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Soundbar vs Speakers: Which Sound System Should You Choose?

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If you’re looking to improve your home theater, one of the most important things to think about is the sound system. But should you choose a soundbar or a speaker system? While both sound systems will provide much better audio than your TV, they are quite different. Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between a soundbar vs surround sound speakers, so you can choose the right one for your home theater.

What’s the Difference Between a Soundbar and Speakers?

Soundbars are much easier to install than surround sound speakers, and they are usually much cheaper, too. However, surround sound speakers usually have better audio quality, and they give you more options, as well as the ability to upgrade your sound system over time.

Soundbar vs Speakers: Installation

When it comes time to install a sound system, soundbars are much easier to set up than surround sound speakers. All you need to do to install a soundbar is plug it into your TV. To install surround sound speakers, on the other hand, you need to wire each unit to an AV receiver.

av reviver wires

Soundbars are an all-in-one device, so there is usually only one wire that you need to connect to your TV. On the other hand, conventional surround sound speakers come with lots of individual speakers. In most cases, you will need to wire each of these speakers to an A/V receiver. Then you will need to connect the AV receiver to your TV.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound: Features

These days, soundbars offer many features, such as Bluetooth compatibility and built-in smart assistants. However, you can get all the same features and more with surround sound speakers, as long as you have the right AV receiver.

Most soundbars and AV receivers connect to your TV with an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cable. However, soundbars usually only have one HDMI port on the back. That means you can only connect most soundbars to your TV. However, most AV receivers have several HDMI ports to connect your other devices, such as your game consoles, Blu-ray players, and more.

AV reciever back
(Image Source: Amazon)

Since an AV receiver has multiple HDMI ports, you won’t have to connect your other devices directly to your TV. This can make it easier to disconnect your devices or connect new devices. Plus, most AV receivers also have other audio ports on the back, which allows you to connect record players, radio antennas, and more.

It is important to note that there are two kinds of HDMI ports that you can use to connect your TV to either audio system: HDMI ARC (audio return channel) and HDMI eARC (enhanced audio return channel). If you are looking for the best audio quality, you should find a soundbar or AV receiver that supports HDMI eARC. However, your TV will also need to support the latest HDMI standard to take advantage of this technology.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound: Design

If you’re looking for the sleekest sound system for your home theater, you might want to consider a soundbar over surround sound speakers. Surround sound speakers will take up a lot more space, and they don’t always look quite as good.

sonos arc soundbar vs surround sound speaker
(Image Source: Sonos)

To make a surround sound system look as good as possible, it is a good idea to get speakers from the same manufacturer and the same line. This will ensure that your speakers all match in color and design.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound: Upgrading

When it comes to a soundbar vs surround sound speakers, the latter gives you more options to upgrade your sound system. You can buy a few speakers at a time, based on your budget, and upgrade your sound system over time. Soundbars, on the other hand, don’t offer much upgradability.

With a speaker system, you only need two stereo speakers and an AV receiver to start. Then you can add a subwoofer, a center channel, and other speakers later. This will allow you to upgrade a 2.1 sound system to a 3.1, 5.1, or 7.1 channel system whenever you want. However, if you want to upgrade your system, you will need to have an AV receiver that can handle all your channels.

soundbar vs speakers

Most soundbars don’t let you upgrade your sound system over time. That means you will have to buy an entirely new soundbar if you want to upgrade or when something breaks. However, there are a few high-end soundbars, like the Sonos Arc and the Sonos Beam, that allow you to add a subwoofer and wireless rear speakers.

Soundbar vs Speakers: Audio Quality

While a soundbar will definitely improve your TV’s audio, surround sound speakers usually deliver the best audio quality. In most cases, speaker systems offer a much wider soundstage than even the most expensive soundbars.

With surround sound speakers, you can literally have audio come from all around you, which is something you can’t achieve with a regular soundbar. While some soundbars advertise that they offer surround sound audio, you would need to buy additional speakers to experience “true” surround sound.

soundbar vs speakers surround
(Image Source: Samsung)

If you want to know more about the different kinds of surround sound setups, check out our guide on how to set up a surround sound system.

Soundbar vs Speakers: Cost

When comparing the cost of a soundbar vs surround sound speakers, the latter is usually much more expensive. Quality speaker systems can easily cost as much as a soundbar, plus you have to buy an AV receiver as well. 

However, you can upgrade a surround sound system or replace one speaker in your system if it breaks. So, surround sound speakers might end up saving you more money in the long run.

If you want to compare the prices and features of soundbars vs surround sound speakers, check out our lists of the best soundbars and the best surround sound systems here.

Meta Description: Here’s everything you need to know about a soundbar vs surround sound speakers and which one you should choose for your home theater.