Do Soundbars Provide Surround Sound? (Comparison + Ratings)

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Many brands are coming up with the idea of surround sound in their soundbars. This idea has caught fire and newbies are now very interested in it. That’s why now it is my responsibility to explain it to you guys. So, do soundbars provide surround sound?

At A Glance: HIFI soundbars are providing surround sound, but that surround sound is virtual, not real. In virtual the surround sound effects are created from all the speakers in front but in real surround, they are all around you.

Keep reading as I will discuss these phenomena in detail, and I will toss another terminology. No one is talking about semi-real surround sound. I will also be discussing many related questions to this matter.

What does Virtual Surround do? (That Soundbar Provides)

Virtual Surround with a soundbar

In virtual surround sound, the speakers which are built into the soundbar are engineered in a way that simulates surround sound.

How do they do it? There are two speakers on each side of the soundbar. Two speakers fire the sound to the ceiling and the usual front three speakers. 

The speaker is on each side. Fire the sound to the walls. The sound bounces back from the wall and hits the ears of the audience. 

The two speakers fire the sound to the ceiling. The sound bounces back from the ceiling at the audience.

The front speakers fire the sound directly at the audience. 

These coming sound rays create a bubble around the audience. This bulb acts like a surround sound. 

Let’s see what the ups and downs are.

Read this guide, is virtual Dolby Atmos worth it? I have provided the ratings in this guide.

Pros

  1. You don’t need to calibrate each speaker of the surround sound
  2. You connect all the speakers with one wire that is connected to the soundbar
  3. The setup takes 2-5 mins
  4. Doesn’t consume that much power that real surround sound does

Cons

  1. Can’t match the aroma of real surround sound
  2. These soundbars are very expensive. You can have a real surround sound on lesser than that and still, the Real SS will sound better than this
  3. The walls and ceiling will add flavor to the sound

Semi-real surround sound (Provided By Soundbars with two separate rear speakers)

semi-real surround sound with a soundbar and seperate rear speakers

This is the word that I have created. This first appeared on Homelytainment. But this sound nature was out there since I launched this blog.

In Semi-real surround sound. There are two physical speakers provided with the soundbar. You have to place the soundbar below the TV and the two speakers will have to go at the back of the audience. The same as in the real surround sound, where you have two rear speakers.

These two speakers will be connected to the soundbar wirelessly via Bluetooth. 

When characters are talking in the rear of other characters on the screen, then you will hear their dialogues coming from these two speakers.

These Semi-real surround sounds will be better than virtual, but still can’t match the aroma of the Real SS.

Let’s discuss its downs and ups.

Pros

  1. You get two physical speakers for the rear positions to be placed in there
  2. You get a chunk of real surround sound
  3. Cheaper than virtual surround sound soundbar and above-average real surround sound speakers sets.
  4. You get all the pros of the virtual surround sound

Cons

  1. The real surround sound magic is still missing
  2. The two speakers are wirelessly connected to the soundbar but still, you need a power socket near it to power them

Real surround sound (Provided By 5 or more physical Speakers)

surround sound illustration

This type of surround sound is provided by speakers all around you. I will talk about the Dolby Atmos setup, as many brands are claiming that their soundbars are providing Dolby Atmos. 

In Dolby Atmos, there are physical speakers on the ground and a few speakers in the ceiling.

The on-ground speakers give the feeling of a battlefield and in the ceiling, the speakers give a feeling of the helicopters and missiles flying above. Many brands are claiming that their soundbars can give this level of Dolby Atmos.

The real surround sound is magic and beyond the imagination of those who are only listening to the soundbar.

You actually feel like you are in the middle of the action happening on the screen.

Read this guide, when should you use surround sound? Don’t forget to read the poll results in this guide that I have conducted in a Fb group.

Pros

  1. It places you in the middle of the action happening on the screen
  2. It replicates the exact dimension of the sound impact. When a bullet hit a wall in the video, the exact impact area will be felt in the theater room. But these dimensions are only replicated in Dolby Atmos and not in traditional 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 surround sound. But those traditional SS are far better than soundbars. There is no comparison between them both.
  3. It can be set up cheaper than a HIFI surround sound soundbar

Cons

  1. You need to calibrate each speaker in the setup
  2. The setup takes hustle and time
  3. There will be a lot of wires in the room to be taken care of.

Ratings & brief comparison of all of them

Sound NatureRealism Rating
Virtual Surround Sound (Soundbar)3/10
Semi-real Surround Sound (Soundbar)5.5/10
Real Surround Sound (Speakers’ Setup)10/10
These realism ratings matter the most

The surround sound whether it is in the soundbar or speakers’ setup. It is made to give a realistic touch to all the action going on on the screen.

You need to feel the universe that is around the characters on the screen all around you. That’s why they talk about surround sound in their soundbars.

That’s why I keep this metric for my scaling. If any setup fails in this meter, then there is no need to go for them.

Is virtual surround sound better? (Final verdict)

The virtual sound is good and semi-real is better, but the real surround sound is the best.

If you still want to have a soundbar then go for the soundbar that is providing a semi-real surround sound with physical speakers for the rear positions. This will give you a better experience on a reasonable budget.

Read this review guide for the best soundbars under $300. I have reviewed a Vizio soundbar that is providing this feature at a very reasonable price. Go read it.

Is there a soundbar that sounds like surround sound?

There is no soundbar on the market that sounds like surround sound. Few brands like Nakamichi are trying hard to bring that magic that too is transitioning from a soundbar to a real surround sound setup.

The Nakamichi HIFI soundbars can’t be named as soundbars because they are transitioning to a Real SS setup because they provide a lot of speakers with their soundbars. These speakers will be scattered all around, with the soundbar in the front. 

So, this means that their soundbar is not a soundbar but a low level of Real SS and is more expensive than a Real SS setup.

This is final because there is no soundbar that can sound like surround sound. But they can provide just a taste of it.

Read this guide, LCR speakers Vs Soundbar? Don’t forget to read the rating table. I have made it very simple for you.

Did you get something out of this soundbar guide? Hold On We Have Something Exciting To Share.

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FAQs

Do soundbars simulate surround sound?

Soundbars simulate surround sound, but they can never have real surround sound. As there is no soundbar capable of it and never will be.

It can provide Real SS because the speaker in front can’t match the tone of speakers physically placed all around you.

Is the soundbar stereo or surround?

There are both stereo and surround soundbars on the market. The stereo is cheaper, and the surround is very expensive, but few brands are trying to lower the prices.

The Vizio brand is providing surround sound soundbars at a cheaper price.

What is the difference between a soundbar and surround sound?

In the soundbar, you get three front channel speakers all built-in in its cabinet while in surround sound you get speakers for each channel in the surround sound with more speakers than just three.

The surround sound creates an audio universe around you. You feel like you are Brad Pitt in Fury movie and many more.

Helpful Resources For The FAQs To Read More

  1. This was my opinion, read more about it on TechRadar Blog. (Resource for the first answer)
  2. This was my opinion, read more about it on Sonos Community Forum. (Resource for the second answer)

Watch To Learn More

This article was first posted on Homelytainment.com.
Ayaan Khan
Ayaan Khan

Ayaan khan is a freelancer and a Computer Science degree holder from P.E.S. College. After his degree, he started an internship with his father in his home theater showroom. After working for a month he realized that this is the best job in the world for him and it could be turned into a passion. Fast forward to when his internship ended, he joined his father as a full-time home theater equipment tester. He tests new equipment and approves it before it can be installed in the customer's house. He loves to test equipment and sometimes loves to install it by himself in the customer's theater room. Ayyan has the right experience and knowledge to learn from his articles. In my Free time I write & answer questions here on AVSFORUM. Every Article on Homelytainment is curated according to Homelytainment's Editorial Policy and Sponsorship Policy.

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