Sound Advice: Speakers vs Soundbar

Speakers or a soundbar? That is the question. We compare the two to help you make a sound decision.

Sure, there is nothing really wrong with the sound blasting out from your new TV; you can hear the dialogue just fine. But when your TV is strapped up to a solid sound system, bam! That’s when you truly hear the difference.

So should you get speakers or a soundbar? We compare them.

1. How Does It Work?


Speakers usually come in pairs to project sound from both sides. Speakers have a mobile electromagnet inside, which is a metal coil to create a magnetic field when electric current flows through it. This is then placed in front of a permanent magnet that is fixed in place.

When electricity pulses pass through the coil of the electromagnet, the direction of its magnetic field charges quickly, which then causes it to be attracted to and repelled from the permanent magnet. The cone (usually paper or plastic) attached to the electromagnet then amplifies these vibrations, pumping sound waves into the surrounding air and towards your ears.

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Sound Bars

Unlike speakers which are placed surrounding you, a soundbar is an all-in-one device that is placed below your TV with multiple drivers in a horizontal position. And yet, it is supposed to have surround sound capabilities – how?

Cheaper ones don’t really have the ‘surround’ feature but offer an amplified stereo effect from two or more speaker drivers. The more expensive models with Dolby Atmos capability, however, can successfully simulate the surround sound set-up by creating an illusion by bouncing sound waves off the walls of the room. You’ll get a pretty decent sound that is still better than what your TV set offers.

2. What’s Needed to Set Up?


Typically, a basic sound system requires an audio-video (AV) receiver, loudspeakers (the quantity depends on the speaker layout), a subwoofer, all the connection cables and speaker wires required.

Sound Bars

Long and narrow, it takes up less space than speakers. You can choose between the Speaker-only soundbar, the sound bar with wireless subwoofers or a soundbar with surround expansion option.

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3. Ease of Set Up


Definitely more tedious than the soundbar! True audiophiles who are particular about their speaker layout will position the speakers at an exact 60-degree angle apart to achieve the best ‘stereo image’ of the sound.

You should probably mark the floor too, so you don’t accidentally knock the speakers off their alignment when you clean the house!

Sound Bars

Easy peasy. If you are using the TV as the AV hub, then it’s a matter of plugging it into an HDMI port in the TV. This works great for table-mounted TVs.

For wall-mounted TVs, the soundbar becomes the AV hub. Its outputs can then be used for the TV and other gadgets like a DVD player and game console.

4. Sound Quality


A more detailed set-up with multiple speakers will give you a better audio experience. This is especially so in a large living room, so that the sound can travel around properly. However, if you sit on say, the right side of the room, you can’t get the full impact of the sound produced by the speakers on the left.

Sound Bars

Unlike speakers, audio output from the soundbar hits directly at the listeners, thus allowing you to hear everything.

However, the sound quality from sound bars are not as full and good as speakers. But you always raise the bass with a subwoofer, which is available wired or wireless.

Verdict: Which to Buy?

HDB, Yishun Ave 4. Picture: iProperty

Buy speakers for your living room if you want a more complete audio experience. If you have the budget and choose those with great sound and sleek design, they can make your living room look uber cool too!

Buy a sound bar if you want a fuss-free solution and are not super particular about your sound quality (or can’t really tell the difference). Soundbars also work great in bedrooms, where you don’t have the luxury of space.