We have all been there. We bring home the latest movie release, pop it in the Blu-ray player and settle in for an evening of entertainment. However, before long, that relaxing evening turns into one spent constantly trying to adjust the volume to capture both the quiet scenes and the action-packed explosions without blowing out the television’s built-in speaker. This issue alone was one of the first reasons I started looking into the best way to build a home theater. However, before I was able to invest in a full home theater, I started small with just adding a soundbar.
So how can you make a soundbar sound better, other than by enduring a complicated set-up when adding surround sound (our guide)?
- Invest in a soundbar that is large enough to fill your room with great sound.
- Turn off or mute your television’s internal speakers to allow your soundbar’s quality sound to shine through.
- Use HDMI (ARC) or other high-quality cables to relay audio signals to your Soundbar.
- Adjust your equalizer settings, if possible, to ensure your soundbar is optimally programmed for your specific audio source.
- Invest in a soundbar that supports current technologies, like Dolby Digital.
- Only use a receiver is you have to; simple television and active soundbar configurations do not need a receiver!
A soundbar is a great start to boosting your sound quality. However, knowing these six tips and tricks can ensure you get the best value for your buck! Let us take a look at how your Soundbar can provide optimal sound.
Six Tips and Tricks to Make a Soundbar Sound Better
Soundbars have become an important feature in living rooms all over the country. If you would like to know how to get the most out of your investment, here are six tips and tricks that can help boost your home theater sound.
1) Invest In a Soundbar Large Enough For Your Room
Before you purchase a Soundbar, it is important that you take the time to assess the size of your home theater. Soundbars come in a range of sizes. These sizes help to scale your sound to fit the room. Larger Soundbars, for example, are ideal for large home theaters. A smaller Soundbar, such as the Bose Solo 5, however, would not work well in such a large space.
Aesthetically, most people try to buy a Soundbar that matches the width of their television. This symmetry is pleasing the eye. However, not everyone understands that a room’s dimensions play a key role in buying the right television and Soundbar size.
The appropriate television size for your home theater can be determined after calculating the appropriate viewing distance from your entertainment center. To do this, multiply the television size by 7.7. (If you are considering a 4K Ultra-High Definition television, however, multiply by 1.5 instead.) For example, you should sit 7 feet (or 84 inches) away from a 42-inch television for the most comfortable viewing experience. Having a Soundbar that matches, or is smaller than, the width of your television should then provide sufficient sound quality for this space.
There are so many soundbar options out there! It could prove to be difficult to decide on the exact model you want to purchase. If you want to make this decision easier, check out my list of the best soundbars for the money.
2) Turn off Your Television’s Built-In Speakers
Television speakers are often subpar at best. That is the whole reason many of us invest in a soundbar in the first place. Running both your television’s internal speakers and your soundbar can dilute the sound you hear.
Have you ever heard the same sound coming out of different speakers? The difference in sound quality can actually be more distracting when this occurs. Why? Sound, when played simultaneously, but at different frequencies or decibels, can dilute the overall quality. For example, muffled or diluted sounds from your television can disrupt the clarity of that coming from your soundbar.
The majority of televisions on the market today allow you to navigate through their menu to disable the internal speakers. However, if this option is not available, you should mute or set your television’s volume to 0. This will allow your Soundbar to provide the rich tone and pitches without distracting background noises from your television.
3) Use Higher Quality Cables
There are plenty of different cabling options when it comes to the world of audio. However, if you want the clearest sounds, use high-quality cables with your soundbar.
AUX and RCA cables have long been considered outdated technology. However, many of the older televisions still use these. If possible, you should strive to use cables that relay higher quality digital signals. These include your optical, HDMI and HDMI ARC cables.
Now, there are some differences in these cables that should be considered. Personally, I recommend HDMI cables if possible. HDMI cables relay both audio and visual signals. This means that if you are planning on using different source media, such as your PlayStation 4 or Blu-ray player, HDMI or cables are your best choice.
Optical cables, on the other hand, only relay audio signals. This means you will need additional cabling if you are planning on connecting video source devices as well. While an optical cable may offer slightly better sound quality than an HDMI cable, they are not as universally accepted. Check out our in-depth article on this topic to learn more about the differences between HDMI and optical cables when using a soundbar.
4) Adjust Your Equalizer Settings If Possible
Equalizer settings typically involve your treble and bass levels. These settings help enhance your sound, based on what you prefer or what your media requires. Adjusting your equalizer settings can ensure your soundbar plays exactly how it is supposed to for optimal sound.
Many of today’s soundbars allow you to adjust your equalizer settings. Technology has made this even easier; there are a number of mobile apps you can install on our phone that help you determine the best levels for your space. However, you can also adjust these settings by ear as the sound is a lot of the times a personal preference. Your user manual should help walk you through how to equalize your soundbar quickly and easily.
5) Buy a Soundbar That Supports Dolby Atmos or DTS: X
Like video resolution, audio technology is constantly evolving. Many of the devices we use today support Dolby Digital sound. However, Dolby Atmos or DTS: X capabilities are new and emerging technologies you may want to consider.
Dolby Atmos and DTS: X map sounds in a three-dimensional space. Dolby Atmos, for example, bounces a sound signal off the ceiling and back down towards you. This can lead to audibly enhancing your listening pleasure. With Dolby Atmos, a plane flying above you actually sounds like it is overhead. DTS: X works in a very similar way. They both tremendously enhance the audio experience.
Not all soundbars are capable of supporting these technologies at this point. Investing in one, however, may make the transition easier as this technology grows in popularity. The best and one of the cheapest DTS: X compatible soundbars is the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1ch DTS: X Soundbar (on Amazon). This is one of my personal favorites!
6) Cut Out the Receiver (If Possible)
Investing in an active soundbar lets you cut out the middleman – the receiver! Using a receiver with a soundbar can severely complicate the setup. If you are looking for a simple set up and just want better sound, connect your television to your soundbar and forget about buying or using a receiver.
Active soundbars include their own amplifier; this eliminates the need for a separate amplifier or receiver. They are, more or less, an all-in-one speaker that helps boost your sound with minimal effort. In fact, if you are not looking to install a full traditional surround sound system, simply adding an active soundbar can give you quality sound without the bulk. Since you can cut out the receiver with an active Soundbar, the signals relayed between it and your source device travel almost instantly. This decreases the likelihood of lag, syncing issues, and other inconvenient audio problems routinely noted with televisions. If you happen to experience audio lag or delay with a soundbar, then take a look at our guide to fixing lag between a soundbar and TV.
Passive soundbars, however, do not include amplifiers. Because of this, you will need to invest in an amplifier or receiver to help power sound through the speakers, which, by the way, we have a tutorial on as well. This can muddy the overall sound quality and lead to lag.
Will A Soundbar Actually Improve Sound Quality Over TV Speakers?
The easy answer is, Yes! The speakers built into televisions today are superior to those even from just 5 years ago. However, they still leave a lot to be desired. Soundbars provide improved sound, which is one of the main reasons they are so popular.
Cheaper than a traditional surround sound and convenient, soundbars go beyond the capabilities of your television to give you quality sound. Often simple in style, they can be mounted on a wall or set on your entertainment center without taking up much space.
You could invest in an expensive home theater set up if you are looking to seriously boost your cinematic experience. However, a soundbar provides many of the same benefits without breaking the bank to do so. If you decide to upgrade to a full home theater system, very high-end soundbars often play an integral role in these setups as well.