Despite the breathtaking 4K HDR picture quality, televisions these days appear to be lacking in the sound department, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider how thin these devices are getting.
Your TV’s speakers may be fine for casual television watching but when you want to immerse yourself in a film or an enthralling television show, you may struggle with the shrill audio that comes through the built-in speakers when you turn them up.
When you are serious about your television watching, you might want to invest in an external speaker system that offers a little more power. With a new soundbar, you can dramatically improve audio quality and create a more immersive experience.
What Is a Soundbar?
Often, one of the worst parts about your TV’s speakers is the lack of bass; as you turn up the volume, it tends to grow increasingly ear-piercing. Soundbars can offer a deeper, richer sound while maintaining crisp audio that you can perfectly understand.
Soundbars are single external speakers that attach to your TV via Bluetooth or wires and they typically sit right in front of or underneath your television. In fact, they can often be as long as your television, which makes them aesthetically pleasing as well.
The soundbar contains several different speaker drivers that go the full length of the speaker itself, which creates somewhat of a surround sound experience. Many soundbars come equipped with additional speakers that can be set up around the room for full surround sound.
As you browse different soundbars, keep in mind that there are two different types — active and passive.
What Is a Passive Soundbar?
In short, a passive soundbar is a device that requires power from an external amplifier or AV receiver. In many ways, this is outdated technology as these soundbars are more similar to a traditional speaker. Active soundbars, on the other hand, have everything you need in one device.
Passive soundbars have no built-in power amps and lack digital signal processing and input, which is why they require the external amplifiers or receivers to produce front channel results. You will find a speaker connection on the back for each channel, which usually consists of a front, left, and right. You can connect the amplifier or receiver with standard speaker cables.
Whereas active soundbars simply plug into the wall and connect to your television, passive soundbars are going to require a lengthier setup process, which might even require some knowledge of home theater systems.
Despite being a seemingly “outdated” technology, passive soundbars continue to get produced and many people actually prefer these devices to an all-in-one system. These days, passive soundbars even have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. The primary features that make up a passive sound bar include all of the following:
- Passive crossover components that split audio signals, sending them directly to speaker drivers
- Separate amps that drive the audio signal
- Consists of resistors, capacitors, and inductors
- Separate amplifiers that send full signals to the speakers
With some passive soundbars, the performance of your speakers could change as various components heat up but this is less common for high-end speakers.
Advantages of Passive Soundbars
There are actually a few key advantages to this kind of soundbar so there is kind of a trade-off for the extra work. For example, passive soundbars give you greater flexibility in a few different ways. You will be able to choose your own amplifiers or receivers, which enables you to get the highest-quality sound possible.
This also means that you can swap out amplifiers whenever they stop performing as well or whenever you simply want to upgrade. The drawback to this is that you need an amplifier that is compatible with your soundbar, which isn’t that difficult to find.
Another advantage is that you will be able to connect more sources and decode more audio formats while experimenting with settings to find the best possible setup. With a little work, you can create the perfect blend between subwoofer and soundbar. As a result of this, passive soundbars often produce higher-quality audio.
People describe the sound of passive soundbars as less processed or more natural and this is a result of the amplifier and DSP being located elsewhere.
What to Look for in a Passive Soundbar
Specifically, there are three key features that you are looking for in your passive soundbar. You want to pay attention to the number of channels, its surround sound capabilities, and its connectivity options; most soundbars will have several different connectivity options.
As far as channels go, remember that channels are essentially sound sources and these days movies and TV shows offer five different audio channels. However, not all soundbars will satisfy all of the audio channels, so the more channels your soundbar has, the better.
Your options are going to be two-channel, three-channel, five-channel, and even seven-channel. The number of speaker channels you choose will also affect the cost of the device but when you want a really powerful sound, you will need to get something with the most channels. Two-channel soundbars are merely a basic alternative whereas five- or seven-channel systems will dramatically improve the sound.
You also want to pay attention to your soundbar’s surround sound capabilities. If you are trying to maximize your sound and create your own home theater, you want a soundbar with the greatest amount of capabilities that will allow for the most speakers and experimentation.
As far as connectivity options, you are looking at Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi, HDMI, and AUX, among others. What you need might depend on the kind of TV you have and the other equipment that you buy. With greater connectivity options, you can enjoy streaming from your tablet, phone, or directly from the internet. Of course, you will want to make sure that your TV has the same level of connectivity.
Considering Size and Placement
Another thing you will need to consider when buying a soundbar is the size that you want and where you will be putting everything. Aesthetically speaking, you don’t want your soundbar to be any longer than your TV. Ideally, you want them to be the same length but if your soundbar is slightly shorter, it will still look good.
Many people place their soundbars directly underneath the TV facing the room and they can also be mounted in this position. However, you also want to consider the other equipment that you will be using. If you
For a passive soundbar, you want to make sure that you have a place for the amplifier or receiver in addition to the other equipment you might use.
Pay attention to the direction your soundbar naturally points. Some speakers may be angled upward or downward and the position of your soundbar in regard to the way it’s angled may affect the way you hear the sound.
Consider Getting Help with Installation
If you are unfamiliar with sound systems or electronics in general, you may want to find somebody who can help you install your passive soundbar. If you know somebody who will do it for free, that would be perfect. Unless you are really clueless, you shouldn’t pay somebody to do it for you. You will find plenty of useful resources and tutorials online that can walk through the process.
With soundbars, you will at least know immediately that something isn’t hooked up right. Any results but a perfect, crisp sound will tell you that there is something wrong and you will be able to keep tweaking things until you get it right.
Excellent Features to Look Out for
Different soundbars will have different features but there are a number of excellent features that you want to look out for. Some of these include:
- Spatial array technology
- Balanced Dual Surround System
- Damping technology
- Wall or shelf mounting
- Aluminum casing
Sometimes your passive soundbar will specify the type of TV that it is perfect for. For example, your soundbar might be better for flat-screen TVs and some soundbars specifically list a TV screen size that is perfect for the device. They mostly do this so that you don’t buy an oversized soundbar for a smaller TV or a small soundbar for a larger TV. You generally want things to be proportional.
If you are just starting to shop, you are going to run into a lot of different options. By returning to this information and making sure that your favorite soundbars meet all of your requirements, you can make a more informed purchase.
Passive soundbars often have higher-quality speakers and if you take the time to set things up correctly, you are going to get some really impressive sounds. As long as you consider audio channels, connectivity capabilities, and surround sound capabilities, among the other things listed here, you can buy a high-quality piece of equipment that dramatically enhances your television watching.