The Science (And Magic) of Soundbars Published on 22 April 2016 | Posted by Atlas

Your speaker setup is integral to delivering the audio experience you need when you watch movies at home. One of the areas of advancement in home entertainment systems is the soundbar. But what is a soundbar? Is it just another speaker, only thinner?

Well, yes and no. They are quite thin, being candybar-shaped. That’s because they’re designed to sit below the television in a low profile. Yes, they are speakers, but the technology inside is quite different from a normal speaker cabinet.

Soundbar systems provide an immersive audio experience at a price point that’s typically less expensive than a full 5.1 speaker system. You get movie-theatre sound that’s easier on the pocket. In Addition to that, they are much easier to deploy and get running. This is why soundbars could very well be the most convenient way to build or upgrade your home theatre.

Surround Yourself With Audio

So what makes a soundbar so different from a typical run-of-the-mill speaker? Soundbars are designed to give you a surround-sound experience from a simple speaker enclosure. Newer soundbars typically have at least 5 speakers fitted inside that elongated chamber, with each pumping out a separate audio channel for you.

In days not so long ago, we would’ve had 5 separate speakers, and a tangle of cables for each one. They’d have to be physically positioned in different parts of the room in order to give you the effect that just one soundbar can bring. Nowadays, it’s clear dialogue coming to your ears from the front, with sound effects sweeping across from different sides. All from something sleek and stylish, just sitting just under the TV.


What’s a Phased Array System? The Science Behind Soundbars

The way it does it is by directional sound. Take a look at the Bose® SoundTouch® 130, for example. The soundbar component has six powerful drivers and 2 PhaseGuide® sound radiators inside, all of which are precisely positioned in order to give you that surround-sound experience. The sound follows the onscreen action. Think of a horse galloping closer to you, and having the sound follow as it moves across the screen. The phased array system (the technical term for soundbars) PhaseGuide® technology lets you hear sounds where you wouldn’t normally expect it to be.

Phased array sound system technology was patented in 2001. It’s somewhat complicated, but basically it works by pumping out audio through an array of speakers at different intervals so that you get a sort of 3D effect for the sound. It’s all about timing and the way sound waves work. These days, with more sophisticated algorithms to calculate how to drive that audio, you get the surround-sound quality that modern soundbars are known for.

Advantages of Having a Soundbar Sytem


Great for Small Spaces

Owing to the compactness of the system, having a soundbar would be perfect for those who live in a smaller space, like an apartment. The lack of space is actually good for a soundbar, because the nearby walls are useful for bouncing sound off of. That’s also one of the ways you get the 3D audio effect, as sound waves reflect off hard surfaces.


Great for Your Décor

You don’t have to fill up that tiny area with speakers. Think of your decor as well as the sound. There’s less clutter in the room with a soundbar setup. You can either have a simple soundbar under the TV, or a complicated assortment of speakers and wires arranged around the room. The choice is, shall we say, clean.


Great for Renters

It’s also great to have if you’re renting. Packing up and setting up this kind of sound system is a whole lot easier than taking an amplifier and a whole lot of speakers with you whenever you move. Neither do you have to worry about boring drilling holes to hide wires or mount surround speakers.


Easy To Set Up and Use

If you have an active soundbar, that means it has an amplifier already built in (all the good ones do). This makes it really easy to set up. It can be as simple as plug ‘n play, depending on the model you have.

Some high-end systems, like the Bose ® Lifestyle® SoundTouch® 135, even walk you through the entire process. It has the Unify® integration system to make sure all components are connected correctly. So if you have other gadgets like a Bluray player or a game console, it can easily be assimilated into your home theatre system.


Do I Need Anything Else?

Admittedly, what may be lacking when you get yourself a soundbar to use for your home theatre would be some bass. That’s not a deal breaker though, as most of the soundbar systems available these days have a separate bass unit attached to it. The SoundTouch® Home Theater systems from Bose® for example, all come with a wireless Acoustimass® module. You can place it out of sight and still feel the rumble in your chest when watching movies with explosions.


Now It’s Your Turn

Have your purchased a soundbar system yet? Tell us about your experiences using it. And if you’ve had a different type of sound system for your home theatre before, give us the difference in the comments down below!