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Frankly speaking, soundbars are great. When you pack as much technology under the hood as these devices do, they have to be. Not only do many soundbars house multiple speaker arrays in an all-in-one design, but they also incorporate various audio-processing technologies, and wide device connectivity. Some can even serve as a pedestal stand for your flat panel TV. If your TV is mounted on a wall and you would like to have your soundbar mounted above or below it, many soundbars also offer simple mounting solutions for easy placement.
Like other audio components, not all soundbars are created equal. When deciding which speaker is right for you, there are a number of things you should consider. First among those things should be the size of your listening environment. The size of your room can help you determine which soundbar configuration will give you optimal audio performance. As an example, if you have a large room you may want to choose a soundbar system with an external subwoofer, or even dedicated rear speakers to cover more real estate. You should also look at your source components and how they connect to your system. If you’re like me, and you have a vast music collection stored on your smartphone, tablet, or PC, choosing a soundbar with Bluetooth or Internet connectivity will allow you to wirelessly access your favorite tunes.
In this overview, we are going to take a look at a number of soundbars from various manufacturers. These speakers deliver some of the best audio technology available, and some even rival the sound production that is typically associated with separate amplifier and speaker systems. While the options are many, you’ll soon discover that when it comes to audio, choices are a good thing.
To start things off, let’s take a look at some soundbars that can also be used as pedestal stands for your flat panel television. This is a great option if you want your speaker to be as close to your TV as possible without mounting it on a wall. Placing your soundbar directly under the television keeps distractions to a minimum as your audio and video reproduction will come from a centralized location.
ZVOX is a soundbar legend with a long history of making stellar audio products. The company’s SoundBase speaker systems have been long heralded as top-notch upgrades to paltry TV speakers. The SoundBase 670 is a worthy addition to ZVOX’s speaker family. While typical TVs deliver about 10- to 20 watts of audio power—if you’re lucky—and are equipped with miniature speakers, the ZVOX 670 produces an impressive 105W of power and incorporates three 5.25-inch subwoofers for dynamic bass impact.
This speaker is compatible with TVs up to 70 inches and features ZVOX PhaseCue II Virtual Surround Sound Technology. This proprietary audio processing technology adds dynamic three-dimensional sound to movie and music soundtracks. Built-in Bluetooth allows you to stream music wirelessly from your similarly equipped audio sources. Connectivity doesn’t stop there: dual stereo RCA, dual digital optical, and a digital coaxial port are also available. These interfaces are a welcome companion for your wired source connections.
When it comes to audio heritage, Bose has an impressive history of its own. If you take a look at its audio lineup, you will see a wide selection of audio products that are geared to deliver high-quality audio and easy setup. The Bose Solo 15 TV Sound System is no different in that regard. Like the aforementioned ZVOX, this soundbar supports the placement of flat panel TVs. At 24.75 inches wide, the Solo 15 has a smaller frame than the ZVOX’s 36-inch cabinet and can thus support displays up to 50 inches. A smaller frame doesn’t mean smaller sound, however. This soundbar features speaker arrays at each end of its cabinet and incorporates Bose’s TrueSpace Technology for clear and spacious sound quality.
A bass adjustment knob is located on the rear of the speaker, which allows you to fine-tune bass tones for a customized listening experience. Stereo RCA, digital coaxial, and digital optical ports are onboard for your component connections, and a universal remote is included for streamlined control of the soundbar and your connected devices, such as TVs and DVD players.
JBL is another consumer electronics company with deep seeded audio roots, whose Cinema Base supports the placement of flat panel TVs and produces up to 240W of power—an impressive output for a soundbar that’s merely 4 inches high and 23.6 inches wide. Furthermore, this speaker features a 2.2-channel configuration with dual subwoofers, which create the soundbar’s low-frequency character. To help the speaker deliver lifelike, room-filling sound, the Cinema Base features Harman Display Virtual Surround Sound technology.
Integrated Bluetooth connectivity allows you to enjoy wireless music streaming in addition to the speaker’s wired 3.5mm and digital optical inputs. The Cinema Base also features a USB port, which allows you to conveniently charge USB-powered devices, such as smartphones and MP3 players. An HDMI output is also available on the soundbar, which supports Audio Return Channel, otherwise known as ARC. ARC allows you to connect one cable between the soundbar and your TV for high-quality audio.
Soundbar and Subwoofer Combinations
Yamaha is well known in audio and video circles and is pretty synonymous with high-quality audio. The Yamaha YAS-203 produces up to 200W of power and sports a 2.1-channel configuration. This system’s external front-firing subwoofer incorporates a linear port for deep and smooth bass reproduction. Along with wireless subwoofer connectivity, the soundbar includes a template for wall mounting.
Yamaha’s internal AIR SURROUND XTREME technology is designed to a deliver a virtual 7.1-channel audio experience. With integrated Bluetooth connectivity and digital optical, digital coaxial, and stereo RCA inputs, this soundbar is well equipped for external device connections. A free app is also available for controlling the YAS-203 from an Android or iOS device.
VIZIO may be well known for its TVs, but the company also makes some impressive audio products that shouldn’t be ignored. The 38" 5.1-Channel Soundbar Speaker System is such a product. The main soundbar houses three full-range drivers, while the system also includes two dedicated rear satellite speakers and a 6" external wireless subwoofer to handle your low-frequency sounds. This VIZIO soundbar is wall mountable and is also ready to connect to your audio sources via Bluetooth, digital coaxial, digital optical, USB, stereo RCA, and 3.5mm interfaces.
Sony is a manufacturer that needs no introduction. The company’s product catalog pretty much covers the consumer-electronics spectrum. The Sony HT-CT260H may look like a simple soundbar and subwoofer combination, but it is capable of delivering powerful sound at up to 300W from its 2.1-channel array. Like the previously mentioned Yamaha and VIZIO systems, this soundbar’s subwoofer connects wirelessly for flexible placement. It is also equipped with Bluetooth, digital optical, and digital coaxial connectivity, and adds an HDMI input and output for connecting to high-definition televisions.
Premium Soundbar Solutions
The Focal Dimension 5.1-Channel System isn’t your typical soundbar system. This powerhouse produces 450 watts and has five identical 3.9" drivers built into the soundbar and another two 7.9 x 3.1" drivers in the external passive subwoofer. This system doesn’t just rely on brute force, however; it incorporates Optimum Acoustic Integration technology. Using settings on the rear of the soundbar, you can tailor the sound of this soundbar to your room’s characteristics.
For intuitive control, the Focal Dimension features a touchscreen user interface and a proximity sensor that automatically awakens the soundbar when you’re nearby or when you use the system’s remote control. As expected with a premium soundbar, this system is loaded with HDMI, digital optical, and a 3.5mm audio interface. The Focal Dimension is built for durability with a rigid aluminum chassis.
The Yamaha YSP-2500 is a soundbar juggernaut. This 7.1-channel system houses a whopping sixteen 1.1" beam drivers and dual 4-inch woofers to handle its bass responsibilities. While delivering 162 watts of power, the YSP-2500 features Yamaha Digital Sound Projector technology. This technology handles the timing of the soundbar’s amplifiers and drivers precisely to deliver powerful and in-sync audio. This soundbar’s internal beams can also be aimed to your listening position or outer walls to create an expansive audio effect. To help this system sound its best in your listening environment, it is equipped with Yamaha’s IntelliBeam auto-calibration system.
This system is also ready for your high-quality video connections with its three 4K- and 3D-capable HDMI inputs and one HDMI output. Like the Focal system, this Yamaha system is endowed with Bluetooth and wired digital and analog connections. It also features smartphone and tablet control with the free Yamaha app for Android and iOS. If you have high-resolution audio sources you’re in-luck, as the YSP-2500 can decode audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Choosing the Right Soundbar System
At B&H we offer a wide variety of soundbar systems that are designed to accommodate almost any listening environment. Whether you’re looking for a single-box solution, additional external speakers, or even Bluetooth connectivity, the advancements in soundbar technology make these sought-after features easily accessible. It’s amazing how far soundbar systems have come from their simple and humble beginnings. We’re excited by what’s currently available and what’s yet to come. It appears that the present and future of soundbar systems shine mighty bright, and we couldn’t be happier.