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Acidicheartburn
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Sun May 14, 2017 3:49 pm

In my experience soundbars are a great way to spend a whole lot of money on not very much performance. Most of the lower end ones are basically TV speakers smacked into a horizontal plastic bar. The people who praise soundbars tend to be individuals who are upgrading from the built-in backwards or downwards firing speakers on their flatscreens. Nearly anything aftermarket is going to be an upgrade from that situation. As others have said, you'll get a lot more performance for your dollar if you buy a receiver and a pair of bookshelves or floor standers and a subwoofer. You will also need a home theater receiver to drive the speakers. This setup will get you much higher sound quality with much more clear voices (important for movies and television). An important thing to consider is that unless you're using HDMI passthrough with a compatible television you will likely have a separate remote for volume control on the receiver if you can't program that function into your cable's remote, or you'll have to get a universal remote. If you aren't a big movie buff and or don't care for strong bass you can skip a sub if you get speakers with large enough drivers. Definitive Technologies has some home theater speakers (https://www.definitivetechnology.com/products/promonitor-1000) that have passive bass radiators on the tops that help enhance their bass. It won't provide deeper bass but it will be stronger. I have a pair of the Promonitor 1000's for my TV and the bass radiators work, however I find that the speakers can sometimes rattle around on their feet a bit during explosions or other bass heavy scenes, so I had to "pin" them down to their stands with some blu-tack.

I think it's important to focus on voice clarity when choosing a pair of speakers for home theater. You're going to have regrets if you're stuck straining to understand conversations easily. I would definitely avoid going for speakers that aren't intended for home theater (speakers meant primarily for music in a stereo setup) as they won't usually be as clear for vocals. Try going to a Best Buy with a Magnolia in it and listening to dialogue in a movie on the various speakers. The Martin Logan Motion 4's (https://www.amazon.com/MartinLogan-Motion-Bookshelf-Speaker-Piano/dp/B0035FZ124) have some of the most clear dialogue I've heard in their price range, but they desperately need to be paired with a sub. A final thing to consider is that if you get bookshelf speakers you're either going to need to be able to fit them on your TV stand or you'll need to buy them some speaker stands, or wall mount them. The simplest solution here is to buy floor standing speakers with decent size woofers, eliminating the need to buy speaker stands and a subwoofer if you so choose.
 
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Sun May 14, 2017 4:05 pm

Acidicheartburn wrote:
In my experience soundbars are a great way to spend a whole lot of money on not very much performance. Most of the lower end ones are basically TV speakers smacked into a horizontal plastic bar. The people who praise soundbars tend to be individuals who are upgrading from the built-in backwards or downwards firing speakers on their flatscreens. Nearly anything aftermarket is going to be an upgrade from that situation. As others have said, you'll get a lot more performance for your dollar if you buy a receiver and a pair of bookshelves or floor standers and a subwoofer. You will also need a home theater receiver to drive the speakers. This setup will get you much higher sound quality with much more clear voices (important for movies and television). An important thing to consider is that unless you're using HDMI passthrough with a compatible television you will likely have a separate remote for volume control on the receiver if you can't program that function into your cable's remote, or you'll have to get a universal remote. If you aren't a big movie buff and or don't care for strong bass you can skip a sub if you get speakers with large enough drivers. Definitive Technologies has some home theater speakers (https://www.definitivetechnology.com/products/promonitor-1000) that have passive bass radiators on the tops that help enhance their bass. It won't provide deeper bass but it will be stronger. I have a pair of the Promonitor 1000's for my TV and the bass radiators work, however I find that the speakers can sometimes rattle around on their feet a bit during explosions or other bass heavy scenes, so I had to "pin" them down to their stands with some blu-tack.

I think it's important to focus on voice clarity when choosing a pair of speakers for home theater. You're going to have regrets if you're stuck straining to understand conversations easily. I would definitely avoid going for speakers that aren't intended for home theater (speakers meant primarily for music in a stereo setup) as they won't usually be as clear for vocals. Try going to a Best Buy with a Magnolia in it and listening to dialogue in a movie on the various speakers. The Martin Logan Motion 4's (https://www.amazon.com/MartinLogan-Motion-Bookshelf-Speaker-Piano/dp/B0035FZ124) have some of the most clear dialogue I've heard in their price range, but they desperately need to be paired with a sub. A final thing to consider is that if you get bookshelf speakers you're either going to need to be able to fit them on your TV stand or you'll need to buy them some speaker stands, or wall mount them. The simplest solution here is to buy floor standing speakers with decent size woofers, eliminating the need to buy speaker stands and a subwoofer if you so choose.

Everything about your post made me so happy I went with a Sonos setup. From ease of setup to ease of use to audio quality to fitting into my space. There is no way I would have gone with what you suggest. Straining to hear conversation is definitely not a problem with Sonos.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Sun May 14, 2017 8:24 pm

I think that was really the point in my post. I try and get people to consider all the ups and downs before trying to convince them to make a decision. You don't want to be that guy who convinced someone to do something without informing them of how difficult it would actually be. Lay out all the parts and let people put the pieces together for themselves.

The Sonos soundbars are a big step above most of the other soundbars you can get, and are probably the only soundbars worth considering unless convenience is a bigger factor than anything else. However, this is reflected in the price of the Sonos products. Most soundbars are in the $100 to $400 range, and I've not heard any in that price range that I thought were even remotely worth buying. Before I went with my Def-Tech 1000's I looked long and hard at various soundbars and was wholly unimpressed with all of them, except the Sonos Playbar. I will still maintain, similar to building a computer vs buying a prebuilt, you'll often get better performance for your money with a 2.0 or 2.1 setup for the same price as an equivalent soundbar. With that being said, I totally get the appeal of a soundbar vs bookshelves or floor standers and a separate receiver.
 
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 1:05 am

I wouldn't spend more than a couple hundred dollars on a soundbar; they're an aftermarket solution to bad flatscreen speakers courtesy of the push for thin bezels. I've heard a number of soundbars, the good ones aren't bad but not really amazeballs either. If you care enough to be spending serious money on home audio, get a real home theater system with a receiver and whatnot. The cost isn't much more than an overpriced "hi-fi soundbar", it will sound better, and it's modular so you can make it even better in the future.
 
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 2:11 am

Just my 2 cents.
Don't bother getting a soundbar, they're basically a gimmick. They can be fine if you're just looking for something to supplement the sound out of a TV but for the type of money you're talking about you'd be far better off with a stereo pair. I've listened to some ludicrously expensive soundbars and in my opinion they emphasise convenience and design over quality (which is fine if that's what you're after but not for me...).

Contrary to what people are saying in the comments here, everything is most definitely still mixed for 2.0 (stereo) despite the Dolby, DTS, SDDS, xxx etc. labels on the box. If the pathway is set up properly from the device you use to play something (like your PS4 or tuner etc) then it can decode the surround signal and mix it down to stereo anyway. That's pretty standard because most people don't have a surround setup. Regardless, stereo mixes are still a thing, even for cinema and particularly for TV.

Have a look at either a small stereo amp or, if your budget can extend to it, some sort of receiver; and a stereo pair. I wouldn't bother investing in a sub, at this price range its an effects box that rumbles once in awhile (at least in my opinion). You need to spend more to get value out of a sub, I would concentrate on getting good stereo first.

You'll need to figure out whether you can get a line out of the back of the TV, that's pretty common, because if you can then you can have a look at the powered monitor options people have mentioned (there's tons of good value powered monitors). I wouldn't however run them out of the headphone jack as it's not a line signal and that's doomed for disappointment. Your TV will almost certainly have an optical out for sound, you could run that into a receiver with a stereo pair. That gives you the option of upgrading to a center channel - rears and a sub down the road if you get a taste for this type of thing (I would get them in that order) but in terms of quality nothing beats a good stereo setup. You get the added benefit of it being the best option for music as well.

I would get (if I were in your position) bookshelf speakers which you can transition to rears one day if you want. There's many many good options but I like the UK brand Monitor Audio and I have a pair of RX8s. RX6s would be more than enough around a 50inch tv.
http://www.monitoraudiousa.com/products/silver/silver-1
I think you can get them for a good price if you're in the US. Should leave you some cash left over for the receiver or amp too (entry level yamahas or pioneers can be fine).

Don't worry too much about the surround hype to begin with, I can tell you from experience that the majority of the signal to the rears are FX and reverb, the vast vast majority. Center channel is a different story but it all starts with stereo.

In your price range you can put something really nice together and it'll be worlds better than what's in your TV, I also wouldn't be deterred from looking secondhand. Anyway I hope some of that is helpful.

Just one last point, Sonos is a pretty good system overall, a little exxy and its not top notch sound but as a system I've always really liked it. If you're looking for convenience and style / simplicity have a look at what they have on offer because it's also expandable over time. My friend installs it so've heard most of their gear over the years. Its a cool system if you really want the convenience of a soundbar.
 
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 6:38 am

Just out of curiousity - what's the problem with a headphone jack? Having the TV's remote to control the volume is a valuable feature when we're talking about budget stereo monitors that may otherwise be controlled by a volume knob at the rear of each cabinet. They're designed to be set once and then forgotten about, not constantly adjusted. I even broke a pair of BX8 monitors by overusing the volume knobs on the back and had to replace them.

I have never used a TV's headphone jack where it sounded any different to the line-out, and on a couple of TV's the single headphone jack has been labelled "headphones/line-out". I get that for high-grade audiophile-level output they may clip the soundwave very slightly in the same way that PC audio software control does, but we're talking about soundbars and budget studio monitors here, playing back what is largely low-fi, heavily compressed content streams. The quality of the source material and speakers is far more significant than a little bit of digital fidelity loss via a software amplifier.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 9:13 am

End User wrote:
I needed an external sound system as my TV speakers do not project speech well at all. My goal was to obtain audio clarity. I live in a multi unit building so massive sound was not my priority.

My primary audio space is 11" x 11" with the major downside that it is an open concept suit (downside as far as audio goes). Cable management was going to be a problem as I did not want any audio cables beyond the base unit.

I went with a Sonos setup - Plapbar/SUB/2x Play:1(rears). I have yet to go above 50% volume as the setup is extremely powerful. Audio clarity is excellent. Surround sound is more than adequate. The ability to manage the setup via my mobile devices is fantastic (I control every device via my mobile devices). I'm very happy with my purchase.


I wanted to try this setup, but it requires the right TV doesn't it? One that actually transmits a 5.1 signal via the optical port rather than dumbing it down to stereo? Do you have one of those TVs? Or do you jus use Pro Logic II?
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 10:56 am

southrncomfortjm wrote:
End User wrote:
I needed an external sound system as my TV speakers do not project speech well at all. My goal was to obtain audio clarity. I live in a multi unit building so massive sound was not my priority.

My primary audio space is 11" x 11" with the major downside that it is an open concept suit (downside as far as audio goes). Cable management was going to be a problem as I did not want any audio cables beyond the base unit.

I went with a Sonos setup - Plapbar/SUB/2x Play:1(rears). I have yet to go above 50% volume as the setup is extremely powerful. Audio clarity is excellent. Surround sound is more than adequate. The ability to manage the setup via my mobile devices is fantastic (I control every device via my mobile devices). I'm very happy with my purchase.


I wanted to try this setup, but it requires the right TV doesn't it? One that actually transmits a 5.1 signal via the optical port rather than dumbing it down to stereo? Do you have one of those TVs? Or do you jus use Pro Logic II?

My TV has optical out.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 11:05 am

NovusBogus wrote:
I wouldn't spend more than a couple hundred dollars on a soundbar; they're an aftermarket solution to bad flatscreen speakers courtesy of the push for thin bezels. I've heard a number of soundbars, the good ones aren't bad but not really amazeballs either. If you care enough to be spending serious money on home audio, get a real home theater system with a receiver and whatnot. The cost isn't much more than an overpriced "hi-fi soundbar", it will sound better, and it's modular so you can make it even better in the future.

I'm fortunate enough to be friends with enough audiophiles that I am familiar with the quality of man cave audio. I'm not going to say that Sonos is on par with those custom audio setups but I will say that I'm not lacking in the sound department. On top of good sound I got simplicity and minimalism in my audio setup.

The Sonos soundbar:

http://www.sonos.com/images/press/photos/Playbar3D.jpg
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 12:18 pm

End User wrote:
southrncomfortjm wrote:
End User wrote:
I needed an external sound system as my TV speakers do not project speech well at all. My goal was to obtain audio clarity. I live in a multi unit building so massive sound was not my priority.

My primary audio space is 11" x 11" with the major downside that it is an open concept suit (downside as far as audio goes). Cable management was going to be a problem as I did not want any audio cables beyond the base unit.

I went with a Sonos setup - Plapbar/SUB/2x Play:1(rears). I have yet to go above 50% volume as the setup is extremely powerful. Audio clarity is excellent. Surround sound is more than adequate. The ability to manage the setup via my mobile devices is fantastic (I control every device via my mobile devices). I'm very happy with my purchase.


I wanted to try this setup, but it requires the right TV doesn't it? One that actually transmits a 5.1 signal via the optical port rather than dumbing it down to stereo? Do you have one of those TVs? Or do you jus use Pro Logic II?

My TV has optical out.


Right, most TVs do. Most TVs though will downgrade a 5.1 signal to stereo when outputting sound to that optical out. I think a few Sony's and some Vizio's do that. So, I'm wondering if you have a TV that actually transmits 5.1 sound over the optical cable, or if you just rely on simulated surround sound, like Dolby Pro Logic.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 12:42 pm

I just re-read the OP because of all this Sonos talk and thought "there's no way the Sonos Playbar is going to be in the OP's price range if we're talking about soundbars" then realised that the budget is $1000.

Wow, that Sonos is expensive for a soundbar. Convenient, yes but I quote a leyman Engadget article:

Is it a replacement for your home stereo? No. Casual listeners will find no fault with the Playbar's sonic output, but if you're thinking this new Sonos can provide the depth of sound and stereo separation provided by a quality set of desktop speakers or a full component stereo, you'll be disappointed.


$1000 buys you a nice HDMI receiver and some quality 8" floorstanding or bookshelf speakers; There's just no way you can get that sort of sound quality out of a plastic soundbar with 3" drivers.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 12:45 pm

Acidicheartburn wrote:
Definitive Technologies has some home theater speakers (https://www.definitivetechnology.com/products/promonitor-1000) that have passive bass radiators on the tops that help enhance their bass. It won't provide deeper bass but it will be stronger.

A passive radiator is just a different way of designing a ported enclosure, with each type (port or passive radiator) having minor pros and cons for box design and layout. At the end of the day, it's either a well-designed speaker or it isn't. I note that DT is claiming a 47-30kHz response for that satellite, which would be pretty remarkable, but they're not providing a response curve and they apparently recommend that the receiver use an 80Hz crossover point. Hmmm (he said skeptically).
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 1:11 pm

When it comes to response curves, you really can't beat a large driver that has crossover with some silk-dome or equivalent. I think $500-750 should buy a really nice set of speakers that have a couple of 6-8" drivers and a tweeter per cabinet. Tannoy and mission both make great sets in this price range, leaving enough budget left for a respectable Yamaha or Onkyo HDMI receiver to intelligently tie it to the TV and anything else you want sound from.

The thing about clever porting and trying to make big sound from small boxes is that it only really works for certain types of sound/music. Case in point; Clever systems like the ones Bose design can actually give a really good response on sine-wave frequency testing, but the complex porting creates interference that ruins the response across more complex music, or (worse still) pink noise tests.

If you want good music reproduction regardless of genre, it's large drivers or nothing.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 2:14 pm

ludi wrote:
Acidicheartburn wrote:
Definitive Technologies has some home theater speakers (https://www.definitivetechnology.com/products/promonitor-1000) that have passive bass radiators on the tops that help enhance their bass. It won't provide deeper bass but it will be stronger.

A passive radiator is just a different way of designing a ported enclosure, with each type (port or passive radiator) having minor pros and cons for box design and layout. At the end of the day, it's either a well-designed speaker or it isn't. I note that DT is claiming a 47-30kHz response for that satellite, which would be pretty remarkable, but they're not providing a response curve and they apparently recommend that the receiver use an 80Hz crossover point. Hmmm (he said skeptically).

All I can offer is my ownership experience. These little guys have way more bass than a speaker of that size has any right to. It's not deep but it's strong for what they are. Strong enough to feel through the floor when they're on their speaker stands. Stronger even than my PSB Image B6's, my Wharfdale Diamond 10.2's, both of which have larger drivers. It's not deeper or punchier bass, mind you, just more movie-theater-esque. Besides, I didn't buy the Def-Techs because of any claims by the manufacturer, I bought them on comparison to a few other models I heard in a similar price range. I'm not trying to push these particular speakers like they are some kind of god-king choice. They're simply what I went with and for $200 and the receiver I already had it was a no-brainer compared to a soundbar.

@ Chrispy Post No 36:

The problem with a headphone jack is that you're using the junk-quality DAC and preamp built into the TV. Using S/PDIF or any other digital interface to a receiver will allow you to use the much higher quality DAC in the receiver for the analog conversion, which will result in a cleaner, better sound. You raise a good point though, in that using the headphone jack simplifies things by allowing you to continue to use the same TV remote to control volume without having to program something else or use a universal remote. At the end of the day, if it sounds fine to your ears and you're happy with how it's functioning then that's okay.
Last edited by Acidicheartburn on Mon May 15, 2017 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 2:18 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
There's just no way you can get that sort of sound quality out of a plastic soundbar with 3" drivers.

Never said it did.

What do you do when front floor standing or front bookshelf speakers are not doable?
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 6:03 pm

End User wrote:
Chrispy_ wrote:
There's just no way you can get that sort of sound quality out of a plastic soundbar with 3" drivers.

Never said it did.

What do you do when front floor standing or front bookshelf speakers are not doable?


Nothing; You can't!

OP isn't restricted to soundbar though. If he was, then Sonos is probably the least worst option. I'm sure as soundbars go, it's one of the best - but it's still a soundbar.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 6:43 pm

southrncomfortjm wrote:
End User wrote:
southrncomfortjm wrote:

I wanted to try this setup, but it requires the right TV doesn't it? One that actually transmits a 5.1 signal via the optical port rather than dumbing it down to stereo? Do you have one of those TVs? Or do you jus use Pro Logic II?

My TV has optical out.


Right, most TVs do. Most TVs though will downgrade a 5.1 signal to stereo when outputting sound to that optical out. I think a few Sony's and some Vizio's do that. So, I'm wondering if you have a TV that actually transmits 5.1 sound over the optical cable, or if you just rely on simulated surround sound, like Dolby Pro Logic.

My TV supports DTS-HD. The Sonos app indicates whether I am pushing stereo or surround content.
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 9:04 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
Just out of curiousity - what's the problem with a headphone jack? Having the TV's remote to control the volume is a valuable feature when we're talking about budget stereo monitors that may otherwise be controlled by a volume knob at the rear of each cabinet. They're designed to be set once and then forgotten about, not constantly adjusted. I even broke a pair of BX8 monitors by overusing the volume knobs on the back and had to replace them.

Nothing inherently wrong with line out but in my experience most tvs headphone output is not line out its an amplified headphone jack. In which case it sounds a lot worse passing that signal across to a pair of powered monitors or an amp. It is really convenient to have the volume controlled through the TV but for the OPs budget I think they can do better than the headphone out. A lot of tvs have a normal RCA connector on the back for left / right which is line out, I would use those for this. Some TVs will also pass volume changes across the HDMI to the receiver but its hard to know whether a combination of X tv and X receiver will do it without trying it (despite what it says on the box).
Someone mentioned the optical passthrough on the tv not always doing it for surround signals, that's absolutely right. Its always going to be an issue on that TV though, not much you can do about it except plug your devices into the receiver instead (or get a new TV). That is a consideration.
 
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Re: Soundbar vs. speakers

Mon May 15, 2017 9:15 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
$1000 buys you a nice HDMI receiver and some quality 8" floorstanding or bookshelf speakers; There's just no way you can get that sort of sound quality out of a plastic soundbar with 3" drivers.


Yeah, I think you're right. For the budget I think the OP can get a lot more out of that than the Sonos / soundbar x. They're spending enough money that they can do it right. The appeal of the soundbars though is the convenience which people sometimes want, simplicity. And as a system, the whole Sonos thing is pretty cool.

Get a pair of bookshelves and a receiver, you can get something which sounds really nice in your budget and you'll probably have it a lot longer than the tv.

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