Soundbar or AV Receiver?


Novice Member
Feb 22, 2022
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Derby, UK

I'm new to the forum. I'm in the UK.

The Question

Am I too fixed on the idea of an AV amp?

Would we be better off with a soundbar with surround speakers instead?

- Jewelie

Current Setup
  • TV: Samsung 32" 2013 F-Series UE32F5500 (LCD panel badly deteriorated)
  • AV Receiver: Sony 5.1 STR-DB925 (Broken - so no longer able to use)
  • Speakers: Quad-layout (both vintage bookshelf style)
    • Front: 2 x B&W DM'601 (on stand)
    • Rear: 2 x JPW Minim (on shelf)
  • Room: 3m x 5m (10' x 16')
  • Viewing/Sitting distance: 2.5m to 3m (8' to 10')

Current* Use Pattern (in priory/hours-used order)
  1. 60%: HD SDR On-demand (UK) video players. Mainly BBC iPlayer, Netflix. (Not many services, 1080p only, to keep down monthly subscription costs.)
  2. 20%: HD SDR Broadcast live TV via Freeview. (Satellite dish connections available.)
  3. 18%: 1080p 60Hz Gaming. Currently streamed over network from Steam PC to a Steam Link box running Steam Link app or the Moonlight app. Relaxed, immersive, sofa gaming. I LOVED surround sound gaming before the AV amp broke and REALLY miss it!
  4. 2%: Blu-ray, CDs & DVDs. (Probably mostly HD / SDR. Listen to no music.)
* Due to the unsuitability of the current setup for me, I expect gaming, on-demand, and disc usage to increase with a new TV and sound system, and listening to music to resume (sound quality matters to me, so I barely listen at-all now I'm without an amp and we're just using Google Minis!)

Other Info and Considerations

I'm fairly housebound due to long-term illness -- gaming, and secondarily on-demand TV/discs are pretty important entertainment for me when alone.

I'm getting old, sight and hearing are just starting to become an issue. Current TV size and sound quality (and lack of surround) are currently big impediment to me enjoying screen-based entertainment: age and depreciating senses! I have to use subtitles to watch TV due to the awful sound quality plus my hearing is starting to go a little bit. UI/text-size for games, even with mods to make text bigger, is becoming a real problem for me, plus I find surround sound really important immersion.

I'm very tech literate, handy with a soldering iron, much much less useful with DIY etc (limitations due to health.) So moving things, mounting a TV, putting surround shelves up etc isn't something I can easily do.

We think it's time to get a new TV and either an AV amp or maybe a soundbar (I've never owned a soundbar before, so don't really know.)

Income low, but we have some savings, at a push we could pay a MAXIMUM (and I mean maximum) of £1k in total for both (and even that will take some puppy-dog-eyes manipulation of my spouse!)

I've been thinking of a 50" TV, which is the biggest size we can practically make space for. We're not sure which one, we have been going around in circles on this, but maybe a Sony Bravia KD50X89JU with 6year warranty from Richard Sounds if the price drops a bit lower than £650.

Amps are what I'm used to and trust. So I've been thinking of an AV amp, for now perhaps retaining the quad-setup which seems to be adequate. Again, we're not sure which one, but maybe the STR-DH790 again from Richer Sounds if they come back in stock and the price goes back to £350 or lower.

We live in a block of flats, so we can't ever have things on very loud, and I have to be careful to take out the ultra low frequencies in order to avoid disturbing neighbours etc (which means decent EQ on amp to be able to do that.)
Welcome to the Forum.

An AV amp will be better for you for two reasons that's important to you. It would give you better placement of the front speakers giving a wider soundstage. Speakers are always going to be better as they are not all crammed into a small single unit. The second reason is that you want to listen to music. Soundbars will again have a limited soundstage which is too restrictive for music.

If you get the right AV amp then some come with low frequency containment which will aid in the subwoofer department. Denon amps have this ability along with Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume which will help.

If you are able to get to a Richer Sounds then a trip there and a chat about your needs wouldn't go amiss and help you put together an amp and speaker package.
AV receiver with speakers all day long. Soundbars sound like their sound has been strangled compared to amp/speakers. I say this as someone who has owned a £1500 Yamaha YSP-5100 soundbar which was the best product of its kind at the time.

If money is tight, I'd look at a new TV but second hand AV receiver. There are plenty for sale at an absolute fraction of their original price. If you need Atmos, HDR, HDMI ARC, 4K and all the latest features, then buy new. But if it's just Dolby TruHD / DTS-HD and stereo you need, you could get a second hand AV receiver for less than £100 which will sound a lot better than your previous amp.

The only caveat is you'd have to plug all your devices into the TV for direct video, with only the sound going to your amp.

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