Soundbars are an easy way to improve TV sound and offer many advantages over traditional surround sound systems. But how do they measure up to their 5.1 counterparts when it comes to sound? How can a single slender speaker create a realistic cinema atmosphere?
When it comes to the low end — the thunder and explosions you can feel rumble your chest — a single soundbar won’t do the trick. That’s why most soundbars , including all soundbars from Teufel Audio, come with a subwoofer as part of a set. Together, the duo, soundbar and subwoofer, can cover the entire frequency spectrum for exceptional sound with any source material.
First things first: What is a soundbar?
Soundbars were created to produce maximum sound while taking up as little space as possible. In many ways, they are the sonic equivalent of a flat screen TV. They offer an elegant solution without compromising on quality. Most soundbars can be easily wall mounted above or beneath a television or placed beneath it on a lowboard. Soundbars contain a row of drivers that cover the frequency range of a typical pair of front speakers. Tweeters are employed to play back the treble range and midrange or midbass drivers cover the midrange and upper register bass.
Examples of Teufel 2-way soundbars with separate tweeters and midrange drivers:
Another 2-way soundbar offered by Teufel is the Cinebar Trios. The name “Trios” derives from the fact that the soundbar contains the equivalent of three speakers: front left, front right and centre, each with three discrete drivers. This arrangement makes the dialogue sections in movie and shows especially distinct.
Soundbar with Subwoofer: Why bass is so important
There’s a very good reason Teufel soundbars are always supported by an external subwoofer: Powerful, precise bass needs space to unfold. The deeper the sound, the longer the soundwave and the more air it sets in motion. Soudwaves with a 60 Hz frequency require markedly larger driver membranes than those that travel at 1,000 Hz. There’s just no getting around a larger enclosure to produce powerful bass.
One reason soundbars are so popular is that they can sit directly above or below the television, thus reducing the amount of speaker cables that snake around the room. But what about the subwoofer? Doesn’t it have to be connected to the soundbar via speaker cable? Actually, no. The Teufel soundbars that come with the Raumfeld Soundbar and Cinebar 11 operate wirelessly. With these sets, the soundbar contains an integrated transmitter that corresponds with the subwoofer’s integrated receiver. Traditional soundbar sets can be made to function wirelessly with the help of Teufel’s Subwoofer Wireless Set.
Can soundbars really create immersive sound?
Soundbars can replace the front speakers and many come with a subwoofer with excellent bass. The Teufel Cinebar Trios even has an integrated centre speaker. But one part of a classic 5.1 system remains missing: The surround speakers. Also known as the “rear speakers” these are the two speakers positioned behind the listener that produce a diffuse, atmospheric sound. Instead of radiating sound directly at the listener, they direct it to the sides in order to create a background ambience. Can soundbars compensate for these speakers?
Virtual surround technology
Advanced technology is available that gives the impression of sound emanating from virtual speakers. This is possible due to special software guided by psychoacoustics, or the study of how we perceive sound. Fortunately, the human ear is quite easily fooled. We determine the direction of a sound, for instance by registering differences in propagation time and volume between our two ears. If a sound comes to us from the right, for instance, we will first hear it in our right ear and then the left. The tiny but perceptible difference in time and volume between the two ears is quickly calculated by the brain resulting in an impression of directionality.
Teufel’s Cinebar 52 THX uses Dolby Virtual Speaker technology to manipulate parts of the audio signal so as to create a surround sound effect. There are other virtual surround codecs that create a similar effect.
Those who prefer to use rear speakers have the option of adding them to their soundbar-with-subwoofer system. The Cinesystem Trios 5.1 set, for instance offers complete surround sound with a soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. All speakers together offer a total of 22 high-end drivers powered by 465 watts.
Coda: Soundbar + subwoofer, the two speakers you need for great sound
• Soundbars can replace the front speakers of a home cinema system
• Most soundbars have 2-way driver systems that don’t go much below 200 Hz
• In order to experience powerful bass, a soundbar will need to work with a subwoofer
• Many subwoofers paired with soundbars receive the audio signal wirelessly
• Special audio codecs allow soundbars to produce a virtual surround sound
• Teufel’s Cinebar Trios can be expanded into a 5.1 system with wireless rear speakers
All pictures: Property of Teufel Audio