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Soundbars / soundbases

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  • Soundbars / soundbases

    I don't recall if this has been talked about already, but does anyone use either of these two items with their TV?

    I've been chewing over the idea for some time, and although I appreciate they're no substitute for a full surround system, I figured they would be a vast improvement on the TV's built-in speakers. I'd also like to ask please if there's anything in particular I should look out for. Thanks.

  • #2
    Since I was selling these on Saturday, this is my advice:

    There are loads of different choices now (probably too much) , apart from the old 5.1/2.1 Surround Sound system, and you wont find many places selling them. They sounds good (a 5.1 would have something like a 1000w, and even a 2.1 perhaps 500w), but lots of wires, relatively chunky, and a big box, which is hardly minimalist. On the other hand, you can potentially get a lot of power for not a huge amount of money.

    About 5 years ago, soundbars pretty much took over from them - neater, much more compact and flexible, and lots of people were putting them on their TV stand, rather than the wall, so they were slimmed down and generally got a wireless sub woofer at the mid and high levels. They are less powerful than a surround sound system (320w is about average for the mid range, and perhaps 120w for an entry one), but for most people, thats fine, and if you look at higher level ones, they will often have the capacity for extra wireless speakers in the rear of the room (or around the house).

    Sound bars go in levels, and what your paying for is a better/more powerful sound, plus extra connections/features that make life easier, etc. Start with the brand of soundbar to go with your TV - not essential, since they should fit pretty much any TV (apart from mine), but with the right connections, you know they are going to work well with each other. Stick to the big 4 TV brands for soundbars, plus people like Yamaha, etc. Sonos and Bose are generally pretty high level and will cost you about £600, but are modular as part of whole house systems.

    You can get ones without sub-woofers - they will either be smallish things designed to do an OK job, or will be expensive high level things were the sub is built in - think chunky. Examples of the first will be a 4 series Samsung bar, or more expensively, the Bose Solo 5, which is around £239. The latter are Atmos Dolby, which starts more like £600, or perhaps Sonos/Bose.

    A decent entry level soundbar should have a sub woofer (often wired together, which makes them less flexible), and you could pay as little as £75 for a wired sub soundbar from LG, which has 120w, blu tooth (standard on sound bars) and will work via 3.5mm/RCA phonos (red/white) plus a digital optical connection. Its not the loveliest soundbar, but its better than the speakers alone. About £160ish might get you a 120w soundbar from Samsung, again with optical, but with a wireless sub, and the ability to link wirelessly with a Samsung TV.

    Mid Range is where I'd be, because you get the most for your money. Starting around £185 currently (for the excellent value LG SJ5 https://www.johnlewis.com/lg-sj5-blu...ilver/p3202025 ), you'll get about 300-320w, a wireless sub, and an HDMI output (and possible imput as well). Not only a more powerful and better sounding system, but having the HDMI gives you a lot of advantages. Use it instead of the digital optical cable not only gives you a better sound, but allows you to control the TV and the soundbar at the same time, via something called CEC. Change the volume on the TV, and it does it on the soundbar. Obviously it will work with the same brand (Vieralink, Braviasync, etc), but there is a 90% chance it will work with all of othre big four brands. Last year Panasonic TV's might have been silver, but the soundbars were not. But last years version of the LG was, was excellent value, and worked perfectly with the Panasonics.

    I'd expect to pay roughly £229-300 for a mid range bar, depending on brand, but the LG's specs are right there, its just well priced. The Samsung version is around £429, for some strange reason.

    High Level? Your talking more like £400 plus (although last years LG SH 7 is still a round, and at £249, is a bargain - https://www.johnlewis.com/lg-sh7-wi-...ilver/p2831291 ). These will tend to be 340-360w or more, and have network capacity, so you can add extra speakers. And then you go higher, which will include Sonos, etc, and then your into very expensive soundbars, with cool stuff like Dolby Atmos.

    Soundbases, soundplates, soundboards - all do much the same thing. Speakers is a box, including something to make bass notes. Panasonic, Bose, Sony, Canton etc all make them.

    Popular because they are an 'all in' system - its just a single box, and you can normally plonk the TV on top of it. Sound is pretty good, considering, but they dont tend to sound as good as a similarly priced soundbar - your squashing things into one box, and there is less room to breath. Think generally nearer 200w. They will generally have RCA's and digital optical, blue tooth is now standard, although some will have HDMI as well, or instead of other connections.
    Popular with people who want something to take up limited space, but obviously not as flexible as a soundbar, since you can put that on a table and on the wall, whereas its only on a table, or under it for a soundbase. The Bose soundbase was popular, but seems to have vanished, probably being reborn as part of their Soundtouch series.

    If I was looking, I'd start with looking at the size of my TV, because a hugely long soundbar will look silly. But the average soundbar will fit a 40-43in TV OK, and for a 49-50in (the most common size now sold), will be totally fine. If you need a very small speaker, remember there will be downsides to that, and dont buy one just because you have an old TV stand (I had a customer who did that the other day - he paid for the size of the box, not the features/quality) - just replace the stand!

    Brand to brand makes sense (but not essential), and people often like the colour to match. I'd like HDMI if I can - it tends to denote a better sound, and will give you more usability. Same with a wireless sub - simply easier to use. 320w wont sound as good as a 5.1, but it will be more than fine for most, and with blu rays now so cheap, a lot less clutter and bulk as well. There is no 'best brand' (and I'd take what I'd read in Which with a little bit of salt), but I know that of TV brands, LG is good quality and value, Panasonic is OKish, Sony is OK, as is Samsung. Orbitsound is something we dont sell a huge number of any more, and I've only heard a Canton once (it was fine, but not something we raved about). Bose is good, but you are paying for it being a Bose, and its an audio company, so expect less stuff on the back.

    If I was looking for less than £200, then the LG would do me very well, or something similar in the roughly £250 range. If I can get one with more ommph and features for about the same amount, perhaps on clearance, then great. Think big if you want multi-room speakers - you'll have to go for a more expensive system in the first place so they will work with it.

    You can still use a 5.1 system, btw - just run a blu ray via the TV, and all the sound should come out of the 5.1 speakers. But they are a bit chunky, and wives hate wires....

    Comment


    • #3
      That's fantastic information Bonekicker. A huge thank you for your time as I imagine it must have taken you a while to write out.

      Yes, it was the wiring I was trying to avoid, hence my reluctance to go for a full 5.1 surround package. My TV is a Sony (43 inch) and I gather Sony themselves do make soundbars which I'm currently comparing, but I am open to any brand if it's a decent one. I'm happy to pay around the £300 to £400 mark, or even a little more. Would I be right in thinking it's just an HDMI connection from the soundbar to the TV?

      The speakers on the TV are OK for certain films I watch, such as old horror or comedies, which are recorded in mono anyway. But I do love my sci-fi, and am currently building up a Blu-ray collection of the Star Trek films. I will imagine these will sound terrific with a decent set-up.

      I had noticed some have a separate subwoofer, but if I can get one with this built-in then that would be ideal.

      Thanks again - you've been a great help.

      Comment


      • #4
        To be honest, when I looked afterwards, I thought I went on a bit! However, soundbars, like everything else, can get a bit complex.

        OK - 43in Sony (which model?) will be fine with any soundbar, and yes, a Sony soundbar will be an excellent match, although as long as its black, any brand should be OK.

        The CT390 at £229 is a mid range setup - https://www.johnlewis.com/sony-ht-ct...oofer/p2775207 - and good value. If you look at the reviews, generally good. The two people who gave it low marks had much more to do with setup, etc than sound, and I get the impression that the system might not have been at fault!

        Just below the top end of your budget is the CT800 - https://www.johnlewis.com/sony-ht-ct...iroom/p3178637
        at £379. An extra 30w, 4K passthrow, and ethernet (so it becomes part of your network and will allow you to use Sony mutliroom speakers). Thats a nice bit of kit, and is getting towards a higher end TV manufacturers soundbar.

        Also have a look around and see if you could get last years similar version (the RT 5 - which currently £409) - we had one on clearance (which had twin small rear speakers thrown in) for about £229 not that long ago, so they are out there.

        Your right about the HDMI (and that CT800 has three, so very handy if you need to attach extra HDMI equiped boxes when your running out on the TV itself) - you just need the one, and it will of course automatically work with the TV remote, as well as give you a better sound. many soundbars might even link up wirelessly, but I like a physical connection if poss. Digital optical only tend to be on more entry/smaller systems. Thats fine, but you'll tend to have to use an extra remote.

        A sub is pretty much standard on soundbars - if they dont have one they are either cheap and weedy, more expensive and better (bit small) , or chunky and expensive.

        Builtin subwoofers would be a soundbase like the Sony XT2 https://www.johnlewis.com/sony-ht-xt...-cast/p2725624 - they did do a XT1 and XT 3 (less and more powerful than the 2, as you can guess). But you can see that the XT2 is only 170w, whereas for £20 more, you can have the CT390, which is 320w, and will have a better sound. The whole point of a wireless sub is that you get better low tones, and some sort of multi-directional sound, because its able to be put anywhere in the room, as long as its powered, and is therefore relatively easy to hide away.

        As I said above, a soundbase, etc will be compact, but the sound wont be generally quite as good - you can't get a quart into a pint pot. Thats why I'd go with a sub if I could - you getting more for the same money.

        Go and have a listen in a good store - bring your own music in on your phone if you like - they will all have blue tooth, so its easy to have a test track or two. Your budget will allow you to look at higher spec equipment, so your in a good place, and you might get a good deal on a return or last years model.


        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bonekicker View Post
          To be honest, when I looked afterwards, I thought I went on a bit!
          No, please don't say that. You have given me lots of good information which I appreciate. I'm not very savvy with technology, so any advice is more than welcome.

          Thanks for the recommendations - I'll take a look at the Sony models, particularly the CT800 which sounds like a great set-up. I do have a branch of Spatials Sound & Vision not far from me, and I know they have a good range of TV's and even some hi-fi equipment, so I'll see if they have any of your recommended models.

          I have noticed on my TV that on some films, particularly the action / sci-fi type modern films, the volume of the dialogue can be quite low. I turn up the TV volume but then as soon as the action gets going, the sound effects are very loud and I end up having to turn it back down again. Do you know if it would be possible on a soundbar to increase the volume of the speech/dialogue without increasing everything else, or am I asking for the impossible?

          Comment


          • #6
            Have a loom at the setting on your TV - there should be a cinema setting, and a look on the sony forum should give you some advice as well - film makers these days spend a lot of time and money making sure that it all balances, so there are often setttings on TV's blu rays etc to try to make sure nothing gets drowned out.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Bonekicker View Post
              Have a loom at the setting on your TV - there should be a cinema setting, and a look on the sony forum should give you some advice as well - film makers these days spend a lot of time and money making sure that it all balances, so there are often setttings on TV's blu rays etc to try to make sure nothing gets drowned out.
              That's great, thank you, I'll check for that. Yes, some blu rays give you a sound option of either 5.1 DTS or just normal stereo, and I did find in some cases that selecting the plain stereo option improved things a little. However, when I get to my TV later on, I'll check the settings as you suggest and see what I can do with that.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bonekicker View Post
                Have a loom at the setting on your TV -
                I discovered there's a 'Voice Zoom' adjustment on the menu sound settings. It was factory set at the half-way point so I've turned it right up, but I've yet to try it with a DVD to see if it's made much difference. Nevertheless, I still want that soundbar.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My LG has something called 'Clearvoice', and I there are other settings. I suspect the Sony will have even more settings - this page certainly seems to have similar ones http://docs.esupport.sony.com/imanua.../c_snd_qv.html

                  But yes, the soundbar will greatly improve things all round.

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