7 Steps to Finding the Perfect Soundbar for Your TV

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That sleek new 4K TV you just bought looks amazing, but it sounds…terrible. The thin built-in speakers lack power and detail, ruining the experience.

Adding an external soundbar is the solution for upgrading your TV’s weak audio to match its stellar visuals.

Let’s dive in and walk through the key steps to finding the perfect soundbar for your TV, from choosing the right configuration to seamless setup.

Assessing Your Current TV Audio and Desired Improvements

Image illustrating the process of evaluating current TV audio and imagining desired improvements

The built-in speakers in modern slim LED and OLED TVs leave much to be desired in terms of sound quality.

While visually stunning with sharp 4K images, most TVs lack the speaker drivers and amplification necessary for powerful, immersive audio.

Take some time to critically evaluate your current TV’s audio performance. Watch a variety of content like movies, TV shows, and music videos to identify shortcomings.

Does dialogue seem muted or unclear at normal volumes? Do sound effects and soundtrack lack richness and bass impact?

Do voices seem to just emanate from the TV rather than feeling realistically spacialized? Make notes of the specific areas you want to improve with your TV’s sound.

Are you looking mainly for clearer, more intelligible dialogue? Do you want more powerful bass for action movies and gaming?

Or are you hoping to achieve true surround sound immersion for a home theater experience? Determining your audio pain points and desired enhancements will help narrow your soundbar search.

Choosing the Right Soundbar Configuration for Your TV Size

Image illustrating the process of selecting the ideal soundbar configuration based on TV size

One of the most important factors in choosing a soundbar is selecting the right speaker configuration and channels for your TV screen size.

Soundbars come in different channel formats ranging from basic 2.0 stereo up to elaborate 7.1.4 surround systems.

The number and type of speakers impacts the width of the soundstage and immersive audio effects.

For smaller TVs under 50 inches, a 2.1 or 3.1 soundbar system is usually sufficient. The 2 refers to left and right channels, while the .1 denotes a wireless subwoofer for deep bass.

A 3.1 soundbar adds a center speaker for clearer dialogue, which is ideal for mostly TV shows and movies.

The compact size matches smaller TVs without overwhelming. A basic stereo or 3.1 soundbar can provide a noticeable upgrade over TV speakers.

Larger TVs over 60 inches warrant more robust soundbars like 5.1 or 7.1 systems. The additional channels add left and right rear speakers for true surround sound.

Dedicated tweeters and mid-range drivers also help reproduce subtle audio details.

Plus a bigger subwoofer has the power to match large TVs and fill bigger rooms. For a truly immersive cinematic experience, choose a full surround soundbar if you have a giant TV screen.

Take measurements of the length of your TV as well as the stand it sits on. Make sure to get a soundbar that is at least 80% as wide as your TV width.

The soundbar should be the right scale and size so it doesn’t look disproportionate under your TV.

The general rule is the bigger the TV, the larger the soundbar needed for balanced sound.

Considering Soundbar Connectivity for Your TV Inputs

Image illustrating the process of assessing soundbar connectivity options for different TV inputs

Modern soundbars are designed for quick, seamless integration with today’s smart TVs.

Most recent TV models include at least one HDMI ARC input that allows uncompressed digital audio signal transmission directly from the TV to soundbar.

Many soundbars also have their own HDMI inputs, allowing you to connect external media streamers like Roku or Blu-ray players.

When evaluating soundbars, look at what inputs and outputs they offer to ensure compatibility with your TV setup.

If you plan to connect a cable box, gaming console, or other device to the soundbar directly, make sure it has enough HDMI inputs to support those.

Soundbars with 4K HDMI passthrough also futureproof your system if you upgrade to a 4K TV down the road.

Some less expensive soundbars still rely on an optical digital audio connection. While simpler to set up, optical can’t transmit immersive surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos that require HDMI.

Also check that your TV even has an optical output if considering this route.

If you want a seamless, clutter-free connection, HDMI ARC is ideal.

If you have an older TV without ARC support, you can alternatively stream audio to the soundbar via Bluetooth. This avoids running cables but may introduce latency.

Virtually any TV and soundbar combo can be wirelessly paired.

However HDMI ARC and optical remain the optimal wired choices.

Finding the Best Soundbar Brand for Your TV Model

Image illustrating the process of selecting the best soundbar brand for your specific TV model

When it comes to seamless operation and single remote convenience, pairing a soundbar with a TV from the same brand is advantageous.

Major TV manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG, and Vizio all offer soundbars designed specifically for integration with their TV lineups.

A soundbar from the same brand as your TV is engineered with that TV’s hardware and software in mind. This allows streamlined setup, control, and compatibility out of the box.

For example, the Sonos Beam integrates perfectly with Samsung TVs to enable TV remote volume and power control.

LG’s soundbars include settings tuned precisely for LG OLEDs.

In addition to guaranteed compatibility, matching brands for your TV and soundbar enables handy universal remote capabilities.

With CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), a single remote can operate volume and power for both TV and soundbar over HDMI. This saves juggling multiple remotes for a simplified viewing experience.

While mixing brands is possible and can provide more choice, you lose out on turnkey optimization and single remote convenience.

If seamless operation is a priority, identifying the ideal soundbar offering from your existing TV’s maker is your best bet.

Balancing Sound Quality and Price for Your Budget

Image illustrating the process of finding the balance between sound quality and price when choosing a soundbar

With soundbars available across a wide span of pricing tiers, you can find excellent options tailored to any budget. Less expensive soundbars from trusted brands still provide meaningful improvements over TV audio.

Stepping up to higher price points brings more robust speaker systems, premium materials, extra features and future-proof technologies.

Entry-level soundbars under $200 like the Vizio V-Series and Yamaha SR-B20A focus on nailing the core audio essentials at an affordable price.

They deliver louder, clearer sound than TV speakers via a compact left/right driver setup. Many include wireless subwoofers for added bass punch.

At this range, expect a 2.0 or 2.1 channel system made of decent quality plastic.

In the $300 to $700 midrange, brands like Bose, Samsung, Sonos, and Polk provide enhanced sound with multi-speaker arrays.

These offer center channels for dialogue clarity, dedicated tweeters for treble response, and larger subwoofers for deep lows.

Materials like aluminum and mesh fabrics exude more premium quality over cheaper models. Some include Dolby Atmos for 3D immersive sound.

Moving up to high-end soundbars from $800 to $1,500 unlocks more powerful speaker systems plus cutting-edge features.

Bang & Olufsen’s luxurious soundbars boast excellent amplification and drivers made of solid aluminum. Flagship models integrate IMAX Enhanced certification and Dolby Atmos surround decoding.

Wireless satellite speakers can be added for full-room sound. Expect precision craftsmanship and stunning performance.

Of course, it’s about finding the sweet spot between great sound quality and staying within your budget.

Comparing professional reviews on sites like Rtings and CNET will help identify which soundbars provide the best value at different price points.

Focus on the audio capabilities most important to you rather than fixating solely on price or brand cachet.

Making Sure the Soundbar Fits Your TV Stand

Image illustrating the process of ensuring that the selected soundbar fits perfectly on a TV stand

One practical but often overlooked consideration when shopping for a soundbar is making sure it actually fits on your TV stand width-wise.

Soundbars range in physical size from compact 2-foot models to wide 5-foot systems. You want to choose a soundbar that fits on your stand without awkwardly sticking out past the edges.

Before deciding on a soundbar, take precise measurements of your TV stand. Measure the total width between the legs or sides and also the depth from front to back.

This will determine the maximum dimensions a soundbar can be without overhanging.

Next, check the product details for soundbars you’re considering to find models with suitable widths.

For TV stands under 40 inches wide, compact soundbars like the Sonos Beam (25 inches wide) or the Polk MagniFi Mini (26 inches wide) are good choices.

Stands between 40 and 60 inches wide can accommodate midsize soundbars around 35 to 45 inches in width.

Larger stands over 60 inches wide provide enough room for full-fledged surround soundbar systems.

Also consider the depth of your TV stand, especially if mounting the TV on the wall. Shallow stands may not be able to fit both a wall-mounted TV and large soundbar.

Prioritizing a soundbar that fits in all dimensions ensures an aesthetic setup.

And don’t forget to leave room for any other components like Blu-ray players or game consoles along with the soundbar.

Using HDMI ARC for Seamless TV-Soundbar Connectivity

Image illustrating the use of HDMI ARC for seamless and high-quality TV-soundbar connectivity

Once you’ve selected the ideal soundbar for your needs, it’s time to get it hooked up. The best connection method for most modern TVs and soundbars is HDMI ARC, which stands for Audio Return Channel.

This allows uncompressed digital audio to be sent from the TV directly to the soundbar along a single HDMI cable.

HDMI ARC offers superior audio quality over outdated connections like optical. ARC’s bandwidth supports advanced surround sound codecs like Dolby Atmos for truly immersive audio.

It also enables seamless control of volume and power between TV and soundbar with a single remote.

And HDMI ARC automatically switches the soundbar input when you change TV inputs.

Start by identifying the HDMI ARC port on your TV – it’s often labeled explicitly as such. Connect that to the HDMI ARC input on your soundbar using a certified High Speed HDMI cable.

Most new TVs have at least one ARC port, but double check your TV’s manual if uncertain.

Some may require enabling HDMI CEC in the settings for ARC to work.

If you run into issues getting ARC working properly, you can fallback to using an optical cable from TV to soundbar.

But optical limits sound quality, so HDMI ARC should be the go-to choice. When connected via ARC, you can kick back and enjoy sublime audio conveniently controlled through your TV remote.

Getting Immersive Surround Sound from a Soundbar

Image illustrating the process of achieving immersive surround sound through a soundbar setup

Soundbars may seem limited compared to true surround speakers, but premium models provide amazingly immersive audio.

Advanced virtualization technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X create the illusion of 3D sound coming from all around you – even overhead.

This brings movies and games to life unlike ever before.

Dolby Atmos is currently the most popular cinema-grade surround format supported.

Atmos decoding uses digital signal processing to precisely position audio effects in a 3D space, making it seem like planes are flying over your head. The soundbar’s upward-firing drivers reflect sound off the ceiling to overhead channels.

DTS:X is a competing object-based audio format that achieves similar 3D spatialization and realism. The key components are surround upmixing and height channel reproduction.

This allows soundtrack elements to be precisely localized around you rather than just left/right stereo.

Many higher-end soundbars also include rear wireless satellite speakers. These connect to the main soundbar wirelessly, letting you place them behind your seating position.

Having physical rear speakers enables true surround panning rather than just simulated.

An immersive bubble of sound envelops the viewer.

Of course, a full dedicated 7.1.4 speaker and subwoofer setup still provides the pinnacle of home theater audio.

But modern premium soundbars come remarkably close at just a fraction of the price, complexity, and clutter of a full surround system.

Soundbars with Added Features Like Bluetooth and Subwoofers

Image illustrating soundbars with additional features such as Bluetooth connectivity and subwoofers

Beyond the core soundbar speaker system, many models include bonus features that add functionality and convenience.

Wireless subwoofers are common to add thundering bass without running wires across your room. Built-in Bluetooth lets you directly stream music from your phone or tablet.

Some feature smart assistants and multi-room audio.

One of the most impactful extras is a wireless active subwoofer. Soundbars on their own tend to be bass deficient, so a sub augments the low-end response.

Placement is flexible since no wires are required. An 8-inch or larger sub packed with power can really make action movies and music come alive.

Just take care not to overdo the bass.

Bluetooth support also comes standard on most midrange and higher soundbars. This allows direct wireless audio streaming from any Bluetooth-enabled device.

You can play music, podcasts and more straight from a smartphone to the soundbar. This avoids the need to connect physically or constantly switch TV inputs.

Smart and voice assistant capabilities integrated into some soundbars let you play music, get information, and control your TV hands-free.

With built-in mics, just speak commands and the soundbar accesses an assistant like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant to serve your requests. No special smart speaker required.

For whole-home audio, higher-tier soundbars from Sonos, Bose and others enable multi-room grouping. Wirelessly synchronize audio with other compatible speakers placed around your house.

Start a song in the living room and keep listening as you move to the kitchen or patio.

Future-Proofing Your Home Theater with Dolby Atmos

Image illustrating the concept of future-proofing a home theater with Dolby Atmos technology

More and more movies, shows, and video games are being released with advanced Dolby Atmos audio for lifelike sound effects.

Choosing an Atmos-compatible soundbar future-proofs your setup for this immersive format. Atmos allows audio engineers to precisely position sonic elements in 3D space rather than just left/right stereo.

Dolby Atmos achieves this 3D sound bubble through object-based audio mixing rather than fixed channels.

Sounds are assigned positioning metadata to make them seem like they are originating from above, behind, or anywhere in the room.

With Atmos content, you’ll hear richer ambient effects and sounds that pan overhead.

Atmos soundtracks are found on a growing number of Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray discs. Streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+ also offer a substantial selection of movies and shows in Atmos.

Gaming consoles like Xbox Series X support Atmos as well for truly engrossing gameplay audio.

To enable Dolby Atmos playback, both your soundbar and TV must support the format via HDMI ARC connection.

Many premium 4K TVs and recent soundbar models include Atmos, but double check specifications before buying.

Experiencing cinematic Atmos sound at home just requires a compatible TV, soundbar, and content.

Even with stereo or non-Atmos content, an Atmos soundbar applies surround processing for an immersive audio boost.

And you’ll be ready to enjoy the latest movies in thrilling Atmos sound as adoption continues to grow. Future-proof your setup with an Atmos soundbar.

Getting Better Audio for TV, Movies, Music, and Gaming

Image illustrating the enhancement of audio for TV, movies, music, and gaming using a high-quality soundbar

A quality soundbar enhances just about any audiovisual experience. Movies and TV shows benefit from clearer dialogue, multi-dimensional surround effects, and powerful subwoofer bass.

Detail and realism improves for nature documentaries, action sequences, and concert footage alike.

Even stereo content gets an immersive upmix.

Streaming music playlists or listening to vinyl records through your TV also comes alive on a good soundbar.

Dedicated center and height channels add richness. An expansive soundstage fills the room. Improved drivers and amplification make your tunes really sing compared to TV speakers.

Podcasts come through more naturally as well.

Gamers can rejoice with a soundbar delivering realistic in-game effects. Engines roar during races, explosions resonate with subwoofer might, and ambient environmental sounds enclose you in the world.

Speech from NPCs comes through crisp and clear even in chaotic combat.

Soundbars also sync audio and video perfectly for lag-free gaming.

For really any TV, movie, music, or gaming activity, a soundbar boosts engagement through superior audio reproduction.

Even entry-level models outperform integrated TV speakers through improved components and calibration.

Check out professional reviews for the top-rated soundbars optimized for different applications like gaming or music.

Steps to Easily Set Up and Connect Your New Soundbar

Image illustrating the step-by-step process of setting up and connecting a new soundbar to a TV

Once you’ve purchased the perfect soundbar for your needs and budget, it’s time for the fun part – getting it hooked up!

Carefully unpack the soundbar and wireless subwoofer if included. Position the soundbar centered right below your mounted TV or place it on your TV stand directly in front.

For connecting, use the provided HDMI cable to plug the soundbar’s ARC HDMI input into the ARC HDMI port on your TV.

This allows audio signal transmission directly from TV to soundbar. Alternately, utilize the optical input if your TV lacks HDMI ARC support.

Some soundbars also feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless pairing.

Refer to your TV and soundbar manuals for model-specific setup instructions. You may need to enable HDMI CEC in your TV settings for seamless operation.

Once powered on, adjust audio settings like surround sound mode and subwoofer levels to your liking.

You can fine tune them later after more listening.

That’s really all there is to start enjoying vastly improved TV audio courtesy of your new soundbar! Stream a movie to put the system through its paces.

Dialogue, soundtrack, and effects should all sound tighter and more realistic. Enjoy the simplicity of controlling volume through your TV remote thanks to HDMI CEC.

Sit back and immerse yourself in sensational home theater sound.

Conclusion

Finding the right soundbar to pair with your TV can seem daunting at first, but following this step-by-step guide simplifies the process.

Start by evaluating your TV’s audio weaknesses and your desired improvements. Choose a soundbar configuration that fits your TV size and room.

Consider connectivity and compatibility to seamlessly integrate with your existing setup. Select a brand known for quality sound and easy pairing with your TV model.

Balance great sound with a price fitting your budget. Measure for a good visual fit on your TV stand.

Use HDMI ARC for optimal uncompressed audio signal between TV and soundbar. Look for immersive Dolby Atmos support and wireless subwoofers or satellite speakers for impactful surround sound.

With the right soundbar, dialogue, music, and effects all become clearer, enhancing your TV viewing experience. Follow these tips to find a soundbar that becomes the perfect audio complement to your TV.

Dominic

Dominic is the chief editor of the Burton Acoustix blog which writes about acoustics and soundproofing to help readers with their queries and questions they might have with regard to improving any sound or noise issues that they faced in their life.