• George Wilson

Don't Buy a Surround Sound System or a Soundbar

Updated: Jun 30

Excuse the clickbait title but there are times when a surround sound system or soundbar make sense. TV’s have terrible sound and they need something to replace the built-in speakers, but there are other ways to improve the sound. Many rooms are not really suited to a home theater, especially with the popularity of open floor plan homes. You either don’t have good locatiions for, or ability to get wire to surround speakers.

On the other hand, soundbars are relatively easy to set up, but in large rooms or open floor plans they don’t have enough output to fill the space (especially in the lower frequencies). Soundbars have inexpensive speakers that are typically around 2 inches in diameter and the so called subwoofer that is included usually only has a 5 - 6 inch driver. Both of these types of systems do have their place, if you’re a movie lover, especially blockbuster sci-fi or action movies, and have a space suited for a home theater system, then you are a prime candidate for a surround sound system. Conversely, if you have secondary TV’s in a bedroom, kitchen, hearth room, etc., then a good soundbar may be perfect to replace the TV speakers.

For many of us there may be a much better solution. If you are more interested in listening to music, don’t have good locations for surround speakers or just don’t care about having them, then a nice 2 channel system might be a better choice for you.

If your room has a TV, there are several ways to integrate a stereo sytem with it. One of the easiest ways is to connect the HDMI ARC or eARC from the TV to your audio system. This type of connection allows the remote for the TV, cable box or whatever you use to adjust the TV volume to control the stereo. You simply connect any video sources to the TV and it will pass the audio and commands for volume adjustment to your amplifier.

Not all components have this input, but it is becoming more common. Two of the best that have the input are the Naim Uniti Atom and the NAD M10 V2.

Both of these units have great sound quality, are compact in size, have built-in music streaming and have the HDMI input for the TV connection.

If you use streaming audio and video, all you have to do is add speakers for a complete system. An even simpler system would be to use a speaker system like the KEF LS50 Wireless II.

This speaker system gives you similar functionality to the Naim and NAD amplifiers, but it’s all built into the speakers Each speaker has 2 amplifiers, one for each woofer and tweeter, subwoofer outputs and crossovers, built-in music streaming and inputs for other components (such as a turntable).

For systems without the HDMI ARC connection you can use the digital (optical) output of the TV to connect your audio system. Most modern amplifiers have a built in DAC (digital to analog converter) with the optical input needed to connect the TV, and if they don’t you can add one. The only downside to using this connection is the TV remote won’t control the volume of the stereo, you will have to use the remote that came with the amp. The work around for this would be a programmable remote that can control the stereo, TV and any other component in the system.

Some of the best amplifiers we carry with the DAC built in come from Hegel, Rotel, Audiolab and NAD. Any of these will make the basis for a great audio system.

We have all of the amplifiers and speakers described set up for demo in the store. Give us a call, we are always happy to answer your questions, or come in and we can discuss your needs and preferences. Let our knowledge of audio and video components show you the alternatives to a surround sound system or soundbar and help you get the system that is right for you.

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