Soundbar vs Receiver

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Updated September 12, 2022

Determining the best speakers for your home theatre system can be laborious. With so many choices to sift through, it’s no wonder the simplicity offered by a great soundbar has grown in appeal over the years. But ensuring that you make the right decision can be challenging, and we’re here to help. Below, we’ll compare soundbars vs receivers and outline the main differences so you can rest easy as you swipe your credit card.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Both soundbars and speakers take the digital signal from a source device and amplify it to play through speakers.
  • AV receivers come equipped and ready to power the highest resolution audio formats, but they are bulky and expensive.
  • Soundbars also often come prepared with some surround setup but support fewer sound formats and have less power than receivers.

But for those more interested in exploring the various soundbar options, check out our article comparing 2.1 vs 5.1 soundbars.

Insider Tip

Always consider the size of the room when selecting home theatre equipment.

AV Receivers vs Soundbars

AV receivers and soundbars are forms of amplifiers that take a signal from a source device and amplify it to play through a system of speakers system. However, the difference between these two is that an AV receiver acts only as an amplifier, whereas a soundbar often has built-in speakers.

Soundbars have become more popular for their sleek, compact design. However, AV receivers are still common and widely praised among audio junkies. And given that these two devices function similarly, many people wonder why there’s fuss over which is better.

Well, the fuss exists because, although they’re alike, there are also differences to consider by anyone trying to take their home theatre audio experience seriously. While this article focuses specifically on the amplification aspects, we have another article that compares soundbars vs speakers to get a better sense of the actual audio output.

Sound Quality

Ultimately, the audio quality for AC receivers outpaces that of a soundbar. There are many options for soundbars and receivers. However, soundbar options begin thinning out when supporting cinematic surround sound formats that handle up to seven, nine, or fourteen speakers.

AV receivers are known for coming in formats that power many additional speaker channels, such as rear and ceiling speakers. They also can decode the highest-quality surround formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS.

Warning

Soundbars have limited features compared to those that come with most AV receivers.

One element of audio quality that most forget about is how the type of connection affects the sound output. If you want to read further on this, we have an article discussing optical vs HDMI connection for soundbars.

Compactness

Buyers should consider the soundbar if they prioritize having a neat audio-visual setup that requires only one HDMI cable. Unfortunately, AV receivers don’t quite have the all-in-oneness of a soundbar. Some AV receivers have only two separate wires, one for the audio power and one for the visual power. But if you plan on adding many individual speakers, you can potentially face over ten wires to manage.

STAT: The majority of soundbar options have 2-3 main speaker channels. (source)

Price

Soundbars are a great affordable option that provides an adequate sound experience for casual listening. Soundbars typically range from $50-$500. Meanwhile, AV receivers begin at about two hundred and can cost up to a few thousand dollars.

Soundbar vs Reciever FAQs

What is the most important speaker in a surround sound setup?

Experts agree to prioritize the main front channels when looking to achieve good sound quality.

What does the center speaker on a surround sound system do?

The center channel focuses on enhancing the dialogue or vocals of a movie or song.

What is Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology that uses a system of speakers to interpret a movie's sound and play it back in 3-D to enhance the realistic effect.
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