Soundbars vs. Home Theater Speakers – How To Decide

Last Updated: Sep 04, 2019

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How to get the best quality of sound from your television? The age-old question that most of us ask ourselves at some point in life. Television has advanced drastically regarding display technology.

However, it has come at a cost. As TVs get slimmer, they don’t have the capacity to produce the sound that would have the viewer’s heart racing during an action-packed scene from their favorite movie.

Televisions have indeed adapted technology that makes viewing experience much more appealing to the eyes. However, to make the experience more pleasant for the ears as well, we look to an external sound system to aid in improving audio quality.

Which brings us to our crossroad and question from the title – which is better: soundbars or home theater speakers? We break the debate down for you to help you decide which of the two is more suitable for your needs.

Before getting into a debate, it is essential to understand the two types of audio output devices.

What Is a Soundbar?

A soundbar is a compact solution to your audio needs. It provides convenience, as it is a single soundbar that you can neatly place in front of your TV. The bar produces the audio from whatever is on display. You can find soundbars on their own or with an external subwoofer.

You will usually get a little more depth in the sound, regarding power and bass, with the help of subwoofers. Soundbars may be single bars with speakers but most now come with different audio options including surround sound.

Sony X9000F 2.1ch Soundbar with Dolby Atmos and Wireless Subwoofer
Sony X9000F 2.1ch Soundbar with Dolby Atmos and Wireless Subwoofer

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What Are Home Theater Speakers?

Home theater speakers typically come in sets, which means they allow for a proper surround sound setup. You get multiple speakers that you can set up around the room which means you get sound from every angle. This enables listeners to catch every little beat.

However, this comes at a cost, because they take up a lot more room and are much more complicated to set up. Home theater speakers also give you the option of selecting what type of surround sound effect you want. The set of speakers depend on whether it is a 2.1, 5.1, 7.1, and so on, surround channel. The higher the surround channel, the more speakers you have.

Bose Acoustimass 10 Series V Home Theater Speaker System
Bose Acoustimass 10 Series V Home Theater Speaker System

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Would Either Solution Be An Upgrade From The Built-in Speakers On My TV?

In short, yes, either a soundbar or home theater speakers set up would be a huge upgrade from built-in or bookshelf speakers. Of course, how significant an upgrade regarding sound quality depends on the quality of the audio output device you get – which leads us back to our question.

Which Are Better: Soundbars Or Home Theater Speakers?

The Argument For A Soundbar

Soundbars vs Home Theater Speakers - How To Decide - Guest Blog
Soundbar under TV

One misconception with soundbars is that the bar is only one speaker. It has multiple speakers within the one bar. Since all the speakers are fitted in that bar, it can comfortably sit on a shelf or be mounted on the wall with your television.

Since a soundbar has several speakers, most of them do offer surround style audio. It doesn’t have multiple speakers you can surround yourself with but does come with more than one mode.

The higher-end soundbars come with a “3D” mode while others would have “surround sound.” In these modes, the bar will simulate audio, so it feels exactly as if you were to have speakers all around you. The results of these modes vary from soundbar to soundbar, but if you get a decent quality soundbar, then the result should be good.

Lower-end soundbars don’t deliver in these modes, and you experience very little enhancement in audio quality when you switch to surround mode.

As far as bass and low-frequency sounds go, soundbars are fairly decent in that regard. You get soundbars which come with external subwoofers speakers that cover low-frequency sound to aid the audio quality of the soundbar.

Most of the subwoofers tend to be wireless with just an outlet source, which allows for a neat setup. They also generate enough bass to satisfy your ears. A soundbar will further enhance the sound of TV shows and movies you watch on a daily basis.

Why Pick A Soundbar?

  • Easy to set up
  • Minimal wiring required
  • Compact
  • Reasonably priced
  • Provide better sound quality than TV speakers
  • Not the best surround sound experience

If you are looking for audio enhancement in your everyday, basic TV viewing then a soundbar is perfect for you. Don’t get us wrong, a soundbar does deliver exceptional quality audio for movies also but it still lacks a little depth when compared to home theater speakers.

However, if you prefer the sound coming at you from the front, then soundbars are the best option. The fact that they are convenient and require minimal wiring makes them a minimalists dream.

The Argument For Home Theater Speakers

Audiovector speakers
Audiovector speakers

Home theater speakers provide a little bit of freedom. Depending on the type of surround sound, you get a 2, 5, 7, or 9 speaker set. Most homeowners typically opt for a 5.1 or 7.1 surround channel sound system which means you get 5 or 7 surround-sound speakers (also known as satellite speakers), including a center speaker, and a receiver.

This allows them to have three speakers in the front and 2 in the back, with 5.1 surround system and two added speakers on the side with 7.1.

Home theater speakers give you the complete “theater-style” setup, where you are completely surrounded by sound. You can find speakers of any size you please. The size doesn’t always determine how much power the speakers pack.

You can also customize the setup to get more out of the speakers. You can place them in different locations (in particular the rear speakers), to determine which is the best for optimal acoustics. You get a little more customizability with home theater speakers.

Why Home Theater Speakers?

  • Exceptional surround sound experience
  • Different surround options based on room size, 5.1, 7.1, 9.1
  • Customizable set up
  • Lots of components that lead to clutter
  • Requires a lot of wiring, set up is a lot more complicated, unless you opt for wireless speakers

If you love movie nights and want your home to feel like a theater then home theater speakers are for you. Both 5.1 and 7.1 surround systems will provide you with the audio performance you are after.

Making movie nights a lot more exciting, in particular in combination with a Blu-ray player that delivers high-definition audio. Keep in mind, that the speakers take up a lot more space than soundbars and require a lot of wiring.

Now, before you go on your hunt for the perfect soundbar or speakers, there are certain aspects of the device you should pay attention to. You need to make sure you are aware of the sensitivity, frequency response, and power handling of the device. Why are these aspects important?


The sensitivity of the speakers determines how much power it requires to produce sound. It is important you pay attention to the sensitivity because it also determines the longevity of the speaker. The higher sensitivity speakers have, the less power it would require to deliver quality sound.

You want a speaker with high sensitivity if you want loud, crisp and clear sound. We recommend getting speakers with a sensitivity rating of 92 dB for quality sound.

Frequency Response

The frequency response allows you to gauge how your listening experience will be with the speakers. For this, you need to know that human’s audible range is from around 20 to 20,000 Hz. The lower the frequency gets, the harder it is for humans to pick up on it.

Frequencies lower than 35 Hz are usually felt rather than heard, a subwoofer helps with that. You want speakers that cover a wide range of frequency for optimal sound.

Power Handling

Every speaker has a power capacity, which tells you how much wattage it can take. The more wattage it can take, the more powerful sound it can produce. You just want to make sure you don’t get the most powerful speakers out there; it may result in you pissing your neighbors off.

HDMI Inputs and Outputs

The AV receiver that comes with a typical home theater system might have more input and output options (HTMI, Optical…) than a soundbar. Depending on your use cases and requirements, that might not be an issue, but it’s something to consider.

Support Sound Technologies

When buying a sound system you also have to decide what sound technology you want to leverage. The source or sound medium often determines what you want to look for.

For example, the latest Apple TV supports Dolby Atmos for the best possible sound experience in movies. I don’t use Blu-ray Discs anymore, but the latest Bly-ray titles might support similar technologies and standards, including Dolby Digital or some other form of virtual surround sound.

Soundbars vs. Home Theater Sound Systems

Now you know and are better equipped to embark on your quest for a more pleasant audio experience. You have numerous different options of soundbars and surround sound systems in the market. Be sure to do your homework and pay close attention to the capacity of whichever system you decide to go with. We wish you the best of luck on your quest!

17 thoughts on “Soundbars vs. Home Theater Speakers – How To Decide”

  1. Excellent work. It would have been nice to have links of top 10 sounds bars and home theater systems though.

  2. Once you go wireless, and the neatnesss you get from minimal wiring is something hard to go back to wires all over the place.
    I went from a 5.1 to a 3.1.2 channel soundbar, and its amazing. Plus ill invest in rear speakers later on.


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