Soundbar vs. Speakers: Pick a Winner for Your Home

Close up of a black Samsung soundbar with Samsung and Harman Kardon logos

Having a great sound experience for your TV or home theatre system is as important as having stunning picture quality. Choosing between a soundbar and speakers can greatly affect how you enjoy your favorite media. However, the soundbar vs. speakers debate has only become more muddy over the years. This guide breaks down the technicalities and helps you solve the dilemma so that you can choose the best option for your home.

Also helpful: these 4K gaming televisions provide superior picture quality to accompany the outstanding sound your speakers already provide.

Sound Quality

There are some areas where it's tough to declare a winner between a soundbar and traditional speakers. Sound quality isn't one of those. Despite many advancements in soundbar technology and the availability of formats, like DTS and Dolby Digital, speakers still offer superior sound.

Soundbar Vs Speakers Home Speaker System
Image source: Unsplash

Traditional speakers offer a degree of sound separation that soundbars simply cannot. Moreover, speaker systems often include a subwoofer and multiple speaker units, which means they can produce cleaner sound compared to soundbars.

Size Comparison

As previously mentioned, most speaker systems include at least three separate units. These systems typically connect to each other and your television or computer with wires. This takes up much space and also clutters your setup.

Soundbar Vs Speakers Soundbar Small And Clean
Image source: Unsplash

From bookshelf speakers placed one foot above the floor to tower speakers that rise three feet or even higher from the ground, it's tough to find any decent speaker system that's small in size. Even if you install built-in speakers on your ceiling, they still have complexities and space concerns.

Conversely, soundbars are single "bars" placed below or in front of your TV. They're much smaller, sleeker, and often connect wirelessly to your TV. This is a big win, especially if you insist on a clean, wire-free look for your home entertainment hub. You can even wall-mount your soundbar if you already have your TV on the wall, all without destroying your clutter-free look.

Tip: before you upgrade your entire system, check out our home theater buying guide.

Ease of Setup

As a self-contained speaker system in a single unit, soundbars are easier to set up compared to speaker systems. Even if you want an HDMI connection from your soundbar to your TV, it comes down to a single wire instead of a bunch, in the case of traditional speakers. Worse, if you need to connect a 5.1-channel speaker system, you'll need to find ways to route and hide multiple wires around the entire room.

Soundbar Vs Speakers Soundbar Close Up
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, soundbars typically include a user-friendly interface (often a smartphone app) that makes it easy to calibrate and customize settings. In fact, many modern soundbars come with auto-calibration features that can automatically adjust the audio settings based on your room's acoustics, whereas speakers require extensive calibration once you get them all set up and plugged in around the room. This makes soundbars the clear winner in terms of setup.

Upgradability and Flexibility Options

Speakers are far more upgradeable than soundbars, as you can replace or add components to your system at any time. On the other hand, you are stuck with the soundbar you purchased unless you replace the entire unit, which is quite costly compared to adding a single speaker to a set.

Soundbar Vs Speakers Tower Speakers
Image source: Unsplash

Traditional speakers also provide you with more features and control over your sound than soundbars. You can tweak the sound output to a greater extent and move and position the speakers based on your preferences. Doing this with a soundbar is not possible.

Good to know: you can use a projector as a TV with either a soundbar or speakers.

Price Comparisons of Speakers vs. Soundbar

For any purchase, price is often the deciding factor, even if features and performance make you lean one way or the other. In the case of a soundbar vs. speakers, the price factor greatly favors soundbars. To achieve the superior benefits of traditional speakers to the fullest extent, you may need to invest upwards of $1,000. Conversely, you can get great-sounding soundbars for less than half that.

Soundbar Vs Speakers Soundbar With Tv
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Price is subjective. Some users may be willing to shell out a lot of cash to achieve the best possible experience for their home setup. But it often turns out to be a case of diminishing returns after a certain price point. Considering that audiophiles are not the majority in the market, most users will probably prefer soundbars when it comes to parting with their money.

Soundbar vs. Speakers: The Right Option for You

Both traditional speakers and soundbars have their pros and cons. They satisfy different needs and preferences, which is why both markets are flourishing together. When choosing the right sound system for your home, you should carefully weigh the factors listed above and decide which one makes more sense for you.

Choose a Soundbar If:

  • You have a small to medium-sized room and are short on space for full-sized speakers.
  • You want a convenient and easy-to-set-up option that still provides decent sound quality.
  • You don't want to spend the equivalent of your TV's price on a speaker system.

Choose Speakers If:

  • You want a no-compromise, fully immersive sound experience in your room.
  • You want flexibility and customization in your sound system and want to be able to upgrade it in the future.
  • You're a professional and need to have true-to-life audio equipment for your work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a soundbar as a speaker?

You can technically use a soundbar as a speaker, specifically as the center channel of a speaker system. However, this is not recommended. You'll likely experience interference between your soundbar and your speakers' left and right channels. This muddies the sound quality and can damage your equipment.

Should a soundbar have a subwoofer?

Soundbars don't necessarily need a subwoofer to work or produce decent sound quality. But it's highly recommended to purchase a soundbar with a subwoofer if you can, as subwoofers emit low-frequency bass, which makes sounds like male voices easier to hear.

Do smart TVs need a soundbar?

A smart TV doesn't need a soundbar, but it will almost always benefit from having one. TVs rarely include high-quality speakers due to their design, and installing a soundbar solves this issue without massive investment or clutter.

Image credit: Unsplash

Tanveer Singh
Tanveer Singh

Tanveer hunts far and wide for PC Hardware, Windows, and Gaming ideas to write about. An MBA in Marketing and the owner of a PC building business, he has written extensively on Technology, Gaming, and Marketing. When not scouring the web, he can be found binging on The Office, running for his life in GTFO, or wrecking karts in Smash Karts.

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