5 things speakers can do better than Dolby Atmos soundbars

Let’s hear it for soundbars: they offer an easy and inexpensive way to upgrade the built-in audio of the best 4k tvsand the best add features like Dolby Atmos processing, a separate wireless subwoofer and surround speakers, and up-firing speakers to deliver airy effects in Atmos soundtracks – which they do by doing bouncing the sound off the ceiling.

A few soundbar systems like LG’s S95QRbig brother of S80QY which TechRadar reviewed, packs all the features listed above, delivering a whopping 9.1.5 channels of audio. But the S95QR costs $1,800, and at that price point you really should consider a separate speaker system instead.

What do you need to get up and running with a Dolby Atmos speaker system? First, you’ll need the speakers, which are usually sold in configurations listed as 5.1.2, 5.1.4, or 7.1.4. These numbers refer to the number of speakers and their function, with 5 (or 7) representing the main left, right, center and surround speakers; 1 representing the subwoofer; and the 2 (or 4) representing the Atmos aerial effects speakers.

Then you will need a AV receiveran all-in-one component with Dolby Atmos and other types of surround sound processing, multiple amplifier channels to power all speakers, and HDMI input ports to connect source devices like a AppleTV 4K and 4K Blu-ray playeras well as HDMI output ports to connect to a 4K TV or projector.

Finally, you’ll need speaker cables to connect the A/V receiver to the various speakers in the system, an inelegant and sometimes complicated process – which drives many people to opt for a soundbar in the first place.

If you choose to opt for separate speakers and AV receiver, which in some cases can be done for the same price or even less than high-end soundbar systems like the LG S95QR mentioned above above or that of Samsung. HW-Q990B, you will find that it offers multiple advantages. Here are just 5 examples of what speakers do better than soundbars, listed in no particular order:

LG S95QR soundbar system on white background

LG’s S95QR provides 9.1.5 audio channels and costs $1,800. (Image credit: LG)

Deliver clear dialogue

Unlike a soundbar, where the many speakers in the system are grouped together in the same cabinet, the center channel of a regular surround sound system has its own dedicated speaker. This is usually placed on a stand just below the television, where it can be “locked” to the screen so that the dialogue appears to be coming from the actors’ mouths.

Because the center channel speaker is physically separate from the others in the system, it can convey vocals more clearly than you’ll experience with soundbars. And because dedicated center-channel speakers have a wider frequency range with better bass than those used to deliver dialogue in a soundbar, vocals will sound more natural.

Create proper surround sound

Although more expensive soundbar systems have dedicated surround speakers, most people choose to settle for the front channels provided by more basic soundbar options, or the “virtual” surround sound that they deliver. And that’s a shame because surround effects are an element of movie soundtracks that really bring the action to life by putting you right in the center of it.

Like separate center channel speakers, surround speakers typically have an extended frequency range that helps make surround effects more realistic and have greater impact. Most systems only use one pair for the rear left and right channels, but you can add a second pair as side surround speakers to better convey the full range of surround effects in 7.1 channel and Dolby soundtracks atmosphere.

Optimize Atmos height effects

As mentioned above, the best soundbars provide speakers to deliver airy effects in Atmos soundtracks. Even so, the spread of overhead sound is more limited than it would be with dedicated Atmos height speakers, as all the speakers are housed in a single compact enclosure.

Dedicated Atmos height speaker modules typically sit above your front and left and right surround speakers. (Some speakers come with these already built into their top surface.) Another variation is the Atmos in-ceiling height speakers, although these usually require professional installation. Whichever version you use, separate speakers can spread overhead effects over a wider listening area than soundbars, making the immersive effect of Dolby Atmos soundtracks even more dramatic and powerful .

SVS 4000 series subwoofer next to the side table in the living room

Dedicated subwoofers like this 4000 Series model from SVS are designed for bass below 20Hz and can be controlled by an app. (Image credit: SVS)

Reproduce Low Frequency Effects (LFE)

Soundbar systems with a separate wireless subwoofer are preferable to all-in-one soundbars because they provide deeper, stronger bass effects in movie soundtracks. But the subwoofers that come with most soundbars usually have limited bass extension compared to subwoofers used for separate speaker systems.

Since soundbars are compact designs that use small – in some cases, tiny – speakers, the system’s subwoofer is designed to carry all the bass and even some of the vocal range frequencies, and for this reason, it should be located close to the soundbar for best performance.

The self-contained subwoofers used in regular speaker systems are purpose-built designs that can produce much deeper bass effects in movie soundtracks than soundbars, and do so at a much louder level. And because AV receivers offer more flexible configuration features for routing bass to individual speakers in a standard speaker system, you can position the subwoofer anywhere in the room you want.

Render a true stereo image

Music presentation can suffer in soundbars compared to more traditional separate speaker systems. Indeed, as with dialogue and overhead effects in Dolby Atmos soundtracks, a soundbar’s compact, all-in-one design, which bundles individual speakers, compromises its ability to separate left channels. and straight – a necessary condition for creating a correct stereo image.

This won’t be a problem for most people, as they bought their soundbar primarily to improve TV sound. But if you’re just as interested in listening to music as you are watching TV shows and movies, you’ll get better performance by switching to an AV receiver and separate speakers on a soundbar system.

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