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Soundbar vs Sound base, which is better?

Sadly, not everyone has the money or space to have a more traditional 5.1 speaker system with surround receiver for their home theater setup. For that matter a lot of people likely don't care. Today you have choices of many ways to make your TV sound better.
Soundbar with sub and surround speakers

What is a soundbar or sound base?

Basically a soundbar is a powered speaker. In most cases they are 2.1 speaker systems, meaning they have a left and right channel with a possible external bass speaker. Therefore the 1 in the 2.1. Though they leave out the center channel speaker where dialog usually comes from they often do a decent job of faking out your ears by using electronics to hear the stereo in a broader pattern and the voices dead center.

What is the difference between a sound bar and a sound base?

Typical soundbar without subwoffer
A soundbar is simply a bar with 2 or 3 channels of speakers in it that sits either in front of or mounted on the wall under your TV. They sometimes will have a subwoofer wired or wireless to add bass. Most sound bars need the subwoofer to produce reasonable movie theater bass since they are relatively small.

A Sound base has a wider, deeper box that sits "under" your television. One advantage is that it allows for a much larger cavity for an integrated bass speaker, eliminating the need for a separate subwoofer. Sound base's were originally popularized by ZVox but are now made by just about everyone.

Take a trip to your local big box or warehouse store to listen to a few of the soundbars and sound bases. Newer models sound remarkably good for casual movie watching.
Typical Sound base

Features to look for:

  • 2.1 meaning they have integrated bass
  • 3.1 meaning they also have a center channel in addition to a bass speaker
  • Dolby
  • Surround (usually electornically produced so you don't need additional speakers)
  • Bluetooth to hook up your phone
Pricing usually runs between $70 and $400 an up depending on brand and overall quality. Caution on spending more than $400 on an item like this, the returns are diminishing. Once you get above this price point I'd steer you toward a full 5.2 or 7.1 speaker system with a receiver for a much better surround experience. 

Which is better? 

This depends on your specific needs and taste. If your TV is wall mounted a sound bar will almost always be the better choice. If your TV sits on a piece of furniture and you don't want something sitting in front of the TV than a sound base is an excellent choice and will offer great bass without the hassle of finding a home for a subwoofer. 

What's the difference between noise isolating and cancelling headphones

If you want to stop noise from getting into your music there are a few options to consider. There are lots of options and lots of confusing terms to deal with to determine the best noise cancelling option for you.

How noise cancelling headphones work

Noise cancelling headphones reduce external noise by cancelling out certain consistent frequencies they "listen" to in your environment with a microphone. They use that to cancel that sound with an off-setting out before it reaches your ear. There are technical explanations here but in genearl they work very well for things like jet engines, air conditioning, tire noise, vacuum cleaners and anything else that has a constant droning sound. Unfortunately noise canceling will do nothing to keep you from hearing the person in the cube next to your or your kids.

What are noise isolating headphones?

Noise Isolating in ear
Noise isolating headphones reduce all external noise equally, no matter what the source is, even talking. How do they work? They accomplish this by physically blocking outside noise from reaching your ears. Over ear headphones with enclosed backs do this well as do in-ear headphones which fit snugly inside your ear canal. Open air headphones of any type will not be noise isolating.

Types of noise cancelling headphones and earbuds
Bose In ear buds

As mentioned there are closed back and in-ear noise cancelling. Both work equally as well. It depends on if which style you're more comfortable with. Personally over ear head phones with a few exceptions (higher end Sony headphones) will start hurting my ears after about an hour or two. If you have smaller ears this may not be a problem for you.
Bose Closed Back over ear

Closed back over ear headphones

Over ear noise cancelling headphones offer good isolation of external noise as well as comfort to those who prefer not to stick something in their ear canal. They also have the benefit of having the electronics that do the noise cancellation inside the headphone.

In ear, or ear bud noise cancelling headphones will fully block the ear canal offering some isolation in addition to electronic cancellation but have an small external box to house the electronics. For me this is worth it but you might find it annoying. Be very careful that what you're getting has active electronics and is not a noise isolating headphone purporting to have cancellation.

Which is better?

If you are trying to block out white noise type sounds like a jet engine then noise cancelling is the way to go. If you want to partially block our your coworkers than noise isolating works just as well. As for in ear or over ear it depends on which you're more comfortable with. If you usually wear over ear headphones then that's your best choice. If you prefer in ear headphones like I do, then that's the way to go.

Which do you perfer?

Imagine T3 Tower Speaker - Is it the Best Tower to buy?


Yes these fine floor standing speakers from PSB will set you back almost $8,000 for a pair but wow, what a gorgeous looking speaker. With five drivers all in their own compartment and 3 woofers independently tuned for optimal bass to compliment the 5 in tweeter, they are likely worth it. If there has ever been a speaker that represents the latest and most advanced thinking of PSB loudspeaker design, it is the new premium Imagine T3.

from Pocket

Denon won't support Google Cast in its speakers after all


When Google Cast was announced last year during CES, Google partnered with LG, Sony, and Denon to launch the first wave of Google Cast-enabled speakers.

from Pocket

This $80 wood clad Bluetooth is pretty, but is it the prettiest?


Recover Outlier Bluetooth Speaker, $80, available at Nordstrom. When it comes to shopping for bluetooth speakers, sound quality is the top priority.

from Pocket

Wilson Audio launches £90k Alexx loudspeaker


Crazy expensive speaker from Alexx. Very SciFi looking. Difficult to tell how much benefit you'd get from splitting the midrange duties of speakers. But for over $100k, I'm guessing the owners are not asking. Mids are handled by two different drivers, one 14.5cm and one 18cm unit - each one is assigned a different part of the mid-band to look after. To handle the lowest frequencies, Alexx employs both 26.

from Pocket

Klipsch Reference R-4B Soundbar Set To Land In Oz


The two-way soundbar is decked out with premium drivers, two lightweight 0.75" horn-loaded textile dome tweeters for "distinctive high-frequency detail", along with two 2.5" mid-range fibre composite woofers, rounding out the "enhanced sound with crisp vocal and dynamic soundtracks".

from Pocket

Multi Room Wireless Speakers, what makes a System Multi-room?

What's a multi room wireless speaker?

This term would refer to a setup where multiple speakers connect via one interface and usually allow the listener to play either the same music on all devices or different music on each.

Sound simple enough right? It really is that simple. That said there are multiple approaches to achieving this type of output.

The Sonos wireless speakers

Sonos uses a Mesh network that operates outside of your regular home network which has two distinct benefits.
  • It does not compete with other traffic on the network. (though it still competes with other traffic coming into your house! If two family members are streaming Netflix...)
  • Since each speaker is a mini network extender, it allows for further propagation of the network removing the issue of being too far from a wireless router.
  • But... it does require its own hub which is additional money.
The Samsung & Bose wireless speakers

Both Samsung Radiant speakers and Bose SoundTouch wireless speakers work off your existing wireless network. This is great since it somewhat reduces the cost at the expense of extending your network beyond the reach of your router. Both brands also work with Bluetooth technology if you prefer.

  • No hub required
  • Uses your existing home network

No matter which system you choose you'll get true multi-room music capabilities that will make you smile. Here are some pictures of the three types of systems.

Radiant360 R5 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Speaker
Samsung Radiant
Product Details
Bose SoundTouch
Product Details
Sonos Play 5

All three systems connect to your favorite Internet radio services like Pandora so pick up 2 or 3 and rock the house.

New Waterproof Marine Speakers by Polk

Bring on summer! Polk keeps upping the game for Marine speakers for your boat or outdoor application. The new DB series speakers are news in the line of outdoor speakers for your active live. Keep on Rockin! 

  • Marine-Certified (Car, Marine, ATV)

    • Noncorrosive grilles and mounting hardwareWaterproof inner and outer surrounds prevent water intrusion
    • Integrated weep holes ensure proper drainage from grille
    • Tested for salt fog, UV & humidity
  • Enhanced fit yields easy installation that fits in almost any vehicle
    • Optimized tweeter protrusion and depth of speaker basket
  • Neodymium tweeters and Dynamic Balance Driver® technology for an immersive audio experience with acoustically balanced high and low frequencies
  • Available in April 2016 and will retail from $69.95 - $349.95
"We pride ourselves on manufacturing vehicles with clearly-defined aesthetics, standards and materials," said Ward. "Polk is an ideal car audio partner as the company shares the same thoughtfulness and care for quality engineering, design and sound performance. I'm thrilled to present this custom-built ICON FJ40 4x4 that's outfitted with Polk's speakers."

Loudspeaker Drivers: Can you tell a good speaker simply by the drivers parts?

I just finished an informative article on Audioholics about speaker drivers and how to identify quality parts. Although a very good article and quite informative, it does not seem to answer the question "do certain parts make loud speakers sound better?
It is a long article so I'll break it down for you and you can decide if it's worth the full read.
  • The article a great job at describing the parts of a speaker driver, though it does get wonky.
  • Thicker more ridged baskets (the metal or plastic part of the speaker that holds it together) is an indicator of quality.
  • Spends a lot of time discussing the value, or lack thereof of stamped vs. cast baskets
  • Many companies use "open tool" baskets, meaning they did not design them but purchased them from another manufacturer. Note that this could be the case even if their name is on it! The Speaker Company did this often as minor mods to tools are often inexpensive.
The bottom line was that thickness in the frame will have an effect on your sound. The author gives little or no attention to the effect of the quality of the magnet, voice coils or cone material. That is for another day.

Best image from the article from Audioholics showing the cheaper, open tool product used by Bose vs the custom BA basket. This does not mean you'll like the Boston Acoustics sound better (you will, but for many reasons beyond the basket material), just that the Bose speaker is from an open tool, likely thin and not as well made as the BA speaker.

Loudspeaker Drivers: Identifying Legitimately High Fidelity Parts | Audioholics

New Sonos Competition from RIVA

New wireless speaker system from RIVA to compete with Sonos.

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