What’s the Difference: 2.1 vs. 5.1 vs. Atmos Soundbars?
A soundbar is a flat loudspeaker that is best suited for bookshelves, counters, or on stands. In other words, the best place for a soundbar is the top of a TV, which is where almost everybody places it. A soundbar can be connected to just about any TV without drilling holes or running cables through walls. On the other hand, a speaker system consists of a separate subwoofer for lower frequencies and two or more satellite speakers for higher frequencies. These speakers are not portable and are usually connected with wires to each other and other components.
Most soundbars have a wired remote, while some may have a built-in remote that you can program to control everything. Soundbars have a dedicated amplifier. Also, most soundbars are passive, in other words, they’re both speakers and amplifiers. This means that there are no additional cables or wires, which means less audio equipment to buy.
The frame of a soundbar is usually made of wood, but many companies are now offering metal frames that look more “high end.” Many soundbars also have a white or black fabric grill. Some companies offer soundbars with a metal or leather finish, but those tend to be much more expensive.
It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of us, big-screen TV owners, don’t have the best sound systems going right now.
Most, if not all, televisions that are being sold today come with speakers that are either small, tinny, and not very powerful. That’s why soundbars became the best HD TV accessory out there.
A soundbar either comes as a full package with the subwoofer and speakers, or it’s entirely wireless with the soundbar being the speaker. In either case, the TV audio is greatly improved instantly.
An Atmos soundbar can be the closest thing to surround sound without all of the wires running around your living room. If you're looking for a better quality audio experience without investing in a surround sound system, a 5.1 soundbar is the answer to your prayers.
What is 5.1 surround sound?
Simply put, surround sound is comprised of at least five speakers; left front, center, right front, left surround, and right surround. Each speaker gets at least one audio channel. The surround channels create the effect of sound coming at you from behind the screen.
With Atmos, the soundbar is the center speaker. Instead of being limited to the two speakers up front, as in previous models, the new Atmos soundbars use the speakers in the back to create the surround sound experience through digital manipulation.
Atmos soundbars have become increasingly popular over the last few years and for those who want a more immersive audio experience while watching their favorite shows–or movies–they have gotten rave reviews. Having a home theater system isn’t possible for everyone. And since you’re not going to invest in a full theater system, why not try a soundbar?
Sound is made up of pulses of air, or compressions, which your eardrum senses and interprets as a particular pitch. When you watch a movie or TV show, the sound you hear isn’t coming from your TV speakers. The sound is being mixed and mastered from separate tracks or channels. So the individual channels have separate audio needs. The movie dialogue track needs to be sent to the center speaker, while the bass needs a subwoofer. The soundbar can deliver this audio without having wires running through your home.
Soundbars simply give you better audio quality than your TV. The Atmos soundbar is no different. If you're considering one of these soundbars, it's likely because you're looking for a greater audio experience than what you're already getting.
How Does Atmos Work in a Soundbar?
Atmos technology uses surround sound to give you a more immersive experience when you listen to your home theater, cable box, or other home entertainment device. It has become a major selling point for soundbars and an ongoing trend in the audio world, with more and more home entertainment devices and speaker systems supporting it.
The main difference between Atmos and older surround sound formats is that instead of just one sound going to the different speakers in the system (like in a 5.1 system), multiple sounds are exploited for a more natural, three-dimensional sound experience. For example, instead of just having a ceiling speaker for a ceiling bounce effect, every speaker in the soundbar system is used to produce different audio tracks and allow you to hear sound from above as well as to the sides.
Atmos uses an object-based audio format that has a height channel and allows the audio manufacturers to create more detailed, three-dimensional audio and for consumers to experience 5.1.4 surround sound. This means four main channels (front, center, left, right), plus four speakers on the ceiling and one subwoofer. Over the years, the Atmos format has improved, and manufacturers have started to combine the technology with other sound technologies like DTS VirtualX and DTS: X, which allows them to create immersive sound without the need for additional speakers.
What Difference Does Atmos Make to the Price of a Soundbar?
Atmos is another stepping stone towards getting closer to the cinema experience at home. Manufacturers are increasingly using the new Atmos technology in their mid-to-high-end soundbars.
Atmos works by adding overhead sound channels – just like at the cinema. This expands the soundstage, creating a much more immersive experience.
Atmos is not the first system of its kind. Back in 2006, Dolby introduced the Dolby 5.1.2 system, which adds two extra rear channels to the standard Dolby 5.1. Dolby later took this a step further with Dolby 7.1, which adds 7.1 channels of surround audio (hence the name). Digital sound formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (Dolby Atmos is compatible with both these formats) are also compatible with Dolby 7.1 surround sound.
Be it Dolby Atmos, 7.1, 5.1.2, or other formats, adding overhead channels increases the cost of a sound system – just like adding another screen increases the cost of a home cinema setup. Manufacturers are experimenting with the new technology in soundbars, expanding on the single-bar system. They are increasingly using the new Atmos technology in their mid-to high-end soundbars.
How Much Does a Soundbar Without Atmos Cost?
Soundbars are popular for boosting the audio quality of your TV. But what makes Atmos-enabled soundbars special is that they can improve the audio of your TV even if your TV can’t support Atmos itself. This is done through a process called upmixing, in which the effects are generated from your audio processor (one included in the TV or a soundbar). This allows you to experience the effects present in the original Atmos content, even if you’re watching a non-Atmos program.
You can use a soundbar for years and not use Atmos, so it’s not something you’re likely to need right away. That’s why many people are on the fence about which soundbar to purchase for its sound enhancements. If you’re on the fence about purchasing an Atmos-enabled soundbar, it’s important to know what features you’re paying for. To do this, you can put together a price per feature list to help you see how much you’re paying for each enhancement.
How Much Does an Atmos Soundbar Cost?
The Atmos brand has received some criticism that has caused shoppers to question how much an Atmos soundbar costs. A lot of people think that the brand is filling a niche that doesn’t exist.
There’s no denying that Atmos is one of the more expensive soundbars and speaker systems you can buy. But a lot of consumers are saying that it’s also one of the best that they’ve tried.
You don’t have to break the bank to get yourself an Atmos soundbar. They are currently offering quite a few different varieties for sale that range in price. A quick Google search will turn up lots of different models, but not all of them are Atmos.
You’ll find the system that’s right for you if you’re willing to invest. People who insist that it’s an overpriced system are missing out on a lot of things, like the lower, more refined bass tones that are created by their self-developed “Processor Plus” technology. Consumers who have invested in an Atmos soundbar are highly satisfied, and the company continues to make improvements to the range.
Is the Difference Between 2.1 or 5.1 and Atmos Worth the Money?
A TV soundbar will not just improve the sound in your room, it will also provide a convenient way to adjust numerous sound settings on your TV (such as bass, treble, volume control, etc.) without having to leave your couch.
Atmos soundbars are not the same as the simple basic soundbars that we're all so familiar with. The amount of money you have to pay for an Atmos soundbar is fairly high. Is it a justified expense?
Atmos soundbars have some significant advantages over the usual 2.1 or 5.1 system.
The speaker's position gives you much more consistency in the sound quality of the bass response. Because they are positioned over your head as opposed to the 2.1 and 5.1 systems, the speaker sound is more focused and louder. Your room has less reflected sound that negates the quality of the sound in comparison to the 2.1 and 5.1 counterparts because the speaker is positioned up and away from the wall. Therefore, the sound quality is better, and the bass is clearer than in a room full of reflected sound.
Atmos soundbars are useful and worth the investment. These soundbars are easy to install, have a great sound quality, and can be used for several purposes.