How to Choose the Right Soundbar

Dipti A

If you have an older 4K TV, you may experience audio issues. Almost all content available on streaming platforms today comes with a Dolby Atmos mix for immersive surround sound. Yes, you can upgrade to an OLED TV with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. 

But to truly improve sound quality, you need a soundbar that perfectly complements your TV. So, if you're looking to invest in a soundbar, there are a few important factors to consider when choosing the right soundbar for your TV.

1. Check the shape and size of your sound bar.  
Before diving into the technical details, let's take a look at the soundbar's exterior. Just like evaluating the size of a TV before buying, you should also  check the shape and size of your soundbar. You'll need to measure  your TV stand or stand to compare it to a soundbar. Make sure there is enough space under the soundbar to not obstruct driver movement. This is because not all soundbars support wall mounting. So, before considering a soundbar, you should check the possibility of wall mounting.

2. Check the number of channels 
Whenever you read  a soundbar's specifications, the number of channels can be a bit confusing. For example, if your soundbar has 2.1 channels, it comes with two speakers and a subwoofer. Likewise, Sony's specific 7.1.2 soundbar  means seven regular speakers at or near  ear level, one subwoofer, and two speakers that reproduce sound as if it were coming from overhead. References to channels, usually two  or three numbers, mainly refer to the soundbar's general type and number of speakers. You'll also find a 5.1.2-channel soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. But the most important channel is the center channel, which leads to clear conversations. Therefore,  if you want to hear conversations clearly while watching content, a 3.1-channel sound bar is the best choice. As the number of channels increases, so does the size of the soundbar.

3. Determine if the soundbar is active or passive
 There are two types of soundbars available: active soundbars and passive soundbars. The biggest difference between the two is that active soundbars don't have to rely on a separate external receiver or amplifier. They already include an amplifier that makes  movies and music easy to use. There is no need to connect multiple speakers to get a surround sound effect. On the other hand, passive soundbars lack an amplifier, so you need to connect multiple speakers  to get the best sound. 
  Passive soundbars allow you to upgrade the  individual speakers in your home theater system. On the other hand, if the active sound bar breaks, you  have to buy a new one. Therefore, passive soundbars are more promising.

4. Check the connection options
Sound Quality Next, you should focus on the connectivity options available on your soundbar. If you have multiple devices such as Apple TV 4K, Blu-ray 4K players, game consoles and set-top boxes, you will need to look for  specific connectivity options available when purchasing a soundbar. It would be better if the sound bar supports HDMI ARC or Audio Return Channel. This way you don't need  too many cables to connect your devices. For example, you can  connect your Apple TV 4K directly to your soundbar's HDMI ARC port  using a single HDMI cable. 
 However, HDMI ARC only supports Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos audio  from streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, etc. So, if you collect Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray discs, you'll need an eARC or Enhanced Audio Return Channel capable soundbar. The HDMI eARC port helps stream high-quality lossless audio such as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS:X through the soundbar at 38 Mbps. 
 Lastly, support for Bluetooth connectivity  can be a huge help when connecting a cell phone or other portable media player to play music on the soundbar.  
 It is an optional, but a subjective choice. The Voice Assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant help you connect and manage several smart appliances in your home, including the soundbar. So if you wish to wirelessly control the audio playback on your soundbar or you have elders who find it difficult to use the remote, the support for Voice Assistants is something to look for in a soundbar. 
 By keeping in mind all the factors mentioned above, you can choose the best soundbar for your home setup that checks all the right boxes and gives the best value for your money.

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