Home theater enthusiasts long for the holy grail of a dedicated full surround sound speaker system. But not everybody has the space, money, or even the inclination to go this far.
The majority of people don’t want to spend the earth on a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system but want to improve on the standard sound that comes with their flat-screen TV. A good audio solution for these folk comes in the form of either a soundbar or a soundbase.
Both these audio systems offer an affordable and space-saving solution to poor TV audio. Although not offering the same surround sound bona fides as a multi-speaker setup, thanks to their convenience, price, and ease of use, they are both popular speaker systems that can also sound great.
So, what are the similarities and differences between the two systems? If you’re curious, in this article, I’ll delve into their relative pros and cons, to help you choose the right one for you. With that said, let’s get started with this Soundbar vs. Soundbase showdown…
What are They?
Starting with a soundbar, it’s a long and thin speaker system shaped like a bar with several speaker drivers. It’s usually a little shorter than the width of your TV and is designed to sit below it, taking over from the lackluster internal speakers.
Soundbars are most commonly used with TVs. Although they are compatible with home projectors or even your smartphone if it has Bluetooth streaming. They often come in a package with a separate subwoofer if you want to fill out the low end.
Soundbases are pretty similar to soundbars but come in a rectangular shape that you can place your TV directly on top of. The front of the base will contain several forward-firing speakers. Due to their extra size, they usually pack in some sideways firing speakers and have a rear bass port. They don’t come with subwoofers, although they can be added.
What are the Pros and Cons of Each Design?
From a design perspective, the modern feel and smallest of footprints allow them to disappear into the décor of most rooms very easily. If you have limited space, you can mount them on the wall below your TV very easily.
While you can pick up soundbars very cheaply, pay a little more for a top-of-the-line model, and they can rival similarly priced standard speaker setups in terms of sound quality. However, what they can’t manage is the stereo separation that you achieve with speakers placed far apart.
Due to their dimensions…
You can only fit drivers up to a certain size within a soundbar. The larger drivers of individual speakers will always out-compete soundbars, especially when it comes to volume. Pumping out a loud and muscular sound can be an issue for soundbars.
This can usually be conquered by adding a subwoofer to your soundbar if it doesn’t already come with one (as many do). This allows the soundbar to concentrate on handling the mid and upper ranges. Passing over responsibility for the low rumble to the woofer, giving you a much fuller sound.
The pros and cons are quite similar. They are much larger so will need more space under your TV. They are also not nearly as easy to mount on the wall as a soundbar. Ideally, they should be placed on a piece of furniture if you’re going to place the TV on top.
They, too, suffer from a relatively narrow spread of sound. Although many models compensate with side-firing drivers on top of the front-firing ones. There are many soundbases that have an in-built down firing subwoofer to look after the lower frequencies. This is why they don’t come with separate subwoofers.
Just like any other conventional speaker, soundbar and soundbase output are measured in watts. Some are as low as 30 watts, with the more powerful models getting up to over 300 watts. Soundbars with a sub present can get loud, so can the more powerful soundbases. The neighbors may well be popping over for a chat.
Surround Sound Capabilities
Many soundbar and soundbase manufacturers claim their units can mimic surround sound effectively but don’t believe the hype. Surround sound is one of the main concerns in the Soundbar vs. Soundbase debate. So, do soundbars feature surround sound or not?
Some are capable of a little more depth or enhancement than others, but that’s about it. It doesn’t compare with the real thing, nor will it ever be able to, purely because of physics. Soundbases, however, generally make a better stab of it with side-firing drivers.
Both soundbars and soundbases are extremely easy to set up. You don’t need to bother with a whole load of speaker cable. If you want to know how to set up a soundbar or soundbase, all you need is a power cord and a source cable, and off you go.
They both come with a range of similar connectivity options. At the lowest level, you’ll find a set of RCA inputs at the bare minimum. More expensive models will feature digital ins and outs of the coaxial and optical variety. HDMI connections will be needed if you want HD audio support for your Blu-ray of HD TV.
Some will also feature USB ports which you can plug devices into directly. Most models come with Bluetooth capabilities these days and rather sophisticated smartphone apps. These enable all sorts of cool control features and often, the ability to stream directly from your phone if you are a paid-up member to the many online services available these days.
Looking for some recommendations?
Well, for soundbars, we would go for the…
This is one of the best smart soundbars on the market and is also very affordable. It’s very easy to set up and features simple to use controls, high definition sound quality as well as Alexa voice control.
If you’re looking for one of the best value for money soundbars you can buy, this could well be it. The powerful, robust sound gives a quality audio experience for not a lot of dollars. Plus, it features three equalizer modes and comes with a remote control.
If you’re looking for high-quality sound but are short on space, this Best Mini Soundbar could well be the solution. It features innovative Voice Adjust Technology to create a customized, theater-quality surround sound system that includes a wireless subwoofer.
Or, if you’ve decided on a Soundbase, how about the…
This very affordable soundbase system features built-in Bluetooth, as well as exceptional sound reproduction technology that recreates the entire audio spectrum. It does this by using its bottom-mounted subwoofer with a ported tube design for extended bass performance and its four full-range speakers for a crisp, full-bodied sound.
If you want the highest quality sound and are willing to pay for it, then this is the best soundbase you’ve been looking for. It’s also discreet and practically disappears underneath your TV while the ten amplified speaker drivers deliver low-frequency booms, crystal clear whispers, and everything in between. It easily provides the ultimate soundbase home theater experience.
Need a Great Soundbar or Other Speakers?
We can help you find just what you are after. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best 7.1 Home Theater System, the Best Apple AirPlay Speakers, the Best Ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos, the Best Floor Standing Speakers, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, and the Best Bookshelf Speakers you can buy in 2023.
And don’t miss our handy guides on Bose SoundTouch 300 vs. Sonos Playbar, Soundbar Above or Below TV, Connect a Soundbar to TV Without HDMI or Optical, and How to Connect Speakers to your TV for more useful information.
Soundbar vs. Soundbase – The Final Verdict
If truth be told, there are great models available in both designs, and it will ultimately come down to space and aesthetic preference. If you have limited room or just want something less obvious, a soundbar will make the wiser choice. They are also generally more affordable than soundbases.
However, if you’ve got more space to play with, a soundbase will probably be the better option for you. Larger budgets will also have more options when it comes to soundbases. Whichever you choose, it’ll be a vast improvement over your built-in TV speakers, and you’re sure to appreciate the difference.
Until next time, happy listening.