Soundbars vs Surround Sound – Best Audio System For Your Home

When I was deciding on how to choose between a Soundbar System or a Surround System in my house, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To me, they were one and the same in theory, and something I hadn't thought I cared to know the difference. But with a little bit of research and gaining some practical knowledge, I realized there was a difference between the two that I cared about.

Let's get into the details but if you're in a hurry? Jump here to see our today's top picks 

Soundbars vs Surround System, What's the Difference ?

The biggest difference between a soundbar and a surround system in your home is that one is a soundbar and the other is a home theater system that needs a little more effort in getting it properly installed.

From personal experience, I can tell you nothing beats the time and speed of installing a soundbar in my living room. It was literally idiot proof. It also has a great sound similar to the surround sound system, but not exactly the same either.

How is that?

If you want a quick and easy set up option, then soundbars might be your best bet. However, I have also experienced a full surround sound system, and for all the home theater system lovers, it seems like it cannot compare.

With a surround system you would have to install several different pieces and center, front, and rear speakers. This is for more experienced home installers who want to curate an experience with their viewing habits. Both options are great--both will vastly improve your audio while watching TV.  It just depends on what level of technology you can handle and are looking for.

Soundbars vs Surround System – Best Home Audio System

When is the soundbar a good option?

A soundbar is a really great option to have if you live in a small home or an apartment, and don't have a lot of space to be adding any extra equipment. There are very few wires that have to be used with it, and the design is sleek and modern. Installation was a breeze for me in the living room of my first home, and it connected almost instantly.

Soundbars give you virtual sound, which is a mimicry of surround sound. This works because the space you use it in (whether it is a small living room in a midsize or small home, or a very small apartment) is smaller than the norm and the sound carries better. This system would not work very well in a larger living room or home, so carefully reconsider your plans, as I don't think you want to waste money on a system that won't do what it supposed to do which is giving you an awesome audio experience. 

You might have to buy a subwoofer (which is a loudspeaker component that is used to create low bass frequencies to add to the experience of your soundbar), but a few soundbar brands come with them already installed. All in all, a soundbar is the perfect, affordable accompaniment to your small living room or living area, because of the fact that it adds little sweet pockets of great sound for you.

My Top Rated Soundbars

#1st Rated
#1st Rated
#1st Rated

Yamaha ATS1080-R Sound Bar

The Yamaha Sound Bar looks exactly like all other soundbars in that it is a sleekly designed audio system that will not take up much room at all.

This particular product is enabled by WiFi using Bluetooth technology. Something I would have killed for while setting it up in my living room the first time, as anything with more than a single wire will always get me confused.

I am enjoying the wave of wireless technology that is being offered. The sub-woofer is also built in, which is even better because I (nor you) have to go through with trying to find a sub-woofer to fit with this system and then install it.

The dialogue has been clearly enhanced for this new system, which is great. In my personal opinion, you can never stop trying to make any audio system better. There is always something to improve.

The Bluetooth technology also allows for you to stream your music from any other device that is also Bluetooth connected e.g. your phone.

 The absolute best thing about this sound bar though, is that it comes with a wall mount; meaning you can put this sound bar anywhere you want, for optimal audio placement.

This sound bar is interesting, as it comes with a wide variety of features that you can play with. It is also extremely easy to switch between the soundbar and the sound you get from your TV, which is an added bonus.

#2nd Rated

Sonos Beam - Smart TV Sound Bar

with Alexa Built-in

The Sonos Beam is another soundbar that has the added bonus of Amazon's Alexa technology built right in.

 Due to Alexa, you have the added bonus of being able to simply speak to your soundbar and ask for it to play music, set an alarm, read news articles to you, and even google a question, all without ever having to sit down on a computer.

This soundbar comes with only two cords needed for its connection, for an easy set, if not painless, set up. There are several variations of this soundbar, so if you do not mind a few extra parts, you can always get the 5.1 set (comes with two speakers and a sub-woofer), the 5.0 set (comes with two speakers), or the 3.1 set (comes with a sub-woofer).

You can also make a decision to buy a Sonos Beam with either a short or a long cord, which is a great choice to have, particularly if you do not have a lot of outlets available in your living room.

Depending on which Sonos Beam you choose (between the soundbar and the soundbar plus speakers, etc), this system ranges from fairly affordable to very pricey. The basic Sonos Beam system is very affordable for anyone to buy.

When is the surround sound system a good option?

Comparatively, it seems like there is nothing to compare to a full surround sound system that is installed in your home. If you take the time to install a full surround sound system into your living room, then you will gain infinitely better sound from your TV or any other acoustics you possess.

You will gain a full theater system with surround sound at full range and the maximum bass you can stand. It also comes with several speakers, so that you can place them exactly where you want them to create a sweet spots of hearing wherever you happen to be sitting.

This is an extremely involved system, that has a some what difficult and lengthy installation system, but if you have the room for it, it can be a great addition to any home audio system. If you install this system into your home, you will need to have a large living room, as there are a number of wires and speaks that will need to be placed and positioned just so to get the system up and running. 

What is the difference between the soundbar and the surround sound system, when it really comes down to it?  What should you be looking for in a great soundbar or surround system? One word "sensitivity rating" The higher the sensitivity the product is rated whether it is a soundbar or surround system the better the sound will be. The best, highest rated in sensitivity soundbar will always outclass any average, mass produced sound system.

My Top Rated Surround Systems

#1st Rated
#1st Rated
#1st Rated

Rockville HTS56 1000w 5.1 Channel

Home Theater System

The Rockville surround system is probably one of the most affordable surround systems I have ever seen for sale and one of the most extensive.

 This system has six individual components to it, along with a remote. It has a subwoofer that has a built in receiver, one center speaker, two front speakers, and two back speakers.

These speakers have been designed to have no distortion or undertone to the sound, no matter how high the volume has been turned up. Each speaker and subwoofer also has built in LED lighting, which is also something I have never seen before in speakers, but this could be very useful for late night movies offering you a bit of lighting without having to get up from your chair.

Each speaker and sub-woofer also has independent volume control. You can choose to make all of them separate volumes, which is great for setting up your system in your own unique way.

Everyone, every home is different, and this feature can be useful for a wide variety of reasons, perhaps you live with an elderly parent or relative who needs to have the audio significantly louder than anyone else in the home.

You can crank up the volume on the speaker closest to them and lower every other speaker to compensate. The Rockville system also connects to Bluetooth, the radio, and you can even use it to sing karaoke!

#2nd Rated

Yamaha YHT-4930UBL 5.1-Channel

Home Theater

The Yamaha surround system is somewhat pricier than the Rockville, but it is still very affordable for a home surround system. It is made up of seven component parts, not including the remote.

Overall, it seems like a simpler system, as its biggest selling point is the fact that it also comes with Bluetooth to instantly stream your music from your phone, and it also has a compressed music enhancer (this helps smooth out the music, as it floats out of your speakers).

It comes with a 5.1 speaker package (two speakers with a subwoofer), that are automatically set up with YPAO sound optimization (this technology actually analyzes the acoustics in the room you have the surround system set up in, and automatically adjusts the audio to create the best possible sound experience for the room).

This system also provides you with an optimal set up map for your home, which could be really helpful to anyone who is inexperienced with setting up surround systems. Following this road-map and then making subtle changes to it as you grow more comfortable with your system can really help you learn how to calibrate audio equipment for any space. 

Common Soundbar and Surround System Questions and Answers 

Can you use a soundbar and a surround system together?

Technically speaking, you could use both systems together. However, they would not sound good together at all, and there really is no reason to use them together. If you have enough room for a surround system, then there is no need to put a soundbar in.

Should I get a soundbar or a surround sound?

Choosing between a soundbar and surround sound has a few factors that you will have to decide between. The first factor is space. You might be able to afford the best surround sound system there is--but if you live in a small apartment or home, you simply will not have the room to install it properly, which would defeat the purpose of buying a surround sound system to begin with. The second factor is affordability. Generally, soundbars are much more affordable than a surround system. If you want to improve your audio experience now, then a soundbar would be your best bet.

Is a soundbar as good as a surround sound?

Technically, a soundbar is not as good as surround sound. However, if you install it correctly and tweak its placement properly, as well as buying a sub-woofer if it doesn't have one, then you can significantly enhance sound entertainment experience. But the two are made for very different spaces. 

Hopefully this article has helped to explain the difference between the two systems (soundbar and surround sound) now I would like to hear from you! Have you ever had to install either system? Hopefully you did better than me! Which features do you consider to be non negotiable for either system? What is your favorite feature that you always insist on, even if it doesn't matter as much to the overall sound?

Please comment below.

Chris Wilson

Chris is one of the guys behind He is an Electronics Engineer by profession and he enjoys expressing his real-life experiences with technology and sharing it with others.