ARTICLE: Soundbar or AV Receiver – which one should you choose?

Coulson

Distinguished Member
I understand that point but I would not pay a high price (>£500) for a soundbar as we understand it's inherent limitations. For those wanting Home Theater for Atmos / DTS:X, then of course budget is a different matter.
Yeah I would want Atmos/DTS:x but then I'm a bit of a wannabe nerd. I've even got THX 7.1.4 neural processing software on my PC connected to an external DAC to make sure I get my fix of Atmos even if I'm using headphones. :eek:
 

password1

Well-known Member
A good article.

I would add another solution for those who don't want extra cables for rear speakers and sub but want the features and extra connectivity of an avr. How about a compromise using a passive sound bar powered by an avr. An avr usually has different sound modes and may also have virtual/emulated surround sound.

A wireless subwoofer kit can be used.

One problem with wireless surround speakers is that they're not actually wireless. They have no speaker cable from the avr but they still have a mains cable going for each surround speaker. This will be an issue if there are no mains sockets at the back of the room near each surround speaker. In which case, if the mains socket is at the front or not nearby, you'd have mains cable instead of speaker cable.

Another possible issue with upward firing speakers built into the left and right, is that manufacturers always show a diagram of speakers in the ideal position (no tow in and equal distance apart). Speaker manufacturers recommend experimenting with toeing in the main speakers, but if the upward firing speakers are fixed then it might compromise the angle or direction of the upward firing speakers if the left and right speakers are toed in?
 
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Evinger

Well-known Member
Our setup has to fit in a 4m x 2m Alcove. We definitely wanted Atmos, but with a 3,1m high ceiling & no chance to put anything on the walls, our present setup with the Atmos speakers attached behind the TV is the only way to make it work. When we were looking around, Soundbars were not up to Today's standard, & even now something like the Q950T, if the Atmos speakers could crank up loud enough to reflect off the Ceiling, the sound would miss our Couch completely. So, a Soundbar would be neater, but (Even if I had the cash), I doubt could do the job as well as what we have.
 

Ian_Whitt_UK

Active Member
Due to some internal re-configuration works i've got to move from an AVR 7.1 wired setup, to a soundbar.

Finding it really hard to pick one, as I always seems to find posts saying how bad they are .....

Torn between a Sony HT-G700, Sony HT-ZF9, Samsung HW-Q70T and Samsung HW-Q800T. If anyone can provide advice to point me in the right direction it would be greatly appreciated.

Use cases / Setup:
Nvidia Shield - Lossless Audio
Sky Q 4K
Chromecast Ultra - Stadia

Many Thanks
 

invisiblekid

Distinguished Member
I used to have a full fat 5.1 with Monitor Audio Silvers with front floor standers. Loved them and the capabilities of a full amp.

But when we switched rooms and upgraded to a 65" TV it simply didn't fit in the room. I have the original Samsung Atmos soundbar and do love the pretty convincing Atmos sound. I also have perfect power sockets for the rears.

However, soundbars are severely compromised with inputs and no room correction. The correction is important with Atmos and your seating position; without correction, I do need to sit in the middle of the floor to get the best Atmos effect. Generally, the sub is also less than great, so the new Klipsch has me very interested or a future where you can add your sub.

I do think for Atmos, soundbars without rears and I go as far as to say the rears must have up-firers also. Without them, an Atmos bar is pointless imo, so that being the case, I'd choose a good 2.0 stereo that would offer a far better sound than a soundbar.

Soundbars will always be a compromise in sound, but for many, many people, it's a compromise they cannot ignore. I'd give my right arm for an full Atmos set-up, but it's simply impossible in my room.
 

keithwiggins

Well-known Member
I came to soundbars via an Anthem receiver driving goldenears with a variety of subs bk/svs/mj/velodyne/deftech etc. it sounded very good , but i really dont miss it at all, you just need to balance the separates against a massive leap in convenience and tidiness. Oh and buy as good a sounding soundbar as practicable.
pack away the mains conditioners, specialist speaker cables, gold plated plugs etc etc and learn to enjoy again the sound quality such as it vs listening to the equipment.
 

dion 6

Active Member
Hi I've had 2 soundbars basic all in one yamaha then a yamaha ysp 2500 which was an excellent soundbar with separate sub. But I really wanted to hear full surround sound and a few years ago after an email from Richer sounds about a bundle offer I took the plunge and bought the Sony avr in Steve's article and the original monitor mass 5.1 system for £799 the difference was chalk and cheese but you have to have the right room layout for it to work and if you don't a soundbar is an excellent option. As for aesthetics as far as cables are concerned I'm OCD so I went the hole hog and cut holes up the walls and the length of the ceiling to get past beams lifted the carpet cut underlay away so the cables would lie flat. It was a lot of mess at time but well worth it the front and rears are wall mounted with no cables to be seen and the centre sits on the av unit under the tv which I wall mounted as well. Since then I've swaped the mass for monitor radius and a rel sub and 2 cambridge audio C46 ceiling speakers for atmos which are the same size as a downlight and very discreet I've now promised my wife no more holes in the walls.😀
 
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BillRawles

Active Member
One problem with wireless surround speakers is that they're not actually wireless. They have no speaker cable from the avr but they still have a mains cable going for each surround speaker. This will be an issue if there are no mains sockets at the back of the room near each surround speaker. In which case, if the mains socket is at the front or not nearby, you'd have mains cable instead of speaker cable.

Just on the above, I would think that that chances of having a power socket on/near the "back" wall would be quite high though. This would still be a lot better than having to run speaker cables right around a room - I'm thinking it's not even possible in my case, it would have to underfloor/in ceiling.

Also, while being in a very exclusive club, the JBL rears are actually wireless. They dock with the bar and charge when not in use - I fully understand that they don't have the fidelity of proper AVR surrounds but they work surprisingly well.
 

Nick74

Distinguished Member
Having contemplated this question quite a bit, I concluded that if I want to declutter the living room, the best compromise would be to run a very good two two channel setup.

This would in most instances look more attractive than the lump of metal and fabric that is a soundbar, especially if there's a sub taking up floor space. It'd sound a lot better, too, especially with music.

You can keep your acoustic processing and faux surround sound. I'd go for the middle ground option between soundbar and muti-channel setup. Sure, it'd be front heavy, but that compromise would be more than offset by the improvement in overall quality.
 

Pecker

Distinguished Member
I am surprised that the likes of Denon & co. haven't done more to develop and release set ups with wireless amplification for rears, and wireless modules for subs,

You can get some very pleasant-looking sub-sat systems like the Monitor Audio Mass, which would easily trump any soundbar paired with something like a Denon AVRX550, combined price £800.

Take the rear L&R surround amplification out of the AV amp, so the receiver does all the processing & switching and amplifies front LCR, sending wireless signals to a rear stereo amp and the subwoofer.

Not difficult, and wouldn't add a huge amount to the cost. They should still be able to do this for under £1,000.
 

Clem_Dye

Distinguished Member
I moved from a separates to soundbar many years ago and don’t regret it at all. Sure, it was a compromise, but overall my Yamaha YSP4100 has served me well. The overall sound effects are reasonably realistic and the setup ensures domestic bliss (happy wife, happy life) as SWMBO no longer complains about our front room looking like a hi-fi shop.

Having said all that, most modern soundbars don’t seem that clever to me. Firstly, there’s a lack of connectivity. Just why are there so few HDMI ports? That won’t be an issue when eARC is fully established, but right now, that just doesn’t work. Why the fascination with only wireless subs.? They don’t work for everyone, yet most modern soundbars don’t offer a wired connection as an alternative. (Well done, Yamaha!) Why do a lot of modern soundbars not support any DTS codecs, Sonos being a case in point?

Soundbars have the potential to offer a versatile solution, yet manufacturers seem hell bent on making life difficult for many of us that want the flexibility of a fully-fledged a/v setup but either don’t want or can’t support a full blown system.
 

Toon Army

Well-known Member
If anyone is decorating their room, for the sake of the cost of speaker cable, wire it up in case you decide to go for it. I regret not running cable (up the brick wall) for Atmos in ceiling / digital Ariel (stuck with satellite), now the thought of starting to raggle a brick wall...well, it’s not happening...
Have you thought about Ghost Wire?
 

Gordon2147

Active Member
Just on the above, I would think that that chances of having a power socket on/near the "back" wall would be quite high though. This would still be a lot better than having to run speaker cables right around a room - I'm thinking it's not even possible in my case, it would have to underfloor/in ceiling.

Also, while being in a very exclusive club, the JBL rears are actually wireless. They dock with the bar and charge when not in use - I fully understand that they don't have the fidelity of proper AVR surrounds but they work surprisingly well.
I would like to add to this regarding the wireless rears. They seem to work fine in my environment and are for obvious reasons extremely flexible in placement with only the caveat of making sure the upfiring drivers are not blocked. I also bought a couple of cheap portable batteries to power them for longer over the weekends, but docking them at night during the week is hardly a chore.

My time so far with the JBL 9.1 shows that I would dearly love to have an AVR set up, but just don't want the additional furniture and cabling, that others have spent quite a bit of money getting hidden one way or another.

It will take a while before sound bars can reproduce at full size set up levels and even then won't keep up with floor standing based sets with monster subs, but I am certain they will improve and get better battery powered rears, which will make them a match to a certain degree, which is what I am waiting for, whilst using the JBL set up in the mean time, gives me surround and overhead to a satisfactory degree. However once the Soundbar systems get 7.1.4 with better sound quality and battery powered rears that are the size they are now, then I am up for paying more than I did this time round.

It really is a case of what best suits you and your family, plus your home, as to which is the best, but if I were to put my neck out I would say AVR every time, even though I have gone the soundbar route.

Soundbars will always be behind in my opinion due to the limitations of the drivers. Hopefully technology will overcome it, but physical size is a hard one to beat.

For what it is and how much I paid for it, the JBL system is good value and a reasonable compromise for me. TV shows in particular are benefitting from the system, such as the Mandalorian and the Expanse.
 

El Barto

Active Member
Yup, totally agree, less than ideal but with room correction it makes for a really nice space. You always have to work with what you've got and make compromises.

Burn it, burn it with fire :confused::D
 

StefanBFC

Well-known Member
I thought the main reason for Atmos is purely for sound to travel through more channels, mainly over-head for pure immersive sound?
I fail to see how Dolby Atmos is a selling point in any soundbars? I've owned up-firing speakers and they added nothing, since replaced then with ceiling speakers which make a huge difference.
 

steviedr

Distinguished Member
Have you thought about Ghost Wire?
I’d never heard of this, pretty neat application, might get away with verticals going up the corner of the walls to avoid obvious shadows (light comes in across wall).
 

zubeir

Well-known Member
Due to some internal re-configuration works i've got to move from an AVR 7.1 wired setup, to a soundbar.

Finding it really hard to pick one, as I always seems to find posts saying how bad they are .....

Torn between a Sony HT-G700, Sony HT-ZF9, Samsung HW-Q70T and Samsung HW-Q800T. If anyone can provide advice to point me in the right direction it would be greatly appreciated.

Use cases / Setup:
Nvidia Shield - Lossless Audio
Sky Q 4K
Chromecast Ultra - Stadia

Many Thanks
I have the Sony G700 on earc with the Sony 65xh9505 TV, it's a decent sound bar for the price. It depends on your budget. The ZF9 has arc support, the G700 is fully earc compatible.
If you are not bothered about wifi/Chromecast then go with the G700. I use the G700 in a room measuring approx 6.5m x 3.5m with 9ft ceiling and it does the job. Plenty of rumble from the subwoofer and I only have it up halfway.
 

Rizvan

Well-known Member
I have owned the Samsung HW-N950 and the LG SN11RG. I was really impressed with them, however they had some niggles which annoyed me enough to eventually push me towards a dedicated AVR + 5.1.2 setup. The soundbar niggles were not all solely audio related either.

I think that the latest high end Atmos 7.1.4 / 9.1.4 sound bars are really good and have their place. They will be good enough for many people especially those who don’t want big speakers everywhere. however as mentioned above, sonically they can’t complete with a dedicated setup.

I think manufacturers are doing their best to fill gaps in the market place.

What the article doesn’t mention is that some of the latest generation sound bars can be had with discounts, for example they LG SN11RG was on offer recently down to £749ish.
At that price it’s a very hard choice.... ;)
 

password1

Well-known Member
Just on the above, I would think that that chances of having a power socket on/near the "back" wall would be quite high though. This would still be a lot better than having to run speaker cables right around a room - I'm thinking it's not even possible in my case, it would have to underfloor/in ceiling.
Well the recommended positions for surrounds in a 5.1 setup is above the MLPs head and that would mean extending the mains cables for larger rooms. I doubt most UK lounges have a mains socket either side of the back wall.

I have one mains socket at the front left corner of the room and another at the side of the room. Id have to route the mains cables along or under the carpet and up walls, around around a radiator, and run an extension lead or two to reach both surround speakers.
 
I had a decent set up - Arcam AVR750 with B&W CM9 based 5.1 and BK Mono and sold it all and went for the Samsung Q90 Soundbar. It was alright for what it was, but it lasted about 3 months before I had a NAD T758/Rotel 1095 and B&W Nautilus speakers back in.

I think having 'both' is the ideal situation - I don't want to fire up a power amp to watch some Netflix crap or a kids film, but the built in speakers are awful on my LG C9, so we are looking at adding a soundbar for daily viewing and use the 'system' when we properly sit down to watch a movie.

If I had to pick one option for £1300, I would 100% look for a used system - something like Denon 3300, with older B&W 600's and a BK Mono can easily be attained for about that amount of money.

These high end soundbars I guess have their place, but they aren't the best value proposition.
 

Slugsy01

Distinguished Member
A good avr and speakers is always the way to get the best sound, but that’s not always the only criteria.

I absolutely despise the look of a lot of floor standers and my wife hates wires etc.

We moved from and avr/separates to Samsung N-950 to Sonos and loving the Sonos. It’s a really good sound but clean set up, perfect balance for us!
 

Coulson

Distinguished Member
I thought the main reason for Atmos is purely for sound to travel through more channels, mainly over-head for pure immersive sound?
I fail to see how Dolby Atmos is a selling point in any soundbars? I've owned up-firing speakers and they added nothing, since replaced then with ceiling speakers which make a huge difference.
It's not about the speakers. Unless you bought the Onkyo modules, it depends on your setup and your ceiling. If either of those is off, it can massively affect the resulting effect.
 

boabis

Active Member
Gonna go out on a limb and say that what you buy will depend or your personal taste, budget and circumstances.

There are some soundbar solutions out there that will provide a great home cinema experience for the money.

Nothing will beat a well specced and set up AVR & speakers, but not everyone wants/can have that.

The one thing this segment has done for everyone is brought people into the AV realm who otherwise would have just put up with crappy TV sound. Both my parents & in-laws have now got decent soundbars, and it has improved their TV viewing immensely.
 

veedub

Active Member
It's not about the speakers. Unless you bought the Onkyo modules, it depends on your setup and your ceiling. If either of those is off, it can massively affect the resulting effect.

I have both setups, up firing PSB modules in our living room & ceiling speakers in the home theatre.

From my own experience, ceiling speakers are better than upfiring modules for Atmos.
My living room has a good reflective surface and the effect in noticeable, but isn’t a patch on proper over head speakers (in my setup).

In isolation I would be happy with the up firing modules - but after having built in ceiling speakers it really has highlighted the difference between the two options.

My view point would be to go for built in speakers with an AVR wherever possible - but ofcourse this isn’t always practical. If not possible then upfiring Modules can also be effective in the right conditions.

Every person has different requirements based on a lot of factors - this is just my own thoughts based on my setup👍
 
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