The festive season is here, and with it comes families huddled around the TV, eating treats and fighting over whether the volume needs to be adjusted. A sound bar could be the solution to your seasonal sound woes, so follow our easy steps to ensure harmonious festive family fun.
Keep reading to find out more about setting up your sound bar, the different modes you could use, plus how to play your Christmas playlists through your sound bar.
Best Buy sound bars – find the model that will be music to your ears
Getting the most from your sound bar
1) Set up your sound bar correctly
The best place for your sound bar is directly in front of your TV, with chairs or the sofa arranged head on. It should be placed on a flat surface, such as a TV stand, or you can fix the sound bar to the wall, but you’ll need a separate bracket to do so.
Try to place it within a foot of the height of your ears when you’re sitting in your normal TV viewing position, which may be easier to do if you mount it on the wall.
For more tips, read our guide on how to set up a sound bar with your TV.
2) Experiment with modes
Sound bars come with different modes, depending on what you’re watching, so try experimenting with the sound settings your sound bar has.
Some have a mode specifically for speech enhancement, so try this if you want to be able to listen to every word of the Queen’s speech, or hear Elf exclaim ‘Santa! I know him!’ wherever you’re sat in the room.
Your sound bar may have a mode to process the surround sound found on DVD/Blu-ray soundtracks or films broadcast on TV, so try switching to this to immerse yourself in all your favourite festive flicks.
If your sound bar has different modes, then look for settings labelled ‘Stereo’, ‘Bypass’, ‘Off’, ‘Standard’ or ‘Natural’, which are designed to enhance films or music.
3) Find the best position for the subwoofer
If your sound bar has an external subwoofer to enhance the bass in films, music and shows, it may need a cable connection. Others are wireless and can be placed anywhere, but it should generally be within 10 metres of the sound bar.
Make sure it’s not too close up against a wall because this will result in boomy bass. You can put it inside your TV cabinet as long as it doesn’t cause distracting vibrations.
4) Use your sound bar to play music
Many sound bars come with built-in Bluetooth, meaning you can pair it with your phone and play music from your favourite music streaming apps – perfect for rocking around the Christmas tree.
The most seamless way to get your music playing on your sound bar is by using your voice, which you can do if it has built-in Alexa or Google Assistant and you’ve set it up for music streaming. Occasionally, you’ll find sound bars with Apple AirPlay and Google Cast (also known as Chromecast) built in. The latter will be useful if you have a separate Google Home or a smart speaker with Google Assistant, as you’ll be able to command it to play music from your sound bar.
If your sound bar has wi-fi connectivity, you might be able to hook it up to your multi-room music system (so your tunes play in the living room and kitchen, for instance) if you have compatible speakers.
5) Check for common sound bar problems
If your sound bar isn’t adding the extra level of sound quality that you’re looking for, it’s worth checking through our list of common sound bar problems to see whether there’s anything you can do to improve it.
Dolby Atmos – does it give a home cinema experience?
If you’re in the market for a sound bar, a model with Dolby Atmos should give you a full surround-sound experience without the need for a multi-speaker home cinema setup.
But we’ve found plenty of sound bars with Dolby Atmos that fail to brilliantly deliver that home cinema experience. And it could cost you – models with built-in Dolby Atmos tend to be more expensive, but you could be left with disappointing, dull sound.
We have found sound bars with built-in Dolby Atmos that have impressed our experts, and we’ve covered a selection of models with this feature in our round-up.
To find out whether they can truly compete with a full home cinema, and to help you decide which is best for you, see our guide on sound bars vs home cinema systems.