TV Audio Options: Soundbar or Surround Sound?

It’s a fact. As HDTVs get flatter, the audio gets worse. In fact, tech writer Sharon Profis has dubbed it “BYOS – Bring Your Own Speakers.”

It’s also a fact that audio options are expensive. That’s why QEI Security & Technology audio expert Carl Wanamaker explains your best TV audio options, including the most common question – should I get a soundbar?

I just want to hear my TV

If you just want to be able to hear your TV better, get a soundbar from one of the big box stores. This is the least expensive option ($300+) and one bar has multiple speakers inside that are pointed toward the viewer (generally your TV’s speakers are directed at the wall it is mounted on, which muffles the sound).

“I would recommend selecting the same brand soundbar as your TV,” Wanamaker notes. “If they are made by the same company, you’ll be able to use the same remote for both.”

I want to hear my TV and music

If you’re willing to spend a little more money (around $700) and like the idea of being able to listen to the TV and stream audio with your soundbar, Wanamaker recommends SONOS. This wi-fi based solution has nine amplified speakers and connects to most IR remotes.

SONOS also gives you the ability to watch TV (with no sound) and listen to music on the Playbar (during a party, put football on TV and listen to music). A traditional AV receiver is not able to do this.

“We install a LOT of SONOS options,” Wanamaker says. “If you have kids that are going to be using the Playbar for music, I’d recommend mounting an iPod in the wall, so they can control it that way. Then there’s no chance of losing it.”

I want to be in the middle of the action

This is where you’ll spend big bucks, but if you’re an audio guy or musician, like Wanamaker, it may be worth it to you.

“I’m a big box speaker guy. I don’t like the way soundbars sound – but if I were going to get a soundbar, it would be a Leon. If it were my house, I’d do in-ceiling speakers for the sides and rears – boxes in the front.”

A surround sound set up is completely based on your budget and how you’ll be using the system. The one thing to keep in mind is that you absolutely want all your products in a surround sound set up to match.

Beyond that, we’d recommend a professional. Like Carl Wanamaker.

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