Difference Between Soundbar and Surround Sound

Key Difference – Soundbar vs Surround Sound

The key difference between soundbar and surround sound is that a sound bar comes with fewer speakers, can be operated wirelessly, and the sound is directed from a central point. It is also cheap and fits for a medium or small room. Surround sound, on the other hand, comes with many speakers that need to be specifically placed; it is an expensive system that produces high-quality sound.

If you have been struggling to decide between a sound bar and a home theater system, you are not alone.  The following section will help you to better understand the difference between the two products and help you decide on which product best fits you.

Soundbar – Features, Advantages, Disadvantages

Sound bars come with a sleek design. They are easy to install, can operate wirelessly, and produce a form of surround sound. This does not mean that a sound bar is a replacement for a surround sound system. If you are looking for an upgrade for a device with weak speakers, a sound bar is an ideal solution.

Sound bars are also known as a media bar; they come in a special enclosure that is able to create stereo sound with reasonable quality. For acoustic reasons, they are wider than being tall. They can be mounted above or below a display device due to their shape. This can be above a computer monitor or a television set.

Sound bars come in a small package and can be easily positioned. It is relatively easy to set up and less expensive when compared with other stereo systems. But the smaller size means that positioning will be not flexible, and the sound produced by the sound bars will struggle to fill the room with sound as with other stereo systems.

Some manufacturers have combined the features of the sound bar and the stereo setup and have produced a hybrid sound bar. These sound bars will contain left, center, right speakers and a subwoofer with rear left and rear right speakers. The rear left and right speakers are detachable most of the time.

Advantages of a Soundbar

  • Easy to install
  • Ease of connectivity
  • Sleek and modern design
  • Ideal for a small or medium size room
  • Produces excellent virtual sound

Disadvantages of a Soundbar

  • Additional subwoofer may need to be bought to increase sound quality
  • A specific sweet spot will be available in your listening experience
  • Complete surround sound is not produced
  • Not an ideal option for large living rooms

Difference Between Soundbar and Surround Sound

Surround Sound – Features, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages

Surround sound is an audio output that will appear to surround the listener in 360 degrees. The surrounding envelope is created with the use of three or more channels and speakers that are placed specifically in front and behind the listener. After the advent of the home theater system, surround sound has become a household name. Surround sound can be named analog or digital according to the source that produces it.

Surround Sound 5.1

This is the most common format in surround format. It comes with 6 channels. It consists of the 3-20000Hz frequency range for each channel with a low-frequency effect subwoofer channel that works in the range of 3 – 120 Hz.

5.1 channel comes in two flavors.

Dolby Digital

Dolby surround is a discrete surround multichannel system. It comes with six channels and sounds are precise. A subwoofer channel will help produce deep bass accurately.


DTS uses less compression when compared with Dolby Digital. So the produced sound is more accurate than Dolby Digital. Most audio and video use Dolby Digital and DTS. Only a few video games are encoded with DTS.

Surround Sound 6.1 and 7.1

These systems add on another channel with full bandwidth of the 5.1 surround system. Here the speaker has to be arranged in a different manner when compared with the 5.1 surround sound system.

Advantages of Surround Sound

  • Full range of sound
  • Optimal acoustics with the help of multiple speakers placed at different stations
  • Maximum bass
  • Theatre like sound presentation

Disadvantages of Surround Sound

  • Quality surround systems will require wires from the receiver to each speaker
  • Consumes space
  • Installation process is complex
  • ExpensiveMain Difference - Soundbar vs Surround Sound

What is the difference between Soundbar and Surround Sound?


Surround Sound: Surround sound will require multiple speakers.

Soundbar: Soundbars will come with two or more speakers.


Surround Sound: Surround sound will project sound towards the listener from 360-degree direction.

Soundbar: Soundbars will project sound from a central point.


Surround Sound: Surround sound mostly uses wires to connect the receiver to the speaker

Soundbar: Soundbars usually come with built-in Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. Soundbars also usually allow direct audio streaming from compatible devices.

Room size:

Surround Sound: Surround sound will be ideal for larger rooms

Soundbar: Soundbars will be suitable for small to medium sized rooms


Surround Sound: Surround sound will produce full surround sound

Soundbar: Sound bars can use virtual surround sound to simulate the surround sound experience.


Surround Sound: Surround sound systems are expensive

Soundbar: Sound bars are relatively cheap.

Soundbar vs Surround Sound  – Summary

Bigger speakers may seem to be a big advantage, but looks may deceive. Big speakers are ideal for large rooms and are able to produce eardrum pounding sounds. Smaller speakers like sound bar are also capable of producing high-quality sounds like big speakers.

Image Courtesy:

 “Samsung curved sound bar 9.1 channel” by Cheon Fong Liew (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

“5-1-surround-sound” By Kamina – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons  Wikimedia