My experience with a Soundbar

I previously had a small 5.1 system setup for my home-theatre (the Energy Take Classics, which go for around $350). However, I was never able to hide the rear-wires properly, so had them cutting across the living room floor, which didn't look too impressive.

Wanting to streamline our place a little, I decided to reduce wire-clutter, and so I went with the Samsung HW-F751 Soundbar. I chose this for several reasons - it received great online reviews, it has a wireless subwoofer reducing clutter, and it looks slick matching our Samsung TV.
Now naturally I did not expect this to be better than a discrete 5.1 system, but I thought it should at least be a good-enough compromise - I was wrong.

As soon as I turned it on, I knew I had probably made a big mistake. The sound coming from this thing reminded me of watching movies on a laptop. There was plenty of detail in the highs and mids, but due to it's physical dimensions, it just sounds small.

This makes sense when you think about it - the physical separation between its internal speakers is pretty small, and the overall dimensions of the bar are smaller than that of a 42" TV, so what you end up with is all the sound coming from the bottom-center of the TV, almost like a pin-point mono signal.

This is with all the fancy DSP and Virtual Surround settings off. Playing with some of these definitelly gives a brief illusion of a wider sound-stage, but then there's all sorts of other artefacts and timing issues with reflected sounds (especially in my odd-shaped living-room). I kept switching between different modes trying to find a setting I was happy with, or at least something I could get used to, but never found it.

I actually preferred the sound coming directly from the inbuilt TV speakers (a high-end 55" Samsung LED) over this sound-bar. It just sounded more
natural and easy on the ears.

Needless to say, I sold this thing within about two weeks of purchasing it, and will never go back to a soundbar again. The previous $350 Energy Take Classic 5.1 system I had was many orders of magnitude better than this sound-bar (and costs less too). I suppose even wireless 5.1 home-theatre in-a-box type systems would be a better investment. My impression is that Soundbars are neat in theory, but terrible in practice.


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