Sound bar vs soundbase: what's the difference?
When it comes to beefing up your TV's sound, a soundbar or soundbase can have a big impact – and without the annoyance of messy cables and endless tinkering. But while these unique types of speakers are similar at heart, there are some key differences that you need to be aware of before you buy.
In a nutshell, a sound bar is a long, thin ‘bar’ that sits in front of your TV, and a soundbase is a large, flat base that your TV actually sits on top of. Soundbases are much rarer to find in shops than sound bars, although the best models have done extremely well in our testing.
Soundbases are generally larger than sound bars so they have space for bigger speakers. This means in theory they can produce better bass than a sound bar on its own. However, sound bars often come with separate subwoofers to make up for their smaller size.
Are they both compatible with all TVs?
No. Soundbases need to be able to physically support your TV, which means they need to be large enough for your TV’s feet to fit comfortably on top of. If you’re looking for a soundbase you’ll need to check the sizes of both the base and your TV's stand before you buy.
Sound bars are more flexible, though. You can use pretty much any sound bar with any TV, although size is still a factor – you probably wouldn’t want to pair a tiny sound bar with a giant TV, as it might not be loud enough when you’re sitting further back.
Is there a difference in price?
Sound bases are typically more expensive when compared to sound bars at the cheaper end of the market. While bottom-of-the-range sound bars start at around £70 (or less if you fancy taking a chance on a Don't Buy), sound bases are typically found for £150 or more. After that, prices remain fairly even as you head up to the top end of the market.
Is there a difference in sound quality between the two?
Despite the fact that they are very differently designed, we haven't found a big difference in overall sound quality between sound bars and soundbases in our tests. Each is capable of producing well-rounded, natural sound, and though soundbases tend to be a little more effective at pronounced bass, things even out if you're using a separate subwoofer with a sound bar.
How do you choose which to buy?
Since the best sound bars are just as good as the best soundbases, and the worst examples are equally bad, the main deciding factor should be what would fit most conveniently in your living room. A soundbase that sits underneath a TV is a tidier option to a sound bar – so it's great if you're going for a more minimalist approach.
However, this does mean that you’ll have to make sure that the soundbase fits on your TV stand if you use one, and if you're wall-mounting your TV it might look a bit strange sitting by itself.
Sound bars are more flexible here. You can either lie them flat in front of your TV or wall-mount them underneath a wall-mounted TV – they usually come with brackets for just this purpose. Many sound bars come with separate subwoofers, though, so you’ll have to think about where to place this in your room.