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Sound Bar Buying Guide

A comprehensive sound bar guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new sound bar.


Getting Started

One of the best ways to get great sound without having to hassle about a bunch of speakers is to get a sound bar for your home theater system. Unlike a stereo surround-sound system, the sound bar does not require you to set up several speakers around the room to receive optimum sound performance.

Most sound bars work well in a small-to-medium sized room. Just as with conventional speakers, you'll want to consider larger and more powerful sound bars for a larger room.

The shape of your room can also be a factor when it comes to virtual surround sound models. If you're adding sound to a square or rectangular room with four walls — like a bedroom or den — you might like sound bars that work by "beaming" sound around your room and bouncing it off the walls. Models that use this technology, however, won't be as effective in an open floor plan.

How Does it Work?
The ability to have many smaller speakers working from one source allows for easier setup. For smaller areas, such as a dorm room, condominium or even a bedroom, the sound bar allows the sound to travel around the room without the need for running wires to various speakers. To the right, there is a diagram of the physics of how a sound bar works:

As you can see, the speakers angled at the room's walls allow for sound to reverberate around the room, settling at the listeners' front, side and rear. The "C" represents the sound coming from the sound bar's main center channel speakers. The "L" and "R" reflect the sound for the left and right ears. The "Ls" and "Rs" represent the left and right surround sound you experience as the sound bounces off the walls. If your room is oblong, or if your setup is done in a non-traditional manner, the sound bar will adjust to your room. After hooking it up, a setup menu is available on your television screen. Simply choose the shape of the room, the size, and the location of the seating and the speakers in the sound bar will automatically adjust to your listening situation.

Types

Active Sound Bars

Active sound bars are plug-and-play - all amplification is built into the sound bar itself.

Passive Sound Bars

Passive sound bars require separate amplification from a home theater receiver and are available with complete single-speaker surround sound, or a front and center configuration that combines three speakers into one.

Features

Connectivity
Connecting a sound bar to your television is extremely easy. Different sound bars have different audio and video functionalities to provide the best fit for your needs. The hookup is simple: connect the sound bar directly to your television using a coax cable and audio cables. Turn on the sound bar and your television and follow the basic menu setup. Once you are done, start playing your favorite movie and get ready to immerse yourself in a world of new sound.

Some sound bars can be connected to your television with an HDMI cable. From there you can hook up components (video game console, DVR, Blu-ray player, etc.) directly to your TV and the sound bar, thus maximizing your sound experience for all components.
Subwoofer
The sound bar alone does a great job of replicating sound from your movies or video games, but to get the full sonic experience, a sound bar works best with a subwoofer. A subwoofer is used to amplify the bass sound of your movies, TV shows, music or video games. Some of the higher end sound bars come with a subwoofer and some operate wirelessly. However, subwoofers purchased separately will also work well with a sound bar.
Video Switching
Just plug all your audio/video components into the soundbar and switch between them from there.
DVD/Blu-ray Playback
A built-in DVD or Blu-ray player saves space and adds function to the soundbar.
Satellite Ready
Enjoy the commercial-free, uncensored, static-free sounds of satellite radio right from your soundbar. All you need is a subscription to your choice of service.
iPod Compatibility
Whether its an auxiliary port or a dedicated iPod docking station, some soundbars make playing music from the world's favorite mp3 player quick and easy.
AM/FM Tuner
Built-in AM/FM tuners eliminate the need for extra radio components and allow you effort transition to your favorite station.
Multi-band Remote
Avoid extra remotes and control other audio/video gear with a multi-band remote. Some soundbars do not include a remote, but will adapt to your televisions remote control.

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