 digital sound projector won a Best of Show award in January 2005 at the Consumer Electronics Show. This device featured 40 small center drivers that were designed to control sound being reflected from walls of a room.
In June 2015, Denon released their HEOS HomeCinema system that came complete with a wireless subwoofer for producing crystal clear upper bass sound.
Today, soundbar development is also branching into the phased array technology space.