Soundbar buyers’ guide
Welcome to Crowdstorm’s page dedicated to all things soundbars – from two-channel audio devices through to Dolby Atmos home theatre speakers. You’ll find all the top soundbars here from all the leading manufacturers – as well as some super cheap bargains too.
Soundbars aren’t the kind of thing you’ll be buying on a regular basis (at least we presume you won’t!) so we realise most people aren’t too familiar with them – let alone being experts.
That’s where Crowdstorm comes in: we’ll walk you through the basics and then show you the best deals on everything from Sonos to LG soundbars, before handing you over to your favourite online and high street retailers to seal the deal.
Why buy a soundbar?
Soundbars have grown in popularity over the past decade for a number of reasons. Chiefly, your average soundbar will give you a nice step up in audio depth from your television’s skinny built-in speakers without paying a fortune for a multi-speaker system.
You’ll also find people using a soundbar for music – most often in the front room. This is often due to a combination of style and space: these gadgets are easily wall mountable and they tend to look pretty cool – or you can pop one on a shelf and you’ll barely know it’s there. Plus, thrown in with some extra speakers, you can enjoy full high-resolution audio.
And of cause there’s the step up in audio quality. The design of a soundbar really helps fill your room with music, with the best ones bouncing sound off the walls to trick you into thinking you have surround sound.
And best of all, they’re pretty cost effective. It’s easy to find a good quality soundbar in the £100-200 price range – a good price for a step-up in audio quality for both your movie and music experiences. While budget models now can in below £50. And finally, they’re a doddle to set up and use.
The latest soundbar tech
- Dolby Atmos: Creates a 3D sound space for the ultimate in audio entertainment. You're not limited by channels, so the sound really does feel as if it's all around you. Right now, it's the ultimate in immersion.
- 4K pass-through: Make your soundbar a hub for everything from streaming devices to games consoles, as well as your TV box. This means you can have high quality audio to compliment everything you use your television for.
Soundbar channels: what are they and how many do you need?
One of your key decisions when buying a soundbar is how many channels it should have. Some simply have two channels – standard stereo – while others are listed as 9.1 – the ultimate in surround sound experiences in terms of a single speaker.
If you’re buying a soundbar purely for audio, you’re not going to need a multichannel device – you should look for a two-channel bar where the extra development funds have been spent on the quality of speaker and cabinet.
If you’re wanting a complete home cinema experience, the more channels you can find the better. Each channel equates to a separate speaker set in the soundbar itself, each with its own driver which will pitch certain sounds to create a three-dimensional audio effect.
Getting connected: Soundbar HDMI ports
Before moving ahead with your purchase, you need to be very sure that your new soundbar was all the connections you need to hook it up to your home entertainment gear. You should find most soundbars come with optical digital ports (sometimes called an optical soundbar), but more and more devices now include HDMI connections (as well as TOSlink and RCA). These will help the audio quality from Blu-rays and generally offer you more flexibility.
The real key here is what, and how many, devices you want to hook up. Many UK front rooms are now packed with a Blu-ray player, a games console (or two!) and a set-top box – so you may feel you need a device with three or four HDMI connections. However, if you run everything through your television (check it for its own HDMI ports first!), your soundbar won’t need them.
What makes a great soundbar?
As with all technologies soundbars have a plethora of bells and whistles you can look out for, or choose to ignore. Each is likely to add to the price tag, so be aware of what they do and then pick your poison.
- Size is everything: Without wishing to state the obvious, check the dimensions to make sure the soundbar will fit in the space you need it to! Is it going on a shelf, in front of a TV, on a wall? Wherever it’s going, make sure it fits!
- Woof! A common problem with TV sound is bass – as TVs have gotten thinner so have the speakers, meaning a drop in bass quality. Many soundbars are also very thin, so won’t solve your bass problems. This means you’ll also need a subwoofer – or maybe that’s all you needed in the first place? Or look for a pedestal-style soundbar for TV, which has much more depth.
- Surround sound: If a soundbar claims to be surround sound, as we noted earlier under ‘channels’, it is likely to be simulated not actual surround sound. This can still sound awesome – especially on high-end models – but if surround sound is really what you’re after your money may be best spent on a home entertainment speaker system.
- Bluetooth soundbar: If you want to stream audio through a soundbar – say from your phone or tablet – there’s no easier way to do it than through Bluetooth wireless technology. Just remember it’s not the most secure of Wi-Fi channels, so may want to switch it off on your phone when you head out. However, it’s a great bonus on your soundbar.
- Remote control: If you’re running your device through your TV or stereo system you can see this as just another device to lose down the back of the sofa. They can also cause clashing issues with your TV, which is simply a pain to deal with.
What do I do next?
Once you’ve fallen in love with a suitable soundbar, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to Crowdstorm and click through to the retailer of your choice. Whether it’s Asda or Argos, Sainsbury’s or Tesco, you’ll find all the best high street retailers represented here.
All you need to do is head off to them and complete your purchase – you’ll be buying direct from them, not from us. Crowdstorm simply helps you compare and find the best deals on the market – no matter what you’re in the market for. So next time you need anything, come back and see us!