Emergence of large TV sets
With an ever increasing size of Television sets and their growing popularity which is evident from the decrease in price and the overall affordability has come the need for larger sound.
What good is a big picture if the audio is thin, hollow and does not compliment the larger display panel. The matter of fact is while TV manufacturers are striving to make TVs bigger and thinner the speakers in them are really no match for the visual appeal of the TV. As a result the only way to get a respectable sound stage is the use of additional speakers. This can be done by attaching an amplifier and then connecting speakers to the amplifier and placing the said speakers on floor or stands as the case may be. However there are two issues at play here. First is the clutter, you will end up cluttering and having too much equipment even if you only needed decent audio. Secondly you may need to spend large bucks to procure an amplifier and correspondingly speakers.
While this may be possible and doable for some not all rooms, aesthetically allow for that. This creates the perfect place for soundbars. These are horizontal laid speakers with an inbuilt amplifier. They can be wall mounted below or above the TV, similarly they can be used as a TV base too. The end result is higher audio output with minimal aesthetic displacement. Basically its a single unit system capable of amplifying TV audio.
Types of Soundbars
Soundbars come in many different styles and quantity of pieces. For instance there are soundbars, there are soundbases, soundbars with subwoofers, soundbars with surround speakers to name a few. Then there is the type of channels the soundbar has. It could be 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 3.1 and could stretch to as many as 7.1.4 channels combined in a single unit or spread among a few units.
Most basic soundbars for instance ones costing around 2000 rupees in India are 2.0 channel soundbars. These are usually ones needed for smaller rooms and basic amplification needs where the sound of the TV is too puny or worse the speakers of the TV have been damaged or blown. This type of soundbar is a single unit one and can have Bluetooth connectivity for usage with other devices too. The audio output is usually on the lower side and these soundbars top out at 35 watts which is decent output capability. We would say that if you need to buy soundbar under ₹ 2000 go for Brands like Boat, Zebronics and Balupunkt. These offer some decent entry level soundbars in India.
A small bump in the budget offers decent gains and increases the output capabilities to around 80 watts. That is a big bump and the effect can be felt immediately. The additional benefit of this bump is the fact that in the price range soundbars come with a dedicated subwoofer unit. This unit adds depth, punch and character to the audio profile, in the right sized room with proper placement, cinematic experience can be had no less. Features such as optical in put, Bluetooth and Dolby decoding is available too. The price in the said budget is that of around ₹ 5000.
Still not satisfied then you need to spend above 10000 rupees to get what you are looking for. In that price range brands such as Sony, JBL, LG, Boat offer some fantastic soundbars which offer 100 plus watts of audio output, dedicated subwoofers (wireless in some cases) HDMI capabilities and decent DTS, DTS-X, Dolby, Dolby Atmos decoding depending on the final product you choose. It is our thinking that spending beyond 20000 rupees on a soundbar will give you more audio output, better performance but laws of diminishing returns kicks and the gains become more and more difficult to perceive.
Connectivity in Soundbars
At the very rudimentary level a Soundbar should have RCA and Aux input. This allows for connectivity with almost all types of devices. Having said that some of the newer generation of Television sets skimp on AUX/Headphone output and offer only optical output. This necessitates buying a soundbar which has optical/toslink input. Apart from that having features such as Bluetooth, FM, HDMI ARC, Microphone input (karaoke function), Airplay, Coaxial digital and lastly USB port are bonuses and may be a requirement in your case. Boat Soundbars are extreme value for money as in the same price range they tend to offer greater flexibility and connectivity options.
This is a novelty feature in a soundbar and is to be seen only on 5 or 7 channel soundbars. These are equipped with upward-facing speaker mounted on the soundbar to create a object in 3D space around you, also known as Dolby Atmos or DTS-X. This capability also requires soundbar to have Dolby Atmos and/or DTS X decoding built in to it. Our take on these soundbars is that while they do increase the overall surround effect they are far from the actual Atmos effect that can be experiences using true ceiling mount speakers. A word to the wise, buy such soundbars only from premium brands like Sony, Polk, Bose, JBL etc. Having said that at budget level having Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus decoding would suffice for most users.