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Soundbar vs Separates? (1 Viewer)

smith2487

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Hi Everyone. I just purchased an 86" TV for my Livingroom. I now want to upgrade the audio. I'm looking for advice. Should I get a soundbar or separates?
I'm looking to spend around $1,500 CAD, but willing to go higher if it makes sense. I'm currently looking at the Samsung HW-Q950T/ZC 546-Watt 9.1.4 Channel Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer or Monoprice 133832 Premium 5.1.4-Ch. speakers paired with a moderately priced 7.2 receiver. I plan on using it mostly for movies, but also music. I like the simplicity and clean look of the soundbar, but have difficulty believing the soundbar can match the separates for performance. Unfortunately with Covid, I am unable to audition any gear. I appreciate any advice.
 

Lord Dalek

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If you can do a proper setup with satelites, do it. Soundbars have problems with sync and separation.
 

Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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You are correct that soundbars can’t match the performance of a traditional system. On top of that, soundbars are all-inclusive, proprietary systems with no options or provisions for upgrades. Surround speakers are typically wireless, which can be blinky. Some do permit the use of a subwoofer of your choice, but more commonly you’re stuck with the one that comes with the system. And it’s typically wireless as well. Check the Amazon reviews of any system of interest, and you’ll quickly see that most can’t garner more than a 60-70% approval rating (combined 4-5 star reviews). Check the 1 and 2 star reviews, and you’ll see that most complaints are related to wireless issues.

That said, given the state of complicated traditional surround sound systems and their eyeball-glazing 150 pg. manuals, soundbars are certainly an attractive, relatively “plug and play” option.

Thus it boils down to:

Traditional system: Great performance, but complicated to set up and often to use as well.
Soundbar: Great convenience, but less performance.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
 

SmCaudata

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1. Do you want to run speaker wire everywhere?
2. Do you want to have speakers and audio components on display?

If the answer to those is yes, then you will get better sound from speakers and a reciever.

$1500 is a tight budget for all those pieces. You could do a dennon x2700 to get 5.1.2, but that's $900 on its own. You need to go to the x3700 for $1300 to get 5.1.4 (9 channels).

The Yamaha rx-v6a is $600. Still only 5.1.2 but can work with their music cast speakers.

You could look for a last year model reciever to save money if you don't need 8k.

The monoprice monolith speakers get great reviews and you could buy pieces as you go.

Lastly, I'll throw out a random thought. In my living room where I wanted a clean look and simple operation for the family, I went with a Sonos Beam and Sub I can connect it to play 1s for the rear surrounds. No atmos, but I don't know how sold I am on bouncy atmos. If you have Sonos, or no whole house audio, this may be a good option as you can build. You could actually get the Sonos arc with sub for $1500 or $1900 with extra rear surrounds.

Anyway, just some thoughts.
 

Max Taxable

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If you can do a proper setup with satelites, do it. Soundbars have problems with sync and separation.
THAT's a big Tin Roger. The center speaker can be configured separately even in older systems. It's a must to have if dialog is important to your enjoyment. The soundbar is something I never saw as a legitimate option. Gotta have the real separate channels with satellites.
 

John Dirk

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You just bought an incredible 86 inch display. Don't settle for sub-par audio. Buy a decent 5.1 system, even if you have to do it over time. If aesthetics or WAF are issues, there are cable management products and concealment techniques that can help and you can save a ton on speakers if you're willing to consider used.
 

smithbrad

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I agree with others when saying to go with separates over a soundbar. Especially, given that soundbars rarely offer an upgrade path if unsatisfied later. Next, based on the budget, I'd start out with just a 3.0 setup in front to get more bang for the buck on the speakers.

This will also give a chance to decide how far you want to go since you are talking about a living room. Living rooms can provide some challenges regarding surround sound depending on how open the floor plan, plus the cables to run. I have a dedicate theater room that has treated walls for a 7.1 surround system. However, I have two 3.0 systems for an open family room and master bedroom and I find both to be more than enough. With a small satellite system you need a bass module, but with a decent set of bookshelf's, maybe not. Is your goal to rock the house (i.e., get a separate sub), but if just good clear sound, a matching center with bookshelf's can be plenty and will easily beat out a sound bar.

I went for a cleaner look in the bedroom and installed in-wall speakers for the left/right. I have a matching external center channel since it can be a bit trickier to find a proper arrangement between studs for an in-wall center. In any case, I still have a console below the mounted TV for a blu-ray player and receiver, so adding the center channel was no issue.

I also agree with the idea of buying last year's model for a receiver to save money. For a system like this, no need to get a big hefty receiver. I found a nice half-height 5.1 channel Marantz receiver for the bedroom and a slim-line Pioneer for the more challenging space available in the family room. If you have efficient speakers, you won't need a large receiver, plus it gives a cleaner look.

In the end, it comes down to your goals. If you want a rocking theater type enjoyment and don't mind how it might impact the decor of the room, or how the sound might travel throughout the house, then go for it. If you want quality sound to enjoy the TV within reason, get a nice 3.0 setup with receiver. You can always add surrounds and a sub later, if needed.
 

smithbrad

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Just an FYI. I updated my bedroom setup with a new 65" mounted flat panel last year, and added the following for $800:
- Polk Audio 65-RT In-Wall Speaker, $110 each
- Polk Audio CSI A4 Center Channel Speaker, $150
- Marantz AV Receiver NR1509 50W Powerful Slim Profile 5.2 Channel Home Theater Amplifier Receiver, $425

Nothing fancy, you may want to do more with $1500, but it suits my needs and is much better than a soundbar.
 

SmCaudata

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Just an FYI. I updated my bedroom setup with a new 65" mounted flat panel last year, and added the following for $800:
- Polk Audio 65-RT In-Wall Speaker, $110 each
- Polk Audio CSI A4 Center Channel Speaker, $150
- Marantz AV Receiver NR1509 50W Powerful Slim Profile 5.2 Channel Home Theater Amplifier Receiver, $425

Nothing fancy, you may want to do more with $1500, but it suits my needs and is much better than a soundbar.
To add to the 3.0/3.1 idea.
At my current house I ended up with the
Marantz NR
GoldenEar 3D array X
GoldenEar SuperSub X.

My local dealer had the 3D array and SuperSub on consignment and the Marantz as open box closeout. I got the whole package Sub $2k. I added an SVS soundpath and have a low profile setup. I probably don't get the same separation as true separate front channels, but the previous owners had the TV cabinet in the corner at only a 20 degree angle, so there was no way to get a left speaker without it being 4 feet in front of the TV. A wide soundstage soundbar was my only option.

So, to the OP, if you are really committed to the Soundbar look, I'd try to audition the GE Cinema 3d arrays. The XL version is 62" wide so you could get actual separation. The speaker alone will eat your whole budget though and you'd still need an amp.

Lastly, being up in CA, you may want to consider some Paradigm options. Their Lifestyle series has a lot of cost friendly options. The Decor line looks like custom sized speakers that will "frame" your TV. You could probably piece it together over time. It's more but it looks REALLY slick on the website. Again it's more expensive but you would have a cool custom look that you could take with you.
 

Max Taxable

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You just bought an incredible 86 inch display. Don't settle for sub-par audio. Buy a decent 5.1 system
Definitely. And to the OP - you don't need the nastiest biggest honkinest monster of a sound system, 5.1 is really all about finesse anyway. With surprisingly little muscle behind it, a decent system in your budget range can still part your hair when it's called for in whatever media you're watching.
 

Lord Dalek

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Dumping my Vizio SB3651 for a Yamaha RX-V383 was the best move I ever made just saying and my house is pretty damn small too.
 

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