Soundbars: Feature Options and Installation Issues
There's no one-size-fits-all solution
Smart Homes of Chattanooga installed this soundbar under a TV above a fireplace.
August 21, 2013 by Grant Clauser


While soundbars are big improvements over a TV’s built-in speaker, their slim profile and small drivers make them ill-suited for bass. Some soundbars today come with separate, active subwoofers. Often these subwoofers are wirelessly connected to the system, which makes them very flexible in terms of placement. When hooking one up, it’s a good idea to test it out in a number of locations to see which gets you the best performance, because things like corners or floor material can make a difference in how the bass sounds. Usually the subwoofer in a soundbar system has a higher crossover than a typical home theater setup.

One Sound Choice built this soundbar into the wall along with the flush-mounted TV.

Feinberg says that he usually incorporates a wireless subwoofer into systems because they’re flexible and less expensive to install. “We always suggest a subwoofer with a soundbar to give the customer more bass,” says Stein. Hong adds that he usually suggests an in-wall subwoofer, so there’s nothing else to clutter up the room.

What about tabletop TV speakers?

In addition to the soundbar, another category of speaker solution has gotten popular lately. These TV speakers or tabletop speakers look something like soundbars, except they’re much deeper—18 inches or so—and also act as a base for the TV to stand on. SpeakerCraft, AudioXperts, Onkyo, Pinnacle, Z-Vox and others offer tabletop TV speakers.

SpeakerCraft’s CS3 tabletop speaker solves the same problem as a soundbar.

Most tabletop TV speakers deliver better bass than a stand-alone soundbar, because they have the cabinet space for bigger drivers (often including passive bass radiators). If you know your TV is going on a table, then a tabletop speaker may be able to save you from needing a separate subwoofer. However, a tabletop speaker will raise the height of the TV by a few inches, so if you’re putting it inside a cabinet, make sure you’ve accommodated for the extra height.

Also check out:
Great Ways to Maximize Your Great Room
Rooms Gets 90-inch TV and Soundbar Mounted on Poles
Pioneer Teams with Andrew Jones for Speaker Bar
Review: Speakercraft CS3 TV Speaker
Review: Sonos Playbar
Is the Home Theater Receiver Dead?

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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