Sound bars vs home cinema systems: which is best?

Do you want your TV to have high-definition sound? We’ll help you determine if you need a sound bar, a home theater, or a surround sound system.

A simple sound bar can dramatically improve your TV listening experience, and a surround sound system can go much farther, creating an immersive experience similar to being at the movies. Which one you pick will be determined by your budget, room size, and needs. We put sound bars up against multi-speaker home cinema systems in a lab test to evaluate how they compare in terms of sound quality. We also evaluated the built-in speakers of numerous TVs, as well as some tiny hi-fis, to determine if you really need a separate TV sound system. Go directly to our finest sound bar reviews if you’re merely seeking for the greatest sound bars money can buy.

Comparing TV sound systems

Using our expert listening panel, we pitted instances of each product against one another. They gave a score of 10 to sound quality after listening to a variety of audio samples, including blockbuster movies, TV dramas, and music. Micro hi-fi gets a 7.8 out of 10 rating.

Sound bar: 5.7 out of 10

Home cinema system 5.1 out of 10

Television gets a 3.3 out of 10 rating.


So, what did we take away from the findings?

It’s no surprise that a four- or five-star sound bar will sound better than your TV’s speakers. Our panel favored the sound quality of a competent hi-fi system above the greatest sound bars and soundbases in our tests. That’s most likely due to the quality of the hi-amplifier fi’s and speakers, which may be even larger than those jammed into a compact sound bar, even if they’re still smaller than the tiny speakers on a TV. Our panel, unsurprisingly, despised the sound of one-star items regardless of their genre. So there’s no use in getting a sound system simply because it’s there; you need to make sure it’s decent or you’ll be wasting your money. If you already have a good hi-fi in your living room, we recommend investigating if you can connect your TV to it. If you still have the manual, you may use it to figure out how to connect stereo audio cables (red and white leads) to your TV’s audio out jacks and your stereo’s audio inputs. Keep in mind that in order to hear the advantage, your hi-fi speakers should be situated on each side of the TV’s screen and aimed in the general direction of where you’re seated. What about systems with several speakers? The sound quality they create isn’t always superior to that of a sound bar or a tiny hi-fi, according to our experts. However, some features, such as real surround sound, are only available with a multi-speaker system.

Sound bars are the best for watching TV on a regular basis.

Pros: Smaller and less wired than home theater systems. The sound quality of TV speakers is being improved. Usually less expensive than home theater systems.

Virtual surround sound isn’t as good as a multi-speaker home theater setup. The addition of ‘3D’ or’surround sound’ options to the listening experience is minimal. Several speakers are housed in one long rectangular box known as a sound bar. These sound systems may just sit in front of your TV or be fitted beneath a wall-mounted television because they have less cords. Many sound bars additionally have a separate subwoofer speaker, which is generally a huge rectangular box with large-diameter speakers that can create low-frequency sounds (i.e. bass tones) more efficiently than the main sound bar unit’s smaller speakers. These subwoofers can be wireless, but they still need to be hooked into a wall outlet for electricity. Because most TV programmes are recorded in stereo, a more expensive multi-speaker home theater system is frequently unneeded. If you’re only watching Bargain Hunt at midday or the Great British Bake Off at night, a sound bar will suffice. Film buffs, on the other hand, should not be dissatisfied. Whether you’re watching Aliens or Antiques Roadshow, these Best Buy sound bars provide excellent sound quality.

Home theater systems are the best for movies and HD TVĀ 

Pros: For a true surround sound experience, this is the best option. Allows you to have a more dramatic sound experience, with sound effects coming from in front, to the sides, and behind you.

Cons: A large number of components implies greater clutter and trailing cables (although wireless models are available) To get the greatest effect, the setup process might be more extensive. A Blu-ray or DVD player, as well as an amplifier and many speakers, make up most home theater systems. These usually provide 5.1 surround sound. The ‘5’ refers to the five primary speakers: two behind you, to the right and left, and three in front of you, to the left, right, and center of the television. The number ‘1’ represents the number of subwoofers. Although the most typical configuration is 5.1, systems may be as small as 2.1 and as large as 9.2. Surround sound systems with an amplifier unit (or’receiver’) but no Blu-ray or DVD player are also available, although the whole bundle is commonly referred to as a ‘home cinema system.’ It’s probably cheaper to just get a surround sound system if you already have a player. However, double-check what’s included, as some vendors and manufacturers use the phrases interchangeably. The majority of Blu-ray movies use a multi-channel audio format like Dolby Digital. Surround sound is also recorded for some films and programmes that are shown on television. Look for the Dolby Digital logo or ‘DD’ in the programme guide or in the corner of the screen to locate them on Sky’s movie channels and other high-definition (HD) channels. You might choose a system with wireless rear speakers if you don’t want speaker cord creeping throughout your living room. This technology employs a radio transmitter to send sound from the amplifier to the back speakers. For electricity, you’ll still need to connect them to the mains.


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