HDMI vs Bluetooth for a Soundbar

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Updated August 29, 2022

If you are new to the world of advanced home audio, you may look to compare HDMI vs Bluetooth for a soundbar. Some of the best speakers, after all, are quality soundbars and modern iterations are often wireless via Bluetooth. So what are the main differences, and which is best for your entertainment setup? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The key difference between these two is that Bluetooth soundbars allow for wireless sound and HDMI ARC soundbars require a wired connection.
  • Bluetooth soundbars help eliminate clutter, though at the expense of sound quality (only slightly.)
  • HDMI ARC soundbars integrate easily with other stereo components, including Dolby Atmos surround sound systems outfitted with optical cables, Blu-Ray players, and other audio devices.

Soundbars: Bluetooth vs HDMI

The primary difference is that Bluetooth soundbars are not wired, and HDMI soundbars are, which is important if you are learning what HDMI ARC means. Bluetooth soundbars cut down on clutter and are considered some of the best wireless speaker solutions. However, HDMI soundbars have broader integration possibilities, which you’ll discover if you are comparing, say, a 2.1 soundbar vs a 5.1 soundbar.

Insider Tip

Make sure you have enough space above or below your TV to successfully place a soundbar.

Both options are good for beefing up your television’s audio, which is true when also comparing optical soundbars vs HDMI. Here are more contrasts between these two types, though none quite as stark as when comparing Bluetooth vs WiFi speakers.

Wireless Audio

Cables and wires are considered a necessary evil when setting up an audio system. However, that is slowly changing. Modern Bluetooth soundbars eliminate the need for a physical connection to the TV, though they will have to plug into a power source. In other words, there will be one less cable cluttering up your entertainment system. That right there is enough for most consumers. If cables don’t bug you, though, HDMI soundbars do offer some significant advantages.

Sound Quality

HDMI ARC technology is incredibly advanced and complex, allowing for real-time audio that sounds, in a word, delicious. The difference may only be noticeable to hardcore audiophiles, but general consensus places HDMI soundbars ahead of Bluetooth models when it comes to the actual sound. Bluetooth, by its very design, introduces some lag into the system. This lag is imperceptible, so it won’t cause your video and audio to fall out of sync, but the drivers must downgrade some of the audio to handle it.

STAT: Altec Lansing introduced a multichannel soundbar in 1998 called the Voice Of The Digital Theatre or the ADA106. (source)

Integration

If the soundbar is just one part of a larger audio system, you may have some trouble getting Bluetooth versions to play nice with your other gear. In other words, if you are looking to set up a surround sound 5.1 system, or something similar, you are better off going with a cabled HDMI soundbar. However, technology is ever-advancing, and some modern surround sound systems also use Bluetooth.

HDMI Vs Bluetooth FAQs

Why do HDMI cables have a max length?

HDMI cables feature copper, and this cable type can degrade the audio quality if the length is too long. This is why you see HDMI cables in shorter lengths than optical audio cables.

Is HDMI ARC better than Bluetooth?

HDMI ARC has better audio quality than Bluetooth, along with more Dolby Atmos integration, but Bluetooth does not require a wired connection via HDMI cable or optical audio cable.

What is the disadvantage of HDMI ARC?

HDMI ARC (audio return channel) cables present a limited version of Dolby Digital/Dolby Atmos surround sound, as the audio is automatically compressed, though this is not true of optical cables. Still, tech is evolving, and HDMI ARC cables will soon advance beyond optical cables regarding Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital.
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