Soundbar VS Surround Sound | Comparison

While TVs are getting thinner and thinner nowadays, a negative impact on their sound quality is evident. To get the most out of your movies, music tracks, games, and your favorite Netflix series, it is necessary to invest in better speakers.

Once you’ve decided to enhance your audio experience, the next step is to figure out which kind of audio system will perform best in your home. There are two popular options that often come to mind: soundbars and surround sound systems.

Both offer a significant upgrade from the built-in speakers on your TV, but they have distinct features and benefits that cater to different preferences and room setups. In this comprehensive comparison, we’ll compare soundbar vs surround sound systems, helping you make an informed decision on which one is right for you.

Quick Comparison of the Soundbar & Surround Sound

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, let’s quickly highlight the main differences between soundbars and surround sound systems.

A soundbar is a compact, all-in-one speaker system containing multiple speakers in a single bar-like, elongated enclosure. Their compact and minimalistic design can seamlessly blend with any room decor and is an ideal option for smaller to medium-sized rooms. They are easy to set up and involve less cable, offering a clutter-free audio solution.

Sound quality is excellent compared to built-in TV speakers and is more affordable than full-surround sound systems. However, they lack the ability to provide an immersive surround sound experience but offer virtual surround sound, which is definitely not at the level of real 3D sound.

Surround sound systems comprise multiple speakers of various sizes and shapes. However, these systems require additional components like receivers and amplifiers. But their highlighting factor is that they deliver true, immersive surround sound. They are suitable for larger rooms and home theaters but require more setup time and space. A surround sound system is more expensive than a soundbar due to additional components.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound Comparison Table

Here’s a more detailed comparison chart of soundbars and surround sound systems:

AspectSoundbarSurround Sound Systems
DesignSlim, compact, and easy to place.Multiple speakers and a receiver
Sound QualityGood audio improvement; virtual surroundExcellent, true surround sound.
ImmersionCan create a sense of immersion, but not as good as a surround sound systemCreates a true surround sound experience, with sound coming from all around you
Setup ComplexityEasy, fewer cables, quick installationMore complex, multiple components.
Room SizeIdeal for smaller rooms and apartments.Suited for larger spaces and home theaters
Space ManagementMinimalist design, saves space.Requires more space for speakers.
Price RangeGenerally more affordable.Often more expensive due to components.

Detailed Comparison of Surround Sound and Soundbar

Here’s a more detailed comparison of soundbars and surround sound systems:


Design of Soundbar VS Surround Sound

Soundbars are known for their sleek and minimalist design. They are usually slim and long, and you can easily place them in front of your TV or mount them on the wall. Some models are even designed to seamlessly integrate with specific TV brands, which makes your home entertainment setup more visually appealing.

In contrast, surround sound systems consist of multiple speakers and a receiver. These systems are bulkier and require more space for placement. Often, each speaker requires a dedicated stand or wall mount. So, the speaker system is not as aesthetically appealing as soundbars, but it provides a more immersive audio experience. If you have a dedicated home theater setup, a surround sound system can be more suitable.

Space Management

Soundbars are champions of space management. Their compactness makes them ideal for smaller rooms or setups where space is at a premium. You can place a soundbar directly under your TV, on a table or shelf, or even mount it on the wall and save your valuable floor space. If you are living in an apartment or room with limited space, the minimalist design of the soundbar can be significantly advantageous.

A surround sound system requires more space for placement. You require space for the central receiver and multiple speakers, including the front, center, rear, and sometimes subwoofer. And if you have a surround system with more channels, you’ll require more space.

This can be challenging in smaller rooms, and you’ll need to invest in speaker stands or wall mounts, further adding to space requirements. However, if you have a dedicated home theater or a larger living space, the immersive audio experience they offer may justify the space investment.

Ease of Installation and Use

One of the primary advantages of soundbars is their ease of installation and use. They are extremely user-friendly and typically require minimal setup. You can easily connect your soundbar to your TV through a single cable (usually HDMI or optical). Most soundbars are often equipped with wireless subwoofers.

This simple setup allows you to enjoy better audio without dealing with the complexity of a full surround sound setup. Many soundbars come with remote controls, or you can control them via smartphone apps, which makes them user-friendly for people of all tech-savvy levels.

Surround sound systems, on the other hand, tend to be more complex in terms of installation and use. As they involve multiple components like speakers, receivers, and often more cables, their setup can be difficult and time-consuming.

Setting up speakers in the right positions for optimal surround sound can be a bit of a challenge, especially for those who are not familiar with audio equipment. Additionally, using a surround sound system often requires a deeper understanding of audio settings and calibration. While some systems come with automatic calibration features, they may still be confusing for beginners.


Soundbar and surround sound Connectivity

Soundbars offer a wide range of connectivity options, including HDMI, optical, Bluetooth, and sometimes WiFi. This versatility allows you to connect different devices to your soundbar, such as your TV, streaming devices, gaming consoles, or smartphones.

Wide connectivity options and convenient switching between devices make soundbars a go-to option for everyday use.

Surround sound systems also offer multiple connectivity options, but their complex setup process can sometimes lead to challenges in managing all the connections. All the speakers must be connected correctly to the receiver for proper functioning, and this obviously involves more extensive cable management.

However, once properly set up, the surround sound system provides a wide array of connection choices, including HDMI, component, and optical, and can handle multiple devices simultaneously.

Sound Quality and Audio Technology

Soundbars have come a long way in terms of sound quality. Many modern soundbars use advanced audio technology, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, to create virtual surround sound experiences.

While they may not replicate the full immersion of a true surround sound system, they can provide an impressive audio upgrade over your TV’s built-in speakers. Soundbars are particularly effective at enhancing dialogue clarity and creating a more immersive audio experience for movies and TV shows.

Surround sound systems are renowned for their superior sound quality and ability to deliver true surround sound. With dedicated speakers for front, center, rear, and subwoofers, they can recreate soundscapes that immerse you in the action, making them ideal for home theaters and audiophiles.

They support various audio formats and provide a genuinely cinematic experience, especially when paired with high-quality receivers and speakers.

Customizability and Upgradability

Soundbars are generally not as customizable or upgradable as surround sound systems. They come as all-in-one units, and while some may allow you to add a separate subwoofer or rear speakers, the options for expanding or customizing the system are limited.

If you value simplicity and don’t plan on making significant changes to your audio setup, this may not be an issue.

Surround sound systems offer a high degree of customizability and upgradability. You can mix and match speakers and components to create a system that fits your specific preferences and room size.

As your budget or needs change, you can easily upgrade individual components, such as speakers or receivers, to improve your audio quality or add new features. This flexibility is particularly appealing to audio enthusiasts who want to fine-tune their setup over time.


Soundbars are generally more budget-friendly than surround sound systems. They provide a significant audio improvement over built-in TV speakers without breaking the bank. While high-end soundbars can still be relatively expensive, they tend to be more accessible to the average consumer.

Surround sound systems, with their multiple components and speakers, can be considerably more expensive than soundbars. The cost can escalate further if you opt for premium audio equipment and receivers with advanced features. However, the investment often pays off in terms of superior audio quality and long-term upgradability.

Pros and Cons of Soundbars

• Easy installation and setup
• Space-saving design.
• Budget-friendly options.
• Suitable for smaller rooms and apartments.
• Virtual surround sound for an enhanced audio experience.
• Limited customizability and upgradability
• May not deliver the same immersive experience as surround sound systems.
• Some models may lack deep bass without a subwoofer.

Pros and Cons of Surround Sound Systems

• True, immersive surround sound experience.
• High customizability and upgradability.
• Ideal for larger rooms and dedicated home theaters.
• Superior sound quality, especially with high-end components.
• Support for various audio formats and configurations.
• Complex installation and setup.
• Requires more space for speakers and equipment.
• Potentially higher cost, especially with premium components.
• Not as visually minimalist as soundbars.


In the end, the choice between a soundbar and a surround sound system comes down to your specific needs, preferences, and budget.

Choose a soundbar if:

  • You prioritize simplicity and ease of use.
  • You have limited space in your room.
  • You’re on a budget but still want a significant audio upgrade from your TV’s built-in speakers.
  • You mainly watch TV shows and movies and don’t require the highest level of audio immersion.

Choose a surround sound system if:

  • You’re an audiophile or cinephile looking for the best possible audio experience.
  • You have a larger room or a dedicated home theater space.
  • You value customizability and upgradability to fine-tune your audio setup.
  • You’re willing to invest in a premium audio system for the long term.

Ultimately, both soundbars and surround sound systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and the right choice depends on your specific audio needs and preferences. Whether you opt for the simplicity of a soundbar or the immersive audio experience of a surround sound system, upgrading your home entertainment audio is sure to enhance your overall viewing and listening pleasure.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound Comparison Table

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is a soundbar better than surround sound?

It depends on your needs and preferences. Soundbars are generally more compact and easier to set up than surround sound systems, but they may not provide the same level of immersion.

Are soundbars really surround sound?

No, soundbars do not produce true surround sound. They use virtual surround sound technologies to create the illusion of surround sound, but the results are not always as realistic as true surround sound.

What’s better than a soundbar?

A surround sound system is generally better than a soundbar if you are looking for the best possible audio experience. Surround sound systems use multiple speakers to create a more realistic and immersive soundstage.

Which is better, the 2.1 or 5.1 soundbar?

A 5.1 sound bar is generally better than a 2.1 sound bar, as it provides more channels of sound. However, a 2.1 sound bar may be sufficient for smaller rooms or if you are on a budget.

Which is the best soundbar or 5.1 home theater?

A 5.1 home theater is generally better than a soundbar, as it provides a more immersive and realistic sound experience. However, a soundbar may be more convenient and easier to set up if you have limited space. Ultimately, the best choice for you depends on your individual needs and preferences.

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