Sound Decisions for Your Living Room

Let's dive into the world of enhancing home audio systems, where we appreciate the importance of crystal clear sound for an immersive entertainment experience. We learn about the various factors to consider when upgrading from basic TV speakers, such as room size, acoustics, and budget, which influence the choice between soundbars and more complex home theater systems. The article guides us through assessing room requirements for speaker setups and the advantages of both soundbars for simplicity and economy, and home theater systems for a customizable, high-quality audio experience.


2/23/20245 min read

flat screen TV
flat screen TV

We appreciate good sound here! And that doesn’t stop at just recording. There’s no better way to make your favorite movie or television show more immersive and entertaining than by listening to it with crystal clear sound. We all know the feeling of trying to get caught up in watching a new flick but losing interest because the dialogue coming from your TV speakers is too quiet, the music is too loud, and commercials make your ears bleed. Rather than constantly raising and lowering the volume based on the scene, you’re probably better off upgrading the speakers from your trusty, old TV (and making sure your Netflix settings are correct). 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for upgrading your home TV setup. The size of your space, the acoustics of the room, and primarily budget will have huge implications on what is possible and ideal. To keep it simple we will start by looking at two possibilities for using external speakers, and you can decide which might be right for you.

Assessing Your Room

The first thing you have to do is look at the room you are going to be in while watching television. How big is it? Is it an apartment with shared walls? A home theater room? These require vastly different choices of speakers. Ultimately, you are looking to evaluate how many speakers can fit comfortably in there. Speakers need space for the sound to travel to experience that “surround sound” that makes the movie theater so magical. Few things are worse than cramming 5 speakers into your tiny apartment so close together that you can only hear the one directly behind you. Keeping the dimensions, acoustics, and practicalities of your room in mind, it’s time to assess your options. A/V professionals have a nomenclature for the number of speakers in a setup that is probably familiar to you, and quite simple to understand, even if it sounds intimidating at first. You need to decide if a 2.1, 3 channel, 5.1, or 7.1 setup is ideal. Have downstairs neighbors? Might want to skip the subwoofer. Don’t have a TV, and just looking to play music? A 2-channel or 2.1 system is the way to go. It’s important to keep in mind that more speakers do not always equal better sound. Quality is more important than quantity, and the acoustics and space in your room will help you evaluate what is best for you.


The most economical, simple to set up, and lowest profile option to enhance your television audial experience is to get a soundbar. These slim speakers have skyrocketed in popularity, and for good reason! These slim speakers can often connect directly to your TV, function as a bluetooth speaker, and can sit right below your screen. Soundbars come in a huge variety of options, and cost. While you could certainly get a less expensive soundbar that would be an upgrade from your TV speakers, I would shy away from the cheapest options available (buy once, cry once). That being said, there are many inexpensive options less than $300, and anything from a reputable manufacturer should be reliable, and a good starting point. 

Don’t think you are limited to just one speaker if you choose a soundbar! A soundbar typically plays 3 channels (left, center, right), but there are many options that include a subwoofer or even rear speakers to give you that full 5.1 surround sound. Some of these options are even wireless, avoiding the need to run extensive cable wire through the middle of your space. A soundbar will improve your listening experience by adding the center channel. That is where the post-production sound team traditionally mixes dialogue in a television show or film. So if you have trouble distinguishing the dialogue from your TV speakers, and your main goal is to alleviate that pain, a soundbar will be a welcome addition to your living room.

Soundbars are also very simple to install and are compatible with virtually any streaming device, television, or other audio source. Soundbars have a simple, minimalist design to complement the look of modern flat-screen TVs. Their low profile design can complement even the most fashionable of living rooms.

Ultimately, a soundbar will be an ideal choice for you if you have a limited budget, and limited space. Soundbars are simple, cost-effective, and an undeniable upgrade! They provide a good balance between audio quality and price, making them an attractive option for many consumers. However, for those seeking the highest audio fidelity and a more immersive experience, a full surround sound system with separate speakers might still be the preferred option.

Home Theater System

If you have determined you have the space, budget, and desire for the most immersive home audio experience possible, you are in the market for a home theater system. This setup will give you the traditional surround sound that is heavily advertised as the ideal way to consume entertainment. With a home theater system, you will have several speakers spaced out throughout the room, likely 5 plus a subwoofer for true surround sound. A home theater system will give you clearer dialogue, more dynamic sound effects, and a heightened sense of realism. 

A home theater system gives you the most cinematic experience, but part of what makes it really stand out is the customization abilities. Ultimately, a home theater system will consist of an A/V receiver, which functions as the brain and will accept the input from the streaming device or TV, and functions as a DSP, sending the appropriate signal to each individual speaker. The receiver will be sending signal to three front speakers- a left channel, right channel, and center channel. As discussed earlier, the left and right channels will be more effects heavy, while the center channel focuses on the dialogue. In addition, there is subwoofer which will output primarily low end bass frequencies, and can be placed in many different locations based on the acoustics of your room, because a subwoofer sends an omni-directional signal, and will feel like it’s coming from all around the room. The final speakers which will bring you to the famous 5.1 setup, are rear speakers. These will output atmospheric, effect heavy signals that create immersive surround sound. 

The best thing about this system is that it the ability to mix and match based on what you might already have, or current budget restrictions. It all starts at the receiver, which serves as the amplifier to all the speakers. So it’s important to invest in something quality as that will have an impact on the sound quality of every speaker in the setup. An amazing speaker with a low quality amplifier will not deliver the performance you are expecting. 

The customization will really flourish when purchasing the speakers. You might decide to start with 2 or 3 high quality speakers and fill out the rest. Or, in a more permanent setup you might install rear speakers directly into the ceiling or wall. Furthermore, there are home theater in a box setups that come with all 5 speakers and a subwoofer, but still give you the flexibility to upgrade over time. A more permanent home theater setup can last a lifetime, and even increase re-sale value if you choose to move to a different home. A home theater system is so flexible and options are endless- but having a basic knowledge of what it contains will allow you to have a much more educated opinion about what you need and will help prevent you to being taken advantage of by gimmicky salespeople or big box stores.

No matter what you decide will work best for you, you will not be disappointed with upgrading the way you consume the audio of your favorite entertainment. A soundbar will be simple, easy-to-use, and economical. A home theater system will have higher quality, and a much higher customization factor, but will be more expensive. 

Whatever you do choose, you will be sure to enjoy that sweet sound that we work hard for at Vandelay Sound Exports.