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In this guide we tell you how to buy a soundbar

It is incredible that even in these times of the era of 4K Ultra HD and HDR, the cheapest televisions have a high-definition screen in which you can see the most insignificant details, but there is still an aspect in which they do not just work: sound. It is not strange: they do not have room for first level speakers given the thinness of the screens, but what is the best solution? A soundbar, without a doubt! Here we give you all the elements so that you know how to buy a sound bar that does justice to those incredible images of your TV.

They are thin, discreet and easy to configure. The best sound bars can effectively emulate a full-featured surround system. But discovering which sound bar to choose can be difficult, given the diversity of options and the confusing numeric suffixes attached.

sound bar under TVTCL Roku

Digital Trends en Espaol is here to help you, and we'll tell you what you need to know when you decide to buy one. Keep reading and get ready for a visual experience full of the best sound.

Subwoofer

Regardless of the sound bar you buy, be a great improvement over the internal speakers of almost any TV. Even so, you have to make decisions, and the first is very important: should you get a soundbar with or without a subwoofer?

subwoofer on the floor

Subwoofers are speaker controllers dedicated to low frequency audio reproduction: think of rumbling bass, explosive bombs, the noise of a helicopter's blades. A sound bar with a subwoofer add bump and noise to TV shows and movies, creating a more complete sound and projecting the audio more effectively throughout the room. If you plan to watch many action movies or movies with pica music, you may want a subwoofer.

Some sound bars come with dedicated subwoofers (most are connected wirelessly, although some require a direct cable connection), but in some cases it is better to buy them separately. We recommend you do some research to find the best subwoofers. If you decide to buy a dedicated third-party subwoofer, make sure your soundbar supports it: not all soundbars have a dedicated subwoofer output.

Connections

For the most part, you will only need a cable to connect a soundbar with your TV. Some sound bars are based on optical cables, which work well, but we recommend that you use HDMI: the HDMI interface supports more audio formats than the optical ones, which means that you will get a higher quality and surround sound with HDMI.

In addition, HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) is a protocol that appears on most of the newer sound bars with an HDMI connection. This allows the TV and the soundbar to exchange information more easily, including the ability to route video to the TV and route the sound from the TV, through a single connection. It also often allows you to control volume and power with a single remote control. Some sound bars can even act as entertainment centers for your home, where you can connect all your components for simple and easy control.

Channels and Dolby Atmos

When you buy a soundbar, you will probably find some confusing numbers. Labels such as "2.0", "3.1" or "5.1". The first number before the point refers to the number of channels (speakers) and the number after the point indicates whether there is a subwoofer (1) or no subwoofer (0). If a soundbar has only two channels, that means a left and a right channel. If it has three channels, the third is a central channel, which improves the clarity of the dialogue. If you have five channels, they will be for surround or surround sound speakers.

Often, a sound bar will come with a wireless subwoofer and, in some cases, even wireless satellite speakers. They do not need to be physically connected to the soundbar itself, but they will need a power supply, so you should place them near the power outlets.

If there is a third number, that is, 5.1.4, that means that the soundbar supports Dolby Atmos or DTS: X surround sound. The final number refers to the number of dedicated speakers pointing towards the ceiling, bouncing the Sound to create a surround effect. The first Dolby Atmos models were reasonably effective in height speaker simulation, but the new Atmos sound bars are incredible. Atmos is currently the most popular surround sound technology, capable of processing 128 different objects in a given scene.

Home audio and Bluetooth

Sound bars are increasingly used to listen to music as for your TV. This is especially true in smaller houses or apartments. Most of the new sound bars support Bluetooth transmission from your cell phone, tablet or computer, allowing you to listen to your Spotify or other music quickly and easily on a larger speaker. However, there are more sophisticated options. Sonos, Denon HEOS, Bluesound, Bose, Yamaha and many others offer sound bars that can be linked to wireless music systems for the entire home via Wi-Fi.

Smart sound bars

Sound bars no longer have to do with sound alone. The latest JBL and Roku models now include intelligent software, such as Roku OS, and even voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa. These are a good option for those who wish to give their old TVs the ultimate in home automation and transmission services, without complicating their configuration with additional decoders and cables. These smart sound bars are very convenient, but don't forget, your main mission should be to get a better sound. It is not worth buying a smart sound bar that does not meet your sound quality expectations.