Are you ready to take your TV’s sound to the next level? When you purchase a flat-screen TV, no matter how good the video quality is, if you’re still relying on the built-in speakers the sound quality will not be very good. A soundbar or sound base is a great way to improve your sound at a low cost, but there are lots of opinions about which is better, and why.
Soundbars and soundbases differ in design, sound, and how they should be placed. Soundbars are long and slim and usually mounted, with a few internal speakers and often an external subwoofer. Soundbases are compact, sit underneath the TV, and have more internal speakers.
When you’re making the decision between the two, it’s important to take a look at all of the differences and know exactly what each one offers. First, let’s get comfortable with what these devices are, and then we can compare them.
What is a Soundbase?
A soundbase is a compact loudspeaker enclosure that a TV sits on top of. Soundbases were created to allow for better quality sound than the Television’s internal speakers, while still being budget-friendly and dead simple to install.
Soundbases are bigger and boxier, so they have more room for larger, more powerful speakers. They provide room for speakers and a subwoofer, so you won’t need external speakers unless you want them. If you are wanting a single component to provide high-quality sound to your flat-screen TV, a soundbase is the right choice for you.
They aren’t exactly small compared to soundbars, but soundbases are compact enough that they can sit under the TV without blocking the view. Instead, They become more of an extension of your TV.
Soundbases can only be placed on top of a piece of furniture. This means you will not be able to mount it. If your TV is mounted already, you may be wanting a mountable option, so soundbases won’t work for you. They are also bulkier and heavier than soundbars.
Soundbases are less popular than soundbars, so there are not as many options. They are typically more expensive because there are fewer manufacturers making them. They also don’t frequently come with a ton of smart-features like voice assistants.
Soundbases have a front-heavy sound, with fewer forward-facing speakers than a soundbar, so they can’t bounce sound a fill a room up quite as much as a nice soundbar can.
There aren’t a lot of soundbases on the market because they aren’t very popular, but here are some great options!
Budget Soundbase Option
For a budget-friendly option, we recommend the ZVOX SoundBase 440 (on Amazon). This unit has left, right, and center speakers giving you 3 channels of sound facing out, with built-in subwoofers to boot. It will help you keep your space clean and tidy, with the 3.5″ height hard to notice.
High-quality Soundbase Option
Then, there’s the elephant in the room: the SONOS Playbase (also on Amazon), which has all the features you want but a price tag you probably wish was lower.
There’s no question that the SONOS pedigree will upgrade your space not just through sound quality, but by being easy on the eyes and allowing for all the wireless integrations you can stand.
What is a Soundbar?
A soundbar is a long, slim speaker system that was also created to be a step up to your flat-screen TV’s less-than-ideal sound quality. They are also budget-friendly, and nowadays, they are coming close to providing similar sound quality to traditional surround sound systems, especially with packages that include external speakers.
Since soundbars have gained a ton of popularity over recent years, they are better designed than ever. The speaker quality has improved, and the internal technology is impressive. Plus, they have a lot of extra features for even more convenience.
Soundbars are designed for ease of use and have a ton of smart technology features and integrations. From smart home device compatibilities like Amazon Alexa and Google Home to Bluetooth and beyond, you’ll be impressed with the kind of integrations you can have with your soundbar.
Soundbars are a more popular option than soundbases, so there are many choices, prices, and packages on the market. You’ll be able to sift through a wider variety of options to find the perfect fit for you and your needs.
Lastly, soundbars are great to look at. They are designed to be as nice to look at as a piece of decor in your room, because they are often in main living areas.
Soundbars are trending to be slimmer and narrower, which tightens up space within the enclosure. Compact speakers can only sound so powerful, so they are now more frequently included with external speakers.
This makes one of the best features of a soundbar–their simplicity–more complicated by external speakers that all need power connections and unique placement. That said, there are some soundbars with built-in subwoofers kind of like what we’ve outlined in this article.
The wide variety has also flooded the market with cheap options that are, well, very cheap, so it’s easy to get taken for a ride on a soundbar when you think you’re getting a bargain. But this really only effects the bargain-bin priced options.
Similar to the approach with the playbases, we figured it would be best to start out with a good budget option. Enter the Sony HT-S350 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer (on Amazon) that sports a brand name you can trust, and a solid 2.1 channels of sound with the included wireless subwoofer. The subwoofer will need its own cable, but it’s well worth it for the upgrade in sound quality you’re getting.
For a premium option, if you’ve been looking into home theater speakers at all, you already know Sonos is a good call. We’ve already bragged on their Playbase in this article, and you already know that a Sonos soundbar will be pricey but also mouthwatering good. So instead of telling you about the Playbar (Amazon) we’ll recommend a more interesting choice:
The JBL Bar 5.1 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Soundbar (also on Amazon) gives you the option of a 5.1 channel system, without all the cables to run, and it does it in a very interesting way. Two of the channels – left and right – are driven from detachable, wireless speakers with batteries, so you can deploy them when you want them, and put them back on the charger when you don’t. Pretty cool.
How Are Soundbases and Soundbars Different?
Soundbases and soundbars are different in many ways, including design, speaker configuration, sound quality, and how they should be placed. Here’s what you need to know.
The first major difference you’ll notice in soundbars and soundbases is that they are designed differently. Soundbases are small, boxy, and a bit bulky, designed in rectangular or oval shapes that can sit flat under your Television. Soundbars are long and narrow, and they have stylish touches.
Soundbars have a slim, thin design, and they are usually a few feet long to match the width of your TV. They are also sleek and stylish. They are often mounted, so they are looked at regularly.
Soundbases are compact and small, usually with a smaller width than a soundbar. But they are also heavier and sturdier because you’re meant to place a TV on top of them. They are basic in design and usually not very stylish — just like you would imagine a typical compact speaker system.
Soundbars usually have three or five internal speakers, but some of the newer ones on the market include seven or more internal speakers to amp up the sound quality and compete with traditional surround sound setups. Sometimes, they include a built-in subwoofer or internal technology to enhance the bass.
Soundbases typically have a 2.1 or 3.1 speaker configuration, which means they have a left and right speaker and a subwoofer or a left, right and center channel speaker with a subwoofer. In some cases, like the Sonos Playbase, you can add external speakers to make a 5.1 surround sound system.
One of the main differences between a soundbar and soundbase is the sound quality. The way these two are built affects the sound quality you’ll receive.
Due to a longer design, a soundbar will provide a better room-filling surround sound due to a wider sound landscape, but the bass (or lack thereof) can often be a letdown. Soundbars usually need an external subwoofer, at least, but there are some options on the market that have quality built-in subwoofers.
A soundbase is not as wide as a soundbar, but they do have a lot of room within the enclosure. Due to more space, soundbases can have bigger internal speakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers, which can create a more powerful sound without the need for external speakers.
While there are benefits to each system on their own, they can both be upgraded with additional external speakers.
Soundbases are just that — bases of sound. They are the base for your TV, so you place your TV on top of it. They sit on a table, cabinet, or entertainment stand and are not mounted.
Soundbars can either be mounted or sit atop a table, cabinet, or entertainment center including ones with fireplaces like outlined in our top 8 list. They can be mounted below the Television, or if you really need to above it. We have another article discussing above and below placement of soundbars if you’re considering this option.
While not specific to the basic setup of the systems themselves, it’s important to note that many different models and styles of these two systems have different added features, such as Bluetooth compatibility, smart home device compatibility, and beyond. Plus, they have different wired connectivity options, such as HDMI, analog, optical, or even RCA.
No matter which system you go with, make sure that the additional features match your needs. If you want your new soundbar or soundbase to connect to your Amazon Alexa, be sure it does. If you have specific input requirements, be sure it matches those.
If you are looking for a compact, all-in-one solution that doesn’t require external speakers, you will have to dig to find a great soundbar that impresses on its own, and you may have to pay extra. Many soundbars simply don’t have impressive sound without external speakers, due to either a lack of power or a lack of bass.
Lastly, soundbars are often tagged as providing a front-heavy sound. Even though they are wide, they don’t provide the same surround sound experience as a multi-component system.
There are many reasons to choose each of these sound systems. Both are a great alternative to traditional surround sound systems and a step up from your TV’s low-quality sound, even if you haven’t chosen the holy grail, Sonos Arc, and opted for alternatives like what’s explored in our guide, instead. The right choice for you will ultimately depend on your budget and your needs, such as connectivity options and style.
Hopefully, you’ve learned the in’s and out’s of each system, so you can make an educated choice that meets your needs in every aspect. Happy speaker hunting!