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What Is a Home Theater Sound Bar?

Home theater sound bars can easily be mounted underneath flat screen televisions.
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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A home theater sound bar is a type of speaker enclosure that is designed to provide surround sound functionality without having multiple speakers placed throughout a room. These enclosures are typically long and thin so they can easily be mounted underneath flat screen televisions. The enclosures typically contain multiple speakers that are aimed in specific directions, which is meant to cause the sounds to bounce off the walls of a room and create the illusion of a complete surround sound system. A home theater sound bar can be either powered or unpowered, and many include a subwoofer or at least have a jack for a subwoofer to be plugged into. This is due to the fact that separate subwoofers tend to be better at reproducing very low frequencies than the relatively small speakers typically present in sound bars.

One of the necessary components of a home theater is some type of surround sound system, which allows the sound data in movies, television shows, and video games to be fully appreciated. These systems use multiple channels of sound to power speakers that are typically placed at strategic locations throughout a room, including in front of, behind, and to the sides of a listener. A common surround sound system uses five regular speakers and one low frequency effects (LFE) subwoofer, though seven and nine-speaker systems are also common.

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A home theater sound bar is one way to achieve a surround sound effect without the expense of multiple speakers or the extra work of running wires throughout a room. These sound bars contain multiple speakers within a single enclosure, which is typically thin enough to be mounted on a wall underneath a flat screen television. The speakers are pointed in specific directions, which can allow a home theater sound bar to simulate the effect of speakers that are actually placed in separate locations. When sound leaves a speaker in a surround sound bar, it bounces off a wall and will appear to have originated from that wall to any listener who is positioned correctly.

There are many different types of sound bars that can be well suited to various situations. Simple sound bars only contain left and right channel speakers, so they are typically not well suited to home theater applications. Surround sound home theater sound bars contain multiple speakers, and come in both powered and unpowered versions. Unpowered sound bars require some type of external amplifier to work, while powered units simply need to be plugged into a wall. It is also common for a home theater sound bar to have a jack that a subwoofer can be plugged into, and some packages even include a subwoofer as well. It is important to keep in mind that if the walls of the room do not have good acoustical qualities, that this type of sound system will be ineffective at creating the desired effect.

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