Soundbars: The Audio Sweet Spot for the Home Entertainment Sector

HiFi Expert group Manager at EISA, Jamie Biesemans takes a close-up look at how to make the living room sound so much better

Soundbars are a very vigorous and lively part of the AV business. For consumers looking for a way to improve TV sound these easy to install devices remain the most convenient option. Expanded streaming options and support for the latest surround formats should keep soundbars at the top of consumer’s wish lists.

INNOVATIONS TO LOOK FOR AT IFA

WHERE’S THE SUB?

Most soundbar packages consist of a soundbar speaker with a separate subwoofer unit, usually connected wirelessly. It’s hard to do without, as slender soundbars can’t fit the larger speaker drivers required to produce the lower frequencies that make Hollywood smash hits so exciting. However, a wireless sub is another device you need to place in the room. New soundbar models that are slightly less compact but contain decent woofers should appeal to them. Smart design and psychoacoustics mean that these soundbars no longer require a separate subwoofer.

ATMOS AND MORE

The soundbar market is very diverse, with price points ranging from slightly more than 100 to far over 1,000. But what makes a more expensive model “premium”? Without a doubt the answer is “Dolby Atmos”. Dolby Atmos – and the competitor from DTS, DTS:X – are new surround formats that complement 5.1 surround, with two or four height channels. Adding sound effects that come from higher up in the room create a more realistic listening experience. Dolby Atmos is getting some serious traction when it comes to media, with many Ultra HD Blu-ray discs featuring the format and video streaming services considering Atmos-streams.

DON’T FORGET THE MUSIC

Consumers purchasing soundbars often use them as a music solution as well. New models take this into account buy offering a better musical tuning (possibly accessed by a music mode or preset) and improved streaming options. One to watch out for is Chromecast, the ubiquitous casting technology from Google. It is supported by most music services and has multi-room abilities built-in.