How to choose the best soundbar

Bose Soundbar in a living room

Soundbars offer an easy and practical way to improve a home entertainment system, especially when Dolby Atmos is included. Since all the speakers are housed in one soundbar, there’s no hassle of placing or installing them around the room and then connecting them all with a web of cables.

Nevertheless, soundbars are still a relatively new technology, and choosing the best soundbar can take some thought, especially with so many options available. This guide will explain how soundbars can enhance your sound system, what the main features are, and why you should consider getting one, so that when you’re ready to upgrade, you’ll feel confident that you’re choosing the best soundbar for you.

What is a soundbar?

Built-in TV speakers typically use a two-speaker stereo setup, with one left and one right speaker. Generally, these offer poor sound — especially on today’s ever-thinning TVs — and require external speakers to achieve a quality soundscape. Traditionally, this meant incorporating a surround sound system, often called 5.1 or 7.1, depending on the number of speakers, but setting up this kind of system can take a lot of work and may even require installations in the ceiling.

A soundbar replicates the experience of surround sound speakers without the technical fuss. Inside are a number of speakers performing different jobs. The center channel is typically dedicated to dialogue, while the left and right speakers capture the ambience of a scene, such as the sounds of a cityscape or jungle.

Connecting a soundbar is equally easy, requiring just an HDMI cable plugged into the TV and a power cord plugged into a wall outlet. This makes soundbars particularly popular among folks who want to upgrade their sound systems with little hassle.

Get to know soundbar features

Soundbars offer more than just a set of speakers for playing your favourite music or shows. Here’s what else your soundbar can do for you.

Bluetooth® connectivity

Controlling your soundbar is made easy with Bluetooth technology, which connects your phone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled devices to the soundbar. Through the Bose Music app, you can operate the soundbar and connect it to streaming audio platforms and your digital library. Bose SimpleSync also lets you pair it with compatible Bose headphones for private listening, or with other Bose SimpleSync-enabled portable speakers to enhance the soundscape further. Learn more about SimpleSync and compatible headphones and speakers.

Man using the Bose Music app on his smartphone

Voice assist and voice control

Access Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant using the soundbar’s Wi-Fi® connection. Bose takes voice control further with Voice4Video technology, allowing you to control your TV, cable, and satellite box with just your voice.*

Voice services (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant) may vary and may not be available in all languages and countries.

Woman in a living room holding a remote

Room calibration software

This optimizes the output of your soundbar for the acoustics of the room. The Bose soundbars use ADAPTiQ calibration software to analyze the properties of your room and adjust the sound accordingly.

People in a living room watching TV

Dolby surround upmixer

Some soundbars will “upmix” the signal to create even more immersive sound. For instance, Bose soundbars use TrueSpace spatial processing to analyze and upmix content intelligently, creating an immersive multichannel experience that places sound far right, far left, and overhead.

Man in a living roon watching TV with sound waves radiating from the speaker system

Dolby Atmos®

By far the most exciting addition to the latest generation of soundbars — including the Bose Soundbar 900 and the Bose Soundbar 600 — is Dolby Atmos. Soundbars that support Dolby Atmos have side-firing and upward-firing speakers that bounce and place sounds around the room, enhancing the sense of immersion and giving you the impression of sound coming from places where there are no physical speakers. In fact, many streaming services, films, games, and music albums are now mixing the soundscape specifically for Atmos. If you’re upgrading to a Dolby Atmos soundbar, check that your TV has an HDMI eARC port on the back, as you’ll need that connection to uncompress and project the Dolby Atmos signal fully.

TV and a soundbar on a media console

Choose the right size soundbar

Soundbars come in many sizes, so it’s important to match the right one to your space. One that’s too small may result in an underwhelming listening experience, while one that’s too big could overpower and distort it.

In general, it’s ideal to choose one that’s the same width as your TV if possible, and not bigger. For height, consider how much space is between the bottom of your TV and the top of your media console, as you don’t want a soundbar that will block the lower part of the screen.

TV and a soundbar on a media console

Find the best place for your soundbar

Soundbars should be positioned in line with the vertical center of your TV and ideally near ear level, so that the front speakers point directly at the listener. Do not place your soundbar off to the side or in an enclosed or recessed cabinet, which can restrict the sound.

For users with a wall-mounted TV, consider a wall bracket for your soundbar. For the best results, mount it below the TV near ear level with adequate space, so that side-firing and upward-firing speakers work properly.

TV and a soundbar on a media console

Consider the Bose TV Speaker

Significantly less expensive and smaller than a Bose soundbar, the Bose TV Speaker delivers many of the same features. That includes Bluetooth, extra bass, and elevated vocals when Dialogue Mode is engaged, clarifying all the action on the screen. The formidable audio power comes thanks to two angled, full-range drivers in the center. The Bose TV Speaker also supports Roku and only takes a simple HDMI connection to connect and stream.

Two men watching TV that has a Bose Smart Soundbar 900

Sound in 3D

The latest edition of soundbars, especially those with Dolby Atmos, will transform the soundscape from 2D to 3D, creating a new level of immersion in your favourite shows, films, games, and albums, and doing so this with ease and practicality. Knowing more about how they work, what size to buy, what connection to use, and what additional features are available can help you find the best soundbar for you.

Product availability may vary by country.

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