For some people, soundbars are just space-saving devices that allow them to enjoy audio or music more audibly, and the stereo and surround sound effects are just a bonus. However, there are people who are particular about low- and high-pitched tones or frequencies and would prefer loudspeakers that can produce bass and sub-bass sounds. Do soundbars have bass?
Soundbars have a good bass response by design, although they don't give you the same level of musical quality offered by a dedicated stereo powered sound system. Some soundbars also come with a supplementary or built-in subwoofer, which delivers an even more excellent bass sound.
This article will explain everything you need to know about soundbars and subwoofers, including whether the two should always go together and how much you can expect to spend for them. You'll also learn about why a good bass sound is important, even from a scientific standpoint. Hopefully, after reading this, you will know what to look for when picking the right soundbar for your mini home entertainment system.
What Is a Soundbar?
A soundbar is a type of loudspeaker that comes in a slim, wide, rectangular design. This minimalist form factor allows the speaker to deliver stereo and surround sound even when it is just limited to a small space, such as a corner table in your dorm room or your small-sized apartment.
In other words, a soundbar is a lightweight and compact speaker system. They contain a number of speakers inside, usually two to five and sometimes even more. These internal speakers are sometimes angled towards the sides to create a more room-filling or surround sound effect.
You can conveniently connect a soundbar to your other devices, including your TV, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, gaming console, DVR, and Blu-ray player. As such, if you feel like your laptop, your TV, or any other device produces poor audio, a soundbar would come in handy.
This is because a soundbar is easy to carry and move around, and because all its speakers are enclosed in a single box, you don't have to look for different spots around your room to accommodate multiple speakers.
Two Types of Soundbars
Soundbars are categorized into two types: passive and active.
An active soundbar is self-contained and comes with its own amplifier, volume control, and digital signal processing in the same enclosure or cabinet as all the speakers. There are active soundbars that can also accommodate multiple HDMI sources.
When choosing a soundbar with HDMI support, make sure that the model also supports the audio return channel. ARC support reduces the number of cables you will use between your TV and your soundbar.
Meanwhile, a passive soundbar is just like a traditional loudspeaker in that it relies on the amplifier in an audio/visual receiver. Connect the audio output from your TV and other components to the A/V receiver's inputs, and connect the soundbar to the loudspeaker connections of the A/V receiver. The A/V receiver will amplify the signal and send it to the speaker.
What's With the Soundbar Trend?
Soundbars were mainly designed to produce strong sound with good bass. And as more people moved to flat-screen television displays, the use of soundbars also steadily increased.
This is because while earlier TV sets and display units were CRT-based and could accommodate larger speakers in their larger enclosures, flat-screen TVs have a dramatically reduced depth, which leaves very little room for built-in speakers. What's more, flat-screen TVs and monitors emit sound from the back, and this sound immediately bounces off the wall behind them.
As a result, these new, slim devices give you poor audio quality and inherent audio loss, and they lack bass response.
Soundbars help solve this issue faced by modern flat-screen display units. They eliminate the problem of inherent audio loss and poor sound.
What Is a Subwoofer?
A subwoofer is a loudspeaker that reproduces low-pitched audio frequencies. These low-pitch tones are known as bass and sub-bass. The typical frequency range generated by home or consumer subwoofers is about 20-200 Hertz. These low-pitch audio frequencies are even lower than the ones generated by a woofer.
A subwoofer is never used alone, as it is intended to augment the low-frequency range of a loudspeaker. Technically, the term subwoofer only refers to the speaker driver, but in common parlance, it is used to refer to a subwoofer driver that is mounted in an enclosure, often with a built-in amplifier.
There are passive subwoofers, which have a subwoofer driver and enclosure and which are powered by an external amplifier. There are also active subwoofers, which already include an integrated or built-in amplifier.
Why Get a Subwoofer?
Subwoofers can emit low sounds and rumbling bass that will add punch and power to whatever you hear in movies or TV shows. These are sounds like thunder during a storm, a pack of motorcycles roaring along the highway, exploding bombs, or helicopter blades gearing up for a flight.
Simply put, a subwoofer creates a fuller sound and projects audio more effectively throughout the room. So, if you watch a lot of action movies and films with music, or if you play video games and want an immersive experience with realistic sound effects, you will need a subwoofer.
Soundbars and Subwoofers
According to Soundbar Planet, soundbars generally don't need subwoofers anymore since they are made up of multiple internal speakers that already give a good bass response and produce great sound on their own. However, while you will still be able to hear the lower frequencies, there will be some lower tones that won't register, or that won't be noticeable.
Thus, some soundbars come with their own dedicated external subwoofers for extra bass. Most of these supplementary subwoofers connect to the soundbar wirelessly, while some connect through a direct wire. You can also purchase separate subwoofers or a compatible subwoofer from a third-party manufacturer.
There are also soundbars with built-in subwoofers. These soundbars are sometimes called soundbases, standalone soundbars, or speaker bases, and they are usually larger. Due to the size and weight of these soundbases, they often serve as a TV stand.
A Word of Caution
Ideally, a subwoofer enhances the audio experience that your soundbar gives you. But it is important to note that getting a soundbar with a subwoofer does not automatically guarantee better sound quality. Not all subwoofers do an excellent job, and some of them can even ruin your and your family's home entertainment experience.
For example, there are subwoofer models that generate excessive boom and overpowering levels of bass when they're turned on. This can be uncomfortable, even painful, to the ears.
Some deliver bass notes late. This can be distracting and could cause movie scenes to lose their impact on you. Imagine seeing a massive crash or explosion on-screen and hearing the sound effect of that huge scene a couple of seconds late.
As such, it pays to do some research before you head out to buy a soundbar and subwoofer for your home entertainment system. It pays to check customer reviews and see what real users have to say about a particular soundbar model.
When Not to Use a Subwoofer With Your Soundbar
Everybody wants a high-performance speaker system, so subwoofers may appear as if they are a necessity. But there are instances or situations when you should think twice about adding or using a subwoofer.
The first consideration is if you live in an apartment or are renting a small room. If you live in an apartment and have neighbors in the adjacent unit or if you have roommates, a subwoofer may be uncomfortable for them. They may not like to hear the rumbling sounds of your games or your movies and feel the walls vibrate, especially when you follow different schedules.
Your Netflix chill time or your Xbox time could be your neighbor's bedtime.
Moreover, if you are living with roommates, the sound of your subwoofer may overpower the other speakers at home. Your alternative is to just turn your subwoofer down if your roommates are around.
Soundbar vs. Soundbase
Getting a soundbase makes more sense if you have limited space but still want a high-performing loudspeaker for your movie nights, for your music, and your gaming. It is also a great choice if your TV is not wall-mounted. You can just place your TV on top of your soundbase.
Soundbases are larger than soundbars, so they have more room for bigger speakers inside their enclosure. Soundbases also produce much better bass because they usually have larger drivers, along with better in-built amplification, as well as additional bass drivers for that extra bass without the need for an external subwoofer.
What's With the Bass, Anyway?
According to Insomniac Magazine, there is a reason why people love bass music, and this reason has a lot to do with the inner workings of the human brain. The article cited a recent study by the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, which looked into how our brain reacts to low-pitched and high-pitched tones.
To understand how humans detect rhythm, the researchers asked the subjects to listen to a stream of tones, as well as to tap their fingers along various beats. The participants did this while their brains were scanned. There were off-rhythm mistakes inserted into these beats, and the study found that the brains responded more strongly to the off-beat and lower tones.
As such, the researchers concluded that it is easier for humans to follow deeper tones or bass sounds. Our brains pick up on the rhythms of low-frequency, bass music much more quickly than they pick up on high-pitched sounds.
The researchers also believe that this is the reason why ethnic music around the world, such as the classical East Indian music to the Indonesian Gamelan music, are dominated by lower tones that make up their background rhythms.
Study co-author Laurel Trainor explained that there's a physiological basis for why we make music the way we do and why virtually all of us will respond more to a particular beat if it is carried by a lower-pitched instrument. This effect might originate in that part of our inner ear called cochlea, which sends electrical signals to the brain in response to vibrations of sound.
Computer models of our inner ear show that the cochlea is more sensitive to rhythm changes that are of lower tones.
Other Soundbar Features Worth Looking Into
Soundbars also have certain other features and add-ons that you may want to look into. Different models boast different sets of features, so while you like a particular model for certain capabilities, you may also like another model for a different set of capabilities. In such a case, you will have to weigh them out.
Additionally, remember that added features could mean a heftier price tag. As such, if you are on a specific budget, think about the features you need and want versus those you can live without. In other words, know your priorities.
- App control. If you want a soundbar that you can control from your mobile device, pick a model that offers a companion control application. This app would allow you to control everything from your smartphone, tablet, or any mobile operating system.
- ARC. The audio return channel allows your TV to send its audio output back through the HDMI cable to the A/V receiver or soundbar. This is especially necessary if you are using the onboard tuner of your smart TV or any of its media-streaming apps like Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube. A newer variant called eARC, or enhanced audio return channel, provides more bandwidth that allows the handling of lossless high-resolution audio.
- Voice assistant integration. There are soundbar models that come with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice service integration. Such models also come with onboard microphones for Alexa to hear you when you give your command. This feature is perfect if you have a smart home.
- Multiple speaker connectivity. High-end soundbars for smart homes are not only equipped with voice assistance services, but you can connect them with other speakers, too, such that you can share music with other rooms in the house. As long as the other room has an Amazon Echo speaker, for instance, you can have your main soundbar share audio with the other Echos.
- Bluetooth connectivity. Most soundbars have Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to connect them to your smartphone or any other Bluetooth enabled device wirelessly.
- USB Port. The most basic soundbars feature a USB port that allows you to play MP3s from an external drive.
- Remote control. Some models come with a remote controller. This allows you to control the volume and other audio settings without having to stand up and push buttons or turn dials on the soundbar unit itself.
If you are wondering how much soundbars cost, the price range can be pretty broad. This means you have a wide array of options, depending on your requirements and your budget. The most basic soundbars are very affordable and reasonably priced, and if you just do your research and read user reviews, you can get one without compromising sound quality.
With that said, there are really good ones that don't cost a lot.
If you check Amazon, you can see soundbars priced below $100. There are even highly rated models that you can get for under $50.
At the other end of the spectrum are high-end soundbars with all the bells and whistles. These are the soundbars made by the more reputable speaker manufacturers like Sonos and Yamaha.
And because they come with all the integrations you'll need for your smart home, such as voice assistance, you can expect them to be priced at well over $200. Sonos Arc, for instance, sells for around $800, and the Yamaha Audio YAS-209BL Sound Bar sells for around $350.
If you just want to know how much a soundbar with a built-in subwoofer costs, you can check out this list of the best ones for this year from CTOPReviews to get an idea.
With TV and display screens getting slimmer and flatter in recent years, it’s not surprising that certain components would no longer fit inside, not even in the form of a chip. These components include speakers. Moreover, as these minimalist displays deliver clearer, crispier, and life-like visual images, the audio aspect may have been sacrificed.
Good thing is that there are now soundbars that offer a sleek and space-saving solution to this issue.
What's even better, although these soundbars are compact in form, they still generate a good bass response. They come either with built-in or add-on subwoofers that will give you a truly immersive audio experience while you watch your favorite TV shows and movies, play your favorite games, and listen to your type of music.
Even if you pick models without subwoofers, you can still get good audio quality as long as you exercise proper care before purchasing.