Soundbars vs. Speakers: Which is Better?

Soundbars vs. Speakers: Which is Better?

There have never been better options for loudspeakers then today for setting up a home theater. But, people often wonder how a soundbar can compare to a discrete box speaker system. The soundbar category has evolved over the last decade making it a viable alternative to box speakers for even serious audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts. Entry level soundbars with amplifiers and DSP built in will greatly improve the sound compared to the internal TV speakers and are often a more budget friendly alternative to a discrete 5.1 speaker system. The passive soundbar allows the end user to buy a long vertical enclosure (customized to the size of the display) packed with very high quality components typically reserved for box speaker products. This also allows you to use the internal amplification of your AV receiver or separate power amp instead of the often limited power amps squeezed into a small enclosure also housing the speaker drivers. In this video, we explore the soundbar category and how it can compare to box speaker equivalents.

Audioholics Recommendations Amazon Shop:

Audioholics Recommended Soundbars:
Polk MagniFI Mini:

Bose 3.1 Soundbar:
Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4 Channel 800W Dolby Atmos Soundbar:

Definitive Technology XTR-SSA5 Ultra Slim Surround Speaker Bar :
KEF HTF7003 Sound Bar Speaker :
Martin Logan Motion SLM X3 Ultra-Slim 3-Channel Passive Soundbar:

Audioholics Recommended Cables:
250ft CL2 12AWG Speaker Cable:
Locking Banana Plugs:
9ft 4K HDR HDMI Cables:

Audioholics Recommended Electronics:
Denon AVR-X3700H 9.2CH AV Receiver:
Yamaha RX-A3080 9.2CH AV Receiver:
Denon AVR-X6700H 11.2CH AV Receiver:

Audioholics Recommended Speakers:
SVS Prime 5.1 Speaker / Sub System:
Klipsch RP-8000F Tower Speakers:
Pioneer SP-FS52 Speakers:
Sony SSCS5 Speakers:
SVS SB-3000 13″ Subwoofer:

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  1. Greg Richard on May 13, 2021 at 6:35 am

    Can’t see how a sound bar could be better than a dedicated home theater system.
    If someone choose a sound bar because of limited space all well and good, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get quality sound.
    IMO if space is an issue get a 3.1
    Two bookshelves for left and right and a center channel and one sub.
    No sound bar could beat that

  2. fuzeMF on May 13, 2021 at 6:35 am

    my wife left me after she saw how massive you are. fml. hope your having a good day.

  3. Ferd Smurf on May 13, 2021 at 6:36 am

    EVEN BOSE! LOL, literally I did laugh out loud.

  4. Michel Linschoten on May 13, 2021 at 6:38 am

    How’s this even a video 😂

  5. Jason Moore on May 13, 2021 at 6:41 am

    Excellent comparison! I have the GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D Array XL, along with a pair of SuperSat 3 Satellite Speakers for surrounds and one of their Force Field 5 subs thrown in, and it sounds amazing. It doesn’t quite compete with separates, but it’s pretty close. It sounds like… I didn’t have to compromise. Even 2 channel music sounds great!

  6. clint on May 13, 2021 at 6:42 am

    I would like to know where the crossover point is for price. I know that a $200 sound bar cannot be matched with a receiver and 5.1, but if you go up to $1,000 I would like to know how they compare.

  7. nX3lemZ on May 13, 2021 at 6:43 am

    WAF is the ultimate determinant factor. The USA market seems to pride itself in dedicated home theatre/cinema rooms. In South Africa we build with concrete primarily and let me tell you retrofitting to run wires would be very costly and in most cases inhibitive to the whole endeavor.

    Come to Soundbars. Traditionally the typical South African home housed an HTIB will ALL speakers placed at the front (yikes), including the surround speakers. With the introduction of soundbars, the setups are easier and much better on the eye.

    My wife HATES wires and we previously had an HTIB from Samsung with surround wires running underneath our carpet and surrounds sitting on top of the couch. She appreciated the immersive sound but HATED the wires so much she was willing to forgo the superior surround sound. That small HTIB packed up after a power surge, it was 4 years old. I bought a Samsung HW-Q90R. I might say, she loves it more than me…almost.

    Conclusion: It really depends on your setup and that most important factor WAF.

    Great topic, Great video!

  8. Guido Werner on May 13, 2021 at 6:45 am

    Old school here.. but we put up old 2nd hand active studio monitors. Easy and brilliant

  9. MrDante10no on May 13, 2021 at 6:46 am

    WAF is the most important factor. If it is low, you are out of luck buddy. 🙂

  10. Jared Hylton on May 13, 2021 at 6:47 am

    Soundbars are like any other area in audio.

    First they have inherent characteristics and problems that must be overcome. These are different than a true surround sound system, but both have them.

    Second, there is a huge variety of designs and quality levels. Which means there is absolute junk, and some truly audiophile grade items, and of course everything in between. This is again true of soundbars and conventional systems.

    Third there are many different solutions to the issues that the footprint of these create. Some solutions range from ignoring (or worse yet making things worse trying to solve them) to ingenious that make you wonder how did they do that. This is again true of both soundbars and conventional systems.

    Fourth, and this is where we get some separation. While every system has compromises and issues that must be overcome, I think it is apparent that a soundbar form factor lean towards WAF and must overcome those compromises from a performance perspective. Conventional systems usually have less performance compromises, but have more WAF issues.

    Fifth, simply, the soundbar is still a newer system and companies haven’t spent as many years engineering them, but in the last 5 years or so it is plain to see that some serious improvements have been hitting.

    This is really long, so I will wait and go over specifics in a later post.

  11. Rand999 on May 13, 2021 at 6:47 am

    Great vid Gene, the boys on r/hometheater will hate it. We moved into a house last year with a medium size U shaped living room. My wife has hated towers and stands in our living room our entire marriage so I told her I would buy an LCR sound bar and try it out. I looked at Klipsch, Def Tech , Atlantic Technology, and a whole bunch of others then came across the BIC FH56BAR. For $250??? Can’t be good. Hardly anything about it anywhere as far as reviews, and it’s been around for years. But on a whim I bought one thinking it would be temporary and OMG, this thing pumps sound like crazy. Voices are crystal clear, and with the speakers on the end the soundstage feels like it’s about 8 or 9 feet wide (we’re about 12 feet from it). I’m running it as only front and center and I’m telling you there is sorcery going on. It blends perfectly with my SVS sub too. Does it sound better than a dedicated front and center set up? No, but it doesn’t sound worse either, especially in this room, even for music. I wouldn’t recommend for a large room, but less than 400 sq ft and it’s amazing.

  12. Jae kamacho on May 13, 2021 at 6:48 am

    while i do love and really enjoy my atmos set up, my vizio soundbar with a dedicated sub pre out was the perfect choice for the master bedroom. i added a spare klipsch subwoofer i had laying around and it sounds awesome for a soundbar set up.

  13. Rod Lee on May 13, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Fine if you have a decent size living room but what about a 10 x 15 living room apt?

  14. Xander Guldie on May 13, 2021 at 6:52 am

    "Wife acceptance factor lol! My wife knew what she was getting into. Sho no small shitty speakers for me.

  15. saleh kambijo on May 13, 2021 at 6:53 am

    budget av receiver vs budget soundbar dolby atmos what wuold u choose?

  16. Rich Graf on May 13, 2021 at 6:54 am

    Gene, I couldn’t agree more with you! I felt exactly the way you did about soundbars originally and I built a Home Theater with all speakers, then at the CES show in 2017, I experienced the Creative Labs Soundbar for the first time and it really opened my eyes (and ears!) to the fact that soundbars have gotten a lot better. I now have a Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 SSE soundbar and I love it!!! It has provided the best solution for my summer home and it was the easiest Home Theater setup I’ve ever done. The two 10" subwoofers really give it that extra kick I was looking for. You may want to do a review of the Nakamichi soundbar because in my opinion, it’s one of the better ones!

  17. Dawin Estrella on May 13, 2021 at 6:55 am

    So. Cables is a big WAF thing. Some videos of cable management would help.

  18. John BassHead Work on May 13, 2021 at 6:56 am


  19. Javier Diz Gonzalez on May 13, 2021 at 6:56 am

    If you buy a good soundbar, but also a good soundbar, yes, the certainties sound very good. But for me in my home theater, I prefer a good surround amplifier and high-end speakers. But there are indeed very good sound bars for sale now… Everyone has their own taste. Thank you for this video. As always nice and good … Peace and love and of course High-end Home Theater and High-End Stereo. Greetings from the Netherlands Limburg Maastricht.
    And as always … keep listening👂

  20. We The north on May 13, 2021 at 6:57 am

    Sound bars have come a long way but they will never be full range so for high res music there is no possible way a sound bar can compete in that regard.

  21. MZ MZ on May 13, 2021 at 6:57 am

    Thanks Gene for beggining of covering the topic of soundbars. I know they do exist, however would like to dig deeper to technology that they use /different approaches that maximaze the sound goal given the form/volume limitations.

  22. SSJBen on May 13, 2021 at 7:00 am

    UNFORTUNATELY, people are buying soundbars with 50 drivers in them because they want to say "look I have Atmos".

    Yes, people are buying soundbars with upfiring drivers. If you look at the soundbar market, that’s where the market is heading towards.

  23. Pravin ranchhod on May 13, 2021 at 7:00 am

    Hands down no sound bar can ever touch a full speaker system why don’t you do a test

  24. P Singh on May 13, 2021 at 7:01 am

    Sound bars are for ghetto people pure hot garbage!

  25. Tyler Stout on May 13, 2021 at 7:01 am

    Biggest issue is that yes if you throw enough money at a problem you can overcome the laws of physics but at the same time taking that same money you would always get better sound. Sure there’s a magic spot where you can’t really get anything cheap enough new to counter the soundbar price but there’s always the option to go used since AVRs and speakers don’t go bad quick.

  26. Ailurophile900 on May 13, 2021 at 7:03 am

    man i came judgmental and left educated, I loved this

  27. Karthick G on May 13, 2021 at 7:05 am

    Hello to all the team of Audioholics. All the videos which I watched on your channel are awesome. 
    I am Karthick from India. It would be great if you give me a guidance to purchase a good desktop speakers alternate to Bose companion 50. If the price range is similar to Bose Companion 50 is good else even a little more is also considerable if the output is great sound for YouTube videos and amazon prime video, Netflix.
    How about Klipsch R 51 PM or Klipsch Soundbar as desktop speakers?

  28. Detail Forward on May 13, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Looking good man!

  29. Larry Cai on May 13, 2021 at 7:13 am

    a lot of USA-centric opinions here… in many countries, soundbars from big brands like Samsung/LG/JBL are the only way to get reasonable 5.1+ without spending over 2k.

  30. Jack Ryder on May 13, 2021 at 7:14 am

    You bet you are right

  31. thudeets on May 13, 2021 at 7:16 am

    Soundbars are a "lifestyle" solution, not an audiophile solution.

  32. Kevin Gardner on May 13, 2021 at 7:16 am

    @Audioholics Gene, thanks for another super video and your opinion on products. The price of a good soundbar system is so close to an entry level 5.1(that you spec’d out) I think space and time is the biggest factor in the decision. When the exception of "WAF". Now, If someone is on a now far too common Covid-19 unemployment budget, connect the TV output to a stereo and enjoy far better sound. It’s what most of us did 30+ years ago. If one can afford $150 – buy a Klipsch THX Pro Media computer 2.1 system and connect that. I tried it with mine and it was really good. However, the volume control is tricky.

  33. Thomas Siegers on May 13, 2021 at 7:22 am

    Best sounding atmos soundbar?

  34. Mike Dinno on May 13, 2021 at 7:22 am

    What about mid bass though? Where would the crossover have to be set to the subwoofer? It’s almost like the argument bookshelf vs towers only sound bars fall underneath bookshelves. Can they handle the cross being set at 80 and like I said where’s the mid bass? Maybe sound bars are on the same level as little satellites like the NHT SuperZero? That would be pushing it, IMO.

  35. Chendo95 on May 13, 2021 at 7:22 am

    Okay fun question, what if you price matched both soundbar and traditional speakers, which would be the best?

  36. sirdan357 on May 13, 2021 at 7:22 am

    I don’t get the point of a passive soundbar at all. The whole benefit of a soundbar to me is having an all-in-one unit that you can just plop down in front of your TV and be done with it without having to run wires to an AV receiver.

  37. Dj Jimbrowski on May 13, 2021 at 7:23 am

    I almost didn’t watch this video because I anticipated you would say sound bars are terrible. I think that sound bars can be an excellent solution for some rooms. I have a room that is extremely difficult to place speakers in. I went with a GoldenEar SuperCinema 3D XL with SuperSat 50’s for surrounds and an SVS SB16U and it sounds awesome!

  38. Anuraj Kumar on May 13, 2021 at 7:24 am

    Is there a good soundbar arround 300-400$ which sounds good without subwoofer ? Having good bass ?
    I just like a minimalist look.

  39. Tearial311 on May 13, 2021 at 7:25 am

    I have a Klipsch soundbar in my living room with a sub. It sounds really nice. Home Theater is in the basement

  40. Joe Marz on May 13, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Yeah you can have good sound from a soundbar, but at 3-4 times the price of a similar quality 2 channel system. But for my mom’s TV is OK though.

  41. isaacsykes3 on May 13, 2021 at 7:26 am

    You forgot about GoldenEar…

  42. Ibhenriksen on May 13, 2021 at 7:27 am

    Very very few soundbars have crisp highs, something that is important so that they don’t sound too soft.

  43. Erick Perdomo on May 13, 2021 at 7:28 am

    Hey there…I need to downsize my speakers…sad but ok…How is the MartinLogan Motion SLM X3 speaker bar? Better than a Paradigm Millenia20 trio I used to have? any opinions? I would use a subwoofer of course….thanks

  44. Andreas Möller on May 13, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Speakers wins easily for me, their is no soundbar that can compete with a floorstander or bookshelf when you listen to music

  45. NES088 on May 13, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Which klipsch center channel speaker gives better sound quality, the RP-404c with quad 4" drivers? Or the RP-600c with dual 6.5" drivers? It would be paired with RP-600m L&R which have single 6.5" drivers.

  46. Richard Davidsson on May 13, 2021 at 7:31 am

    what about the Sennheiser AMBEO 3D Home Audio Sound Bar?

  47. bill wiley on May 13, 2021 at 7:32 am

    Not much question is speakers are the best actual option for sound but in just about all cases a decent quality soundbar far exceeds the factory tv speakers where for whatever reasons separate speakers are not deemed to be an option.
    Adding even a smaller 10"sub if possible will do wonders to helping the overall sound quality of most soundbars as well.

  48. Neil Kaye on May 13, 2021 at 7:33 am

    Not even a question it’s speakers

  49. TassieLorenzo on May 13, 2021 at 7:33 am

    Where does soundbar end and centre speaker begin? 🙂 Some of these passive soundbars seem more like really wide centre speakers!

  50. britainF1 on May 13, 2021 at 7:34 am

    What I’m wondering is whether or not soundbars are superior to a set of affordable in-walls up front, such as 3 Elac Debut in-walls. Sal, I’d love to hear your perspective on that one. Also high WAF, maybe even higher, more channel separation, etc.