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Words of Wisdom

David Frangioni

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Soundbar in a High-End Home Theater


For rumbling bass and realistic sound effects, you’ll need better audio.

People are drawn to soundbars for many reasons. For one, they’re a one-piece audio solution that’s quick to install under the TV or projector screen. And they provide more robust sound than a TV’s built-in speakers. They can look cool depending on the TV, final design, and installation aesthetic.  However, it’s best to avoid using one in a high-end home theater design.

While soundbars improve upon TV audio, they won’t provide the immersive wow-factor you desire in a home cinema. It’s best to use a soundbar in the bedroom, kitchen, or other non-primary viewing spaces.

For a home theater, you’d be cutting yourself short not to use a receiver, proper loudspeakers, and a subwoofer for a Dolby ATMOS surround sound setup. As a luxury home theater designer based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and cities worldwide, we’ll share why you should avoid soundbars and how to experience high-end Dolby ATMOS surround sound in your home.


SEE ALSO: How These 3 Technologies Improve Your Home Theater Experience


The Trouble with Soundbars

As mentioned, soundbars are a fine choice for displays in other rooms in the house. High-end brands like Sonance and James Loudspeaker build some of the most superior quality soundbars on the market. But in a home theater, you want sound that surrounds viewers. A soundbar is limited to three front channels which are too close together for immersive and properly located sound playback. Sound playback not configured properly will not feel like you’re in the midst of action or emotion; instead, you’re straining to pay attention. Any subwoofer will sound weak and underpowered because, by using a soundbar, it is not matched with the front array of loudspeakers.

How to Install Stereo or Dolby ATMOS Surround Sound

In a proper audio setup, whether that’s a simple stereo (two-channel) arrangement or 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby ATMOS surround sound, your ideal speakers will provide larger drivers than a soundbar, with more space and energy to push sound around the room. There’s a world of quality loudspeakers for you to choose from, and you’ll connect each to a central surround processor or Dolby ATMOS surround receiver. Today’s receivers aren’t like your parent’s dusty receivers connected to an old record player. These models are smart, supporting Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and voice assistants, too.  Dedicated surround processors combined with external power amplifiers will provide an even closer sound reproduction experience achieving world-class standards.

So, you have your surround processor. Next, you’ll need to connect your audio sources, which could be anything from an AppleTV to a Blu-ray player to cable/satellite TV or Roku. From there, you’ll have speaker wire to carry audio signals from the receiver to your speaker system. Even installing two stereo speakers will be miles better quality than a soundbar.

For a Dolby ATMOS surround sound system, you’ll need a center channel speaker, two left and right speakers, and a subwoofer for bass notes. You will want to go even further with two rear speakers, side speakers, ceiling or upward-firing Dolby Atmos speakers. Want a minimalistic appearance? Have your surround sound installed within the walls and ceiling!

How Can I Make My Theater Sound Professional?

If you want to enjoy a movie’s sound without distortion, you’d benefit from having your theater treated for acoustics. Why? If your theater has lots of hard, flat surfaces, and if it’s a space with equal dimensions, you’ll run into some problematic reflections.

Acoustics are all about controlling reflections. Sound waves will build up in certain areas of the room, with some low tones canceled out by reflections so you’ll hear minimal bass notes. Meanwhile, other tones will become too pronounced and overwhelm other frequencies. You may struggle to hear certain sound elements without acoustic materials on the walls to scatter and absorb frequencies. We all can recognize great audio when we hear it, and with a professional surround sound system, you’ll experience media like never before.

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