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. 

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