What’s Better: Soundbar or Home Theater? (A Comparison)

Soundbar

Do you want to upgrade your home audio system? Choosing the right speakers for your home entertainment setup is very important for excellent sound quality and immersive experiences.

You would hardly enjoy the excellent display games, movies, etc. on your TV if your speaker produces a terrible sound. Nowadays, if you want to upgrade your TV sound, you have the option of either a soundbar or home theatre system.

Both speaker systems have their pros and cons and will enable you to experience better-quality sound in your TV shows and movies. However, each has its individual differences in setup and sound quality.

To help you decide on which one is better for your needs, this post compares the features, pros, and cons of both soundbar and home theatre below. Read on.

Soundbar vs. Home Theater: Main Differences

A soundbar is a single, long, rectangular device that is usually laid horizontally beneath the TV. The new slim form factor is a great advantage. It may or may not be paired with a subwoofer for better bass. A soundbar contains anywhere between two to seven speakers.

A home theatre system, on the other hand, comes in a set and usually include a receiver, a subwoofer, and about five to seven speakers – one center speaker (front), two side speakers (front right and left), two side speakers (rear right and left), [one center speaker (back) and one top roof speaker].

The home theater system is highly configurable. That means you can start with a receiver, a subwoofer, and two speakers and later on add more speakers.

Sound Quality

Both soundbar and home theatre offer superior audio quality to inbuilt TV sound. Soundbars have more powerful speakers with higher wattage ratings.

The soundbar combines good sound quality and volume in a compact form.

Some are capable of drawing 100W, which is powerful enough for an average viewer.

Some mid-range soundbars come with five or seven different speakers that are capable of producing sound from each individual channel.

Nevertheless, these soundbars can only offer virtual surround sound and cannot replicate the true surround sound from a home theatre. The speakers in soundbars are very close to each other and there is less separation between sounds.

The home theatre, on the other hand, is better suited for the most realistic surround sound experience and immersive audio experience because the speakers are strategically positioned around the room. More so, separating the speakers decreases the likelihood of distortion at high volume levels.

Most entry-level home theatres usually boast of higher power draws of about 300W to 500W.

Soundbar vs. Home Theater: Setup and Space Requirements

In terms of setup and space requirements, a soundbar requires the least space than a home theatre, making it ideal for smaller spaces and apartments. A soundbar is also much easier to set up.

Normally, once you have your soundbar in your desired spot and connected it to the power source, you can easily connect it to the TV or audio system using cables, Bluetooth, or a wireless connection.

However, the home theater is more complicated and requires more time to set up due to its multi-speaker channels. The home theater also requires more space to accommodate the multiple speakers. Hence, the home theater is not ideal for a small room.

More so, the speakers are mostly connected to the receiver via cables. Cables are run from the receiver to each speaker and the subwoofer, as well as between the receiver and the TV.

You’ll have to handle the cable layout efficiently to make it aesthetically pleasing and to prevent people from tripping and falling over them.

Soundbar or Home Theater: Features

The most recent soundbars are smart devices, they feature integrated support for digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and so on. Most soundbars also often come with USB ports and aux to connect with external media.

Home theatre systems usually have a larger port selection. The receiver usually also acts as a hub for a wide variety of other peripherals, such as a decoder, Blu-Ray player, or console.

The receiver can also connect with other devices via Bluetooth, USB, aux, and so on. However, home theatres are not integrated with digital assistants.

Potential buyers would have to decide whether they want their chosen sound system to have a sufficient number of ports and features to connect all the media sources they require.

Soundbar or Home Theater: Pricing

While a soundbar (just a unit) may appear to be more affordable than a home theatre (with multi-speaker systems), this is not always true, especially for high-end devices.

For instance, the cheapest soundbars that support virtual surround sound are more expensive than home theatre systems that supply genuine surround sound.

Soundbar or Home Theater: Which is better?

This question is a bit ambiguous and has a very broad answer. Sometimes, it might not be very easy to answer. The choice between a soundbar and a home theatre depends on several factors, which include:

  • Your expectations
  • What you want to listen to,
  • Your room size,
  • The content you want to play through it,
  • Your listening experience, and
  • Your budget

A soundbar is clean and simple to install. It requires the least amount of space and installation time. A home theatre, when properly planned out, can give you the best theatre-level performance but also costs more.

Also, when you don’t have much room for placement, a soundbar is better for a simple and clean installation but if you have enough room to accommodate the multiple speakers, then a home theatre is fine.

If you can properly place the speakers and efficiently run the wires for the home theatre, then you can opt-in for it. You can consider the comparison between the soundbar and home theatre above to determine which one of them will provide the best value for money.

You can decide to give up sound quality for more convenience and go with an affordable soundbar, or if convenience is less of an issue, a home theatre system can provide better sound, especially in the lower-price range.

The home theatre system has more speakers and wider area coverage compared to a soundbar.

The soundbar has fewer connections than a home theatre. For instance, a soundbar can only connect with a TV or other devices via USB, aux, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.

However, a home theatre can connect with more devices, thanks to its receiver that features as many ports as the soundbar but can also function as a decoder, DVD/Blu-Ray player, or console.

Home theatre systems provide the surround sound that is ideal for action movies, or film in general and would enhance your viewing experience significantly.

Some audiophiles hold that soundbars and home theatres are used for different purposes.

Soundbars essentially compensate for the extremely poor sound on modern flat-screen TVs whereas a home theater is for those who want something extra i.e. surround sound, a more immersive experience, and so on.

Conclusion

A home theater is better than a soundbar, though this also depends on the scenario you’re trying to achieve. The soundbar simulates and projects the sound to bring out a virtual surround effect. It has fewer problems with wires running all over the place.

The sound production of a soundbar also depends on the size of the room and the setup of the room – whether the room has solid reflective surfaces, whether there are curtains or other furniture that can dampen the sound.

Whereas a home theater brings out the real effect. A receiver and separate speakers will almost always sound better than a soundbar system. It is better for larger rooms and isn’t affected much if there are curtains and furniture in the room as long as they aren’t in line with the speakers.

The independent speaker position, height, and angle help to get the desired effect in the home theatre system. However, when it comes to easy setup and convenience, a home theatre is not a better option.

However, the choice between a soundbar and a home theatre all depends on your preference, need, and budget.

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