Soundbar vs Surround Sound System – Which Is Better For You?

Updated on: September 27, 2022

Having a hard time trying to decide between a soundbar or a good surround sound system? You are not the only one. There are enough innovations that have happened on both ends and that has made it difficult for an average consumer to get the option but we are here to help you pick the right option.

Do note that there are a number of factors that come into play and without paying attention to the little details, you might not be able to choose the right audio experience. We are going to make it easier for you.

Soundbars generally come in 2.1 or 3.1 channels, with two or three built-in speakers and one dedicated subwoofer for bass. On the other hand, 5.1 channel soundbar contains five main speakers and 1 subwoofer.

Why Picking a Soundbar Might Make More Sense 

Why Picking a Soundbar Might Make More Sense 

Compared to surround sound systems that are incredibly complex, soundbars are the most obvious choice for anyone who is looking for a simpler way out. Soundbars are cheaper, easier to set up, they help keep the mess to a minimum, for the price you are paying, they sound excellent and look great.

However, this brings us to the opposite end where soundbars have some obvious downsides. Compared to surround sound systems, soundbars do not offer the same immersion; the sound is also not as full and if you are in a larger than average room, an average soundbar can end up failing right away.

Some Common Advantages of Soundbars

Soundbars do come with their fair share of advantages that are important to know about if you want a good experience overall. You can look at the advantages below so you can understand these better.

  • Simplification: Soundbars are great for anyone who wants something simple. They are super easy to use right out of the box, the setup is simple, and it hardly takes 5 minutes to set up your soundbar with both your TV and other devices. 
  • Universal Compatibility: With soundbars, you really do not have to stress whether or not they are compatible with all your other devices because they do offer multiple protocols and can run on almost every device, including smartphones, and smart home devices, as well as providing remote controls and seamless integration across various devices.
  • Lightweight: Almost all the soundbars you find in the market are slim and stylish and at the same time, they deliver excellent sound quality and are designed to fit even in tighter spaces. Soundbars are perfect solutions for rooms where being space-conscious is just as important as good sound quality.
  • Affordability: Another thing that makes soundbars excellent options is that most of the time, you are not spending a lot of money. Almost all soundbars will deliver an excellent price-to-performance ratio.

Some Downsides of Getting a Soundbar 

There are a few downsides of getting soundbars that I have mentioned before. You can have a look at them at your convenience.

  1. Reduced Flexibility: A really important thing that you must know is that soundbars do not offer the same flexibility. Unlike a traditional speaker system, you cannot upgrade a soundbar with different components. This means that once you do buy a soundbar, you are stuck with what you are being offered.
  2. The Sound Quality is Still Lacking: Yes, I previously mentioned that soundbars deliver the best bang for the buck but when it comes to a direct comparison in terms of sound quality, soundbars are not as good as dedicated surround sound systems. Considering how you are left with no flexibility and speaker placement. The front speakers are built-in into the soundbar and cannot be moved; this results in the soundbar delivering sound that is more emphasized from the front speakers as opposed to a fully immersive sound. 
  3. Only Good for Smaller Rooms: Another downside of soundbars is that they are going to work better in smaller rooms. There are very few options that will deliver a proper surround experience in larger rooms. This happens because of the speaker placement; in soundbars, speakers are placed in such a way that they are better for directed sound rather than multi-directional sound. If you want a soundbar in a larger room, you will need to get a longer soundbar that has multiple wireless surround speakers that can fill the room and of course, such a soundbar is going to cost you a lot of money and at that point, you are better off with a traditional surround sound system.

Why One Should Choose a Surround Sound System?

Why One Should Choose a Surround Sound System?

Now that we are done talking about soundbars, the next step is to explore surround sound systems and make a case as to why they should be picked up or not picked up. In most cases, surround sound systems are custom created and tailor-made all because of the fact that you can position the speakers based on your preference.

With surround sound systems, you are also not limited to the speakers that you are sold. You can always upgrade every single speaker on a surround system and create something that is truly based on your requirement.

Common Advantages of a Surround Sound System 

You can look at the common advantages of a surround sound system below.

  • Superior Sound Quality: The most common reason why anyone should choose a surround sound system is the superior sound quality; the fact that has been around since the beginning. You can easily upgrade and add new parts to your surround sound system that is tailor-made to your requirements and more importantly, your budget.
  • Works in All Conditions: Another reason why one should go for surround sound systems is that they work in all conditions. Regardless of the size of the room, you will never really have any issue with the sound quality or delivery. If you are facing issues, you can always reposition the speakers to create the type of sound profile you are hoping for. In case you feel like your room is too large and you want more sound, you can simply add more speakers to the existing setup and fill the room with as much sound as you would prefer.
  • Excellent Flexibility: Surround sound systems have excellent flexibility in a way that you can just go ahead and add more speakers to your sound system and create a more powerful, fuller sound. This feature is absent from the soundbars altogether.

What are the Downsides of Getting Traditional Surround Sound Systems

Now that we have explored the upsides of traditional surround sound systems, it is time ot start looking into some obvious downsides because it is important that you are informed before you make a decision.

  • Costly: Surround sound systems, as compared to soundbars are more expensive. This is largely due to the freedom that comes with these offerings. Surround sound systems are filled to brim with some really high-end components, and the offer to upgrade them, and get the sound you want. All of this adds up and turns into a premium. More often than not, a single component of a surround sound can end up costing as much as a soundbar. However, with surround sound systems, you always have an option to buy your components over time and not everything at once.
  • Complicated Combinations: Unlike soundbars, surround sound systems are more complicated. If you are new, you are going to have to take some time to figure out whether all the components are cross-compatible or not. Similarly, setting all the components together is another woe that you will have to deal with. Not to forget, placement is another key part that you can easily mess up. The point here is that if you are not well-versed in the surround sound systems and how things work, then you are in for a tough time.
  • Installation Can be Difficult: Unlike soundbars, dedicated surround systems are massive in size. If you are looking to make your audio setup look sleek and stylish with clean wire runs, then you are going to have to spend a good amount of time figuring out how that will be done. In some cases, you might even need to get professional help to sort things out. Placement is another key here as you cannot just put them altogether or in a tight space because they can cause overheating and that is never good for your components. The point here is that surround sound systems are not easy to set up and can be very overwhelming for newcomers.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound Systems – What Should I Pick Up?

Now that you know everything you need to know about soundbars and surround sound systems, it all comes down to the preference that you have, the size of the room, your needs, and how much are you willing to spend.

If you have a small room, budget is an issue, and you just want a good, no non-sense way of getting to enjoy your music, movies, and games, then getting a soundbar is the right thing to do.

However, if budget is not a problem, you are more than willing to spend time setting things up, and you have a larger room to fill, then picking up a surround sound system is what we would suggest.

I’m Shaun Conroy, an audiophile & founder of HiFi Audios. Holding a Bachelor’s in Sound Engineering, I bring deep expertise in audio devices and offer insights & recommendations to fellow enthusiasts.

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