Should I Get a Soundbar with 2.1 or 5.1 Channels?
Soundbar systems come in multiple configurations. The most common two are 2.1 Channel and 5.1 Channel. While 5.1 often gets more attention due to its surround sound capabilities, most consumers are confused on the distinctions between 5.1 and 2.1.
First, let’s talk about 2.1 soundbars. Similar to 2-channel stereo systems, 2.1 soundbars have two small speakers and a subwoofer. Typically, the two small speakers appear in the front corners of the soundbar – angled out toward the listener. The subwoofer is usually placed in the middle either flat on the bottom of the soundbar or built into it. This configuration is designed to provide an immersive surround-sound experience so that sound is heard in all directions.
1 Channel soundbars on the other hand, have five speakers and a subwoofer. Instead of the two speakers in the front, 5.1 soundbars have one speaker in each corner as well as one center channel. The rear channels are simulated by the subwoofer. The center channel is responsible for reproducing most of the audio you hear.
Are Soundbars as Good as Surround Sound?
Soundbars are the latest advancement in surround sound audio equipment. Soundbars can be connected to a television and some also come with a remote or can be attached to a widely used remote called a universal remote. Surround sound uses speakers both in front and behind you to create an enveloping listening experience. Soundbars use a single bar that can be positioned in front of you on your TV stand or mounted to the wall.
Because surround sound systems use the speaker placement typically found in a home theater setup, they are often more expensive than a soundbar system. They also require cabling and a setup that takes more time than a soundbar, which usually, takes only minutes to set up. Because surrounds systems would require a lot of extra equipment, a surround sound system might be more wiring than you need. Soundbars, on the other hand, are ready to go out of the box with just one install.
Soundbars are generally easier to setup than surround systems, but they may not produce the same booming audio surround sound systems can produce. Surround sound systems use multiple speakers producing left, right, and center audio channels. With 10 speakers producing audio, there are different channels that send audio to the left and to the right of your ears.
Soundbars, on the other hand, use a single channel to produce sound for your entire listening room.
Do Soundbars Work on Any TV?
Soundbars are designed to maximize the audio quality of your TV. While most TVs have built in speakers for rudimentary audio, soundbars offer a more complete solution for TV audio. Therefore, you will want to make sure that your TV has either a stereo or auxiliary audio output.
Some older TVs do not have an available audio output, which makes them incompatible with most modern-day soundbars. So when you purchase a soundbar, always check with your TV's manufacturer to make sure its audio port is compatible.
The second factor you’ll want to pay attention to is the number of channels within your chosen soundbar. If your TV has an audio output, then you should select a soundbar with an audio output that matches the number of channels on your TV.
For instance, if your TV has a stereo output, then you should purchase a soundbar with a stereo output. If your TV has no audio output, you’ll want to ensure that the soundbar you select has a built-in audio output of its own.
Does a Soundbar Replace TV Speakers?
Many people swear by a soundbar for enjoying their favorite shows and movies. But surprisingly, you won’t see any speakers in a soundbar. A soundbar is a single, wide speaker that’s designed to sit in front of a flat-panel HDTV, instead of on top or to the sides. Its flat shape makes it ideal for tucking under your TV and you can place it just about anywhere within 2-3 feet of the TV.
The confusion around soundbars arises from the fact that they are truly bar-like in shape. More importantly though, it’s because the soundbar – much like your TV – is composed of many separate channels of sound. So while the soundbar does not have actual speakers within it, it may have detachable speakers or come with an external subwoofer.
The wide speaker design can provide room-filling audio and produce deep and dynamic sound. Designed to replicate the TV's audio, a soundbar can produce the clear sound needed for watching movies and sports, along with the high-definition detailing needed for an immersive theater experience. Due to its direct connection to your TV, you will get a cable-free experience, but you will still need to connect the soundbar to power using a power cord.