Why is the sound of a home theater so much better than that of a sound bar?

Audio equipment

Why is the sound of a home theater so much better than that of a sound bar?

If sound quality and immersive experience are among your top priorities when upgrading your home sound system, you should keep in mind that the surround sound of a home theater beats that of sound bars for more than one obvious reason.

The popularity of sound bars is based on their stylized design, the possibility of mounting them on a wall or on the TV cabinet, the fact that they are ideal for small spaces and have minimal visual impact. And honestly, anything sounds better than TV speakers. Where sound bars fail compared to a surround home theater system is the ability to deliver a convincing full range, dizzying audio experience.

When comparing home theater systems and sound bars from a strict sound quality standpoint, here’s what you need to know:


When the screen is taking up almost your entire field of view, the sound should appear to be coming from specific points in front of you and not directly at you. High-performance front and center speakers will be more capable of delivering that localized imaging and front-stage spaciousness than a sound bar.


You certainly don’t want to spend the movie asking your companion what a character said. We can all agree that the human voice is an important part of any musical or cinematic experience. Having a central channel dedicated to dialogue and voices, with crystal clear clarity, gives impact and full meaning to each word. Almost 70% of the audio passes through the center channel at one time or another and having a dedicated channel for it to anchor the front scene between the front left and right speakers clearly makes a difference.


Faithful reproduction of source content without coloration or inaccuracies is more difficult with challenging material. Do you want to crank it up? The elements of a surround system have a larger cabinet volume, more tweeters and more woofers working to maintain precision across the entire frequency spectrum. When you have a 5.1, 7.2, 11.4.4 home theater system or any other combination of multiple speakers working in unison, the ability to create accurate sound is greater at any volume.


Sound bars have to be thin and thin. If you’ve ever heard a powered subwoofer, you already know that it doesn’t fit in the chassis of a sound bar. To compensate, many sound bars come paired with their own “subwoofer.” It’s true that we at SVS are big fans of bass, but the subwoofer that comes with a sound bar or a supermarket 5.1 system is not a real subwoofer. In fact, these subwoofers are one of the main reasons SVS exists.

Any subwoofer can reproduce bass, but only a true subwoofer delivers low-frequency extension to the limits of human hearing and beyond with surprising power you can feel. A great subwoofer also maintains transient accuracy and speed at any volume. The ability to stop and start suddenly when plucking a bass string or to reproduce every detail – subtle or explosive – as an action scene unfolds, without smudging the soundstage. These are the distinctive qualities of SVS subwoofers that no ordinary subwoofer can’t match.


The feeling that sound is coming from everywhere is a key feature of true home theater experiences. The snap of a twig behind you, a plane roaring overhead, the voices in a packed room; These effects must be communicated with a spatial image that emphasizes what is happening off-screen and that the sound is coming from around you. It’s no surprise that installing surround speakers behind you is much more effective than any attempt to fool us with a sound bar or tiny speakers. Plus, with new surround formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro 3-D adding their height effects to the sound field, the potential for surprise is even greater.


They are comfortable, but sound bars don’t offer much flexibility when installing them. They are generally hung on the wall or placed on the TV cabinet. What this does is that there is only one point from which it can be heard correctly, with the correct sound quality and dynamics. “Sweet spots” also exist in home theater systems, but they are easier to optimize based on the placement and angulation of various speakers in relation to listening positions. Sound bars are almost always installed below the TV, so the sweet spot will always be the same.


Although slightly outside the realm of sound quality and performance, a cinema system is a statement in itself. A surround sound system shows that you really enjoy entertainment. There is so much high-resolution music, HD video streaming, movies and concerts in BD and on demand that why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy the full potential that technology grants us by hearing every detail and feeling every moment.

Once you decide on a surround sound system the fun begins: there are 5.1, 7.1 configurations, with two subwoofers, with height effects and countless ways to enhance the experience.

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Simon Müller

Simon Müller is the driving force behind UMusic, embodying a lifelong passion for all things melodious. Born and raised in New York, his love for music took form at an early age and fueled his journey from an avid music enthusiast to the founder of a leading music-centered website. Simon's diverse musical tastes and intrinsic understanding of acoustic elements offer a unique perspective to the UMusic community. Sporting a dedicated commitment to aural enrichment and hearing health, his vision extends beyond just delivering news - he aspires to create a network of informed, appreciative music lovers. Spend a moment in Mueller's company, and you'd find his passion infectious – music isn’t simply his job, it’s his heartbeat.