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Soundbars vs. Speakers: Here’s How to Choose

Best Klipsch Soundbars Today

Soundbars vs. Speakers: Here’s How to Choose

Key Points

  • Soundbars are sleek, compact, and easy to install, while speakers provide superior sound quality but are larger and more complex to set up.
  • Speakers typically have larger drivers and produce a wider, more detailed soundstage, while soundbars have smaller drivers and less powerful amplifiers.
  • Soundbars are generally more affordable and versatile, while speakers can be pricier and are ideal for dedicated home theater rooms.

Soundbars and speakers are great audio options. They, however, differ significantly. While soundbars are more aesthetic and compact and can sit well underneath a TV or be mounted, conventional speakers provide better sound quality, are pricier, and are typically larger. Both provide incredible features like voice control, surround sound, and Dolby Atmos support.

A prevalent question among customers is whether a soundbar is better suited to their needs or if they should rather choose a traditional sound system with multiple speakers. Continue reading to learn how to pick between the two. 

Soundbars vs. Speakers: Side-by-Side Comparison

AspectSoundbarsSpeakers
Popular manufacturesLG, Sonos, Sony, Samsung, JBL, BoseKlipsch, Dynaudio, Bose, JBL, SVS, Polk Audio
Design Usually sleek, long, and narrow, and designed to fit nicely below or above a TVBulkier with a wide range of shapes and designs, including floor-standing and in-ceiling models
Installation Many models offer wireless connectivity, making them easy to installThey require a lot of wiring and connections, making them complex to set up
Price range They are more affordable than speakers but can range from cheap to high-end depending on brand, quality, and featuresPricier than soundbars, although they can range from affordable to expensive depending on features, brand, and quality
Sound quality Good sound quality but inferior to most speakersDeliver superior sound because of their larger drivers and robust construction
Portability They are portable and can be easily moved from room to roomThey are not portable, mainly because of their size and wiring requirements
Versatility It can be used in different spaces, small or largeThey are ideal for large rooms and exceptionally dedicated home theater rooms
Best Smart Soundbar
Sonos Arc Soundbar
$750.00
  • Includes support for Alexa voice commands, AirPlay 2, and more
  • 3D sound with Dolby Atmos
  • Trueplay tuning technology produces sound optimized for your room's acoustics
  • Eleven high performance drivers
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/18/2024 01:56 am GMT

Soundbars vs. Speakers: What’s the Difference?

Physically, you will notice obvious differences that set soundbars and speakers apart. Additionally, some aspects distinguish them and may influence your choice. Let’s dissect these differences and see how these two products compare.

Installation

Speakers and soundbars are relatively simple to install, but speakers are more complex. For speakers, all connections need to be established through an AV receiver before connecting the receiver to your TV. In addition, you’ll have to create and assign space for the speakers on your ceiling or floor. This means you’ll have more connections and wires running throughout your entertainment space (unless the speakers support wireless connectivity). Remember that large speakers can clutter a small room, so ensure you have enough space to place them.

If you are tight on space, consider a soundbar. Soundbars are all-in-one audio systems, implying that it houses all its components in a single unit, negating the need for a receiver. You can connect your soundbar to the TV or other devices directly using an optical cable, HDMI cable, or Bluetooth. Soundbars do not require a lot of wiring as they typically come with two cables, one for powering on the soundbar and another for connecting it to your TV. Note that most soundbars support wireless connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, that allows users to connect to other devices wirelessly. However, remember that different soundbars have different connectivity options, so look for a soundbar that suits your needs.

Sound Quality

Wood Design
Saiyin Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
$94.99
  • Speaker (woofer) size: 5.2 inches
  • Power: 40W
  • In the box: 2 Bluetooth speakers
  • Ports: Optical, Subwoofer line, RCA, coaxial, 3.5mm headphone jack
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/16/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Speakers typically provide powerful and quality sound because of their size and flexibility in terms of placement and customization. Plus, the size of drivers can significantly affect the sound quality as they determine how much air a speaker can move and the bass it can produce. Speakers typically have larger drivers and produce a wider and more detailed soundstage. Speakers also come in sets of multiple speakers that can be placed anywhere in a room to deliver a more immersive surround sound. While soundbars can create the appearance of full sound, speakers deliver it in reality.

Conversely, soundbars have smaller drivers and less powerful amplifiers that can result in a less detailed sound. Many soundbars, however, now include dedicated subwoofers and surround speakers to improve sound quality. Further, soundbars can now replicate surround sound with built-in capabilities like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, which can give the illusion of sound originating from different directions and eventually offer an immersive sound experience. As technology advances, soundbars have added more features to give them a competitive edge over speakers.

Design

Sound Set
Bose 5.1 Home Theater Set (White)
  • In the box: 1 x soundbar, 1 x wireless subwoofer, 2 x wireless small speakers
  • Full spectrum sound experience with the entire set
  • Voice controlled with Alexa
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Right off the bat, you will notice that soundbars and speakers have distinct designs. Typically, speakers are often larger and bulkier, while soundbars are more sleek, long, and narrow. This design allows soundbars to sit below your TV without obscuring the screen. Soundbars are often rectangular with a minimal and aesthetically pleasing design, enabling them to integrate perfectly with different home decor. Because of their size, you may wonder if they will cut it for a home theater setup, but most soundbars come with rear speakers and a dedicated subwoofer to deliver powerful and chest-pumping bass. Therefore, soundbars are ideal for anyone that wants a compact audio system that compliments their entertainment space while delivering a better sound experience than their TV’s built-in speakers. 

Unlike soundbars, speakers are a more conspicuous addition to an entertainment room because of their large size. Therefore, they are designed to be placed anywhere in the room, which helps create an immersive surround sound. Speakers also have different designs, including floor-standing that make a statement, bookshelf, and in-ceiling that are subtle and integrate well with home decor.

As of July 14, 2023, the Bose 5.1 Home Theater Set is currently unavailable on Amazon. Please check back later.

Price

Powerful Speakers
KEF LS50 Wireless II (Pair, Carbon Black)
$1,881.82
  • In the box: 2 x wireless speakers
  • Power: 280W mid range and 100W tweeter Amplifier
  • Bluetooth 4.2 supports wireless streaming
  • Ports: RJ45, 3.5mm audio jack, coaxial, TOSLINK, HDMI
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/16/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Speakers are typically pricier than soundbars, but range from affordable to expensive options. For instance, entry-level bookshelf speakers such as Saiyin Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers start at around $99 for a pair, while floor-standing speakers can retail at $300, but going for up to $2,800 for a pair like the KEF LS50 Wireless II. Premium speakers will cost you thousands and even more when paired with advanced audio components like amplifiers. Plus, it is worth mentioning that speakers require additional equipment that will add to their overall cost

On the other hand, soundbars are more affordable than speakers, but you can find premium ones, such as the Bose 5.1 Home Theater Set, which retails at $2,047. You can also easily find a budget-friendly and powerful soundbar like the Polk Audio React Sound Bar for $256 if you are on a budget. Since soundbars can be expanded using surround speakers, adding more speakers for a more immersive surround sound will cost extra. Remember that the price can be high depending on the features such as Dolby Atmos support, multiple connectivity options, and room calibration features.

Best Overall
Polk Audio React Sound Bar
$260.36
  • Includes Polk's Voice Adjust
  • Voice control enabled with Alexa
  • Add an SR2 wireless surround speakers and React wireless subwoofer for the full home theater experience (sold separately)
  • Ports: HDMI ARC, USB-A, Optical audio input
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/16/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Soundbars vs. Speakers: Must-Know Facts

  • Soundbars have a sleek, narrow design that integrates perfectly with home decor. They are also flexible and can be placed below a TV or mounted.
  • Soundbars are generally more affordable than speakers, although the price differs depending on the brand, sound quality, and features.
  • Speakers deliver a better sound quality than soundbars because of their large drivers, size, and power amplifiers.
  • Soundbars are easy to set up as they do not have many connections and wiring compared to speakers.
  • To simulate surround sound and deliver a more immersive sound experience, soundbars come with features such as Dolby Atmos support and voice surround sound.
  • There are passive and active speakers. Passive speakers require an external amplifier, while active speakers have built-in amplifiers like the Sony SACS9.
  • A soundbar can operate as a single unit, while a speaker cannot.

Soundbars vs. Speakers: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

A quality and premium soundbar delivers excellent sound and clear dialogues thanks to features like virtual surround sound and Dolby Atmos support. Further, these devices can operate as single units. They do not provide as immersive a surround sound experience as speakers, but they are a fantastic upgrade to your inferior TV speakers. In contrast, speakers have larger drivers and powerful components that produce incredible room-filling surround sound. There’s a caveat, however. These speaker audio systems cannot operate as a stand-alone and can be pricier than soundbars.

Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on your aesthetic, preferences, budget, and desired features. If you want a complete surround system, go for a traditional speaker, but if you want a minimal sound system that will not fill up your space and still deliver quality sound, go for a quality soundbar like the Sonos Arc.

In the video below, Gene Dellasala from Audioholics goes over the different aspects to think about when deciding to use soundbars or speakers.

  1. Sonos Arc Soundbar
    $750.00
    • Includes support for Alexa voice commands, AirPlay 2, and more
    • 3D sound with Dolby Atmos
    • Trueplay tuning technology produces sound optimized for your room's acoustics
    • Eleven high performance drivers
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/18/2024 01:56 am GMT
  2. Saiyin Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
    $94.99
    • Speaker (woofer) size: 5.2 inches
    • Power: 40W
    • In the box: 2 Bluetooth speakers
    • Ports: Optical, Subwoofer line, RCA, coaxial, 3.5mm headphone jack
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/16/2024 10:38 pm GMT
  3. Bose 5.1 Home Theater Set (White)
    • In the box: 1 x soundbar, 1 x wireless subwoofer, 2 x wireless small speakers
    • Full spectrum sound experience with the entire set
    • Voice controlled with Alexa
    • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  4. KEF LS50 Wireless II (Pair, Carbon Black)
    $1,881.82
    • In the box: 2 x wireless speakers
    • Power: 280W mid range and 100W tweeter Amplifier
    • Bluetooth 4.2 supports wireless streaming
    • Ports: RJ45, 3.5mm audio jack, coaxial, TOSLINK, HDMI
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/16/2024 10:38 pm GMT
  5. Polk Audio React Sound Bar
    $260.36
    • Includes Polk's Voice Adjust
    • Voice control enabled with Alexa
    • Add an SR2 wireless surround speakers and React wireless subwoofer for the full home theater experience (sold separately)
    • Ports: HDMI ARC, USB-A, Optical audio input
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/16/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, soundbars or speakers?

It all comes down to your preferences, but generally, speakers are a good option if you want complete surround sound. At the same time, soundbars are a good pick for anyone looking for a compact and flexible audio system to upgrade your TV’s built-in speakers.

Which one delivers better sound quality?

Speakers typically have larger drivers that enable them to produce a wide and detailed soundstage. They also come in sets of speakers you can place anywhere in your entertainment room, resulting in realistic surround sound.

Do soundbars replace TV speakers?

Yes. quality soundbars such as Sonos Arc can replace your TV’s built-in speakers to provide better sound quality and enhance your overall audio experience.

Are soundbars good for music?

Soundbars are slim, sleek, minimal, and great for enhancing your music if you do not have the space or budget for a complete home theater setup.

Can I use a soundbar with speakers?

Yes, you can add wired or wireless speakers to your soundbar. However, it can be difficult to use them with wired speakers since soundbars are made to be stand-alone and do not have speaker outputs.

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